The Student's Dialogue with the Buddha

"How," says the student, approaching the Buddha, "may I transcend grade pressure, which is the nagging belief that grades matter at all?"

For the Buddha to explain that grade pressure exists only in the student's mind would be useless, rather like telling someone "don't think about pink elephants." Neither does the Buddha answer the question. Answering the question would require the Buddha to claim metaphysical knowledge of grade pressure.

Instead the Buddha asks the student to define grades, accepting the student's assumption that pressure from them exists outside the student' own imagination.

"Grades are a measure of how well one has learned the material presented in a class."

"Who," asks the Buddha, "decides how well a student has learned the material presented in class?"

"The professor does."

"Then why don't you ask the professor how to transcend grade pressure, since the professor obviously knows more about grades than I do?"

The student thereupon goes to talk to the professor about grades, finding him watching TV, drinking coffee, and correcting exams at the same time.

"How might I transcend grade pressure?" the student asks.

"Hmm," says the professor. "How would your grades look if they didn't pressure you?"

"Well, I'm pressured by failing grades. C's pressure me. B's also pressure me. In fact, only A's don't pressure me. If all of my grades were A's, I would feel no pressure at all."

"Well then," says the professor, "I give A's to papers that demonstrate knowledge of the subject."

"But how do you decide what papers demonstrate knowledge of the subject?" asks the student, getting frustrated.

The professor thinks about that question. "I guess. If you want to know anything else, go ask the Buddha."

The student returns disconsolately to the Buddha. Ironically the discussion has, in fact, appointed the Buddha as the final authority on grades, even though the student hasn't noticed this.

The student recounts his conversation with the professor to the Buddha, complaining that he has not learned how to transcend grade pressure.

"So," says the Buddha, "since grades are but guesses on the part of the professor, do they really measure how well one has learned?"

"Only by accident," says the student.

"What do grades then measure?"


"If they do not measure, then what are they?"

"They are mere letters."

"Are these letters the source of grade pressure?"

"Not at all."

"What is the source of grade pressure?"

Upon hearing this question, the student is enlightened, drops out of college, and hitchhikes to California.

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