“A loving heart is the truest wisdom.”
– Charles Dickens
As we grow older, we add more years to our age but not necessarily more wisdom. Many of us might agree that someone who has more wisdom is in a better position to learn the lessons of life.
PURPOSE OF LIFE
One of the definitions a dictionary gave for life was this: the sequence of physical and mental experiences that make up the existence of an individual.
The real difference between your today and your yesterday is not your current position in the social strata or the array of material goods or property rights you’ve been able to acquire, but your experiences. If you die today, the only thing you are going to take away with you is the amount of love you’ve found through your experiences.
If life has any purpose at all, it is this: To expose you to those series of experiences that has the greatest probability of leading you, at your own pace, to come to the understanding of who you are and what your purpose is. Thereafter you are expected to fulfill this purpose through service to fellow men and all life.
The more wisdom you have the more understanding you will have. The more understanding you have the more lessons of life you will be able to learn.
Wisdom. I bet you will want to know how to acquire more wisdom. Between you and me, I must confess that I have my doubts. Is wisdom all there is? Is the possession of wisdom very important to you? Do you really want wisdom or do you want something more important to you than wisdom?
Remember King Solomon? He was presented with wisdom and wealth, and asked to choose one. He chose wisdom and wealth was thrown in as a bonus. That was his choice. What would yours be?
Suppose you were in the same position today as Solomon was then. In your own case you were not asked to choose between wealth and wisdom, rather you were asked to choose between power, wisdom, and love. Just choose. Choose what you really want. There is no “right” or “wrong” answer. The reason why you choose what you choose is more important than what you choose.
If you were true to yourself, if you have pleased yourself, if you have been yourself, if you have obeyed your true feelings, it would have taken you very little time to come to a decision. In which case your preference wouldn’t be a choice at all but a necessity. Or perhaps a predetermined option if you insist on calling it a choice. Predetermined by what? Predetermined by your past experiences, your understanding of yourself and life, your beliefs, motives, and desires.
POWER, WISDOM OR LOVE?
If you ask any group of people to choose between love, wisdom and power, a great many of them, 75 to 90 per cent in my estimation, will choose power.
Power is very attractive. Power is appealing. The world is in love with power. Power to victimize. Power to intimidate. Power to punish, seduce, harass, and command. Power to give and take. Power to please and deny. Power to control. Power to rule. Power to outclass others. Power to acquire material goods. Power to build and destroy. Power to kill.
Power is a two-edged sword: it can harm or heal. In the hands of one without compassion it can do more harm than it can heal. Power destroys those who love it dearly. Think of some of those who loved power greatly: Alexander the Great; Roman emperor Caligula; Napoleon Bonaparte; Adolf Hitler; Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson; former Liberian head of state Samuel Doe. What happened to each? The same power they embraced in all its nakedness consumed them.
Power isn’t just influence, position or fame. Wealth is also a form of power. The real test offered King Solomon was to choose between wisdom and power. Power is also specialized knowledge in the form of having access to strategic information or having a high IQ. Microsoft’s Chairman Bill Gates is sitting on top of a keg of raw power one trillion times more potent that the explosive powers that flattened Hiroshima and Nagasaki. All forms of power, whatever they are, can become traps. It doesn’t take long to catch its victims.
If you don’t choose power, you’d most likely have chosen wisdom. That’s a wise choice – a Solomonic option. Choosing wisdom is one thing and getting wisdom is another. How or where do you get wisdom?
SEYIB’S SEARCH FOR WISDOM
The Orientals of old like telling beautiful stories that leave a lasting impression on you. One of them was about a man who desired wisdom exceedingly. Let’s call him Seyib.
He was told there was an old wise man in the cave among the distant hills who was reputed to be the wisest man in the world. Seyib set out determined to find out this wise man. He was convinced that if he could find such a man he would be able to learn from him how to acquire wisdom.
It was a long journey, but he had his horse with him. After many moons, exhausted and tired, he came to the cave of the wise old man. He jumped down from his horse, secured the rope to a tree, bent down and stooped into the cave.
“Stranger, welcome,” the old man greeted Seyib in a clear, steady voice.
The old man looked ordinary enough. There was nothing on him that suggested great wisdom except maybe his gray beard! – that is, if gray hairs were a sign of wisdom!
“What brought you this way, stranger? I rarely get visitors,” said the old man, looking him over and determining that he must have journeyed from afar.
“Wise old man,” answered Seyid, “I desire wisdom. How can I acquire wisdom?”
The old man looked at him for a long while, then got up and went to the cave mouth and peered out. He saw the horse hitched to a tree.
“Where is your horse?” he said, turning to Seyib.
“Out there, hitched to a tree.”
“Where has it been all these while?”
“With me,” said Seyib, not seeing how this has anything to do with the matter.
The old man went and sat down, saying dismissively, “Go back to your horse. What you seek is where your horse is.”
The horse has been with Seyib all along. Wisdom has been with all along, but he didn’t know it.
