Dhammapada 5: Fools


Translated by Ven Nārada

60. Long is the night to the wakeful; long is the league to the weary; long is saṃsāra 1 to the foolish who know not the Sublime Truth.

61. If, as the disciple fares along, he meets no companion who is better or equal, let him firmly pursue his solitary career. There is no fellowship 2 with the foolish. 3

62. "Sons have I; wealth have I": Thus is the fool worried. Verily, he himself is not his own. Whence sons? Whence wealth?

63. The fool who knows that he is a fool is for that very reason a wise man; the fool who thinks that he is wise is called a fool indeed.

64. Though a fool, through all his life, associates with a wise man, he no more understands the Dhamma than a spoon (tastes) the flavour of soup.

65. Though an intelligent person, associates with a wise man for only a moment, he quickly understands the Dhamma as the tongue (tastes) the flavour of soup.

66. Fools of little wit move about with the very self as their own foe, doing evil deeds the fruit of which is bitter.

67. That deed is not well done when, after having done it, one repents, and when weeping, with tearful face, one reaps the fruit thereof.

68. That deed is well done when, after having done it, one repents not, and when, with joy and pleasure, one reaps the fruit thereof.

69. As sweet as honey is an evil deed, so thinks the fool so long as it ripens not; but when it ripens, then he comes to grief.

70. Month after month a fool may eat only as much food as can be picked up on the tip of a kusa grass blade; 4 but he is not worth a sixteenth part of them who have comprehended the Truth. 5

71. Verily, an evil deed committed does not immediately bear fruit, just as milk curdles not at once; smouldering, it follows the fool like fire covered with ashes.

72. To his ruin, indeed, the fool gains knowledge and fame; they destroy his bright lot and cleave his head. 6

73. The fool will desire undue reputation, precedence among monks, authority in the monasteries, honour among other families.

74. Let both laymen and monks think, "by myself was this done; in every work, great or small, let them refer to me". Such is the ambition of the fool; his desires and pride increase.

75. Surely the path that leads to worldly gain is one, and the path that leads to Nibbāna is another; understanding this, the bhikkhu, the disciple of the Buddha, should not rejoice in worldly favours, but cultivate detachment. 7

End Notes

[1] Lit., wandering again and again. It is the ocean of life or existence. Saṃsāra is defined as the unbroken flow of the stream of aggregates, elements, and sense-faculties. Saṃsāra is also explained as the "continued flow of the stream of being from life to life, from existence to existence".

[2] Sahāyatā, According to the Commentary this term connotes higher morality, insight, Paths and Fruits of Sainthood. No such virtues are found in the foolish.

[3] Out of compassion, to work for their betterment one may associate with the foolish but not be contaminated by them.

[4] Literally month after month, with a kusa grass blade, a fool may eat his food.

[5] Saṅkhatadhammānaṃ, "who have well weighed the Law", Max Muller and Burlingame. "Who well have taken things into account", Mrs. Rhys Davids. "Who have studied the Dhamma noble", Woodward. The commentarial explanation is: "The Ariyas who have realized the four Noble Truths".

The prolonged, so-called meritorious fasting of alien ascetics who have not destroyed the passions, is not worth the sixteenth part of a solitary day’s fasting of an Ariya who has realized the four noble Truths.

[6] That is, his wisdom.

[7] Viveka, separation or detachment, is threefold, namely: bodily separation from the crowd (kāyaviveka), mental separation from passions (cittaviveka), and complete separation from all conditioned things which is Nibbāna (upadhiviveka).