Do you think to understand something you need to be able to explain it?

Heys guys and gals how are you doing?

Yeah so this question came to my mind as a result of my buddhist journey there is a few things in Buddhism and life I feel that I understand but wouldn’t be able to explain it properly. So, I was wondering can you understand something without being able to explain it properly? Especially the Dhamma?
What are your thoughts on this?


It can be a good rule of thumb that the better you understand something, the more simply and succinctly you can explain it. It doesn’t hold though, there are plenty of PhD’s who cannot explain their own specialism to anyone :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:
With the dhamma teachings I’ve often experienced that I first develop a ‘sense of understanding’ - I agree and feel that it is correct, but cannot verbalise it myself - and then slowly, very slowly the understanding develops and solidifies. So for me it is definitely a good test of how well I understand a teaching. And I would be suspicious of a teacher who cannot explain the dhamma in simple, clear language.


Understanding and ability to explain are different as learning and teaching.
Eg, among Nine Qualities of the Buddha, understanding 4NTs by Himself and teaching 4NTs to all are separately described.

Thanks and regards,

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Eg, among Nine Qualities of the Buddha, understanding 4NTs by Himself and teaching 4NTs to all are separately described.

Thats so interesting its like the composers of the suttas or buddha somewhat knew the answer to my question before me lool.

Thank you for your reply :slightly_smiling_face:

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Sure, but the way we generally check someone’s learning is by asking them to explain (or apply) what they have learned. And if they can’t, we say they need to learn it better.

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Paccekabuddhas no doubt understand the dhamma but are not endowed or inclined to teach. It took a Sammāsambuddha to be able to explain the dhamma. What’s important is to be honest with ourselves about our station on the path. Delusion is the greatest stain. However, the truth lies far beyond words, the moment we start to use words is the moment we begin to paint over the truth. Understanding can come long before the ability to explain. These are my thoughts on the matter.


I think there are different levels of understanding. You can understand something pretty well but not be able to explain it, but I think when you understand it 100% you should also be able to explain it properly. But I guess the ability to explain something can be different from person to person, so it may be that someone understands but still cannot explain it.

Perhaps to understand something one needs to be able to explain it to oneself. Explaining to another as one has learned it doesn’t guarantee that they will understand.

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Having been around men and the internet for much of my life, I can say from experience that people can indeed confidently explain things they know nothing about :joy:


@RockLee When we start our journey in Buddhism, we look for solutions to problems we face and we want them to go away. Over time we start looking for why we do it and that’s where the need for understanding appears. But the mind in a state of ignorance suffers because it does not understand the most basic teaching. Meditation for deep observation of the mind, a teacher to aid understanding, and time resolves these issues. So it is with me.

I mean the richest people in the world never explain how they get hold or generate 10s even 100s of billion of dollars. But everybody knows they’re filthy rich right? Very expensive yachts, private jets, apartments, mansions, luxury cars. But how did they exactly do it? Are they unable or unwilling to share their secrets? Or they simply sacrificed babies to Moloch regularly? Who knows.