Wisdom and Knowledge
"Knowledge alone cannot give rise to value. It is only when knowledge is guided by wisdom that value is created. The font of wisdom is found in the following elements: an overarching sense of purpose, a powerful sense of responsibility and, finally, the compassionate desire to contribute to the welfare of humankind."1--Daisaku Ikeda [Read full text]
The distinction that Ikeda makes between knowledge and wisdom offers a useful insight into the nature of Soka education. Education often focuses on the transmission and accumulation of knowledge. However, knowledge itself is a neutral tool that can be used for good or evil. In contrast, Ikeda believes wisdom always directs us toward happiness.
Ikeda has called the confusion between knowledge and wisdom one of the grave failings of modern society. He likens knowledge to the ability of a doctor to discern the cause or nature of a person's illness and wisdom to the doctor's ability to successfully treat the disease.
As he notes, "The suffering generated by the grotesque imbalance between our knowledge and our wisdom is succinctly symbolized by the fact that the most sublime fruit of our science and technology has been nuclear weapons."2 [Read full text] Similarly, the "explosion" of knowledge within the past century seems only to have compounded the inequalities on our planet. This is of course not to deny the value of the pursuit of knowledge, only to show that the relationship between knowledge and wisdom must be properly considered. Ikeda affirms that with the advent of an increasingly knowledge- and information-based society, it becomes all the more crucial that we develop the wisdom to master these resources of knowledge and information.
The task of education must be to stimulate and unleash the wisdom that lies dormant in the lives of all young people. This is a process of drawing out the inner potential of individuals, as opposed to "a forced process, like pressing something into a preformed mold, in the way much of modern education is doing today.
Furthermore, knowledge must be tied to purpose in order to produce value. Ikeda says, "Unless we continually ask ourselves, 'What purpose does this knowledge serve?' we are liable to fall into the trap of pursuing knowledge for its own sake." 3 Education that neglects to orient itself to some larger purpose may end up producing individuals who are "knowledgeable [but] immature and coldhearted as well." 4
Certainly, it would seem that only a wisdom-based education that directs students toward the richness of our common humanity can provide an antidote to the powerful dehumanizing forces so rampant within contemporary society.