knowledge is not the same as wisdom


We empty ourselves to let the divine flood us with love. We are empty so we may be full.

                                                                      —Beverly Lanzetta

It seems that one of the most difficult lessons for us to learn is that knowledge is not the same as wisdom.

Even sincere spiritual seekers resist this truth: becoming “full” of all the information in the world does not of itself accumulate into wisdom.

Here’s a simple story of a Zen master that illustrates the importance of emptiness:

“Once, a long time ago, there was a wise Zen master. People from far and near would seek his counsel and ask for his wisdom. One day an important man, a man used to command and obedience came to visit the master. “I have come today to ask you to teach me about Zen. Open my mind to enlightenment.”

The tone of the important man’s voice was one used to getting his own way.

The Zen master smiled and said that they should discuss the matter over a cup of tea. When the tea was served the master poured his visitor a cup. He poured and he poured and the tea rose to the rim and began to spill over the table and finally onto the robes of the wealthy man.

Finally, the visitor shouted, “Enough. You are spilling the tea all over. Can’t you see the cup is full?”

The master stopped pouring and smiled at his guest. “You are like this teacup, so full that nothing more can be added. Come back to me when the cup is empty. Come back to me with an empty mind.”

As Bonaventure noted, “Wisdom is confusing to the proud and often evident to the lowly.” [1] Wisdom is not the gathering of more facts and information, as if that would eventually coalesce into truth.

Rather Wisdom is a different way of seeing and knowing.

Nothing new—no perspective, no experience, nor even love can come to us when we are full of ourselves, our agendas, and our own points of view.

That is why, as Beverly Lanzetta observes, self-emptying is so critical to any expression of authentic spirituality.

No one personifies self-emptying more than Mary, mother of Jesus.

Luke’s gospel records her humble response to the angel’s non-sensical message that she will miraculously give birth to a holy child.

“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

A very authentic expression of spirituality, don’t you think?

May we take a moment as we reach the end of the year to empty our schedules and minds so that the divine might flood our hearts with love.