“If a traveler does not meet with one who is his better, or his equal, let him firmly keep to his solitary journey; there is no companionship with a fool. ‘These sons belong to me, and this wealth belongs to me,’ with such thoughts a fool is tormented. He himself does not belong to himself; how much less sons and wealth? The fool who knows his foolishness, is wise at least so far. But a fool who thinks himself wise, he is called a fool indeed. If a fool be associated with a wise man even all his life, he will perceive the truth as little as a spoon perceives the taste of soup. If an intelligent man be associated for one minute only with a wise man, he will soon perceive the truth, as the tongue perceives the taste of soup. Fools of poor understanding have themselves for their greatest enemies, for they do evil deeds which bear bitter fruit.” ~The Dhammapada
The Dhammapada is a collection of sayings of the Buddha. Since they were said to various people at different times and in different places and later assembled into sections by subject, they read oddly, yet contain much wisdom. Note that for formatting purposes, I have strung together several of these sayings on the Fool into a single paragraph. In the book, they are separated.
The first saying tells us that the traveler should avoid the companionship of a fool. But if you think about it, when you are traveling and come upon a stranger, you don’t know if he is a fool, a crook, or some other undesirable type. So I believe that what the Buddha is talking about is not an ordinary journey from town to town, but the great journey on the Path of Enlightenment. While it is unlikely to harm you in any way to travel with a fool from one town to another, trying to achieve enlightenment while traveling that path with a fool will almost certainly hold you back. Of course, how much it hold you back depends on how much of a fool he is, and what sort of fool. If he is simply the type of fool who is easily misled or distracted, that may not hinder your journey that much. On the other hand, if the fool is a phony spiritual teacher, following his advise will greatly hinder your spiritual growth. That is why it is always smart to work with a good spiritual teacher, spiritual school, and spiritual community. Continue reading “The Fool and the Wise Man”