Skip to main content

The Beauty of Knowledge and Wisdom

Pablo Picasso-Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (detail) 1907

Knowledge is different from wisdom. Knowledge is acquired information, facts, or technique, like how to speak another language or do a handstand or bake a cake. There is external proof of your knowledge in the form of visible accomplishment. Knowledge enables you to make an educated decision, to get things done, and is the foundation for wisdom. Wisdom, however, is what you do with knowledge, how you apply acquired information to the rest of your life. Wisdom is far more subtle and elusive than knowledge, and is not measurable. It is a refinement or an expansion of knowledge. Wisdom is how poetically you speak that language, the radiance of your handstand, the transcendent, “oh!” of the cake.

In Sanskrit the word jnana means knowledge and the word vidya means wisdom. Vidya is the intelligence, creativity, and artistry of how you apply what you know to what you do. One is not more important than the other – both are necessary to live a rich fulfilling life. You can live less brightly without vidya. But you can’t even make your breakfast without jnana. Jnana is the foundation that allows for vidya to flourish, as long as you cultivate it. But vidya is what offers insight, makes beauty and art, and makes life worth living.

Before Picasso turned toward increasing degrees of abstraction in his work, he painted in a highly realistic manner. His contemporaries could also render in a visually accurate technical style. They all had the jnana. But they did not all have the vidya. How Picasso applied his knowledge was his wisdom – his genius – his vidya. He pushed the boundaries of jnana so much that he changed the rules.

So how does this relate to you?

In what areas of your life do you need to acquire more knowledge, more jnana?

In what areas of your life do you need to cultivate wisdom, vidya?

How can you build your knowledge as a point of departure for the wild creative leap of your wisdom?

Susanna Harwood Rubin

Author Susanna Harwood Rubin

More posts by Susanna Harwood Rubin