• Deborah Bowman

Finding Wisdom in Pain

"Don't you know that afflictions are nothing more than wisdom? And that the purest of blossoms emerges from the mire?" Benming

Lotus blossom bud bouquets in Bangkok photo. D.Bowman

The 5th century Buddhist nun, Benming, captures a striking human truth in her poetic question —that wisdom and affliction are intimately related. If we had no afflictions, no pain, no struggle, no hard decisions; how could wisdom ever blossom?

Wisdom is the ability to see clearly into the most difficult of situations and imagine the least harmful intervention. This wisdom is born out of the mire of one’s own suffering and mistakes. We only learn to free others of pain from having learned to free ourselves.

A wise person waits patiently submerged in the mire until a clear vision arises. Feeling her roots spread out in the mud and reaching her tendrils towards the light, wisdom arises gracefully like a lotus bud in a healing gesture.

Waiting for that moment when mind and heart arise together in spontaneous repair can feel like watching mud settle; it works but it can feel like forever when we are hurting. Patience is often something we learn because we have so very little choice and impatience just heaps suffering on top of suffering.

Like having a friend bring us flowers at the hospital, it’s helpful to remember the purest of blossoms and affliction are inter-mixed.

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