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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. 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.

Combined comments from old site

Thu, 11/15/2007 - 10:03 — Gopa Aaron

It is possible to be hooked on the Jnana side of things I've found.
One has to learn to apply what they know.
It is a process. When we work on this process then gradually everything is taken care of.
This is Krsna-Consciousness, Devotion, Love of God and for God and His Love for Us, Serving Love is the Key to all unfortunate living entities that need Compassion.


Wed, 11/14/2007 - 05:03 — Radhikesh

As usual an excellent article, Karnamrta Prabhu. It is indeed true that without practical engagement in Krishna's service, mere rote learning of philosophy will not get us far. Srila Prabhupada exemplified both. He was vastly learned in all scriptures (vedanta) and he practically engaged in pure bhakti inspiring thousands and thousands to take up pure bhakti. Thus he was aptly called Bhaktivedanta.

We can know a Vaisnava by his potency to inspire others to remember Krishna, when one sees him, goes the saying. This can be accomplished only by vijnana.

There had been so many Gitas before Srila Prabhupada's As it is version, but not many became devotees of Krishna, although they were rendered with much erudition and scholarship. This was because they were mere jnana. But Srila Prabhupada's Gita made so many devotees of Krishna, and thus his version is aptly called As it is. He doesnt always render the verses in a literal sense, but his rendering always has the greatest impact. Thus he was able to pass on the teachings of Krishna unadulterated, which is the purpose of the Gita, and thus As it is.

Thank you so much. And thats one reason I like your blogs - they are just not philosophy alone, but how you practically demonstrate it.

Radhikesh dasa


Thu, 11/15/2007 - 23:27 — Navasi
Bhakti Vedanta

Dear Radhikesh Das,
This is very nice, this way you have explained what Bhaktivedanta means in relation to Srila Prabhupad.
Thank you,


Wed, 11/14/2007 - 13:11 — Karnamrita.das
Thanks for your comments

Radhikesh Prabhu!! Thanks for reading my blog, for your thoughtful comments, and kind appreciations. I have a number of Gaudiya editions of the Gita, yet Prabhupada's remains my favorite.

Your friend in Krishna,



Thu, 11/15/2007 - 03:24 — Radhikesh
Gita Blogs

Haribol Prabhu. You say that you have a number of Gaudiya editions of Gita but Prabhupada's is your favorite. I hope you are not saying this in response to what I said about that there had been number of editions of Gita before Prabhupada but not many became devotees. I said this based on the so many mis-interpretations of Gita by mundane scholars. Prabhupada himself said that there are 600 editions of Gita but not one person became a devotee. The Gaudiya editions like Vishvanatha Cakaravarti's or Baladeva Vidyabhusana's are so full of realizations (vijnana) of these acaryas, as you know undoubtedly.

Prabhupada's Gita remains my favorite too. I also like Visvanatha Cakravarti's for it is filled with bhakti rasa, and Baladeva's for its thorough philosophical content.

I read that you intend to start a blog on all the 18 chapters. I am eagerly waiting for that.

Radhikesh das

Wed, 11/14/2007 - 04:37 — Jai Srila Prabhupada

Hare Krishna Prabhuji. You have answered all the questions that were always on my mind. I was personally always very keen to find out about theoritical knowledge vs realized knowledge. You have very geniusly answered everything. However I have got a bit confused at your saying

'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".

Can you please explain this in detail. Why you feel a little knowledge can be dangerous, especially theoritical knowledge without wisdom. I personally belong to this category as I have only theoritical knowledge thus I am very keen to know about all this.



Wed, 11/14/2007 - 13:03 — Karnamrita.das
A little knowledge of brain surgery

If you could imagine someone posing as a brain surgeon who could speak well about it, but didn't have any practical experience. That little bit of knowledge might be enough to convince someone to use him as a surgeon, yet I wouldn't bet on their chances of survival.

For newcomers, of course, you only are just beginning to study the scriptures. We all begin that way. However, we don't pose ourself (hopefully) as an expert devotee. Such a person might mislead others, or use their position for personal gain. So in any field a little knowledge without a lot of experience and studying from others, will not give a full picture of that field or path. Therefore it is said that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing---we could add---if one poses them self as being an expert or experienced.

"Fools rush in where angels fear to tread".

Your friend in Krishna,



Fri, 12/26/2008 - 09:06 — Namacarya das
Namacarya das's picture
"Fools rush in where angels

"Fools rush in where angels fear to tread".

What would this mean?

Wed, 11/14/2007 - 04:20 — Navasi

Thank you.

Dear Karnamrita Das Prabhu,
This is very very nice, I love everything you've said here.
Thank you so much.


Wed, 11/14/2007 - 13:12 — Karnamrita.das
Hari Bol!!

Glad you liked it. It is always good to hear from you.

Your friend in Krishna,