I keep on long wondered the difference between wisdom and knowledge. I do not understand why the Buddha refers only to the intellect without talking to intellectuals?

8 Answers 8


Knowledge is conceptual, it is information, opinions and views read from books or spoken by others, whereas wisdom is the truth within the experience. Experience can not be conceptualized, for example....try to explain what water is, then go drink some water or stand in the rain, the conceptualization and the experience are completely different, this is the difference between knowledge and wisdom!! I hope this has helped. Metta.

"For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them."

~ Thich Nhat Hanh


There's a definition of 'wisdom' here: The Way of Wisdom -- The Five Spiritual Faculties

I found that definition difficult to understand, for example it says,

"Wisdom penetrates[25] into dharmas as they are in themselves. It disperses the darkness of delusion, which covers up the own-being of dharmas."

Other parts of it which might be easier to understand are the conclusion, which includes,

Delusion, folly, confusion, ignorance and self-deception are the opposites of wisdom. It is because ignorance, and not sin, is the root evil that wisdom is regarded as the highest virtue. A holiness which is devoid of wisdom is not considered impossible, but it cannot be gained by the path of knowledge, to which alone these descriptions apply. The paths of faith, of love, of works, etc., have each their own several laws.

As the unfaltering penetration into the true nature of objects, wisdom is the capacity to meditate in certain ways about the dharmic constituents of the universe. The rules of that meditation have been laid down in the scriptures, particularly in the Abhidharma, and a superb description can be found in the latter part of Buddhaghosa's Path of Purification.

In summary I think it suggests that you might want to read the Abhidharma and/or Path of Purification for further knowledge about that.

Another introduction to wisdom exists here: The Integrity of Emptiness

For all the subtlety of his teachings, the Buddha had a simple test for measuring wisdom. You're wise, he said, to the extent that you can get yourself to do things you don't like doing but know will result in happiness, and to refrain from things you like doing but know will result in pain and harm.

He derived this standard for wisdom from his insight into the radical importance of intentional action in shaping our experience of happiness and sorrow, pleasure and pain. With action so important and yet so frequently misguided, wisdom has to be tactical, strategic, in fostering actions that are truly beneficial. It has to outwit short-sighted preferences to yield a happiness that lasts.

So knowledge might come from reading or listening to Dharma, whereas wisdom is when you are able to act on that knowledge and apply it skillfully.

Wikipedia's article Wisdom in Buddhism claims that wisdom is "insight".

  • That in Theravada it means concentrated (Samādhi) insight (Vipassanā) into the 'Three Marks of Existence' and the 'Four Noble Truths'.

  • That in Mahāyāna it means with same, with Karuṇā (compassion) in addition.


knowledge can be wrong, "panna" translated loosely as wisdom, is a technical term unlike conventional meaning of english word wisdom, the Panna is a faculty, it can not be wrong, it can be weak or strong, intense or dull, it can be trained and has discernment as it s function.

The semantics of these two words are completely different. Like comparing functional muscle strength of a person to knowledge about physiology.

As for the english word "Wisdom" it self, it s definition is very abstract, having asked 100 people you will get different answers with more or less overlap depending on enviroment, their views and access to dictionaries.

It is important not to attribute english semantical meaning to pali words after translation otherwise the model will be completely confusing and irrational.

The model i mean like how humans gather data about themselves and reality forming a model of the system to make sense of it. Better model, better discernment, more control essentially, less unexpected results. Like having a better map of the territory.

Imo the teachings are like a map, when u have the map u can see the path, when u see the path you can go there, once gone there you posess the knowledge of teritorry. Territory is not the map, map is not the territory, knowledge of the territory is not like knowledge of the map.

People s problem becomes thus that they have a shitty map and they project falsehood onto the territory, claiming a mountain is a lake, north is south, giving wrong directions, following wrong directions, getting into unwanted situations and getting others into unwanted situations.

People do this, no sane person wants there to be war and conflict, it stressful. Yet because they are projecting their ignorance and views onto real world they are prey to their own intellect faculty in this sense.


Generally - wisdom defends good manner in truth. Therefore knowledge describes general experience we get in the world. Knowledge can be overdoing but wisdom is self defensive information that can aim you into better understanding :) tiwigi(CR)


Knowledge is simply that there is information about the world that we can conceptualize, but wisdom is understanding that there is nothing to know.

Wisdom is understanding the concept of emptiness, or shunyata in Sanskrit.


Knowledge is about knowing, learning, gathering. Wisdom is about seeing.

  • Hello and welcome to Buddhism SE. Could you could elaborate a bit on the "seeing"-part?
    – user2424
    Feb 2, 2018 at 12:56
  • I guess that "seeing" is a reference to Right View, which is associated with Wisdom.
    – ChrisW
    Feb 2, 2018 at 21:58
  • Seeing is right view when you take it form a buddhist context. In a buddhist context you can learn four nobel thruths, condition arising, and the entire cannon for that matter. And even teach. Thats knowing. Bikku Potila in Buddas days can be an example of someone who knows but havent seen. But if you start seeing all of the above in your own life, you will start to see the delusion and ignorance inyour self. And seeing that allone will cause them to start fading. IMO that is seeing.
    – RRR
    Feb 3, 2018 at 16:09

Huh?? The Buddha mentioned intellect?

He did mention that one who only studies the Dhamma and never actually practices is not one who lives by the Dhamma.

Why do you need the Buddha to talk to intellectuals? What makes you think he didn't talk to intellectuals?

We all cling. We cling to chocolate ho-hos and to things like the intellect, not that the intellect can't be put to good use.

The intellects can get the wrong idea like the intellect is more important than wisdom or the intellect is the only mental faculty that exists.

The Buddha's teaching is about experiencing the raw data coming through your senses. If you think it's about intellectualism then you have been dipped in materialistic, western belief systems for way too long or you are too intelligent to to allow yourself to be wise.

Intellect when not balanced with faith equals doubt and wrong view.


There is a difference between Information and Knowledge. Information means something we read from the books or somebody passed his knowledge to somebody else.

But after testing that information whether is true or not we get something i.e. Knowledge.

For Example- Water- H2O is a equation. Hydrogen 2 + Oxygen 1 = Water. This is given in Books which we learnt but i.e. just an information but when we actually experiment it in laboratory and we test that equation in reality we found that this H2O equation is true. Then that becomes our knowledge.

Buddha says: Knowledge is useless if it is not in our daily life action.

  • Hello and welcome to Buddhism SE. Could you provide a quote to this statement: "Knowledge is useless if it is not in our daily life action".
    – user2424
    Jan 29, 2018 at 15:23

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .