Compassion and Wisdom

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Compassion and wisdom are the foundation of nearly every teaching the Buddha gave throughout the 45 years after his enlightenment.

In Walpola Rahula’s, What the Buddha Taught, there is one section concerning compassion and wisdom that has always stayed with me;

According to Buddhism, for a person to be perfect there are two qualities that they should develop equally: compassion (karuna) on one side, and wisdom (panna) on the other. Here compassion represents love, charity, kindness, tolerance and such noble qualities on the emotional side, or qualities of the heart while wisdom would stand for the intellectual side or the qualities of the mind.

If  one develops only  the  emotional neglecting  the  intellectual,  one may become a good-hearted fool; while to develop only the intellectual side neglecting the emotional may turn one into a hard-hearted  intellect without feeling for others. Therefore, to be perfect one has to develop both equally. That is the aim of the Buddhist way of life: in it wisdom and compassion are inseparably linked together.

It was the good/kind-hearted fool remark that really stuck. At best, I’ve been a kind-hearted fool throughout the years, lacking the wisdom to know the exact scope of my actions, basically missing the bigger picture. As for being a “hard-hearted intellect” well, there are many other terms we usually toss around for that one, and I’ve had a few directed my way…

The reason they should be developed equally is that they really can’t exist on their own, compassion relies upon the wisdom of the compassionate but without compassion, can one truly be considered wise? There really isn’t one without the other.

A fair question might be, in which ways do we mistake our intended compassion and how may we develop the wisdom to know?

4 responses »

  1. I’ve been enjoying your blogs recently. They seem very wise and intelligent and very down to earth. Keep posting them to Reddit, they fit in there nicely.

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