We tend to try to value people by outward characteristics, and we thereby tend to attribute wisdom to people who either have university degrees, or a large amount of money, or other “signs” of success in the world. But worldly success is not correlated to true wisdom; rather, it can be a major distraction which actually reduces the opportunity for the successful individual to achieve wisdom.
Sri Aurobindo provides us therefore an overview of the chief characteristics that identify the sage: “…his strong turning away of the heart from attachment to outward and worldly things, his inward and brooding spirit, his steady mind and calm equality, the settled fixity of his thought and will upon the greatest inmost truths, upon the things that are real and eternal.”
The sage also will tend to exhibit a high sattwic temperament, with “…a total absence of worldly pride and arrogance, a candid soul, a tolerant, long-suffering and benignant heart, purity of mind and body, tranquil firmness and steadfastness, self-control and a masterful government of the lower nature and the heart’s worship given to the Teacher, whether to the divine Teacher within or to the human Master in whom the divine wisdom is embodied….”
The sage naturally loosens the bonds of the ego and does not guide his actions by achievement of the fruits normally associated with action in the world, the aggrandisement of the ego in all manner of ways. The sage recognises further the inadequacy of a life focused solely on personal success, the family, and worldly goals, and he is able to recognise the emptiness of a life caught up in the chain of cause and effect and a life of suffering, disease, old age and death (as the Buddha stated the issue).
“Finally, there is a strong turn within towards the things that really matter, a philosophic perception of the true sense and large principles of existence, a tranquil continuity of inner spiritual knowledge and light, the Yoga of an unswerving devotion, love of God, the heart’s deep and constant adoration of the universal and eternal Presence.”
Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 13, The Field and Its Knower, pp. 400-401