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Posts Tagged ‘Sila-Paramita’

Today we continue our adventure into the 10 Paramitas with Wisdom.  What is the difference between Wisdom and knowledge? The dictionary defines knowledge as understanding gained through experience or study.  Wisdom is defined as understanding of what is true, right, or lasting. Sylvia Boorstein, in her book Pay Attention for Goodness Sake, writes, “To develop Wisdom, it doesn’t matter what mind state is present.  It only matters that you know what is present (page 108).”

In ancient times Wisdom was an attribute of the feminine and was represented by Sophia.  “Sophia, the Greek translation of the Hebrew “Hochmah” is the feminine personification of Wisdom in the Pentateuch.  She is neither a goddess nor a new age creation of feminist theologians.  She was a real biblical person with more material on her in the OT (with Apocrypha) than anyone in the scriptures, except God, Job, Moses and David.”1  The great and powerful Solomon when he prayed for Wisdom knew that it came from Sophia.

Each of us has the Wisdom of Sophia right within us at every moment throughout eternity.  That is why when the dictionary defines Wisdom it does not indicate where you acquired the understanding of what is true, right, or lasting.  Wisdom is there for each of us if we just open our minds to that Divine Idea.  When my students would be studying for a big test I would always tell them that if all else failed the pencil had the answer.  They would laugh and some of them would think I had lost my mind.  And they may have been right: Lost it in the mind of Sophia.

“She is the ‘woman clothed with the sun,’ who brings the blazing light of knowledge.  Sophia is the embodiment of all wisdom, and it is she who urges us to know, to understand.  She leads the willing soul out of ignorance and blesses those who study and endeavor to know her.  In the words of Solomon: ‘I prayed and understanding was given me: I called upon God and the spirit of Wisdom came to me. I loved Her above health and beauty, and chose to have Her instead of light, for the light that cometh from Her never goeth out.’  Sophia is the deepest part of ourselves–that part can grasp in an instant the mysteries of the ages.”2

There is truth in that statement about the pencil.  For Sophia lives in each of us regardless of whether we have the body of a male or a female.  “Behold that I have not laboured for myself only, but for all them that seek Wisdom.”  She holds all people sacred and will give her Wisdom to anyone who calls upon her. The Buddha lived this life that Sophia talked about each and every day.  He may not have called upon Sophia when he was sitting under the Bodhi tree seeking and finding Wisdom of the universe right within him and within everything: the stars, the sun, the moon, the universe all that is, but he found her nonetheless.

Wisdom is greater than knowledge or intellect because Wisdom comes from something well beyond knowledge or humanity, you can name it something or nothing.  Giving it a name does not lesson the power of Wisdom in the universe or in us.  But we so often overlook it.  Throughout time philosophers have tried to understand the nature of Wisdom and how to achieve it.  They saw Wisdom in the people around them even before books, Bibles, the Sutras, the internet, and talk radio!  How could that be?  Because the Wisdom is not in the pencil, the ink, or the person, Wisdom moves through us as it does through all living things. Look for Wisdom in nature, be observant, and be conscious when you walk, drive, eat, work, dance and sing. It is everywhere!  We can tap into it at any time.  We have been told, seek and you shall find.  The Buddha did and so can you!

If you take the time today to stop and ask for Wisdom in each and every situation that you are dealing with, then sit in the silence for as long as you can and simply listen–your answers will appear.  It is said that Thomas Edison would take a coin and place it in his hand, he would then lay down on a bench in his laboratory and think about the problem or the question.  He would take a nap, and when the coin fell to the ground it would wake him up.  Then he would reach for his pencil and write down whatever thoughts were there.  It was invariably the answer to his problem.  If Thomas Edison could us this technique so can you.

Meditate on Wisdom today and every day this week.  Take the time to be like Thomas Edison when you have a problem at work or at home.  Listen for the still small voice within you and then write its message down, then follow through with the ideas that have been given to you.  Let me know what Wisdom you discovered!

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A few days ago I decided to do a series of blog posts on the 10 Paramitas in Buddhism as shared in Sylvia Boorstein’s book, Pay Attention, For Goodness’ Sake (2002).  She described these 10 ideals by which we live as Buddhists: Generosity, Morality, Renunciation, Wisdom, Energy, Patience, Truthfulness, Determination, Lovingkindness, and Equanimity (page 9).[1]  We started by practicing the Paramita of Generosity and each morning before we arose we set our intention for the day to find every opportunity or to create opportunities to be generous.