FIRST SEEK LOVE
And so, how do you get wisdom? Another wise man, an American, Harold Klemp, says, “If we can love, we can have all. With the love of God come the attributes of God: wisdom, (spiritual) power, and freedom.”
If you desire wisdom first seek love. You will rarely see wisdom without love and detachment. Think of Solomon again. Remember the case of the two prostitutes and the baby?
Solomon had many choices open to him. He could have chosen to use power over the poor women. He could, for example, threaten to hang them unless the impostor owned up. There were soldiers who could torture the women to find out who was lying. The wise king didn’t choose any of these alternatives. He was calm and detached. He was patient. He wasn’t angry and he didn’t feel he was better than the prostitutes. He didn’t take sides with any of them. Think of this: Suppose one of them was from his Benjamin tribe, couldn’t he have taken sides with her? You could feel the force of love radiating from him. He chose inner guidance.
Wisdom will enable you to manage the resources at your disposal to produce the greatest benefits for you. If you’re very knowledgeable or have special talents, wisdom will make it easier for you to know how best to utilize or combine these talents. More importantly, wisdom will show you how to put your experiences in perspective.
Beyond wisdom of course is love. Only few people will choose love over wisdom and power. We are not talking about human love here: detached love.
Human love is this: I love you because I need your warmth or encouragement or support or companionship. I love you because of what I can get from you or what you can do for me. Human love carries with it the fear of rejection or loss; it carries attachment with it.
Like the Buddha pointed out, human love also carries with it an element of hatred, hatred arising from fear of rejection. How many great lovers have not become the bitterest enemies when the love turned sour?
Human love or affection is what most people call love. Emotional love is unreliable. It swings from left to right faster than the rolling hips of a supermodel. Today it waxes strong with all the passion of lust, possessiveness and conquest. Tomorrow it peters out when the illusion has worn off or when the heat of passion is driving the individual elsewhere.
Divine love says, I will love you regardless of what you do or do not do. I will love you regardless of where you go or do not go. I will love you whether you love me or not. It is love without conditionalities. Detached love is also known as divine love or agape. It’s like sunshine. The sun will shine on you regardless of whether you’re a good man or a bad man.
Take a moment to recall the name of one or more of the individuals who had chosen love. In the Western world, the brand name Jesus is even more popular than Coke. About a third of the world population of six billion people wear the Christian label. Jesus chose love. Didn’t he get wisdom, freedom and spiritual power? In comparison think of the most powerful man in Jesus’ day by sociopolitical considerations: Augustus Caesar. How do you start comparing their influence in the world today? Yet be reminded that the Nazerene owned only a pair of sandals and a robe. Let me ask you a little question: Who owned the biggest wardrobe then?
Love is the big lesson of life. If you’ve learned that, you’ve learned a lot. “If you could only love enough,” says Emmet Fox, “you could be the most powerful person in the world.”
Choose. Choose love today and you’d be blessed with wisdom, freedom, and spiritual power. The kind of power you get is not power over other people, but power over yourself. Power over your little self (ego) .Do you really need power over other people?
Naturally, your question will be: “How do I get love?”
A seeker after truth once approached the Tibetan lama, Rebazar Tarzs, and asked him the same question.
“If you desire love,” says the Tibetan, “try to realize that the only way to get love is by giving love. That the more you give the more you get; and the only way in which you can give is to fill yourself with it, until you become a magnet of love.”
NON-ATTACHMENT IS THE KEY
Softly, softly. There’s a caveat. Be careful about the conclusions you draw from this discussion. Many speakers and authors are going about telling people that all they needed to have their heart’s desires is to love. And that once they love enough the whole world will be theirs. Certainly this is an ideal approach to life, but how practical is it? Does it work?
“Hatred begets hatred,” says the Buddha. Yet love, kindness, patience, charity and other spiritual virtues will not always beget spiritual virtues in this world of ours. Check out two of the people who showed so much love to the world: Jesus and the Buddha. Jesus was much hated by his enemies who had him killed, accusing him of upsetting the social structure of the Jews. Buddha, who came to reform Hinduism, had a similar fate: his enemies tied him to a tree and crucified him.
Giving everyone love is not practical and does not work. If you offer those who hate you warm, personal love, they’ll turn that positive act around and use it to pull you down. Offer them your goodwill.
When Jesus told his Jewish people over 2000 years ago to love their enemies, he meant they should give them charity or goodwill. He didn’t mean for example that if there was someone who had sworn to poison you, that you should go eating in his house and rolling in the same bed with him. Give only warm, personal love to those who are matured enough to accept it and return it. To the rest give detached love. Before offering any individual warm, personal love, ask yourself: what’s this person going to do with it?
Non-attachment is the key. By all means love, the more the better. By loving joy and happiness become yours. By loving you know freedom and protection. If any good thing comes as a result of the love you have sent out, accept it but don’t make it a precondition.
Detachment is being balanced between warm, personal love and hatred. True understanding and compassion comes from non-attachment.
The wisest man or woman in the world is that individual who is detached from his possessions, beliefs, wealth, fears, thoughts, actions and their results.