Stories & Life
Comments 2

The wisdom of cleaning (our mental) house

“I know some of you are well educated and very knowledgeable. People with little education can practice [meditation] easily. But it is as if you Westerners have a very large house to clean. When you have cleaned the house you will then have a big living space. You can use the kitchen, the library. you must be patient….”

This is a quote from Achaan Chaa in Jack Kornfield’s fantastic book Living Darma: Teachings and Meditation Instructions from Twelve Theravada Masters. I purchased this book last month, after my meditation retreat. I highly recommend it as a very practical guide to meditation in general, as well as to the meditation masters of Southeast Asia.

The quotation cited above is provocative. Knowledge and insight for those of us in the consumeristic West can become like any material commodity: an endless pursuit of more. We seek to attain more and more knowledge, using our minds like storage units, cramming them full of insightful information and clever observations. But the path of wisdom is the path of unlearning, of unknowing.

The wisdom of the ancients was that knowledge tempts us to pride and arrogance. It becomes a false look-alike for true insight. For the ancient masters, like Jesus, the Buddha, and so many others, wisdom must be gained by direct experience, not by superior education or greater accumulation of knowledge. For me, this is where Chaa is going when he talks about having “a very large house to clean.” We mistake the accumulation of knowledge for true wisdom.

This entry was posted in: Stories & Life


Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy; I pass the winters in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. I'm working on a memoir-based nonfiction book on the American Dream. I blog, quite frequently, and I also have a novel in process, set in Alaska.


  1. Pingback: Meditating for 100 hours | Pondering over

  2. Pingback: 100 hours of meditation | Pondering over

Consider this post an invitation, an invitation to comment and collaborate, in an open-ended sort of way, so please share your...whatever it is that's on your mind: thoughts, ideas, greetings, angst/irritation, inspiration, confusion, query, rant, salutation, data/research, meme, epigram, exposition or epiphany -- because I'm all about the synergy and solidarity. ~ JE

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.