What is Wisdom, Really?

Via on Nov 11, 2013

flame of wisdom

It’s an important virtue in Buddhism.

It’s one of the Three Trainings, along with Virtue and Meditation.

But, Wisdom is not always well defined, especially not here in the west. We sometimes blur the line between wisdom and knowledge, or between wisdom and intellect.

But What is Wisdom, Really?

buddha lotus

To me, wisdom means an intuitive understanding of the Dharma.

We can understand concepts like impermanence, emptiness, and interconnectedness on an intellectual level without so much difficulty. It’s easy to memorize and recite the four noble truths or our favorite sutras, but memorization isn’t wisdom. If it was, then the directions for becoming wise would be simple and straightforward. It’s easy to say that “ego is an illusion.” but to really understand that in our minds is something different.

Understanding interconnectedness is knowledge. Wisdom is being interconnectedness—understanding and acting on our interconnectedness in everything that we do. It is much easier said than done.

Knowledge consists of words, letters, and concepts. Wisdom is beyond words, letters, and concepts.

We can learn about the Dharma all we want. There are endless things we can read and we are lucky to live in a time when that is the case. There was a time when many Buddhist teachings were hard to find. That is not so anymore. In fact, more old texts are getting translated all the time.

And that’s good. Knowledge is important too.

But we have to actually practice the Dharma to gain wisdom.

It isn’t just something to learn about. It’s something to do.

The Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki once said,

“There are no enlightened people, there is only enlightened action.”

When we engage with wisdom we are enlightened, we are experiencing enlightenment.

 

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Editor: Cat Beekmans

{Photo: Wikimedia Commons & Wikimedia Commons}

About Daniel Scharpenburg

Daniel 'Heng Xue' Scharpenburg is an authorized teacher in the Ch'an Guild of Huineng, in the lineage of Ch'an Master Xu Yun. He continues to study under Buddhist teachers in several different traditions. He runs a Buddhist Sunday School for children at the Rime Buddhist Center in Kansas City and leads a sitting group called Far Out Zen. faroutzen.com He writes a blog at reluctantmonk.wordpress.com   You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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One Response to “What is Wisdom, Really?”

  1. jacksaunsea says:

    You got it! I think that so often many desire wisdom while negating the value of knowledge. Wisdom, I might even be so bold as to say, is seeing the to know something implies not to know something, the way both knowing and unknowing goes together.

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