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The Difference Between Knowing and Understanding Spiritual Truth

If you grow up in a religious faith, you may learn things from a young age about the tenets of your faith. Also, if you are a seeker on a spiritual path, you may spend a great deal of time reading and studying about spirituality. This is how you acquire knowledge, and it can help you to further your spiritual journey.

However, there is another component to spiritual truth, which is understanding. Just because you know something, doesn't mean that you truly understand within your heart. In order to understand what you know, you have to apply it through practice. As you do, you will begin to understand the truths that you know in a different way.

According to Hannah To,

Knowing is having a ton of information. Understanding is connecting information.
Knowing is collecting facts. Understanding is being thrown a new, more revealing light on all the facts you know.

When you understand, there is a deeper spark within you than when you just know something. Both knowledge and understanding are useful. However, understanding requires going deeper within yourself to put information together, and to critically analyze and synthesize the things that you know.

Knowledge is the basis of understanding.

It is like the difference between being 'street smart' and 'book smart.' One comes from your own experiences in life, and the other comes from learning from the work of others in the past. Both are useful and have their place, however they have the greatest power when they are combined.

This is why it is good to study as much as you can from texts, but also to experience as much as you can in life. When it comes to spirituality, you can come to experience of your faith through practices like mindfulness, meditation, yoga, prayer, journaling, practicing gratitude and other similar things.

Combining practice with study can greatly enhance your level of knowledge, understanding, and a greater spiritual realization. Also, as you practice more, it is good to reread some of the same books that you have read in the past. They may speak to you in a different way as your spiritual practice takes you deeper into yourself and your soul.

If you look at the great spiritual teachers throughout history - like Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha or Lao Tsu - you will probably see that they all spent time in quiet contemplation to understand their soul's journey. Contemplation, much like meditation, can lead to a deeper spiritual understanding.

In the Buddhist traditions, for example, contemplative practices were already well known in northern India when the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, was born. Throughout his spiritual quest, Siddhartha Gautama practiced with several contemplative teachers. Ultimately, he found answers to his questions only after he sat beneath a tree and resolved to meditate until insight dawned. This is when he became the Buddha or “Awakened One,” thereafter teaching others what he had realized through his meditation. Thus, contemplative practice remains central to Buddhism.
It is worth saying that, even so, not all Buddhists meditate. For some, chanting and devotional practices are far more important. However, that, too, can be a form of contemplation because the category is so broad. Likewise, in Christian traditions, contemplative prayer is more common than meditation. St. Ignatius’s spiritual exercises for the Jesuit order are all contemplative practices. Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Pagan, and other traditions all have their own well-developed contemplative practices.

By practicing quiet contemplation in the context of your faith, you can deepen your spiritual connection with the divine. This can help you to develop a deep understanding of the tenets of your religion, and to learn about your faith through experience.

As you spend more and more time this way, you develop a greater spiritual understanding. With this understanding, comes awakening to the deeper truth of all that exists, and a sense of harmony with other living beings on this planet, and even with the earth itself.

Our spirituality is constantly unfolding, and we are constantly achieving a deeper spirituality within ourselves as we continue to both study and practice our faith on a daily basis.

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