1st Step : Self-reflection as a prerequisite for progress
2nd Step: Progress through the Middle Way
3rd Step : Starting from the Ordinary
The first stage of wisdom is the period when you collect materials with which to think; this is a way of increasing your awareness. The effort to attain as much knowlege as possible is essential in the first stage. If you do not pass through this stage, you will only be swayed by the opinions of others, and every time you encounter a problem you will be at a loss as to what to do.
Those who have struggled to establish themselves in this first stage can use their knowledge and experience to build and increase their awareness. With a higher level of awareness, they can quite easily solve most of the usual problems in life, problems that might keep ordinary people worrying for years. So the benefits that accrue even at this stage are considerable.
Intellectual effort means continuing to learn, absorbing higher knowledge, and gaining the confidence to feel that you have assimilated sufficient knowledge. This self-confidence is essential in becoming established in the first stage of wisdom. If you seek knowledge simply as a means to an end, you will not be able to pass beyond this first stage of wisdom. When you want to achieve knowledge as an aim in itself, gradually you will come to receive inspiration and experience moments of bliss, or extreme happiness quite often.
To reach Stage 2, you need to keep making a steady, diligent effort to study and learn. You need constantly to make a sincere effort to accumulate knowledge, and not put any kind of limits to this effort.
Second stage of wisdom is a period of endurance, and steadily building true self-confidence. When you are constantly and steadfastly absorbed improving yourself, your mind will not be swayed by the successes or failures of others. If you build strong confidence in your own wisdom, you will be free of jealousy.
If you want to assess someone’s true nature, you need only observe that person on 2 occasions – at a high point of success and in the depths of disappointment. In these 2 sets of circumstances, a person’s true nature will be revealed. Those who become conceited following small successes will not achieve great success; they are quickly satisfied and as soon as they begin to attract the attention of others and are regarded as important, they begin to boast. On the other hand, those who give in to despair when faced with failure, who only complain and grumble, will not achieve success either. In times of despair, the length of time ou are able to withstand hardship while continuing to refine yourself and continuing to make an effort to strengthen yourself- this is the test of your true stature.
In the first 2 stages, the development of wisdom is confined to the individual. At the third stage, however, wisdom reaches beyond individual boundaries, wisdom serves something higher.
This level of wisdom is not simply a collection of information or skills, but knowledge that is transformed into love. As knowledge is transformed into love, it becomes established as a fine philosophy to be shared with others. This transformation requires many spiritual experiences, either of your own, or through an encounter with someone who has had these sorts of experiences, or through a major shift in your perceptions of life. Thinkers who present original ideas to the world through their writings or lectures are often at the third stage of wisdom.
Only when you explore knowledge with the strong desire to be of service to many, and actually translate this into action can you say your knowledge has reached he Bodhisattva level.