An article by Pratiksha Apurv, published in The Speaking Tree (The Times of India), October 12, 2022.
Over the years, authors and philosophers have tried to define wisdom and differentiate it from knowledge imparted by schools and colleges. Michael Witzel and Gavin Flood’s research on Vedas and Upanishad in the context of wisdom, and Catherine A Robinson’s extensive work on the Bhagwad Gita, explains that wisdom is the very spring of life. It is profoundly life-nourishing, while knowledge is programmed to meet certain goals. Wisdom is pure insight of a seeker, while knowledge is mechanical like a storehouse of memories accumulated over a period of time. Wisdom is born within the seeker. It has no external connection, whereas knowledge has no roots within and is borrowed from the outside world.
In the ancient texts we often come across two different terms: Jnana and Prajna. Jnana has a totally different pattern. In the Gita 4:35, Krishn says: “Yaj Jnatva na punar moham evam Yasyasi Pandava, Yena Bhutanyasheshna, Drakshayasyatmanyatho mayi” – Arjun, by following the path of the guru and having achieved enlightenment, delusion will be gone. There will be the light of wisdom and you will realise that every living being is an inseparable part of me.
Simply put, every creative dimension of life of a seeker is deeply rooted in Prajna and not Jnana. The goddess Saraswati is a source of wisdom, whether in education, or in real life. In terms of education, Jnana is a belief system, however Prajna is all about seeking, questioning, inquiring and even doubting certain aspects to gain insight from the guru.
The New Education Policy promises to encourage inquisitiveness and curiosity so that the student is not merely confined to the four walls of a school or to a prescribed syllabus. He is not just a student but a true seeker of life’s insight.
The Chhandogya Upanishad describes this phenomenon through the story of Satyakam and Jabala. The essence of the story is that a student in the original form is a true seeker of existence. What we learn has to be transcendental, and that we may call as wisdom or a state of supreme knowledge. Knowledge creates memories and wisdom is a blossoming of flowers within.
Osho says that Prajna, wisdom, is purity of heart. Knowledge comes from without, wisdom wells up within. Knowledge is borrowed and wisdom is original. He also advises people: ‘Don’t be knowledgeable, be wise.’
A young mind can memorise hundreds of books prescribed by the school and recite them his whole life. But, reading the books or scripture will not trigger the inner song from within. Just remembering words will not create harmony. It will not kindle joy within. It will come through nurturing individuality and freeing learning from routine. Rote learning is unconscious, while wisdom is awakened and conscious. That’s why our ancient scriptures are full of inquisitiveness and curiosity.
In the Katha Upanishad, the discussion between the boy, Nachiketa, and Yama gives a deeper meaning of wisdom. He tells Yama that those who are unconscious believe you are a reality and those who are conscious know that you are just an appearance. Every child can be described by two words: essence and personality. Essence is individuality and pure nature, while personality is nurtured by society. A simultaneous and balanced growth is needed so that life is centred and not on the periphery.
- A wise man is afire – from The Goose is Out, Ch 6, Q 1