The Dhammapada exploration – part 5: Fools

This is a series of articles I’m doing on one of the basic Buddhist texts, the Dhammapada. Read the rest of the articles in this series.

I’m back with another chapter of the Dhammapada. This time on the great subject of fools!

60. Long is the night to the sleepless; long is the league to the weary. Long is worldly existence to fools who know not the Sublime Truth.

The sleepless is like the one who has not known the dhamma, does not know how to end the cycle of existence.

61. Should a seeker not find a companion who is better or equal, let him resolutely pursue a solitary course; there is no fellowship with the fool.

Seek the company of those equal to you, or better, wiser than you. If you can’t find any such people, it is better to stay alone.

62. The fool worries, thinking, “I have sons, I have wealth.” Indeed, when he himself is not his own, whence are sons, whence is wealth?

You do not even own your own self. It is a delusion. How can you “own” sons or money?

63. A fool who knows his foolishness is wise at least to that extent, but a fool who thinks himself wise is a fool indeed.

Do you recognize this one? “I don’t know much, but I know what I don’t know.” This verse might have inspired that.

64. Though all his life a fool associates with a wise man, he no more comprehends the Truth than a spoon tastes the flavor of the soup.

65. Though only for a moment a discerning person associates with a wise man, quickly he comprehends the Truth, just as the tongue tastes the flavor of the soup.

A fool will not even know what to look for, even if he spends his entire life in the company of a wise one. But a discerning person (I like that expression) can take in great teachings.

66. Fools of little wit are enemies unto themselves as they move about doing evil deeds, the fruits of which are bitter.

67. Ill done is that action of doing which one repents later, and the fruit of which one, weeping, reaps with tears.

Yeah. You idiot. You shouldn’t have done that in the first place!

68. Well done is that action of doing which one repents not later, and the fruit of which one reaps with delight and happiness.

69. So long as an evil deed has not ripened, the fool thinks it as sweet as honey. But when the evil deed ripens, the fool comes to grief.

This can even be applied to little, petty things. Remember when you gossiped about that workmate? How stupid he is? Remember how you then planted rumors about him? That felt great. You felt so much better than that person. Mwahaha. But then they fired the guy, even though the rumors were not true. How did you feel then?

70. Month after month a fool may eat his food with the tip of a blade of grass, but he still is not worth a sixteenth part of the those who have comprehended the Truth.

Subscribing to extreme asceticism won’t make you a wise one. You can almost stop eating, you can sleep on a rock, you can live in a cave, but wisdom comes not from these actions but from inside.

71. Truly, an evil deed committed does not immediately bear fruit, like milk that does not turn sour all at once. But smoldering, it follows the fool like fire covered by ashes.

72. To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness.

Wrong learning can lead you down the wrong path and ultimately destroy you.

73. The fool seeks undeserved reputation, precedence among monks, authority over monasteries, and honor among householders.

74. “Let both laymen and monks think that it was done by me. In every work, great and small, let them follow me” — such is the ambition of the fool; thus his desire and pride increase.

75. One is the quest for worldly gain, and quite another is the path to Nibbana. Clearly understanding this, let not the monk, the disciple of the Buddha, be carried away by worldly acclaim, but develop detachment instead.

Well, all that was pretty straightforward now, wasn’t it? Did you like it?

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