As I come to see how the facts in my life relate to each other, I begin to develop an understanding. Understanding, is perceiving relationships among facts that are important. As I develop an understanding, I become able to use my knowledge. In fact, as my understanding deepens, I can move toward wisdom. I do this to the degree that, in each situation where I am, I strive consciously to understand how life in that situation can be nourishing for me and for the other people there (Shah, 1972, 149-150).
Continuing along the path of wisdom, at last a person begins to experience something that is greater than the totality of all his or her knowledge, understanding and wisdom. At that stage, one experiences the sense of beauty and deep transpersonal love that through the ages has defied man’s attempts to define it. Most of us have known brief flickers of this state of consciousness. When I feel that way, I am centered in my world, and my life itself is statement of the art of living. When an obstacle blocks my path or threatens an enterprise I want to carry out. I do better to stop and assess the situation than to push blindly forward.
Once I have a clear view of the forces at work, I may find a way around the obstacle. Sometimes when I pause to understand an obstacle, I realize that what I’d planned to do does not fit the situation. It may not be right for me or for other people who are affected, or may conflict with more powerful forces that are at work. In any case, I can withdraw from that project and do something else. Living through difficult situations is an important way to learn, if I use my eyes and ears, my reason and my imagination, and stay in touch with my heart and my intuition.
Out of such learning can grow strength and wisdom. Out of this strength and wisdom comes the power to move past obstacles that would once have stopped me easily. Indeed, there is much wisdom in the old Zen saying: “When an ordinary man attains knowledge, he is a sage; when a sage attains understanding, he is an ordinary man. ” (Miura and Sasaki, 121).
Miura, I. And Sasaki, R. The Zen Koan: Its History and Use in Rinzai Zen. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1965. Retrieved Jan. 8, 2007 at: http://www. cise. ufl. edu/~ddd/zen. html Shah, I. (1972). Caravan of Dreams. Baltimore, Penguin.