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The Buddha Story: Good understanding

by T Ashok

Good understanding is not about knowing everything in detail, it is about just knowing what is required and learning to discard what is not necessary or deferring to a later stage.

Let me tell you a beautiful Buddha story that illustrates this.
Once upon a time there lived a wise and learned man with mastery over various languages, philosophies and religions. He was extremely proud of his knowledge, but eager to learn more. He came to know that a person named Buddha lived far away and was a very learned man. Keen to further his knowledge, he went to Buddha, introduced himself as a man well versed with various philosophies, expressed his wish to enhance his knowledge and requested to teach him.

Buddha said he would be happy to do and requested him to kindly sit in the corner of the room. A few hours passed and the learned man was getting fidgety while Buddha continued to do his work. As the sun went down, Buddha suggested that they resume the next day. The learned gentleman after a good night’s rest came back promptly. Buddha again requested him sit down in the corner. The morning turned into afternoon and the dusk set in. The man was throughly upset that Buddha was ignoring him. He went up to him and said “Sir, I am very upset that you are ignoring me, I hope you understand that I am also a man of knowledge”.

Buddha calmly said “Come my dear friend, sit down let us have a cup of tea”. He took the tea pot and poured the tea onto the cup while watching the man. The cup filled to the brim and Buddha continued pouring, spilling the tea on the floor. The man watching this shouted “The cup is full, please stop pouring!”.

Buddha fully aware of what he was doing said “My friend, your mind is like this, filled with knowledge, with no space to acquire additional knowledge. Empty it and you will be ready to learn.” And only then did the learned man realise his folly.

As a test practitioner, understanding a complex system is always always interesting. The big challenge that I face is when passionate folks explain the system sparing no detail. That is when I say “STOP, I do not need to know this, will certainly ask when I need it”.Good understanding requires that the tea cup be only partially full.

Defer what is not needed now to later. Don’t attempt to understand everything at one go.

Smart QA is about having great clarity, a result of good understanding. This occurs when you are actively questioning with an agile mind, not passively absorbing and getting weighed down. Lessen your burden and your mind is like a nimble goat climbing the mountain of complexity. At the top, view the system in totality clearly. And the issues pop out.

HBT (Hypothesis Based Testing) is based on this principle of deferment and active questioning to understand complex systems rapidly and test smartly.


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