Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Understanding

"It's what each of us sows, and how, that gives to us character and prestige. Seeds of kindness, goodwill, and human understanding, planted in fertile soil, spring up into deathless friendships, big deeds of worth, and a memory that will not soon fade out. We are all sowers of seeds - and let us never forget it!" - George Matthew Adams

"Illusion and self-deception stand in the way of an honest, penetrating and fearless self-appraisal. Though it would appear that we have access to the innermost core of our individual being, and that there is nothing in the world with which we are on more intimate terms than our own self, the self remains an elusive object of knowledge and understanding." - Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren

"The improvement of the mind improves the heart and corrects the understanding." - Agathon NULL

"Our understanding are always liable to error. Nature and certainty is very hard to come at; and infallibility is mere vanity and pretense." - Marcus Aurelius, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus

"Self-control and understanding, righteousness and courage, there is nothing in life more profitable than these." - Apocrypha NULL

"Moral virtue can be without some of the intellectual virtues, namely, wisdom, science and art, but not without understanding and prudence. Moral virtue cannot be without prudence, because moral virtue is habit of choosing, that is, making us choose well." -

"The purpose of this discipline is to bring man into the habit of applying the insight that has come to him as the result of the preceding disciplines. When one is rising, standing, walking, doing something, stopping, one should constantly concentrate one’s mind on the act and the doing of it, not on one’s relation to the act, or its character or value. One should think: there is walking, there is stopping, there is realizing; not, I am walking, I am doing this, it is a good thing, it is disagreeable, I am gaining merit, it is I who am realizing how wonderful it is. Thence come vagrant thoughts, feelings of elation or of failure and unhappiness. Instead of all this, one should simply practice concentration of the mind on the act itself, understanding it to be an expedient means for attaining tranquillity of mind, realization, insight and Wisdom; and one should follow the practice in faith, willingness and gladness. After long practice the bondage of old habits become weakened and disappears, and in its place appear confidence, satisfaction, awareness and tranquillity. What is the Way of Wisdom designed to accomplish? There are three classes of conditions that hinder one from advancing along the path to Enlightenment. First, there are the allurements arising from the senses, from external conditions and from the discriminating mind. Second, there are the internal conditions of the mind, its thoughts, desires and mood. All these the earlier practices (ethical and mortificatory) are designed to eliminate. In the third class of impediments are placed the individual’s instinctive and fundamental (and therefore most insidious and persistent) urges - the will to live and to enjoy, the will to cherish one’s personality, the will to propagate, which give rise to greed and lust, fear and anger, infatuation, pride and egotism. The practice of the Wisdom Paramita is designed to control and eliminate these fundamental and instinctive hindrances." - Aśvaghoṣa NULL

"Silence is the understanding of fools, and one of the virtues of the wise." -

"Obedience completes itself in understanding." - Phillips Brooks

"Discretion is the perfection of reason, and a guide to us in all the duties of life; cunning is a kind of instinct, that only looks after our immediate interests and welfare. Discretion is only found in men of strong sense and good understanding; cunning is often to be met with in brutes themselves, and in persons who are but the fewest removes from them." - Jean de La Bruyère

"Mindfulness should be strong everywhere, for mindfulness keeps the mind away from distraction, into which it might fall, since faith, energy and understanding partake of the nature of distraction: and away from idleness, into which it might fall, since concentration partakes of the nature of idleness." - Bhadantācariya Buddhaghoṣa

"The human mind feels restless and dissatisfied under the anxieties of ignorance. It longs for the repose of conviction; and to gain this repose it will often rather precipitate its conclusions than wait for the tardy lights of observation and experiment. There is such a thing, too, as the love of simplicity and system, a prejudice of the understanding which disposes it to include al the phenomena of nature under a few sweeping generalities, and indolence which loves to repose on the beauties of a theory rather than encounter the fatiguing detail of its evidences." - Thomas Chalmers

