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  • Thomas Bien

Don’t Forget Your Umbrella!

When we think of wisdom, we often think of things that are difficult, hard to understand, deep, or esoteric. But wisdom is about being in touch with the way things really are. In this sense, wisdom can be about noticing that the sky looks like rain, and remembering to wear a raincoat or bring an umbrella. Wisdom may involve learning to delay a purchase of something you want very badly until you can really afford it. Wisdom may include patience as you move toward your exercise goals, realizing that being in a hurry about them may actually slow you down if you become sick or injured.

And wisdom also includes those kinds of things that we normally think of—things like love or gratitude. Through wisdom, we come to understand that the happiness of all living beings is interconnected. If we approach life as a zero sum game, such that my gain is your loss and vice versa, we may create disparities that lead to conflict, violence, or even war. Acting in my own best interest is, from the perspective of wisdom, a help to all beings, while acting in the interest of others is in my own interest as well. These cannot really be separated. Being grateful for what we have helps us to be happier, whereas focusing on what we lack creates a lot of suffering. This too is wisdom.

In Buddhist circles, we talk about Buddhatha, the Buddha that is within us, our own inner wisdom. We honor our Buddha nature, our inner wisdom, not only be grand deeds, but by simply smiling to someone, holding a door open, or driving in a kind way. We honor our wisdom not only through acts of sacrifice but also by remembering to bring our umbrella. And when we notice our Buddha nature even in these simple acts, we gain a confidence in ourselves to meet all the challenges that may arise.

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