Wisdom in Eastern Religions and Philosophy

According to Confucius, wisdom can be learned by three methods: Reflection (the noblest), imitation (the easiest) and experience (the bitterest). Wisdom is not told by self but unless asked for by another. This means a wise man never tells his wisdom unless asked person to person. According to “Doctrine of the Mean,” Confucius also said, “Love of learning is akin to wisdom. To practice with vigor is akin to humanity. To know to be shameful is akin to courage (zhi,ren,yi..three of Mengzi’s sprouts of virtue).” Compare this with the beginning of the Confucian classic “Great Learning” which begins with “The Way of learning to be great consists in manifesting the clear character, loving the people, and abiding in the highest good” one can clearly see the correlation with the Roman virtue prudence especially if one transliterates clear character as clear conscience. (from Chan’s Sources of Chinese Philosophy).

Head Scuplture Think Sculpture Statue AncientBuddhist scriptures teach that a wise person is endowed with good bodily conduct, good verbal conduct, and good mental conduct. (AN 3:2) A wise person does actions that are unpleasant to do but give good results, and doesn’t do actions that are pleasant to do but give bad results (AN 4:115). Wisdom is the antidote to the self-chosen poison of ignorance. The Buddha has much to say on the subject of wisdom including:

He who arbitrates a case by force does not thereby become just (established in Dhamma). But the wise man is he who carefully discriminates between right and wrong.

He who leads others by nonviolence, righteously and equitably, is indeed a guardian of justice, wise and righteous.

One is not wise merely because he talks much. But he who is calm, free from hatred and fear, is verily called a wise man.

By quietude alone one does not become a sage (muni) if he is foolish and ignorant. But he who, as if holding a pair of scales, takes the good and shuns the evil, is a wise man; he is indeed a muni by that very reason. He who understands both good and evil as they really are, is called a true sage.

In Taoism, wisdom is construed as adherence to the Three Treasures (Taoism): charity, simplicity, and humility.

  • Knowing others is intelligence;
  • knowing yourself is true wisdom.
  • Mastering others is strength;
  • mastering yourself is true power.

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