07/11/2014 10:08 am ET | Updated Jul 11, 2014

10 Religious Leaders Take A Stab At The True Meaning Of Wisdom

The world's faith traditions have much to teach us about wisdom -- what it is, where to find it and who truly possesses it. Wisdom is elusive, however, as the words often attributed to Socrates relay: "The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing."

HuffPost Religion asked 10 faith leaders to weigh in on what wisdom means to them -- and no two are quite the same.

  • Sharon Salzberg
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    "In the Buddhist tradition wisdom is a powerful, embodied insight into the nature of impermanence (which frees us from mindless craving), suffering (which frees us from callousness and indifference) and egolessness or emptiness (which frees us from isolation and disconnection). Wisdom isn't something we know abstractly; it is a transformative understanding that changes how we live."
  • James Martin, S.J.
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    "The essence of wisdom is knowing that you don't know all the answers, that you can learn something from everybody and that God will teach you something every day if you are willing to listen."
  • Varun Soni
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    "As a Hindu, I believe that the cultivation of wisdom is an introspective, reflective and contemplative process with the goal of self-realization. By understanding the true nature of our individual selves, we are empowered to act ethically in the world, thereby translating wisdom in action."
  • Eboo Patel
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    "Wisdom boils down to four words and the connections between them: tawheed, diversity, khalifa and mercy. Tawheed means the essential unity of all things as it emerges from one God. Humankind is the khalifa or the representative of God on earth and is meant to channel God's primary quality -- mercy -- on this diverse creation precisely because of its underlying unity. To help guide us we have the examples of the Prophets, including the Prophet Muhammad, of whom the Qur'an says: 'You were sent to be a special mercy upon all the worlds.'"
  • Valarie Kaur
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    "In the Sikh tradition, wisdom flows from a deep and profound experience of love -- love that frees us to "see no stranger." Those who see through these eyes are called gurmukhs -- oriented toward the truth of Oneness rather than trapped within the illusion of a small separate self. Each of us can walk this path, no matter our age, faith, race, gender, country or creed. Such wisdom is our birthright."
  • Jim Wallis
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    "In my life, I’ve gained the most wisdom from being in places where I wasn’t supposed to be and being with people I was never supposed to be with. Meeting and befriending people who Jesus would probably call “the least of these” has changed my life over and over again. I’ve learned more from so-called “outsiders” than I ever did from the insiders."
  • Rabbi Or Rose
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    "Last week, my beloved teacher Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi passed away at the age of 89, and my children accompanied me on my final visit to him. During that visit, my daughter, a very inquisitive young person, asked our teacher the following question: "Reb Zalman, how did you become so smart?" He responded, "To tell you the truth, I am not particularly proud that I am smart; I am prouder that I have become wise." My daughter then asked, "So how did you become wise?" With a twinkle in his eye, Reb Zalman answered, "I have lived a long life and made a lot of mistakes, but I have tried to learn from my mistakes.""
  • Selena Fox
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    "Wisdom is around us and within us. We can connect with the Wisdom around us through communion with and understanding of Nature and through studies of wisdom ways developed and expressed by others. We can connect with the Wisdom within us by attuning to the Divine through one or more forms of spiritual practice, including meditation, ritual, music and prayer. We can contribute to the advancement of Wisdom in the world through spiritual service."
  • Greg Epstein
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    "For a Humanist, atheist or secular person, the essence of wisdom is not religious. It requires understanding human life in this world. Wisdom lies in learning how to have an open, loving and ethical heart while also being rigorously honest with ourselves about what is and isn't true. If you can behave with compassion for yourself, for those you care about and for the whole world -- even while knowing you are going to die one day and this is the only chance you get to show and experience love -- then you are truly wise."
  • Daisy Khan via Getty Images
    "Wisdom, “Hikmah”, is delving into your deeper “knowing self” and having the ability to make “right decisions” at the “right time” and at the “right place”. Life happens. Resolve issues with wisdom, and don’t forget to impart this teaching tool to others for wisdom cannot be imparted but may be emulated."


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