This is a small passage taken from the book “The Tree Of Enlightenment” by Dr. Peter Della Sentina. You can find the free full version of the book freely at this location.
The passage interestingly talks about the question “Do I need to know it all before taking any actions in the world?”
The Tree Of Enlightenment: A Short Excerpt
The pragmatic approach of Buddhism is expressed very clearly in the “Chulamalunkya Sutta”, a discourse in which the Buddha himself made use of the parable of a wounded man. In the story, a man wounded by an arrow wishes to know who shot the arrow, the direction from which it came, whether the arrowhead is bone or iron, and whether the shaft is one kind of wood or another before he will let the arrow be removed. His attitude is likened to that of people who want to know about the origin of the universe – whether it is eternal or not, finite in space or not, and so on – before they will undertake to practice a religion.
Such people will die before they ever have the answers to all their irrelevant questions, just as the man in the parable will die before he has all the answers he seeks about the origin and nature of the arrow.
This story illustrates the practical orientation of the Buddha and Buddhism. It has a great deal to tell us about the whole question of priorities and scientific problem-solving. We will not make much progress in the development of wisdom if we ask the wrong questions. It is essentially a matter of priorities.
The first priority for all of us is the reduction and eventual elimination of suffering. The Buddha recognized this and consequently pointed out the futility of speculating about the origin and nature of the universe – precisely because, like the man in the parable, we have all been struck down by an arrow, the arrow of suffering.