"A modern commentator made the observation that there re those who seek knowledge about everything and understand nothing. It is wonder - not mere curiosity - a sense of enchantment, of respect for the mysteries of love for the other, that is essential to the difference between a knowing that is simply a gathering of information and techniques and a knowing that seeks insight and understanding. It is wonder that reveals how intimate is the relationship between knowledge of the other and knowledge of the self, between inwardness and outwardness." - Seymour Cohen, fully Seymour Jay Cohen

"Dangerous principles impose upon our understanding, emasculate our spirits, and spoil our temper." - Jeremy Collier

"Whatever amuses, serves to kill time, to lull the faculties, and to banish reflection. Whatever entertains, usually awakens the understanding or gratifies the fancy. Whatever diverts, is lively in its nature, and sometimes tumultuous in its effects." - George Crabbe

"No one is ever satisfied with his fortune or dissatisfied with his understanding." - Antoinette Du Ligier de la Garde Deshoulières

"To accept as a fact of life that a certain technology will be used for the simple reason that we know how to use it, or that we shall continue to live under a certain social system after it has become too complicated for human understanding, is tantamount to an abdication of intellectual and social responsibility." -

"It is essential that the student acquire an understanding of and a lively feeling for values. He must acquire a vivid sense of the beautiful and of the morally good. Otherwise he - with his specialized knowledge - more closely resembles a well-trained dog than a harmoniously developed person." - Albert Einstein

"My understanding of the fundamental laws of the universe did not come out of my rational mind." - Albert Einstein

"The great scientific discoveries of the past hundred years have been as child's play compared with the titanic forces that will be released when man applies himself to the understanding and mastery of his own nature." - Melvin James Evans

"There is a sort of knowledge beyond the power of learning to bestow, and this is to be had in conversation; so necessary is this to the understanding the characters of men, that none are more ignorant of them than those learned pedants whose lives have been entirely consumed in colleges and among books; for however exquisitely human nature may have been described by writers the true practical system can be learned only in the world." - Henry Fielding

"What can be the aim of withholding from children, or let us say from young people, this information about the sexual life of human beings? Is it a fear of arousing interest in such matters prematurely, before it spontaneously stirs in them? Is it a hope of retarding by concealment of this kind the development of the sexual instinct in general, until such time as it can find its way into the only channels open to it in the civilized social order? Is it supposed that children would show no interest or understanding for the facts and riddles of sexual life if they were not prompted to do so by outside influence? Is it regarded as possible that the knowledge withheld from them will not reach them in other ways? Or is it genuinely and seriously intended that later on they should consider everything connected with sex as something despicable and abhorrent from which their parents and teachers wish to keep them apart as long as possible? I am really at a loss so say which of these can be the motive for the customary concealment from children of everything connected with sex. I only know that these arguments are one and all equally foolish, and that I find it difficult to pay them the compliment of serious refutation." - Sigmund Freud, born Sigismund Schlomo Freud

"Anger and intolerance are the twin enemies of correct understanding." -

"We love a girl for very different qualities than understanding. We love her for her beauty, her youth, her mirth, her confidingness, her character, with its faults, caprices and God knows what other inexpressible charms; but we do not love her understanding." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"Words of understanding and sympathy are wonderful instruments for unlocking the hearts and minds of men. They transcend all cultures, turning strangers into brothers, blotting out tolerance and discrimination." - Lucy R. Goodwin

"Are there things valuable because desired, or desired because valuable?... Desire is not blind. Understanding is not bloodless. Neither is the slave of the other. There is no priority." - James Patrick Griffin

"A person who does not mix with other people will not know how to help others. Such a person lacks knowledge about the way people think, their wants and their desires. Even if he wants to help others, he will not know what is good for them. When he wants to comply with the wishes of others, he will confuse them with his own wishes. Because he lacks knowledge about other people, he will not be able to say what is appropriate and acceptable even if he tries. His obstacle is not a lack of love for his fellow man, but a lack of understanding of others." - Avraham Grodzinski

