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Wisdom and Knowledge

Wisdom and knowledge, knowledge and wisdom. Both sound and look very similar in Chinese. Wisdom (智), and knowledge (知). Some people may mix up wisdom and intelligent. When someone sees a person who is able to make very good decisions, he or she may think "Woah, this person is smart!". However, instead of smart, this person is actually wise because of the accumulated practices or experiences. Of course, this form of wisdom is worldly wisdom which is used in worldly affairs. In our context here, we are talking about the wisdom of Truth, the Dharma.

What is knowledge? What we learn from books are knowledge. Knowledge of plowing a farm, assembling a phone, or driving a car; those are knowledge. Listening to the sutras, lectures by monks and nuns, and learning from them, these too, are also knowledge. In a way, knowledge is like a road map. If you memorize how to go to a location, you have the knowledge of the map.

Wisdom, is then, walking the path. By putting your effort in to practice and cultivation, you develop wisdom. You may at first have many afflictions and distracted thoughts, but as you practice and cultivate, you find that you have lesser distracted thoughts and afflictions. Then you are able to see the nature of things clearly and make good decisions. You will not be swayed by other people if they insult you, nor will you fight back at angry people. You develop patience and mindfulness. Of course, practice is required for that to happen.

Therefore we have the road map. The road map is just a guide. There many paths you can take to the same destination: Which one are you going to take? The knowledge points us to the right direction we have to go. By taking the first step towards that direction, we start developing wisdom along the way. It doesn't matter how many directions to the same location, or the exact details of the direction you can tell people, if you do not start traveling towards the destination, you will see the path.

Wisdom therefore, is developed through practice. By practicing and cultivating honestly every day, we begin to realize and understand what the Buddha is trying to tell us. Then our wisdom will start growing until we attain unsurpassed and complete wisdom. Therefore, if we want to have wisdom, we cannot stop halfway towards our destination. Of course there is a rest stop, but after we finish resting, we still have to continue our travel and practice until we reach our destination.

Both knowledge and wisdom is important for cultivation. Without knowledge, we will not know where to start. Without wisdom, we cannot differentiate right from wrong, and will be lost in the woods, unable walk out from there.

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