The importance of complexifying things

When we want to understand things, we often want them to be explained simply. Indeed, effective education centers on simplifying things to aid assimilation. 

Simultaneously however, effective education sometimes requires complexifying concepts. To complexify things is not to complicate them; complicating things means making them more difficult to understand than what they are, whereas complexifying things means revealing how they are subtler than what we had presumed. 

Consider the concept of karma, which connotes the causal connection between action and consequence. Still, karma is not so simple (Bhagavad-gita 04.17). Sometimes, multiple actions done over several lifetimes may combine to give one gigantic reaction. Conversely, one deed may lead to a multitude of consequences that may extend over a long time. 

Most importantly, appreciating the complexity of karma is critical to avoid the pitfall of judgementality. Just because somebody is going through adversity right now doesn’t mean that we get the right to treat them as a bad person who has done severe misdeeds, as evidenced by the problems they are presently facing. If they are presently living a good life and are facing an inexplicable disaster, we need to act in a way that encourages and aids them. 

Education sometimes requires explaining things in black and white, which equates with simplifying things. Simultaneously, education means explaining the various shades of grey between black and white, which involves complexifying things deemed simple. The Gita itself exemplifies effective education; it makes subtle spiritual realities such as the soul understandable and reveals the many nuances of dharma, wherein Krishna descends to establish dharma (04.08) and later urges us to transcend dharma (18.66). 

Knowing what is needed to elevate the audience we are speaking to, is the key to effective education. 

One-sentence summary:

To educate effectively, know when to simplify concepts and when to complexify them.

Think it over:

  • What is the difference between complicating things and complexifying things?
  • How can complexifying karma be helpful?
  • Has complexifying things enhanced your understanding?


04.17: The intricacies of action are very hard to understand. Therefore one should know properly what action is, what forbidden action is and what inaction is.


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  1. Difficulty is the source of intelligence

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