It is important to be able to differentiate between two levels of understanding. One is the superficial, intellectual level, where on the basis of reading, studying or listening to teachings, we distinguish between negative and positive qualities of mind and recognize their nature and origin.
The other is the deeper, experiential level, where we actually cultivate and generate positive qualities within ourselves.
Although it can be challenging to develop an intellectual understanding of certain topics, it is generally easier because it can be cultivated merely by reading texts or listening to teachings. Experiential understanding is far more difficult to develop, since it comes about only as a result of sustained practice. At the experiential level, your understanding is also accompanied by a strong component of feeling; your understanding is essentially a felt experience.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Taken from the free ebook “Illuminating the Path to Enlightenment”