Monday 25th April 2011

by Lionslayer

“Information is not knowledge.”
Albert Einstein

After I read this post of Saya ATK, I agreed most of it. But general conclusion such as “knowledge is not power anymore” cannot totally be accepted in my heart.

The earlier lines stated that “raw data” is “information” which I accepted. We can find them in libraries or online. Yes, today era is information age. Most people are able to access the mass information easily when we couldn’t imagine it two decades ago. Yet data stay as data unless we understand it and memorize it.

Another line stated that “collection of data for usefulness” is “knowledge” which I denied. And it stated that “understanding” is the next level of knowledge. In my little knowledge, knowledge itself is “understanding” through study or practices. Most of world renowned dictionaries define knowledge as understanding of certain thing. In English-Pali dictionaries, knowledge is defined as “paññā” (ပညာ), same as “wisdom” since their definitions are overlapping.

In Sanskrit, jñā can be translated as “consciousness”, “knowledge”, or “understanding”. Pra is an intensifier which could be translated as “higher”, “greater”, “supreme” or “premium”.

The article stated that “what, why, how and analysis of a certain subject is wisdom. I would say it’s still the “knowledge”. The real meaning of “Wisdom” is the ability to judge what is wrong and what is right based on the knowledge, is what I understand.

In mapping the threefold training to the noble eightfold path, paññā is traditionally associated with right view (sammā-diṭṭhi) and right resolve (sammā-saṅkappa) which the Buddha defined:

And what, monks, is right view? Knowledge with regard to stress, knowledge with regard to the origination of stress, knowledge with regard to the stopping of stress, knowledge with regard to the way of practice leading to the stopping of stress: This, monks, is called right view.

And what is right resolve? Being resolved on renunciation, on freedom from ill will, on harmlessness: This is called right resolve.

The article defined knowledge as သညာသိ and wisdom as ပညာသိ. If that the case, I want to redefine it. သညာသိ – (jānāti) knowing in name without needing to understand it. ပညာသိ – (paññā) knowledge or knowing by understanding. And there is another one left, ထိုးထွင်းသိ – (ñāṇakaraṇa) enlightenment.

Enough with definitions, I will go back to my stand, ” knowledge is power”. With knowledge alone, a certain country could become powerful. A certain person can stand out among the crowd with his knowledge. But knowledge alone can turn to be evil. Wisdom is the ability to judge what is right based on the knowledge such as should we use nuclear power at wars. We cannot get wisdom without knowledge. Not everybody has the same knowledge just because they have the same internet connection or the same book.

So the differences in our stands are clearly based on how we define “knowledge” and “wisdom”.

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