Theoretical Knowledge versus Mature Wisdom

I am an advocate for studying Prabhupada’s books and other works by our Gaudiya acharyas (exemplary teachers) as part of our program for understanding our tradition of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. As important as scriptural knowledge is, just to be able to quote verses doesn’t mean you really, practically understand them. Wisdom (vijnana) or realized knowledge is more important than just book knowledge (jnana). [see Shrila Prabhupada’s purport to his Bhagavad-gita as it is, 6.8]

Wisdom comes from the experience of putting into practice the knowledge (theory) upon which Krishna Consciousness is based. Practicing what the scriptures teach means engaging in devotional service, like hearing and chanting about Krishna and activities whose goal is to please him.

I am an advocate for studying Prabhupada’s books and other works by our Gaudiya acharyas (exemplary teachers) as part of our program for understanding our tradition of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. As important as scriptural knowledge is, just to be able to quote verses doesn’t mean you really, practically understand them. Wisdom (vijnana) or realized knowledge is more important than just book knowledge (jnana). [see Shrila Prabhupada’s purport to his Bhagavad-gita as it is, 6.8]

Wisdom comes from the experience of putting into practice the knowledge (theory) upon which Krishna Consciousness is based. Practicing what the scriptures teach means engaging in devotional service, like hearing and chanting about Krishna and activities whose goal is to please him. Devotional service or bhakti-yoga is best practiced with those who have some spiritual standing or currency, and hearing their wisdom and realization. We are all a product of who and what we associate with. That is how faith develops.

At some point we will have sufficient knowledge and spiritual necessity that we will search out the guidance of a bona-fide teacher or guru who can capture our faith by removing our doubts. The scriptures teach us to see the guru as a manifestation of Krishna (not God, but his representative) tailor made to help us. From him or her, we can further inquire, and be engaged in practical devotional service. The guru shares their faith, love for Krishna and his devotees, deep convictions, and insightful understandings with us, which affects our heart, increasing our faith progressively.

In time we will also develop our own realizations about what Krishna conscious is, know how to apply it in the unique circumstances of everyday life, and also have potency to share what we have understood. We can confirm our understanding by consulting with those we have faith in (gurus), other past and current exemplary teachers (sadhu), the scriptures (shastras), and in time with our purified spiritual heart.

Making progress should come through time, but not without our intense desire to have it, and our eagerness to please the guru and Krishna. Otherwise we can stay for many years practicing the externals or form, without truly realizing the spirit or goal of the teaching. (I have spoken about this in a blog titled, “Religious Form versus Substance”) Or in relationship to this blog we may have much knowledge, but little true wisdom.

It is said that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but we could also say that much theoretical knowledge without wisdom is a dangerous thing. There can be a tendency to think that if we have a head full of knowledge that we have some spiritual standing and have “gone somewhere”. As I have tried to point out, “It ain’t necessarily so”.

To conclude, knowledge is important in order to be educated about KC, but more important is wisdom. One of the fruits of wisdom is the humility that comes from the truth of our insignificance in relation to the All Powerful God and our absolute dependence on him. Krishna is unlimited, and whatever knowledge we have is only a drop. That means that regardless of our position, we are all students forever. That is real wisdom.