The Basis of Wisdom
Teachers of wisdom were active in other nations besides Israel, and they, like the Israelites, found helpful instruction in each other’s proverbs. Sometimes, they made international journeys to test each other’s wisdom and broaden their experience.
Since the wisdom that these teachers exchanged often concerned the exercise of common sense in everyday life, it is not surprising to find parallels in the proverbs of Israel and its neigbours. But there was one important distinction. The basis of Israelite wisdom was a proper understanding of God and a right relation with him — ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’. Israelite wisdom was not tainted by the idolatry, immorality and selfishness often found in the teaching of other nations.
There is, in any era, a form of behaviour that might appeal to people as ‘the common sense things to do’, but if it does not spring from an understanding of God, the results are likely to be more harmful than helpful. The wisdom that is ‘from above’ motivates behaviour that is pure, peaceable, gentle, merciful, sincere and open to reason. The wisdom that is ‘from below’ motivates behaviour that is devilish, unspiritual, jealous, disorderly and self-assertive. Godly wisdom promotes behaviour that puts God’s interests first, whereas worldly wisdom promotes behaviour that is concerned above all with one’s own interests.
Because human beings have a natural bias towards self, they need to check themselves constantly if they are to maintain the sort of life that pleases God. This is where proverbs are helpful. Most are in two-line units which, in the style of Hebrew poetry, express either parallels or opposites. This makes them easy to memorize, so that they might readily come to mind as people face life day by day. But even memorization is of little use if the proverbs are not put into practice.
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Better to see the face than to hear the name.
Be master of mind rather than mastered by mind.
The infinite is in the finite of every instant.
The man who’s drunk water knows if it’s cool or warm.
No snowflake ever falls in the wrong place.
From the withered tree, a flower blooms.
Only when you can be extremely pliable and soft can you be extremely hard and strong.
Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grow by itself.
If you understand, things are just as they are; if you do not understand, things are just as they are.
Two monks were describing a flapping flag. One said,”The flag is moving.” The other said,”The wind is moving.” Hui Neng happened to be passing by. He said,”Not the wind, not the flag; the mind is moving.” ~ Zen Koan
True words are not always pretty; pretty words are not always true.
Some people like to make of life a garden, and to walk only within its path.
Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher.
He is poor who does not feel content.
Learning is like rowing upstream: not to advance is to drop back.
If there is light in the soul, there will be beauty in the person. If there is beauty in the person, there will be harmony in the house. If there is harmony in the house, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.
The mind that turns forever outward will have no end to craving. Only the mind turned inward will find a still-point of peace.
If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.
If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.
Be not ashamed of mistakes and thus make them crimes.
If thy strength will serve, go forward in the ranks; if not, stand still.
If today will not, tomorrow may.
If two ride on a horse, one must ride behind.
When the mind discriminates, there is manifoldness of things; when it does not, it looks into the true state of things.
To act sincerely with the insincere is dangerous.
No one can see their reflection in running water. It is only in still water that we can see.
A father deserted by a wise son is like being caught in a shower without a felt.
Excellent people are honoured wherever they go.
The wise understand by themselves, fools follow the reports of others.
Even if you have failed at something nine times, you have still given it effort nine times.
The wish is father to the thought.
Fear less, hope more;
whine less, breathe more;
talk less, say more;
hate less, love more;
and all good things are yours.
The learned are apt to be taciturn.
The least and weakest man can do some hurt.
The least boy always carries the biggest fiddle.
Wealth is both an enemy and a friend.
In bad things be slow; in good things be quick.
The willing contemplation of vice is vice.
When you have spoken the word, it reigns over you. When it is unspoken you reign over it.
Do not stand in a place of danger trusting in miracles.
To you your religion and to me my religion.
Different fields, different grasshoppers; different seas, different fish.
Different men have different opinions; some like apples, some onions.
A fly that lands on a carabao feels itself to be higher than the carabao.
Goodness shouts. Evil whispers.
Unless a man is simple, he cannot recognise God, the Simple One.
By committing foolish acts, one learns wisdom.
Eat coconuts while you have teeth.
Even the fall of a dancer is a somersault.
If you had teeth of steel, you could eat iron coconuts.
Abstinence is the best medicine.
Kind words conquer.
Popular agitation leads to justice.
No sooner have you spoken than what you have said becomes the property of another.
It is a cart if it goes well, otherwise it is but timber.
Diet cures more than the lancer.
Give your ears to words but do not give your words to ears.
Bathe early everyday and sickness will avoid you.
Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount.
Cultivate a heart of love that knows no anger.
All cats are grey in the dark.
Never forget benefits done you, regardless how small.
One often gets what one disdains.
People live with their own idiosyncrasies and die of their own illnesses.
The rich worry over their money, the poor over their bread.
Venture all; see what fate brings.
When eating a fruit, think of the person who planted the tree.
When the tree falls, any child can climb it.
You cannot please everyone.
You cannot polish a turd.
You cannot push on a rope.
You cannot put new wine in old bottles.
You cannot squeeze blood from a rock.
Alertness and courage are life’s shield.
Don’t empty the water jar until the rain falls.
He who boasts of his accomplishments will heap ridicule on himself.
He who gives alms to the poor faces heaven.
It is advantageous to follow advice, for you will succeed in life.
The pain of the little finger is felt by the whole body.
Loyalty is more valuable than diamonds.
He that denies the cat skimmed milk must give the mouse cream.
A cat pent up becomes a lion.
Never put the kitty to watch your chickens.
The cat loves fish but does not wish to wet its feet.