At the same time, I began noticing discussions on the topic of questions in non-Buddhist sources as well. Two passages in particular underlined its importance.
One was a story told by a man born in New York whose parents had been immigrants from Eastern Europe. They had placed great importance on his education, and his mother would ask him every day after school, not what he had learned that day, but what questions he had asked. The mother was wise, understanding the importance of an inquisitive mind in the ability to learn what is of true value in a subject.
The second passage was a quote from a famous author to the effect that if they can get you to ask the wrong questions, it doesn’t matter what answers you come up with. This quote underlines the fact that we often pick up our questions from other people without considering whether they actually help us or not, and that people can often use their influence in this way to keep others distracted from what’s in their true best interest to know.
Reflecting on this quote, I appreciated even more the Buddha’s typology and the way he taught it in practice. He didn’t rest content with teaching others the right answers to questions; by his example, he provided them with the tools to foster their own discernment: to choose their questions wisely, to find the answers for themselves, and to gauge whether their answers really helped them.
This was a rare and important gift.
This reflection by Ajaan Geoff is from the Treatises book, Skill in Questions: How the Buddha Taught, “Forward.”