"It is much easier to think right without doing right, than to do right without thinking right. Just thoughts may, and often do, fail of producing just deeds; but just deeds are sure to get just thoughts. The clearest understanding can do little in purifying an impure heart, the strongest little in straightening a crooked one. You cannot reason or talk an Augean stable into cleanliness. A single day's work would make more progress in such a task than a century's words." - Julius Charles Hare (1795-1855) and his brother Augustus William Hare

"Do not build up your views upon your senses and thoughts, do not base your understanding upon you senses and thoughts; but at the same time do not seek the Mind away from your senses and thoughts, do not try to grasp Realty by rejecting your senses and thoughts. When you are neither attached to, nor detached from, then, then you enjoy your perfect unobstructed freedom, then you have your seat of enlightenment." - Huang Po, also Huángbò Xīyùn

"The end of all moral speculations is to teach us our duty; and, by proper representations of deformity of vice, and beauty of virtue, beget correspondent habits, and engage us to avoid the one and embrace the other. But is this ever to be expected from inferences and conclusions of the understanding, which of themselves have no hold of the affections, or set in motion the active powers of men? They discover truths: but where the truths which they discover are indifferent, and beget no desire or aversion, they can have no influence on conduct and behavior." - David Hume

"The greater part of mankind are naturally apt to be affirmative and dogmatical in their opinions; and while they see objects only on one side, and have no idea of any counterpoising argument, they throw themselves precipitately into the principles, to which they are inclined; nor have they any indulgence for those who entertain opposite sentiments. To hesitate or balance perplexes their understanding, checks their passion, and suspends their action." - David Hume

"Our perceptions and our understanding are directed, in large measure, by our will. We are aware of, and we think about, the things which, for one reason or another, we want to see and understand. Where there’s a will there is always an intellectual way. The capacities of the human mind are almost indefinitely great." - Aldous Leonard Huxley

"The duties of religion, sincerely and regularly performed, will always be sufficient to exalt the meanest and to exercise the highest understanding." -

"Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves." - Carl Jung, fully Carl Gustav Jung

"I hold myself indebted to any one from whose enlightened understanding another ray of knowledge communicates to mine. Really to inform the mind is to correct and enlarge the heart." -

"Who you do not love says nothing about the other person. It only defines the boundaries of your understanding." - Gloria D. Karpinski

"What I really lack is to be clear in my mind what I am to do, not what I am to know, except in so far as to a certain understanding must precede every action. The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to do; the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die." - Søren Kierkegaard, fully Søren Aabye Kierkegaard

"Reality comes into being only when the mind is still, not made still. Therefore, there must be no disciplining of the mind to be still. When you discipline yourself, it is merely a projected desire to be in a particular state. Such a state is not the state of passivity... Liberation is from moment to moment in the understanding of what is, when the mind is free, not made free. It is only a free mind that can discover, not a mind molded by a belief or shaped according to a hypothesis. Such a mind cannot discover. There can be no freedom is there is conflict, for conflict is the fixing of the self in relationship." - Jiddu Krishnamurti

"Right thinking, surely, is entirely different from right thought. Right thought is static... Right thinking is the understanding of relationship from moment to moment, which uncovers the whole process of the self." - Jiddu Krishnamurti

"Self-knowledge brings tranquillity to the mind, and then only can truth come into being. Truth cannot be sought after. Truth is the unknown, and that which you seek is already known. Truth comes into being unsought when the mind is without prejudice, when there is the understanding of the whole process of ourselves." - Jiddu Krishnamurti

"The experience of another is not valid for the understanding of reality. But the organized religions throughout the world are based on the experience of another and, therefore, are not liberating man but only binding him to a particular pattern that sets man against man. Each one of us has to start anew, afresh, for what we are, the world is. The world is not different from you and me. This little world of our problems, extended, becomes the world and the problems of the world." - Jiddu Krishnamurti

