Zen Talk: Buddha Speaks of the Wisdom of Age

“The splendid chariots of kings wear out; so does the body age. Thus do good people teach each other.”

This reminds me of the biblical book, Proverbs, which is designed “for learning about wisdom and instruction…to teach shrewdness to the simple;…let the wise also hear and gain in learning and the discerning acquire skill.”

No, they’re not the same thing but the idea is that we should benefit from the knowledge and experience of others rather than seek to gather all knowledge first hand. “Good people teach each other.” Yes, they do, and thank goodness for that because if I had to figure everything important out on my own, whew would that stink.

I learn from my mistakes very well because they suck so bad I wouldn’t want to make the same mistakes twice. It’s even more beneficial when I learn from the mistakes of others. Not that I want other people making mistakes, of course, but it is great when people mess up, share what they learned with you and then – and here’s the most important part(s) – you internalize what they’ve said, recognize the comparable situation when it arises and avoid making the same mistake.

Bingo! Welcome to Buddha quotes and Proverbs.

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Zen Talk: Who’s the Fool and How Can He Become Wise? Let’s Ask Buddha

“A fool who is conscious of his folly is thereby wise; the fool who thinks himself wise is the one to be called a fool.”

So sayeth Buddha.

This reminds me of what Socrates used to say: the only thing I know for sure is that I know nothing. Yes, the statement is a little contradictory but it’s meant to illustrate a very important point about the difficulty of actually having knowledge.

Socrates spent his life in the pursuance of knowledge, asking everyone to explain anything at all to him. His questioning, known today as the Socratic method, was ultimately designed to remind everyone that he also knew nothing for sure. The sophists, his intellectual rivals who insisted that they knew a great deal, were constantly thwarted by Socrates’ own pursuit of knowledge.

Buddha tells us something similar – and not particularly far away from Socrates in time – which is that a fool aware of his foolishness is actually wise and the only real fool is the one who thinks he’s wise.

What do you think about this saying? True? Trite? Silly? Do you have a favorite Buddha quote? What’s your favorite Socrates moment (all Platonic dialogues are up for grabs!)?

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