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  • Writer's pictureH.D. Lee

Knowledge & Wisdom

Instead of gathering knowledge, you should clear your mind.

If your mind is clear, true knowledge is already yours.

~ Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Is there something we want more than knowledge? How is true knowledge different from mere knowledge? What is the purpose of knowledge, anyway? In my life coaching work with people from all walks of life, I listen to the issues people say they have: feeling stuck in their work and not knowing how to move forward, or being terrified of an unforeseeable future as one’s comfortable and familiar world falls apart, or the sense of not being able to be oneself with one’s intimate partner, et cetera. So it would seem, at least from my clients’ perspectives, that if knowledge is to be useful at all, it should help them deal with their issues. But, is it the issues we want to deal with, or is it the anxiety and suffering that these issues create which we want to do away with? Probably both, right? Well, wisdom can help us do just that.

Wisdom is true knowledge. However, true knowledge is not gained through assiduous studies in the limited sense: becoming a bookworm and earning three PhDs do not guarantee the flowering of wisdom within oneself. In chapter forty-eight of 道德經 (Tao Te Ching), it is written「為學日益,為道日損。」The literal translation is: In order to learn, we shall look to accumulate [knowledge] daily. In order to know The Way, we shall look to reduce [the sense of “I know”] daily. Similarly, the Chinese characters for wisdom is 智慧. The pictogram 智 [zhi] is the combination of the pictograms “to know” and “the sun”. This can be understood as illuminated knowing, or knowing with clarity. The pictogram 慧 [huei] depicts a set of brooms clearing the dust off of the mind. So, the widely quoted Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu and the ancient Chinese civilization over which Lao Tzu has profound influence both see true knowledge as not really about knowledge.

So how do we go about clearing our minds? How do we illuminate our thinking? The Jewish Torah helps us out by telling us: Wisdom…depends on the opportunity of leisure. Only the one who has little business can be wise. Many, especially the “educated” and “professional” among us, are busy beyond measure. No, I am not saying people should retire into the mountains in order to become wise. However, my experience shows me by building habits that support a calm and unhurried mind, we will more easily enter this leisurely state whereby wisdom surfaces more readily. Have you tried this already? Are you willing to try various things that have the power to transform your mind, and therefore your life, for the long-run?

H.D. Lee

Photo Credits: Aron Visuals from Pexel

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