"We may say that we are immune from bondage in so far as we act with a distinct knowledge, but that we are the slaves of passion in so far as our perception are confused... In truth we will only that which pleases us: but unhappily what pleases us now is often a real evil, which would displease us if we had the eyes of understanding open." -

"Nothing being so beautiful to the eye as truth is to the mind; nothing so deformed and irreconcilable to the understanding as a lie." - John Locke

"Perception, thinking, doubting, believing, reasoning, knowing, willing, and all the different actings of our own minds; which we being conscious of, and observing in ourselves, do from these receive into our understanding as do from these receive into our understanding as distinct ideas as we do from bodies affecting our senses. This source of ideas every man has wholly in himself; and though it be not sense, as having nothing to do with external objects, yet it is very like it, and might properly enough be called internal sense. But as I call the other sensation, so I call this reflection, the ideas it affords being such only as the mind gets by reflecting on its own operation within self... These two, I say, vis. external material things, as the objects of sensation, and the operations of our own minds within, as the objects of reflection, are to me the only originals from whence all our ideas take their beginnings." - John Locke

"Now I assert that the mind and the soul are kept together in close union and make up a single nature, but that the directing principle which we call mind and understanding, is the head so to speak and reigns paramount in the whole body." -

"Envy comes from foolishness and a lack of understanding. When you are envious of someone, you do not gain anything and o not cause a loss to the person you envy. The only person who loses out is you. There are some people whose foolishness is so strong that whenever they see someone else they know have some good fortune, they feel pain and suffering They are so pained by what others have they derive no pleasure from what they themselves possess." - Moshe Chayim Luzzatto, also Moses Hayyim Luzzato, known by Hebrew acronym RaMCHal

"Man is in his actions and practice, as well as in his fictions, essentially a story-telling animal. He is not essentially, but becomes through is history, a teller of stories that aspire to truth. But the key question for men is not about their own authorship; I can only answer the question ‘What am I to do?’ if I can answer the prior question, ‘Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?’ We enter human society, that is, with one or more imputed characters - roles into which we have been drafted - and we have to learn what they are in order to be able to understand how others respond to us and how our responses to them are a part to be construed... Deprive children of stories and you leave them unscripted, anxious strutters in their actions as in their words. Hence there is no way to give us an understanding of any society, including our own, except through the stock of stories which constitute its initial dramatic resource. Mythology, in its original sense, is at the heart of things. Vico was right and so was Joyce. And so too of course is that moral tradition fro heroic society to its medieval heirs according to which the telling of stories has a key part in educating us into the virtues." - Alasdair Chalmers MacIntyre

"There is not a vice which more effectually contracts and deadens the feelings, which more completely makes a man’s affections center in himself, and excludes all others from partaking in them, than the desire of accumulating possessions. When the desire has once gotten hold of the heart, it shuts out all other considerations, but such as may promote its views. In its zeal for the attainment of its end, it is not delicate in the choice of means. As it closes the heart, so also it clouds the understanding. It cannot discern between right and wrong; it takes evil for good, and good for evil; it calls darkness light, and light darkness. Beware, then, of the beginning of covetousness, for you know not where it will end." - Richard Mant

"He who attempts to act and do things for others and for the world without deepening his own self-understanding, freedom, integrity, and capacity to love, will not have anything to give to others. He will communicate to them only the contagion of his own obsessions, his aggressiveness, his ego-centered ambitions, his delusions about ends and means, and his doctrinaire prejudices and ideas." - Thomas Merton

"The more one seeks ‘the good’ outside oneself as something to be acquired, the more one is faced with the necessity of discussing, studying, understanding, analysing the nature of good. the more, therfore, one becomes involved in abstractions and in the confusion of divergent opinions. The more ‘the good’ is objectively analysed, the more it is treated as something to be attained by special virtuous techniques, the less real it becomes." - Thomas Merton