Wisdom as symbolized by the Chinese characters “zhi-hui” can simply be thought of as the ability to solve any problem. However in Buddhism it has a much deeper meaning as expressed by the Sanskrit term “prajna” which relates to the perfect wisdom of a Buddha. Wisdom is one of the two accumulations necessary to become a Buddha. The other is the accumulation of merit (see “Good Fortune“). With wisdom, you gain the mind of a Buddha and acquire the supernormal powers and skills necessary to help living beings.
To attain prajna, you must follow the sequence of morality, concentration and then wisdom. If you do not behave morally by following the precepts, you will not be able to concentrate. Without concentration, you will not attain wonderful prajna wisdom. Of course, you must also develop wisdom so as to know how to correctly apply the precepts and so on.
There are three types of prajna. Prajna obtained through the written word and prajna obtained through contemplating reality are both cultivated in order to realize the prajna of ultimate reality. The first two types of prajna are the prerequisites necessary to realize the prajna of ultimate reality. Shakyamuni Buddha said that there is nothing that surpasses prajna. The dharma of prajna is the highest Buddha-dharma. It expounds the original nature of all the Tathagatas and all living beings. It is the truth of the universe. You must realize prajna to liberate yourself from the cycle of birth and death. In order to realize the prajna of ultimate reality, you must penetratingly comprehend the principle that the nature of all things is originally empty. You must know the impermanent nature of all things. You must know that all worldly phenomena are illusory, empty and false like dreams, illusions, bubbles and shadows. Prajna is sometimes called understanding, knowledge, wisdom, or insight. It is an intuitive wisdom that cannot be conveyed by concepts. It is insight into emptiness, which is the true nature of reality. It is a Sanskrit word for wisdom that basically means purifying insight into emptiness—the true nature of reality.