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Buddha taught that to realize enlightenment, a person must develop two qualities: wisdom and compassion. Wisdom and compassion are sometimes compared to two wings that work together to enable flying, or two eyes that work together to see deeply.

In the West, we're taught to think of "wisdom" as something that is primarily intellectual and "compassion" as something that is primarily emotional, and that these two things are separate and even incompatible. We're led to believe that fuzzy, sappy emotion gets in the way of clear, logical wisdom. But this is not the Buddhist understanding.

The Sanskrit word usually translated as "wisdom" is prajna (in Pali, panna), which can also be translated as "consciousness," "discernment," or "insight." Each of the many schools of Buddhism understands prajna somewhat differently, but generally, we can say that prajna is understanding or discernment of the Buddha's teaching, especially the teaching of anatta, the principle of no self.

The word usually translated as "compassion" is karuna, which is understood to mean active sympathy or a willingness to bear the pain of others. In practice, prajna gives rise to karuna, and karuna gives rise to prajna. Truly, you can't have one without the other. They are a means to realizing enlightenment, and in themselves they are also enlighenment itself manifested.

In Buddhism, the ideal of practice is to selflessly act to alleviate suffering wherever it appears. You may argue it is impossible to eliminate suffering, yet the practice calls for us to make the effort. What does being nice to others have to do with enlightenment? For one thing, it helps us realise that "individual me" and "individual you" are mistaken ideas. And as long as we're stuck in the idea of "what's in it for me?" we are not yet wise. ✨🕉🐘🌀📿✨

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