Is our knowledge making us prouder or wiser?

We often think that if we gain enough information, we will become knowledgeable. Significantly however, the Bhagavad-gita (14.17) states that knowledge grows by leading a life of goodness, not merely by accumulating information in the head. 

To appreciate this Gita statement, let’s first consider what knowledge is meant for. Is it a resource for us to win an argument and prove our superiority over others? Or is it a resource for us to choose wisely amid tempting or troubling situations? Both? What if both these purposes don’t go together? Consider the example of doctors who smoke. Do they not know that smoking is injurious to health ? They know, and yet they don’t. They know it intellectually, and often know it better than most ordinary people, but the information in their head is superseded by their uncontrollable cravings and unhealthy habits. In contrast, those who can resist the temptation to smoke may not have even a quarter of the information doctors have, but their actions are wiser. Why? Because knowledge is manifest in various places other than the head: conscience, culture, values, attitudes, desires, habits, lifestyles. Ultimately, knowledge is most empowering when it becomes assimilated as realization in our heart. 

What does this multiplicity of the location of knowledge mean for us practically? That we don’t just keep learning more, but strive also to apply what we learn. Even if such application takes time, still the very endeavor to do so will keep us rightly directed. When we strive to live virtuously in harmony with the information in our head, then the knowledge we learn will permeate into all areas of our being and make us all-round better human beings. 

One-sentence summary:

Knowledge accumulated as information in the head makes us prouder; knowledge assimilated as realization in our heart makes us wiser.

Think it over:

  • What are the two possible purposes of knowledge?
  • Why are our choices not shaped by our information alone?
  • How can you make your pursuit of knowledge more holistic?


14.17: From the mode of goodness, real knowledge develops; from the mode of passion, greed develops; and from the mode of ignorance develop foolishness, madness and illusion.

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  1. Ignorance is a bliss

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  2. Thank you for making such an important point, Prabhu Ji. In this age of the intellectual, knowledge not only makes people proud. It also makes them arrogant and self centred. Instead of serving, as is our constitutional position, many expect only to be served. Thankfully your daily posts help us to remember our true position and what really matters.

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