From an agrarian age we moved to the age of information, then to the age of knowledge and now we are in the age of intelligence. What next? My take, ‘age of wisdom’!
I think ‘learning to be’ is probably THE most important timeless life skill. In its connotation it is similar to the inscription at Oracle of Delphi, ‘Know Thyself’ (the second, not so popular inscription at Oracle of Delphi, ‘everything in moderation’ is also equally timeless).
‘Learning to be’ implies having a better understanding of self – self-image, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-motivation and self-responsibility.
Understanding emotions, especially what the Buddhists call the three poisons of the mind – hatred/anger, craving and ignorance is critical to understanding of self.
According to Indian scriptures (Taittireeya Upanishad) humans have five layers of consciousness – anna, prana, manas vijnana, anand i.e. material, man, mind, intelligence and tranquility of spirit or bliss. ‘Learning to be’ is learning to live a blissful life that comes from a tranquil spirit or an equanimous mind.
Buddhism advocates that the anti-dote to the three poisons of the mind is acquisition of an ever compassionate and empathetic mind, which can be achieved through meditation, where meditation is training of the mind. Compassion and empathy are critical for ‘learning to be’.
A tranquil spirit does not mean inaction. It means intelligent or wise action and plenty of it.
‘Panchtantra’ a compendium of stories from ancient India, is a storybook of ‘niti-shastra’. ‘Niti’, roughly translated means, ‘the wise conduct of life’. Panchtantra stories advocate that a life of joy is built on three pillars – resolute, yet circumspect action, winning and keeping good friends and, worthy exercise of intelligence.
Panchtantra stories are excellent material for honing your ‘learning to be’ skills!
In my own endeavour towards ‘learning to be’ I personally find a Sanskrit shloka from the Indian scripture ‘Bhagwad Geeta’ most meaningful. “Karmanye Vadhikaraste Maa Phaleshu Kadachana”, which means, “perform action without worrying about the reward”.
To this I would add that action should be guided by good intentions.
I complete agree with the author Philip Pullman, who in his trilogy, ‘His Dark Materials’ writes something to the effect (don’t remember the exact words), ‘the universe is all about intentions’.
So take a deep dive with-in, master your emotions, check your intentions, take resolute action, don’t worry about the outcome, remain compassionate and empathetic and you will have a blissful life. You would have learnt to be.