Bindu

Gateway to the Himalayan Yoga Tradition

Knowledge and Wisdom

Wisdom is different from information. A person can memorize the entire Oxford English Dictionary and still not have a clue as to how to live in a way that is fulfilling and life-enhancing. Wisdom is not about information, but about understanding how to live a fulfilling life.

People often think that wisdom comes from experience. It is true that as we live and act, we have a chance to learn from our successes and mistakes. However, you've no doubt met many people who go through experience after experience and yet seem to learn little.

Wisdom actually comes from a part of the mind, called the buddhi, in yoga. Buddhi is the instrument of understanding; it's our inner-guide. It's function is to make discriminations and choices. When the buddhi is offline, no amount of information will result in wisdom. For buddhi to do its job, it has to be fed good information, and we need to be able to receive and act on buddhi's output. Yoga-meditation provides an efficient program for doing this.

 

Feeding good information to buddhi involves training our mind and senses to focus and concentrate. When our attention is jumping all over, from thing to thing, never sitting still, it doesn't take in clean information. If you constantly change the channel on a television, you'll never see any particular program and just watch a lot of static, and this is what happens when the mind is always jumping.

Getting accurate information to the buddhi requires focusing our awareness. This is where the practice of pratyāhāra, volitionally directing our awareness onto a chosen focus, comes in. Pratyāhāra builds an ability to point our attention, like a spotlight, onto whatever object we want to gather information about. When this spotlight is on an object, we can see it.

Then, keeping the awareness focused there for a period of time provides further information. At first glance, we see the surface of an object, and as we keep our attention focused on the object over time through concentration, dharana, we perceive more subtleties. In this way the buddhi is able to gather the information it needs to do its job and make discriminations and choices.

Even when buddhi gets the information it needs to do it's job, we still we need to be aware of the buddhi's promptings to act in accordance with them. This is where meditation, dhyāna, comes in. Meditation enables us to witness the mind's workings. As we acquire the ability to watch our mind through the window of meditation, we may begin to sense the subtle promptings of the buddhi, and tease them out from the background noise of the mind. It is then that we are able to put the buddhi's wisdom into effect in our lives.

Because the practice of yoga-meditation involves pratyāhāra, dhāraṇā, and dhyāna, as one meditates, over time, his/her wisdom grows.