Excursions Of A Bibliophile

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Whither Wisdom?

Posted by Vish Mangalapalli on August 11, 2011

You are what your deepest desire is
As your desire is, so is your intention
As your intention is, so is your will
As your will is, so is your deed
As your deed is, so is your destiny

 This ancient insight from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad provides a near irrefutable connection between our desires and our destinies – the former representing a vehicle on which we drive our lives and the latter representing at once our journey and the state in which we arrive at our destination. At one level it sounds almost like a mathematical equation – one thing building on the logic of the other to arrive at a deeply moving and a startling conclusion. Wants, acts of mind, human psychology and human actions – all commingling and leading to a QED (quod erat demonstrandum) of sorts peppered with a generous touch of epiphany.

However, the biggest challenge of a human being begins at the point of ascertaining the appropriateness of a known desire. Most of the times we don’t even pause to question our desires. We are not even aware of the desirability of this pausing and questioning.  The ability to ascertain the rightful place of a desire in the overall scheme of things needs a well-developed sense of confident wisdom. But wisdom is a funny thing as most of the times it is inversely related to age. We lose our youth and age in gaining wisdom and by the time we attain it (if we attain it at all) we have not much left to put the acquired wisdom into practice to get a sense of well-lived, well-balanced, fruitful life

I continue to hold a belief that wisdom is incommunicable and for a large part of my life, I confused it with intelligence, cleverness and success. One may become intensely aware of wisdom, read about it extensively but the degree to which one can internalize it from secondary sources remains limited. An effective provenance of wisdom is life experiences but with them one is limited by the narrow diversity and the role of chance. Advice is another source of wisdom but that again is constrained by the quality of people we surround ourselves with (no wonder we are advised time and again to surround ourselves with wise people). I guess one can consciously desire for wisdom and allow it to grow within. That leads us to square one: we need to have enough wisdom in the first place to seek more wisdom

2 Responses to “Whither Wisdom?”

  1. Anand said


    that’s where Geeta can help us a little. it gives us a framework to analyze our nature and natural likes and then build our goals or desires, so to speak, on that basis. But again, Geeta also suggests that only continuous action will help us realize our goals..

    may be eternity of life in terms of birth-death cycle can explain wisdom then…Great enlightened souls like Buddha and Jesus and other prophets could have gained the wisdom through multiple birth-death cycles..but then only they can experience the process of building wisdom through the wisdom they have built!

    Thanks for a introspective trigger.

    • Vish Mangalapalli said

      Two points:

      1. It is still a secondary source
      2. You need to have the wisdom in the first place to read it

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