The Dharma may seem very heady and "self" oriented to us in the West. Not so in the sacred East. There even the earliest Theravada form of Buddhism (the oldest extant lineage known as the "Teaching of the Elders") is a matter of great reverence. The "elders" are the historical Buddha's enlightened immediate disciples like the nuns Khema, Uppalavanna, Maha Prajapati, and Sundari Nanda and the monks Sariputra, Maha Moggallana, Ananda, and Maha Kassapa. (Who are they? See below.)
Wisdom is certainly most important in this wisdom-tradition. But there is no wisdom without compassion. Clever persons become cunning in the absence of compassion and loving-kindness. Devotion and confidence ("faith," saddha, shraddha) are also key elements. For without confidence, one will not strive. One will not set forth on the path. One will fall away as soon as doubt or confusion overtake one.
Questioning is good and encouraged. The Dharma is deep and profound and not obvious; it is not to be understood by mere reasoning, but one can see for oneself. Settle any misgivings or doubts with the intellect. Then decide (cut off other options) and commit to practice. Practice is the key. Buddhism is a path of practice for the cultivation of generosity, compassion, and insight. It is the path that leads directly to enlightenment in this very life. Nirvana, unlike heaven, is not something you find out if you got into after dying. It is a living experience of liberation that transcends death and is a permanent end of suffering.
Seven Elders, Leading Disciples
KHEMA is the Buddha's chief female disciple, foremost in wisdom. SARIPUTRA (Marshall of the Dharma), chief male disciple, foremost in wisdom. UPPALAVANNA, chief female disciple, foremost in psychic powers. MAHA PRAJAPATI, founder of the female monastic order (Bhikkhuni Sangha); she was the Buddha's adoptive mother, the sister of his biological mother, and the first nun. MAHA KASSAPA can be credited as the founder of "Buddh-ism" as an organized religion because he systematized it after the Buddha attained final nirvana. He was one of the leading disciples in life and had been declared "foremost in ascetic practices." SUNDARI NANDA (Beautiful Nanda) was the Buddha's half-sister, who like his ex-wife and only son, Yasodhara and Rahula, became a monastic and was freed from all suffering under the Buddha's guidance. ANANDA was one of the Buddha's attendants, who served for 25 years, with a memory so powerful as to have recorded the sutras (discourses) and presented them at the First Council, called by Maha Kassapa, for all posterity. A different monk, Upali, had memorized the Vinaya or monastic disciplinary guidelines.