We can find wisdom everywhere: in every person, situation, and experience to which we bring an open inquiring mind. Although it is possible to learn from all people and all things, religious traditions especially recommend five sources.
Background on Roger Walsh
Religious Traditions Advise Us to Seek Wisdom from Five Sources
- In Nature
Whether it is a mountain peak, a forest valley, or an ocean shore, somehow nature sifts the trivia of our minds and reminds us of the timeless and important.
- In Silence and Solitude
In silence — even more so in solitude — we escape the superficial demands of society. Silence allows the mind to rest. Then the inner chatter of thoughts and fantasies ceases and inner silence mirrors the outer silence.
When silence reigns both within and without, we can hear what can never be spoken, the wisdom that waits beyond words.
- From the Wise
Who better to teach wisdom than the wise? But who are the wise? The great religious founders such as Buddha, Lao Tsu, Confucius, Jesus and Mohammad; also, the great men and women who invigorated these traditions. But we need not remain fixated on the past or assume that wise people became extinct thousands of years ago.
If valued and cultivated, wisdom can flower in people of all times and places. The 20th century produced many wise and compassionate people. The vast majority of them are unknown, while some — such as Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and the Dalai Lama — are household names.
Not only saints and sages can inspire us. There are many degrees of wisdom, and those only a few steps ahead can help, as can friends traveling the path with us.
- In Ourselves
As practice deepens, we gradually awaken to a startling realization: We do not really know ourselves. Of course, we know our habits and the personality we put on each day and pretend it is our Self. But we come to realize that we don’t really know our own inner depths, how our mind works, and our deepest Self.
So many wise people have urged us to “know thyself.” The rewards of self-knowledge are profound because our Self — our true spiritual Self — is the doorway to the sacred.
When we finally turn our attention inward, we discover that we are not who we thought we were. To know ourselves is to recognize that we are far, far more than we believed. It is to exchange our shabby self-image for our true Self and to discover that our true Self is a sacred Self and a doorway to the Divine. What is the secret of life? You are!
- From Reflecting on the Nature of Life and Death
There are four ideas, known as “the four mind-changers” that help us to understand the nature of life, to change our minds, and to live our lives accordingly:
• Life is inconceivably precious.
• Life is short and death is certain.
• Life contains inevitable difficulties.
• Our ethical choices mold our lives.
Those who would, may reach the utmost height — but they must be eager to learn.