I found it very easy and lots of fun as well.  When grocery shopping I found some great things on sale that a friend of mine just loves so I bought them for him and surprised him when he came home from work they were sitting on his kitchen counter.  He sure was surprised and very appreciative of the gifts and enjoyed eating them throughout the next few days.  How wonderful is that!

Now I am going to take on the next Paramita on Sylvia’s list: Morality.  Wow, now we are in to the heady and often controversial stuff!  So let’s dive in with both feet into our newest adventure in life.  The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word moral as: “of or concerned with the judgment of the goodness or badness of human action and character; pertaining to the discernment of good and evil and being or acting in accordance with standards and precepts of goodness or with established codes of behavior…

“Mahayana scholars identified three categories of sila: Morality as restraint, morality as virtue, and morality as the selfless activity of compassion. These categories show us a progression of training, from self-concern to selfless concern,” writes Barbara O’Brien in her essay on “Sila Paramita: The Perfection of Morality.”[2]

She goes on to explain in her essay about what Morality is not.  “It’s important to understand that the basis of Buddhist morality is not found in external authority. In other words, the practice of morality is not found in unquestioning obedience of a list of rules. Instead, the perfection of morality is the natural expression of wisdom and compassion.”[3]

Whew, that’s a relief because if I had to review all the lists from all the religions of the world to see what they considered moral and what they considered immoral I’d be in a lot of trouble. Some say drinking alcohol is a sin and will send you to hell in a hand basket,” whatever that is, and others drink every single day as they serve wine during the Eucharist!  What’s up with that?

Zen Buddhists are minimalists and I just love that.  That makes me happy, keep it simple I say. It sure makes life easier knowing that if I focus on three simple things in my life—restraint, virtue, and compassion—I can live up to the ideals taught and practiced in Buddhism that resonate deep within me.

If we want an easy way to know if our thoughts, deeds, and actions are moral ones we can take a look at a Morality sermon preached by the Buddha as Sylvia describes it: “…the Buddha said that there are three times that a person should consider the consequences of any action: before, during, and after. “One should reflect thus,’ he said. “’Is what I am about to do. . .’ or ‘Is what I am currently doing. . .’ or ‘is what I just did. . . for my own well-being and for the benefit of all others (page 73).’”[4]

These go hand in hand with Zen Buddhism’s Three Pure Precepts: Cease all evil deeds, cultivate goodness, act for the benefit of others.  It sounds a little redundant, but redundancy is a good thing.  I tell my students all the time that it takes 12 times of handling the same information to learn it.  So how can we practice something that we have not integrated into our mind, body, and spirit?  Do as many things as you can over the next few days that will give you the opportunity to cease all evil deeds, cultivate goodness, and act for the benefit of others.  That shouldn’t be too hard I don’t think.

You could take Sylvia’s list of “Morality as restraint, morality as virtue, and morality as the selfless activity of compassion.” Or combine Sylvia and Barbara’s lists.  This adventure will take you through some tough times and some joyous times.  It may make you look at yourself in a different light.  You may choose to restrain yourself from getting into an argument with someone, even though you may feel justified in doing so.  Then take a look at how it worked out.  Did it end up being as the Buddha said, “for your own well-being and for the benefit of all others?”  I sure do hope so!

Barbara goes on to say, “Morality as restraint touches on renunciation. Renunciation is understood to be releasing whatever binds us to ignorance and suffering. . . So, we begin the journey by giving up behaviors that bind us, such as lying, stealing, and attachment. . .”[5]  Our attachments can be to almost anything: people, places, behaviors, thoughts, and even things.

So let me know how your next few days go with the morality trip!  It may be like a roller coaster, it may be like a trip in a hot air balloon, and, if you like, it could even be like a trip to the beach filled with sunshine and light.  You make the choice and then let me know what happens and enjoy the trip wherever you go!


[1] Boorstein, Sylvia, Pay Attention, for Goodness’ sake. Ballantine Books

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid. Boorstein

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