The Perfection of Wisdom:
Quotes from the Theravada Tradition

Wisdom is the chief cause for the practice of the other perfections. Without wisdom, giving and so forth do not become purified and cannot perform their functions. Without wisdom there is no achievement of vision, and without the achievement of vision there can be no accomplishment of virtue. One lacking in virtue and vision cannot achieve concentration, and without concentration one cannot even secure one's own welfare, much less the lofty goal of providing for the welfare of others.

Wisdom has the characteristic of penetrating the real specific nature (of phenomena) like the penetration of an arrow shot by a skilful archer; its function is to illuminate the field of experience, like a lamp; its manifestation is non-confusion, like a guide in a forest; concentration, or the Four (Noble) Truths, is its proximate cause.

Wisdom is mentioned immediately after renunciation: a) because renunciation is perfected and purified by wisdom; b) to show that since concentration is the proximate cause of wisdom, there is no wisdom in the absence of meditation (which requires renunciation or letting go).

Great compassion and skilful means (directed toward liberation) are conditions for the perfections. Skilful means is the wisdom which transforms giving (and the other nine perfections) into requisites for awakening. Through wisdom a bodhisattva brings him or herself across (the stream of suffering), through compassion he or she leads others across. Through wisdom one understands the suffering of others, through compassion one strives to alleviate their suffering. Through wisdom one destroys all attachments, but because of compassion, one never desists from activity that benefits others. Through wisdom one is free from "I-making" and "mine-making," through compassion one is free from lethargy and depression. Through wisdom and compassion one becomes one's own protector and the protector of others.

Wisdom is the opposite of greed, hate and delusion is so far as greed, hate and delusion create blindness, while knowledge restores sight.

Acariya Dhammapala, adapted from A Treatise on the Paramis



A fool conscious of her foolishness
    Is to that extent wise.
But a fool who considers himself wise
    Is the one to be called a fool.

Dhammapada 63



Like someone pointing to treasure
    Is the wise person
Who sees your faults and points them out.
    Associate with such a sage.
Good will come of it, not bad,
    If you associate with one such as this.

Dhammapada 76



Irrigators guide water;
    Fletchers shape arrows;
Carpenters fashion wood;
    Sages tame themselves.

Dhammapada 80



As a solid mass of rock
    Is not moved by the wind,
So a sage is not moved
    By praise and blame.

Dhammapada 81



As a deep lake
    Is clear and undisturbed,
So a sage becomes clear
    Upon hearing the Dharma.

Dhammapada 82



One is not wise
    Only because one speaks a lot.
One who is peaceful, without hate, and fearless
    Is said to be wise.

Dhammapada 258



"All things are impermanent."
    Seeing this with wisdom,
One becomes disenchanted with suffering.
    This is the path to purity.

Dhammapada 277



Wisdom arises from [spiritual] practice;
    Without practice it decays.
Knowing these paths to gain and loss,
    Conduct yourself so that wisdom grows.

Dhammapada 282



There is no meditative absorption
    Without wisdom.
There is no wisdom
    Without meditative absorption.
With both,
    One is close to Nirvana.

Dhammapada 372



"And what is the wisdom of one who is in training? There is the case where a monk discerns as it actually is that 'This is stress... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress... This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.'

Anguttara Nikaya III.73



These, monks, are the seven treasures.
The treasure of conviction,
the treasure of virtue,
the treasure of conscience & concern,
the treasure of listening, generosity,
and wisdom as the seventh treasure.
Whoever, man or woman, has these treasures
is said not to be poor, has not lived in vain.
So conviction & virtue, confidence and Dhamma-vision
should be cultivated by the wise,
remembering the Buddhas' instruction.

Anguttara Nikaya VII.6



All mental constructions are impermanent;
They are of the nature to arise and pass away.
Having arisen, they cease.
Happiness is when they are at peace.