Wisdom, sapience, or sagacity is the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, and insight. Wisdom is associated with attributes such as unbiased judgment, compassion, experiential self-knowledge, self-transcendence and non-attachment, and virtues as ethics and benevolence. It is the body of knowledge and experience that develops within a specified society or period.
Most people think that wisdom and knowledge are the same things but they are two different sides of the same coin. Knowledge is nothing but the facts known by a person whereas wisdom is the combination of experience and knowledge, with the power of applying them or soundness of judgement in a person. Knowledge is information of which someone is aware. It is also used to mean the confident understanding of a subject, potentially with the ability to use it for a specific purpose. Wisdom is the ability to make correct judgements and decisions. It is an intangible quality gained through our experiences in life. The primary difference between the two words is that wisdom involves a healthy dose of perspective and the ability to make sound judgements about a subject while knowledge is simply knowing. Anyone can become knowledgeable about a subject by reading, researching, and memorizing facts. So, ‘knowledge is knowing what to say, but wisdom is knowing when to say it.’
Hindu scriptures describe different paths to salvation. The Hindu scriptures called Upanishads describe two types of knowledge – the ‘lower’ knowledge, which is the understanding of the phenomenal world, and the ‘higher’ or spiritual knowledge, which is knowledge of the ‘Supreme Self’ beyond duality. The Upanishads encourage us to acquire both types of knowledge. The lower knowledge includes the sciences, mathematics, and even an understanding of philosophy. It also includes knowledge of righteous actions.
The higher knowledge is attained when the understanding of the ‘Supreme Self’, which is the experience of being one with the Supreme Being, pervades one’s mind and consciousness at every moment – whether walking, asleep, or dreaming. Wisdom arises naturally as one climbs the ladder of higher knowledge, and it keeps growing.