a collection of
Buddhist Wisdom Verses

23: Bālavaggo
Fools

Dhp 64 Udāyittheravatthu
The Elder Udāyī

Fools cannot Learn

A monk lives with the Buddha, but when questioned by visiting monks it is found he does not know even the fundamentals of the teaching. They tell this to the Buddha.

435. Yāvajīvam-pi ce bālo Paṇḍitaṁ payirupāsati,
Even if for his whole life long a fool attends on someone Wise,

Na so Dhammaṁ vijānāti, dabbī sūparasaṁ yathā.
He (may) not know Dhamma, just as the spoon (doesn't know) the taste of curry.

Dhp 63 Gaṇṭhibhedakacoravatthu
The Knot-Breaking Thief

The Fool who knows he's a Fool

Two thieves go to listen to the Dhamma. One of them attains path and fruit, the other manages to undo a knot in someone's clothes and steal some pennies.

436. Yo bālo maññati bālyaṁ, Paṇḍito vāpi tena so,
The fool who considers (himself) foolish, is a Wise One in that (matter),

Bālo ca paṇḍitamānī, sa ve bālo ti vuccati.
The fool who is proud of his wisdom, he is said to be a fool indeed.

Dhp 72 Saṭṭhikūṭasahassapetavatthu
The Ghost hit by Sixty-Thousand Sledgehammers

Learning only hurts a Fool

A young man learns the art of stone-throwing, but uses it to kill a Paccekabuddha; he is reborn in Avīci hell, and later as a ghost who is constantly having his head crushed by sixty-thousand sledgehammers.

437. Yāvad-eva anatthāya ñattaṁ bālassa jāyati,
As far as knowledge Comm: ñattan-ti jānanasabhāvo.01 arises for a fool, it is to his disadvantage,

Hanti bālassa sukkaṁsaṁ, muddham-assa vipātayaṁ.
It destroys the fool's excellence, = su + ukkaṁsaṁ; the commentary defines sukkaṁsaṁ as kusalakoṭṭhāsaṁ, his wholesome portion; or maybe his store of merit. 02 and it will crush his head. Comm: Muddhan-ti paññāyetaṁ nāma; head is a name for wisdom. 03

Jā 122 Dummedhajātakaṁ
The Unintelligent

Fame brings the Unintelligent to Ruin

A king (Devadatta) is jealous of his elephant (the Bodhisatta) and tries to have it fall to its death. The elephant leaves for another Kingdom.

438. Yasaṁ laddhāna' dummedho, anatthaṁ carati attano,
When a foolish one receives fame, it's not at all for his welfare,

Attano ca paresañ-ca hiṁsāya paṭipajjati.
He enters on a path leading to harm for himself and others.

Jā 46 Ārāmadūsakajātakaṁ
Spoiling the Park

Good done by the Fool causes Ruin

A King wants to enjoy himself at a festival and asks some monkeys to water his saplings. They agree, but not having much water, pull each one up first to measure the water needed. All the trees die.

439. Na ve anatthakusalena atthacariyā sukhāvahā,
Not with those skilled in loss do those who live well find happiness,

Hāpeti atthaṁ dummedho, kapi ārāmiko yathā.
The unintelligent one ruins what is good, like the monkey in the park.

Jā 45 Rohiṇijātakaṁ
The Maid Rohiṇī

Fools do more Bad than Good

A maid is asked by her Mother to clear the mosquitoes from her body. She does so with a pestle, killing her Mother at the same time. cf. 168 above, in which a son kills his Father. 04

440. Seyyo amitto medhāvī yañ-ce bālānukampako,
Worse than an intelligent foe is a fool with compassion,

Passa Rohiṇikaṁ jammiṁ, Mātaraṁ hantvāna, socati.
Look at that common girl Rohiṇī: having killed her Mother, she grieved.

Jā 480 Akittijātakaṁ
Bodhisatta Akitti

Never Seeing a Fool is Best

The Bodhisatta is an ascetic who lives far from the haunts of men, when Sakka offers him a boon, this is part of what he asks for.

441. Bālaṁ na passe na suṇe, na ca bālena saṁvase,
May I not see or hear a fool, may I not reside with a fool,

Bālen' allāpasallāpaṁ na kare, na ca rocaye.
May I not hold talk with a fool, nor find (any) pleasure (in him).

442. Anayaṁ nayati dummedho, adhurāya niyuñjati,
The unintelligent one brings misfortune, and indulges in irresponsibility,

Dunnayo seyyaso hoti, sammā vutto pakuppati,
The best he does is badly judged, and he is angry when rightly spoken to,

Vinayaṁ so na jānāti, sādhu tassa adassanaṁ.
He does not know discipline, it is good not to meet with him.

Jā 522 Sarabhaṅgajātakaṁ
Bodhisatta Sarabhaṅga

The Truly Wise Man

Sakka asks the Bodhisatta who is the truly wise man.

443. Gambhīrapañhaṁ manasā vicintayaṁ,
The one who with his mind can enquire into a deep question,

Nāccāhitaṁ kamma' karoti luddaṁ,
Who does not commit unbeneficial or cruel deeds,

Kālāgataṁ atthapadaṁ na riñcati:
Who does not neglect a truthful word when the time has come:

Tathāvidhaṁ paññavantaṁ, vadanti.
Such a one is endowed with wisdom, they say.

Sn 3.11 Nālakasuttaṁ
Asita's Nephew Nālaka

Fools are Noisy

The Buddha explains to Nālaka the things conducive to becoming a sage, one of which is not being talkative.

444. Yad-ūnakaṁ taṁ saṇati, yaṁ pūraṁ santam-eva taṁ,
What is lacking makes a (great) noise, what is full is quiet indeed,

Aḍḍhakumbhūpamo bālo, rahado pūro va Paṇḍito.
The fool is like a pot half-full, the Wise One is like a full lake.

Jā 202 Keḷisīlajātakaṁ
The Jester

Wisdom brings Respect

A King makes fun of his elders so Sakka (the Bodhisatta) makes fun of him to teach him a lesson.

445. Haṁsā koñcā mayūrā ca, hatthiyo pasadā migā,
Geese, herons, and peacocks, elephants and the spotted deer,

Sabbe sīhassa bhāyanti, natthi kāyasmi' tulyatā.
All respect the lion, although there is nothing the same about their bodies.

446. Evam-eva manussesu daharo ce pi paññavā,
Even so amongst men a boy (is respected) if he be wise,

So hi tattha mahā hoti, neva bālo sarīravā.
But though he is big in body, a fool is never (respected).

Jā 522 Sarabhaṅgajātakaṁ
Bodhisatta Sarabhaṅga

Wisdom is Best say the Good

When asked by Sakka what is the highest virtue this was the Bodhisatta's reply.

447. Paññā hi seṭṭhā kusalā vadanti,
Wisdom is best, is what the skilful say,

Nakkhattarājā-r-iva tārakānaṁ,
Even as the King of the Night Lit: the King of Constellations. 05 (is best) amongst the stars,

Sīlaṁ siriṁ cāpi satañ-ca Dhammo,
Virtue, glory, mindfulness, and Dhamma,

Anvāyikā paññavato bhavanti.
(All) are connected to the one with wisdom.