The practice of skillful means reminds us to listen to others respectfully, honor their differences, and recognise that others may have different needs and benefit from different teachings and practices. Following the model of the bodhisattva of compassion, we must not self-righteously cling to any particular method. We can learn various useful approaches, and as we learn to trust and respond with whatever is at hand, our skillfulness can develop.
I use hundred thousands of various skilful means, such as different interpretations, indications, explanations, illustrations. It is not by reasoning, Sâriputra, that the law is to be found: it is beyond the pale of reasoning, and must be learnt from the Tathâgata. For, Sâriputra, it is for a sole object, a sole aim, verily a lofty object, a lofty aim that the Buddha, the Tathâgata, &c., appears in the world. And what is that sole object, that sole aim, that lofty object, that lofty aim of the Buddha, the Tathâgata, &c., appearing in the world? To show all creatures the sight of Tathâgata-knowledge does the Buddha, the Tathâgata, &c., appear in the world; to open the eyes of creatures for the sight of Tathâgata-knowledge does the Buddha, the Tathâgata, &c., appear in the world.
The Lotus Sutra – CHAPTER II.
Absorb What is useful; discard what is not
Buddhist folklore in Sri Lanka tells of a particular mythological bird, the cakavaka. Among the cakavaka’s many virtues is its ability to drink only the milk when milk is mixed with water. In the past, Buddhist authors in Sri Lanka would sometimes ask their readers to be like cakavaka birds, to take what is true and useful—the milk—and to leave the mistakes and distortions—the water. I too ask you to be like the cakavaka bird, to take whatever you found to be useful in this class and otherwise to leave its shortcomings and failures.
Buddhism Through Its Scriptures
edX – Harvard