Sunday, August 15, 2010

Use knowledge to find wisdom

"It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom."

Are we guaranteed at birth that we will be wise in our old age? "Older but wiser" is a common saying. But is it true?

Wisdom cannot be faked. We can feel wisdom in another person. It is a sense that they know themselves deeply without excessive ego or self-doubt.

Mahatma Gandhi had no military training when he decided to stand up to the well-equipped British army. How was he able to use nonviolent civil disobedience to gain independence for a nation? How did he inspire thousands to resist fighting back when they were being beaten during a peaceful march? The suffering of the protesters worked to unify India in a way that England finally realized they no longer could retain control of the millions of Indians under their colonial rule. Gandhi said, "Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man." Gandhi had a strong belief that the law of love rules mankind. He believed that if hate was the controlling energy, we would have been extinct a long time ago. His wisdom was felt by others and mobilized a nation to secure victory without a weapon.

The wisest men do not think they know everything. They know that wisdom comes from a sense of wonder, a feeling that there is so much to learn and understand, the belief that the mysteries of the world will never be completely revealed. When the oracle at Delphi said that Socrates was wiser than anyone else in Athens, Socrates decided to test this by questioning the men considered wise by the Athenians. Socrates concluded that, while each man thought he was wise, in fact they knew very little and were not wise at all. Paradoxically Socrates knew he was not wise at all, which made him the wisest since he was the only person aware of his own ignorance. He only claimed to understand the path to the pursuit of wisdom.

The owl is a symbol of wisdom in many cultures. She is said to be clairvoyant with acute vision, seeing what others cannot see in the dark. These talents, along with silent observation, make the owl a great hunter. Wisdom abounds in nature and the owl is one expression of that wisdom.

So what is the difference between knowledge and wisdom? Wisdom lies beneath the surface guiding us to we live and act upon that wisdom without conflict of thought. Knowledge is something we believe to be true, but may fail to act upon. Knowledge lies on the surface and has not been totally infused it into our core making it our own.

Yoga can be taught but ultimately the path of yoga is to find the teacher within. We can do a pose, but what we feel is important. The feeling and the doing are in constantly interacting with each other. Without the breath we will never find the depth we seek in our practice. Yoga can be an exercise, but it can be so much more. We can keep yoga on the surface or we can bring it deep into our core. When we know ourselves deeply, yoga becomes an expression of that wisdom. It infuses our poses with strength and lightness.

Knowledge can be taught and sought after. It leads the way to wisdom. Wisdom is a life long experience of learning and seeking. So even though there is no guarantee we will grow up to be wise, if we humbly follow the path of seeking wisdom, we will grow old with peace and equanimity.

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