Although it is inaccurate to say that the only path to wisdom is through Buddhism, it is accurate to say that the study of Buddhism can lead to wisdom. This wisdom is achieved because many of the thought processes used to understand Buddhism are common thought processes used in basic logic and common sense, along with the spiritual aspects of Buddhism. Some may believe that because of Buddhism’s newfound close relation with topics considered new age, that the logical component is not present in Buddhism. But this is an incorrect assessment and closer studies of Buddhism will show how the basic concepts of Buddhism are based in logic. The logic and wisdom of Buddhism is evident in the koans that teach Buddhist practice and strategy of thinking. A koan is a paradox used in Buddhism that, when meditated upon, leads to a greater intuitive understanding after the abandonment of reason.
Here is how a koan yields insight to wisdom-based thinking:
The koan of the greedy artist is a common one. It depicts an artist who was talented and able to command large amounts of money for his artwork. In time, people began to resent his success and believe that he hoarded his money and was greedy. The artist was lonely but continued to charge exorbitant prices for his art. After he retired, it was discovered that he used his money to feed the poor and sick and didn’t keep his earnings for himself.
This koan shows that, on a surface level, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but it also goes deeper than that. This koan shows how mistaken people can be when they form assumptions about others, and the limitations of those beginning impressions. The wisdom of Buddhism seeks its practitioners to free themselves of bondage and let go of preconceived notions. Because preconceived notions lead to suffering, freedom from these is one of the ways in which we can achieve a life free of suffering.
The first of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism is that Life is suffering. If you read this statement literally, you would take it to mean that life is hopeless and we must all be cynical. But that is not what the statement is intended to mean. It means that sometimes life does not go as intended, and sometimes we hope for outcomes, which cannot come to pass. Because we know this to be true, we must prepare ourselves for the letdowns of life. If we prepare for this, then we can remain calm in adversity. The wisdom in this statement is not immediately clear, and so we must work to understand the meaning, and that in turn leads to greater wisdom.
A common theme in Buddhism is that, just as it may take a lifetime to reach enlightenment, it may also take a lifetime to become wise. Attaining wisdom is a process, and your wisdom grows through daily experience. As we grow wiser, we understand that we should hold judgment and remain calm when we meet adversity. But some of us go through life having never mastered these lessons. This may be because we have not fine-tuned our awareness to understand ourselves, and the world. One of the goals in Buddhism is to achieve wisdom as well as enlightenment.
Buddhist philosophical guidance such as the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path are so important because they provide the structure and thought processes that lead to wisdom. Whereas meditation, on the other hand, cultivates the mind to understand our thought processes on a deeper level. Both rumination and meditation in Buddhism will lead us to a wider understanding of life, and to wisdom.