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“The culmination of wisdom is freedom from all views. You have nothing to say. When all the answers are in your being, you have no need to keep them in your head.” - Sangharakshita (Seminar on The Door of Liberation)
The goal of Buddhism is the attainment of Enlightenment - but what is Enlightenment? One way of describing it is seeing the true nature of reality and living in accordance with that vision. An Enlightened being is free of views (stories we tell ourselves about how things are) and this was how the the Buddha was sometimes described: without the need for concept or ideas about reality, he simply was directly in touch with how things really are. His wisdom went beyond words. However, for those of us who are not yet Enlightened, cultivating ‘right view’ - stories that are in line with how things really are - is an important step in developing wisdom.
Listen to a talk by Sangharakshita where he discusses ‘wrong view’, ‘right view’ and ‘perfect vision’
Three Levels of Wisdom - Online!
Traditionally it is taught that there are three levels of wisdom:
As we look back over the last five years of The Buddhist Centre Online we thought we’d review some of the ways in which we’ve brought you the Dharma to hear, reflect and meditate upon…
Cultivating these three levels of wisdom can help us know the Dharma so deeply that we transform ourselves so that we live in line with reality.
First level of Wisdom: Hearing or Reading
The first way in which to come to grips with the nature of reality is to hear teachings which outline how things are. This is the basis on which the other levels of wisdom are cultivated.
One important development in the Triratna Buddhist Community in the last number of years has been the ‘Complete Works of Sangharakshita’ project: The Complete Works include all previously published work by Sangharakshita, the founder of the Triratna Buddhist Community and Order, as well as talks, seminars and writings published for the first time. This collection represents the definitive edition of his life’s work as a Buddhist writer and teacher. The first volume was released in October 2016 and to date eight volumes have been released, with a further nineteen volumes in the pipeline.
“… a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.” ― George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones
Subscribe to the Complete Works of Sangharakshita (available in hardback, paperback or e-book from Windhorse Publications)
See other Dharma books published by Windhorse Publications.
+Follow Windhorse Publications to stay updated on latest releases
Free Buddhist Audio is another source of Dharmic content with talks, introductions to, and guided meditation as well as transcripts of seminars and lectures given by Sangharakshita. In 2016 The Buddhist Centre Online published one of Sangharakshita’s seminars from 2008 on a section from Shantideva’s Bodhicaryavatara in a digital format: Cultivating The Heart of Patience. This resource includes extensive notes, audio, video and image support, and some versions use multi-touch to bring the conversations and commentary to life. The resource is available for all devices, including a special version for iPads and an e-book suitable for reading on a Kindle. It is an exciting and interactive way of studying the material.
Find out more about Sangharakshita’s Seminar ‘Cultivating the Heart of Patience’
Second level of wisdom: Thinking or reflecting
Wisdom is not wisdom when it is derived from books alone. - Horace
Of course, the full flowering of wisdom will not take place simply by reading or listening to the Dharma. Unless the Dharma is taken in and digested, it will simply remain as information. So how do we deepen our wisdom? The second level of wisdom suggests thinking or reflecting upon that which we have studied. By dwelling on the material we can absorb it more fully.
One such way of doing this is through more in-depth study. In Triratna those who wish to practice Buddhism within our community make a formal commitment in their local context to become Mitras or ‘friends’ of the community. Over the years a special study course has been developed for Mitras in order for them to deepen their knowledge of the Dharma that is practised within our community.
In July 2016, after a review of the four year study course, the Mitra study course was re-launched with its own web space. For those who prefer paper and ink it is also possible to get printed versions of the study material. Along side this there is an online ‘Mitra support’ group for all Mitras and Order Members in Triratna to discuss their Dharma lives and share resources.
Find out more about becoming a Mitra in the Triratna Buddhist Community
Reflection on the Dharma happens not just at an individual level, but also at a collective, community-wide level too. Recently the Sikkha Project has come into being with the aim of developing an integrated, progressive spiritual training in Triratna at every level of experience from newcomers to the Order. It is hoped that this will best enable those practising in our community to develop insight.
Find out more about the Sikkha Project - listen to recent conversations about Dharma training in Triratna.
Visit the new Sikkha website
Third level of Wisdom: Meditating or Becoming
Usually we need the clarity and focus of meditation to develop this level of wisdom in its fullness, but when this does come about it is usually as the result of a deep experience of the previous levels: we know the Dharma at the intellectual level, we have reflected on it deeply, it has become part of our thinking, it has seeped into our bones. Then when we meditate on it, it transmutes us into another being entirely. - From Dharma Study as Spiritual Practice, Week 1 of Year 1 of the Triratna Dharma Training Course for Mitras p. 3.
The third level of wisdom involves us assimilating the truth we have heard and reflected on to the extent that we become that truth. At its highest we are talking about full Enlightenment. However, if we are sincerely practicing the Dharma we often get glimpses of what this is like. Perhaps the easiest way of understanding what this level of wisdom looks like is through witnessing it in the lives of others. And it is often in times of adversity - through illness or oppression - that the teachings of the Dharma take on a life of their own.
In the last five years we have brought you stories from those practising within our community whose Dharma practice has enabled them to meet the slings and arrows of fortune with dignity and grace - Suvarnaprabha who wrote about her struggles with cancer (which is now published in a beautiful memoir) and more recently, Devamitra who has written frankly about the challenges of serious illness while bringing a Dharmic perspective to the fore.
Listen to Devamitra talking about his experience with cancer
Listen to others discussing their practice in our Buddhist Voices podcast
Of course, developing wisdom does not mean living a life of austerity or relating to others with a sense of doom and gloom! As Sangharakshita says “if you are not really happy and joyful, at least on some occasions, you can hardly be a Buddhist” (The Purpose and Practice of Buddhist Meditation, p. 196). Developing wisdom moves us closer to freedom from suffering which can bring happiness and an awareness of the beauty of life. One of the emphases of Triratna is a focus on the Arts and how culture generally can help us appreciate and express the beauty of the Dharmic life. So we have resources such as the journal Urthona exploring the arts from a Dharmic perspective. We also have blogs from the Western Buddhist Review, bringing clear thinking and academic rigour to the consideration of the Dharma in modern culture.
If we truly mine into our own lived experience the jewels we can find can be unique - such as this resource by cook Vimalabandhu who wrote about cooking and the Dharma! Or this joyful and playful talk - including some puppetry - by playwright Sarvananda on communicating the Dharma Through the arts.
As W.B. Yeats asserts “wisdom is a butterfly. And not a gloomy bird of prey.” By developing wisdom, we too can find doorways into joy and beauty.