Experienced wisdom

Paññā pāramī : transcendental wisdom, insight

When, householder, a noble disciple has understood thus: ‘Longing and unrighteous greed are a defilement of the mind’, and has abandoned them; when he has understood thus: ‘Ill will is a defilement of the mind’, and has abandoned it; when he has understood thus: ‘Dullness and drowsiness are a defilement of the mind’, and has abandoned them; when he has understood thus: ‘Restlessness and remorse are a defilement of the mind’, and has abandoned them; when he has understood thus: ‘Doubt is a defilement of the mind’, and has abandoned it, he is then called a noble disciple of great wisdom, of wide wisdom, one who sees the [full] range, one accomplished in wisdom.
from AN 4.61, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi

This excerpt describes a key distinction between behaving well because we’re able to temporarily suppress our unwholesome impulses and refraining from harmful behaviors because we see for ourselves that they are the less desirable path. If we actually know how it is in the world, we will never choose to do harm. This is how we recognize wisdom as described by the Buddha.

The list of harmful mindstates above is sometimes called the five hindrances, in particular because they are the main difficulties we encounter when we try to meditate. They are different from, but related to, the precepts, which are more concerned with our interactions and words. There is a direct connection between abandoning greed and practicing generosity, between abandoning ill will and practicing harmlessness, non-stealing and truthful speech. Abandoning dullness, restlessness and doubt might translate into having confidence in the wholesomeness of our actions.

For all of these trainings, the goal is to observe causes and effects so closely and so relentlessly that we can no longer act for the harm of any being (including ourselves) because we are aware of the consequences of our actions. This awareness is our most powerful tool.

2 Comments

Filed under Perfections

2 responses to “Experienced wisdom

  1. Hi Sue – True. I encourage you not to think of the end goal, but of direction. If we’re facing in the right direction, eventually we will reach the goal. But if we’re faced in the wrong direction (like giving up, for example), then the goal gets further away. Noticing one cause-effect relationship a day is better than none. So keep on keepin’ on!
    Warmly, Lynn

  2. Sue

    This is very clear and easy to read; but not very easy to achieve!! Thank you.

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