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The Chimney Puzzle: A Story of context and Perspective


Logic

Photo by Yiran Yang on Unsplash


A well-known Guru receives a knock on his door from a young man in his mid-twenties. "I've come to you because I want to study the Scriptures," he states.

 

“Is Sanskrit familiar to you?” the Guru queries.

 

"No," the young man responds.

 

"Do you have any knowledge of Indian philosophy?"

 

“Not at all. But don't be alarmed. I recently completed my logic doctoral dissertation at Harvard. I would now prefer to just wrap up my education by briefly studying the Scriptures.”

 

The Guru remarks, "I don't think you're ready to study the Scriptures. The depth of knowledge known to man is this. But if you'd like, I'm happy to put you through a logic test. If you pass, I'll teach you the Scriptures.

 

The young man concurs.

 

Guru extends two fingers. "A pair of men descend a chimney. One emerges with a clean face, while the other has a filthy one. Who cleanses his face?

 

The youth fixes his gaze on the Guru. "Is that actually a logical test?"

 

The Master gives a nod.

 

He responds with assurance, "The one with the dirty face washes his face."

 

“False. The person who has a spotless face cleanses his face. Analyse the reasoning. The person with the filthy face perceives the person with the clean face as having a clean face. When the clean-faced person looks at the dirty-faced person, she concludes that the person has a dirty face. Therefore, the person who has a clean face washes his face.”

 

Extremely astute, remarks the young man. "Send me one more exam."

 

Once more, the Guru raises two fingers. "A pair of men descend a chimney. One exits with a clean face, while the other has a filthy one. Who cleanses his face?

 

"That has already been established. The person who has a spotless face washes his face.”

 

“False. Every one cleanses his visage. Analyse the reasoning. The person with the filthy face perceives the person with the clean face as having a clean face. When the clean-faced person looks at the dirty-faced person, she concludes that the person has a dirty face. The person who has the cleanest face therefore washes his face. The person with the filthy face wipes his face as soon as he witnesses the person with the clean face doing so. Each one thus cleanses his face.”

 

"I never considered that," the young man remarks. “The thought of me possibly making a logical mistake shocks me. Try me once more.”

 

The Master extends two fingers. "A pair of men descend a chimney. One emerges with a clean face, while the other has a filthy one. Who cleanses his face?

 

"Everyone cleans his face."

 

“False. He doesn't wash his face. Analyse the reasoning. The person with the filthy face perceives the person with the clean face as having a clean face. When the clean-faced person looks at the dirty-faced person, he concludes that the person has a dirty face. However, the person with the clean face doesn't wash his face either once he notices the person with the dirty face not washing his face. Therefore, none of them cleans his face.”

 

The young man is in a dire situation. "I am capable of studying the Scriptures. Give me one more test, please.”

 

But when the Guru raises two fingers, he moans. "A pair of men descend a chimney. One emerges with a clean face, while the other has a filthy one. Who cleanses his face?”

 

"Neither of them cleans his face."

 

“False. Can you now see why studying the Scriptures cannot be done just on the basis of logic? Please explain to me how two men may emerge from the same chimney, one with a clean face and the other with a dirty one. See, don't you? The question is completely pointless and stupid, and if you dedicate your entire life to attempting to find stupid solutions, all of your responses will be pointless as well.”

 

Life Lessons:

 

1. Logic alone is insufficient: The story highlights that logic alone is insufficient to comprehend the depth of knowledge contained within the Vedas. The young man in the story thinks he can master the Vedas with his Harvard education and logical reasoning, but the Guru's tests reveal that logic is not enough to understand the nuances of life.

 

2. Context is essential: The story emphasizes the significance of context in understanding a situation fully. The answer to the question of which man washes his face changes depending on the context in which the question is asked. This demonstrates that our perceptions and conclusions are influenced by our perspectives and that we must consider all angles before concluding.

 

3. Appearance vs. Reality: The story plays with the distinction between appearance and reality. The young man's assumption that the man with the clean face washes his face because he appears clean leads him astray. Meanwhile, the Guru's tests reveal that things are not always as they seem. This cautions us against concluding based solely on outward appearances and instead encourages us to seek a deeper understanding of reality.

 

4. The importance of humility: The story stresses the significance of humility. The young man in the story is confident that his education and expertise are sufficient to comprehend the Vedas. Still, he is humbled by the Guru's tests, which show him that there is much more to learn than he imagined. This teaches us to be humble in our pursuit of knowledge and to recognize that there is always more to learn.

 

5. A willingness to learn: The story emphasizes the value of a willingness to learn. The young man's initial confidence in his knowledge is contrasted with his growing willingness to learn from the Guru. This teaches us that a genuine desire to learn and a willingness to challenge our presumptions are necessary for actual growth and understanding.

 

In general, the narrative teaches the importance of humility, perspective, and a willingness to learn. It cautions us against relying just on logic and instead encourages us to delve more profoundly into the nuances of life. The story teaches us that true knowledge comes from a combination of context, experience, and a willingness to challenge our preconceptions.


In a world that is overflowing with negative news, sensational broadcasts and dreadful predictions, the Akhyayikas series of books are ordained and intended to stimulate, enthuse, uplift, nourish and enlighten. You can find them here.

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5つ星のうち0と評価されています。
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Priyasi Shah
Priyasi Shah
4月07日
5つ星のうち5と評価されています。

The significance of humility and embracing continuous learning greatly impacts one's journey in life. Amazing article!

いいね!
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