Wisdom

There is a very nice article in the New York Times today about wisdom and aging. In the ‘wisdom’ traditions – ancient India, Greece, Tibet, Native Americans etc – respect for the older and wiser was a given. Modern culture, of course, favors youth, who – generally speaking –  have not gathered enough experience to measure life by, which is one of the definitions of wisdom.

Several insights presented by the psychologists interviewed in the article mirror basic tenets found in the Yoga Sutras and Bhagavad Gita, such as:

“…wisdom consists of three key components: cognition, reflection and compassion.”

(The three functions of the mind in Yoga Sutras are cognition, conation and retention).

“Wise people are able to accept reality as it is, with equanimity.”

(“Pleasure and pain are a certainty in life, Oh Arjuna, bear them patiently”, says Krishna to Arjuna in chapter two of the Gita).

But among the most telling are the character traits associated with wisdom: thinking of others; the ability to listen and evaluate; simplifying ones life; facing difficulties with faith, humility and, even, lightness and good humor. While the article is a little clinical (why does the West feel the need to scientifically evaluate that which is an expression of the heart, or just plain good sense?) – it does show how yoga and meditation teachings plant the seeds of wisdom from the get-go: we don’t need to wait till we become older to become wise, we can water the seeds of wisdom as soon as we step on our yoga mat, or sit down on a meditation cushion. In fact, developing the discipline to practice each day is an expression of wisdom: commitment to developing steadiness of mind, even as the balance of life shifts hither and thither.

 

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