Now this simile describes the difference between a "teacher" and someone who clings to fabricated thought that does not point to anywhere but is merely a self-referential mere thought. "Teaching" this thought to others necessarily inoculates others with this clinging to mere thought because there is nothing in direct experience that the thought refers to. Like the blind man that may touch the finger pointing to the station but this would never lead him to the station.
Well, you assume that there is nothing in direct experience that the thought refers to. I am not certain this is the case, in fact, I am so far inclined to believe otherwise--in other words, I believe in the possibility of an unmediated, direct experience, available to every human being, potentially. That is, after all, the Buddha's message, is it not?
Well I think what exactly is the message of the Buddha's is the question of all this. Primarily it is the cessation of what is translated as "suffering".
And as to belief ... belief may have its own function and in a sense every thought is a belief.
conebeckham wrote:Let us say, for example, the blind man has never been to the station before. There is no doubt that the experience of touching the guide's finger is not the experience of "the station," nor would be the guide's verbal description of the station. The blind man would still not have experienced "the station."
Now, I grant you, it would be sad if the blind man, filled with a description of the station, along with a guide to get there, decided that he didn't need to get there after all, because he had a description. Perhaps the description was unappealing. Perhaps it was negative. Perhaps, perhaps, the guide described the station only by means of exclusion, saying that the station was not, for instance, a shopping mall, or an airport, or a candy factory. Filled with such "descriptions," the blind man turns the other way, walks away from the station, into traffic, and ends up losing his life or breaking his limbs.
If, on the other hand, the guide was skillful, and described the station in appealing terms, or perhaps even in terms that aroused the blind man's curiosity, the blind man might eventually have an experience of the actual station, if he followed the guide and reached the destination.
Then we could ask the blind man about his experience with regard to the station, and also with the path he followed to reach the station. The blind man would say, in my opinion, that the direct experience of the station ultimately could not be described in words or descriptions, as they all fell short. At the same time, he would grant that, not only were the descriptions provided by the guide expedient, in that they aroused his curiosity or affirmed a goal worth reaching, but they were also, in some sense, an imperfect approximation of the station.
You are actually deviating from the original topic of illustration - maybe because you have misunderstood the context of "experience" mentioned. The topic of illustration was: Mere thought as a means to reach a goal vs experience as a means to reach the goal. The goal ("to get to the station") not has been described or meant to be an experience itself.
You suggested "compassion" as a cause for teaching mere thought. I would say it is simply lack of wisdom to do so. Therefore the Buddha is the supreme teacher because he did not teach mere thought but guided his disciples through what they can experience themselves.