Wisdom and Compassion are the twin halves of our enlightened being.
They are the two doorways to experiencing the full potential of who we are: Wisdom facilitates transcendence through our mind and Compassion allows our awaking through the heart.
In the elegance of the flowing ying-yang symbol, we can see a visual expression of the twin principles of wisdom and compassion. Each lies at the heart of the other. And each would be incomplete and limited without the other.
We often find one much easier to relate to one rather than the other. So we find some people who are very mind focused in their concentration and meditation exercises, whilst others are very heart oriented, and dedicate their energies to helping others.
Neither compassion nor wisdom are better than the other, and we need both qualities to be balanced as beings. This is partly why the spiritual life is a life-long activity, and there are many opportunities being offered to us by the endless dharma (life teaching) around us. A life-time allows us to weave these twin stands of wisdom and compassion into the rich fabric of our complex being and our ordinary daily living.
We are highly malleable beings, and in time, we grow into what we focus on and practice. As the inspirational writer M. Bennett pointed out: “We first form habits, then habits form us.” So if, for example, we repeatedly chose to be angry about the circumstances of our life, we gradually become angrier and angrier over time. And this is how we can end up exploding with anger at the slightest provocation.
This philosophy is at the heart of the eight fold path of buddhism and other similar spiritual practices. What we habitually practice, we become. In a way, it is a kind of faking it before you make it approach, a method of establishing enlightened behaviour, which over time works on us more than we work on it, whether we realise it or not.
So the invitation of the spiritual life lies not what we have to give up, which is mercilessly transient anyway, rather it lies in what riches of wisdom and compassion lie before us to cultivate, to share and to enjoy. And through that patient cultivation, compassion and wisdom will reveal to us life’s most intimate secrets.
© David R. Durham
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