Upakausalya: ‘Skillful Means’

 

The layered term Upakausalya is effectively translated into English as ‘Skillful Means’, a term applied to the methods of a Teacher. To render Upakausalya is to speak at the speed of listening of the listener.

As one early text defines it: ‘As a learned grammarian would even teach the alphabet to a beginner’. Pedagogic expediency with eyes wide open.

But there is a big difference between using a Name in an act of ‘Skillful Means’ and applying one that emerged in a short-stopped denouement. A difference of night and day.

There is a serious risk that ‘Skillful Means’ ends up being very unskillful. With the wrong teacher or a misjudged audience, it can quickly take on a life of its own.

Over the years I have witnessed impenetrable drivel spewing forth from an ambitious Guru being treated as deep teaching meant only for the ear of the evolved and suitably compliant devotee. 

And Skillful Means has its counterpart in the the listening audience, one of a very unskillful listening. Skillful Means is only meant to come half-way. You have to reach out to get it.