Looking into the idea of Skill as a practical expression of spirituality, I came across an anthology of Buddha’s teachings translated by this dude Thanissaro Bhikkhu called Wings to Awakening. Apparently the Buddha was foresightful enough to organize his most important teachings for those who would be left behind to write them down. Mighty considerate of him. He made lots of lists — the five strengths, the four right exertions, the seven factors for awakening, the eightfold path, etc. — in which he gave a structure to his teachings. People like lists. I like lists.
(Was Buddha the first Knowledge Management expert?)
So, at the base of this structue, along with Karma (which is a downright practical principle if you grasp it correctly), is the concept of Skillfulness.
(Okay, you Buddhists, I’m aware that I’m presenting centuries old wisdom as if it is new. Please bear with this clueless Christian as I discover this for myself. Feel free to chuckle smugly at my naivite.)
“The fact that each side advanced an interpretation of reality implied that both agreed
that there were skillful and unskillful ways of approaching the truth, for each insisted that the other used unskillful forms of observation and argumentation to advance its views. Thus the Buddha looked directly at skillful action in and of itself, worked out its implications in viewing knowledge itself as a skill — rather than a body of facts”
—- Bhikku, Wings to Awakening, Part 1-A
The Buddha was not very concerned with beliefs in Gods or metaphysics or cosmology, he was concerned in how those beliefs played out into everyday experience. He was more concerned with the actions of people who are motivated by belief and wanted to make those actions more skillful. His teachings, in other words, are for Christians too. The Buddha does not want to change my beliefs, just make my use of them bear more fruit.
I’ve been looking for a spiritual practice that produces results and looking for the motivation to produce more results myself. Skillfulness appears to be that integrative principle that joins intention, attention, knowledge, action, learning, theory, and applications and informs them all by looking at actual, honest to God, real world results.
Maybe I could leave eighth grade after all. Maybe I can skip ninth grade and go to trade school?