“Long the night unto the wakeful,
Long the league unto the weary;
Long to fools is transmigration,
To those who wot not of the Gospel.
If the traveler meet not With his better or his equal,
Let him make his lonely journey strong:
With a fool there is no fellowship.
“These sons are mine, this wealth is mine,”
The fool torments himself to think,
When he himself is not his own:
Much less the sons, much less the wealth.
The fool who knows he is a fool,
A pandit is at least in this;
But the fool who thinks himself a pandit,
He is called a fool indeed.
Should a fool wait upon a scholar all his life,
He knoweth the Doctrine no more Than a spoon the taste of soup.
Should a wise man wait upon a scholar Even for a moment,
He quickly knoweth the Doctrine,
As the tongue the taste of soup.” ~The Dhammapada
Unto the Wakeful
The “wakeful” are not those who have insomnia. This is a spiritual book, so the wakeful are those who are spiritually awake. That is to say, they have gone through the process of awakening their dormant spiritual faculties: the spirit and soul. Without doing that, the dormant faculties cannot help us and keep us from becoming slaves of the illusions of matter.
Fools may think the process too lengthy and difficult to bother with, especially in this day of instant everything. The fools are wrong. No matter how difficult it is to obtain, nothing is more valuable than eternal life. Most wealthy people would give their fortunes for an extra ten years. Spiritual awakening is offering you eternity.
This passage from the Dhammapada recommends that we choose our traveling companions wisely. It recommends that we travel with those who are our equals or betters, and avoid traveling with fools. Using more spiritual language, we can say that it is better to travel with those who are spiritually awake, or at least trying to be spiritual as best they can with what knowledge they have. At least we should avoid traveling with very materialistic, angry, or violent people.
Of course, that was easier to do when one traveled mostly by foot or horseback. Nowadays, when you travel by train, bus, and plane, you usually don’t get to decide who you travel with. What you can do is avoid hanging out with negative people and learn to shield yourself as much as possible when you do have to be around them. Shielding is done by visualizing yourself surrounded by a barrier of white light that block out the influence of the “fools”.
The Pandit and the Fool
The quote says that a fool who thinks he is a pandit is a major-league fool. But the fool who at least knows he is a fool, is a pandit, at least on that subject. In other words, the fool who doesn’t claim to be more than what he is, is a wise man regarding himself. In short, if your are going to be a fool, it is better to be a fool who recognizes what he is and doesn’t have pretensions of being a wise man (pandit).
But what is a fool and what is a wise man? The passage also explains that in one way. The fool is one who, if exposed to truth and wisdom, learns nothing from it and remains ignorant. The fool cannot, or will not be Wakeful. The wise one, on the other hand, learns quickly and has an open mind. She doesn’t reject truth simply because it doesn’t fit her personal beliefs.
The good news is that many of us are not yet pandits, but neither are we fools. We may stick stubbornly to some beliefs, but for the most part, we are willing to listen to truths that do not fit our preconceptions. Others of us can develop that ability, if we try. The first step is to rid ourselves of false beliefs. Developing an open mind may be difficult, but well worth the effort. The rewards for doing so are great.
So don’t be a fool who sits among the scholars and speaks to the wise ones, yet learns nothing. Be a seeker of wisdom and truth. It is there to find if and when we want it. Be one of the Wakeful rather than a sleeper and a human sheep being led and controlled by the materialists.