When people ask us if we understand something, we would say we understand if we could repeat back what the other person asks of us. In society, that is okay, because arriving at understanding is collecting knowledge. The society we live in requires us to be very competitive. The more knowledge we have gathered, the better the edge we have against our peers. Sometimes, having an internship or two will also put you at a better spot because it looks great on paper. Whether we have learnt anything may or may not play a role in our lives. We have been programmed in our society to compete for jobs in the economy. In the midst of that, we have forgotten what understanding means.
Take a step back, and think about one thing in the past year we have really understood. Understanding something is not repeating what we read, or rephrasing what we read or heard. That form of understanding is understanding of knowledge, or words. What I mean by understanding here is resolving problems that comes along as we tackle a problem or a situation. For example, we think that PhD holders in psychology have the most experience in understanding the human mind because they spent years learning all the knowledge there is. They could tell you all the theory there is human suffering, but once they encounter someone who is depressed, they do not really know how to help the person.
All the knowledge gained amounts to nothing if we do not cultivate. The "understanding" we know is constructed based on opinions, which could be falsified. Hence it is not true understanding. Anything that is created has an expiry date to it. Experience from obstacles or challenges are part of life, and they are turned into wisdom once we resolved those problems. True understanding is thus in life experience itself. Life is what everyone has, and what everyone can experience.
Let's talk about meditation, since it is something most people "know" about. Yes, many people know the benefits of meditation. If you ask people, they can tell you it benefits our attention, keeps people calm, regulate emotions, have better focus or concentration, and so on. If you ask them specifically how they benefited or where they have seen this effects, many are not able to do so. Many are only able to recollect from what others have said, or what they have read from books. However, the issue is that the meditation didn't transfer to their lives. It stays in the knowledge domain.
Another analogy of knowledge versus experience is eating an apple. If someone asks you what the taste of an apple is, knowledge will answer "sweet". It is correct. However, yet it is not whole. The "sweet" is the taste that knowledge has, not you. It is not your understanding of the taste of apple, but knowledge's understanding of apple. Experience would answer "eat the apple yourself and you will know its taste". What has my understanding of the apple's taste has got to do with your understanding? If I were to tell you that, it becomes knowledge, not experience, and then that is one wasted learning opportunity.
This happens in our society a lot, where knowledge becomes the forefront of everything. Looking at how education has changed over the centuries, from becoming a learned person in terms of values, to a learned person in terms of knowledge. It has changed until we have to drop off our values so that we can compete ruthlessly in the world. In exchange, we lose the meaning of life itself, and become more like animated units.
In summary, rather than pursuing knowledge to its maximum, we should also take some time off and look at the simpler things that doesn't require knowledge. That way, we could experience more life itself rather than being limited by knowledge.