Penetrating Obstruction by Reason
When Fojian was leader of the Great Peace community, Gaoan was
in charge of taking care of guests. Gaoan was young and high-spirited,
and he looked down on everyone else, there being few who met with
One day at the time of the noon meal, as Gaoan sounded the call
he saw a worker placing food before Fojian in a special vessel.
Gaoan left the hall, announcing in a loud voice, "If the teacher
of 500 hundred monks can act like this, how can he be an example
for later students?"
Fojian pretended not to see or hear this.
Then when Fojian left the hall, Gaoan looked down and found that
the special vessel contained pickled vegetables, for it turned out
that Fojian had a chronic stomach ailment and did not partake of
oil, which was normally used in the monastic food for nutrition.
Gaoan was ashamed, and went to the leader's room to announce his
Fojian said," What you said was quite right. But it just happens
that I am sick, that is all. I have heard that a sage said, 'Penetrate
all obstructions by reason.' Because what I eat is not better, I
am not doubted by the community. Your will and temper are clear
and far-reaching; someday you will be a cornerstone of the source
teaching. Don't let this stick in your mind."
Gaoan later went on to become a successor of Foyan.
The Danger of Dumbing Down
In his book Information Anxiety, Richard Saul Wurman focuses
on a fundamental error he sees in our understanding between clarity
and simplicity. He argues that simple solutions work well if the
message is correspondingly simple and non-complex. But if the message
is complex and multifaceted with large amounts of data, simplifying
it amounts to dumbing down.
So how do you handle these bigger, more unwieldy tangles of information?
By choosing effective methods of organization and presentation.
By remembering that clarity also means staying focused on one specific
goal or message at the time. Don't try to crunch too much down at
I was originally going to use the Japanese character for "clarity"
as an illustration for this page. How would that choice have affected
your perception of the topic?
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