Verse 4 - Knowledge and Wisdom


Knowledge is knowing how things are done, wisdom is knowing which exact thing needs to be done. Wisdom is like ocean. Small rivulets of knowledge flow into it. All knowledge crystallizes to wisdom. Knowledge can be exhausted, wisdom is always replete. This means, one can know something about everything, but one cannot know everything about something. Although wisdom and void are two extremes, one must understand the first to appreciate the latter. (By void, I mean ignorance here.) So limitless and expanding are both that one gets lost in them. But the distinction is that when in void, you are on your own, in wisdom you are one with the Tao and vice-versa.

Like Tao, wisdom is filled with infinite possibilities. This is so because wisdom is a combined effect of permutations and combinations of the knowledge at disposal. Thus wisdom is like an ocean, it can be used, but it never gets used-up, it is perennial. It is like the love and care of a mother towards her child. Unconditional, infinite, never enough. When encountered with a problem and exhausted with options, it is not wisdom that fails, it is one who fails.

It is said that the Tao is older than God. The comprehension of this statement by different schools of thought is highly controversial. I think what Lao Tzu means by this is that to name something is to give birth to it. Thus is we name God, we are giving birth to God, making him bound by the cycle of birth-death, construction-destruction. But then, how can God be so? Tao is said to be older than God because God has been named. An idea that can be named is not the eternal idea. What Lao Tzu implies here is that Tao and God are one.