LEARNING AND PRACTICE
When a truth is learned, it must be practiced. Indeed, knowledge
that is not put into practice is not truly learned; it soon fades away
like a mirage. The person who claims to be wise and devout, but who never
acts on his wisdom, is engaging in Hypocrisy, pp. 489-93. Conversely, as
the concluding story of Mary and Martha shows, action without learning is
also foolish. In the East, people are taught the virtue of being reserved
and taciturn in order that they might not display knowledge that they
not yet mastered in practice. It is far better first to act on an idea in
private and see to its result than to announce it to others while it is
yet untested and unmastered. This reserve is especially apt in the case
of religious and moral teaching, whose practice is not easy. Only a
teacher who has first mastered and embodied his teaching is worthy of
I do act as I talk
And live up to my words in deed.
Hinduism. Basavanna, Vachana 440
Tzu-kung asked about the true gentleman. The Master said, "He does not
preach what he practices until he has practiced what he preaches."
Confucianism. Analects 2.13
The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe
whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not
Christianity. Matthew 23.2-3
O you who believe, wherefore do you say what you do not?
Very hateful is it to God, that you say what you do not.
Islam. Qur'an 61.2-3
Analects 2.13: This is close to the Confucian meaning of sincerity; see
Doctrine of the Mean 25, p. 724. Matthew 23.2-3: Cf. Qur'an 26.221-26, p.
Realization of Truth is higher than all else;
Higher still is truthful living.
Sikhism. Adi Granth, Sri Ashtpadi, M.1, p. 62
Just as a man or a woman has known what is truth, so he or she should
practice that truth with zeal, and should teach it those persons who
should practice it so, as it is!
Zoroastrianism. Avesta, Yasna 35.6
As a flower that is lovely and beautiful, but is scentless, even so
fruitless is the well-spoken word of one who does not practice it.
As a flower that is lovely, beautiful and scent-laden, even so fruitful is
the well-spoken word of one who practices it.
Buddhism. Dhammapada 51-52
That knowledge is very superficial which remains only on your tongue: the
intrinsic merit and value of knowledge is that you act up to it.
Islam (Shiite). Nahjul Balaga, Saying 90
Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if
any one is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who
observes his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself and goes
away and at once forgets what he was like.
Christianity. James 1.22-24
The Master said, "A gentleman is ashamed to let his words outrun his
Confucianism. Analects 14.29
Not study is the chief thing, but action; and whoso multiplies words,
Judaism. Mishnah, Abot 1.17
Not every one who says to me, "Lord, Lord," shall enter the kingdom of
Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Christianity. Matthew 7.21
Dhammapada 51-52: Cf. Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom 431, p. 444. James
1.22-24: If a teaching is not put into practice, it may readily be
forgotten. This frequently happens to sensitive people who receive
spiritual revelations; if not acted upon they rapidly slip away. Cf.
James 2.14-26, p. 1009f. Matthew 7.21: Cf. John 9.31, p. 830; James
2.14-26, pp. 1009f.
The Master said, "Do not be to ready to speak of it, lest the doing of it
should prove to be beyond your powers."
Confucianism. Analects 14.21
The one who would have the worst position in God's sight on the Day of
Resurrection would be a learned man who did not profit from his learning.
Islam. Hadith of Darimi
Though he recites many a scriptural text, but does not act accordingly,
that heedless man is like a cowherd who counts others' cattle. He has no
share in the fruits of the religious life.
Though he can recite few scriptural texts, but acts in accordance with the
teaching, forsaking lust, hatred, and ignorance, with right awareness and
mind well emancipated, not clinging to anything here or in the next life,
he shares the fruits of the religious life.
Buddhism. Dhammapada 19-20
Now as they went on their way, he entered a village; and a woman named
Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who
sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was
distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, "Lord, do you
not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help
me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and
troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the
good portion, which shall not be taken away from her."
Christianity. Luke 10.38-42
Luke 10.38-42: In this story, Martha's constant serving, though an effort
to please the Lord, was out of place. Receiving a new teaching is of
special value, during which time life's ordinary duties, even what is
regarded as obligatory good practice, should be put aside.