A master had a student who had never seen a cow nor tasted milk. But he knew that milk was nutritious.
So he wanted to find a cow, milk it, and drink the milk. He went to his master and asked him, “Do you know anything about cows?”
The master answered, “Of course.” The student requested, “Please describe a cow to me.”
So the master described a cow: “A cow has four legs. It is a tame, docile animal, not found in the forest but in villages. Its milk is white and is very good for your health.” He described the type of tail and ears it has, everything.
After this description the student went in search of a cow. On the way he came across a statue of a cow. He looked and thought, “This is surely what my master described to me.” By chance that day some people who lived nearby were whitewashing their house and there was a bucket of whitewash near the statue. The student saw it and concluded, “This must be that milk which they say is so good for you to drink.” He gulped down some of the whitewash, became terribly ill, and had to be taken to a hospital.
After he recovered he went back to his master and angrily charged, “You are no teacher!”
His master asked, “What’s the matter?”
The student replied, “Your description of a cow was not at all accurate.”
He explained, and the master asked, “Did you milk the cow yourself?”
“That is why you suffered.”
The cause of suffering among intellectuals today is not because they don’t really know. They know a little. But what they know is not their own knowledge, and that is why they suffer. A little or partial knowledge is always dangerous, like partial truths. A partial truth is not truth at all. So is the case with partial knowledge. The wise directly perceive truth.
From “Living with the Himalayan Masters” by Swami Rama