Buddhist Wisdom Verses

23: Bālavaggo

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Fools cannot Learn

Dhp 64 Udāyittheravatthu

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,
Na so Dhammaṁ vijānāti, dabbī sūparasaṁ yathā.

Even if a fool attends on
A wise man for his whole life long,
He does not learn Dhamma, just as
Spoon learns not the taste of curry.

The Fool who knows he’s a Fool

Dhp 63 Gaṇṭhibhedakacoravatthu

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,
Bālo ca paṇḍitamānī, sa ve bālo ti vuccati.

The fool who knows his foolishness,
Is at least wise in that matter,
The fool who’s proud of his wisdom,
Is said to be a fool indeed.

Learning only hurts a Fool

Dhp 72 Saṭṭhikūṭasahassapetavatthu

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,
Hanti bālassa sukkaṁsaṁ, muddham-assa vipātayaṁ.

Learning arises for a fool
Only to his disadvantage,
It destroys the fool’s good fortune,
It will destroy his very head.

Fame brings the Unintelligent to Ruin

Jā 122 Dummedhajātakaṁ

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,
Attano ca paresañ-ca hiṁsāya paṭipajjati.

When a foolish one achieves fame,
It’s not at all for his welfare,
He enters on a path leading
To harm for himself and others.

Good done by the Fool causes Ruin

Jā 46 Ārāmadūsakajātakaṁ

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,
Hāpeti atthaṁ dummedho, kapi ārāmiko yathā.

Not with the unskilful do those
Who are skilful find happiness,
The foolish one ruins what is good,
Just like the monkeys in the park.

Fools do more Bad than Good

Jā 45 Rohiṇijātakaṁ

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.

440. Seyyo amitto medhāvī yañ-ce bālānukampako,
Passa Rohiṇikaṁ jammiṁ, Mātaraṁ hantvāna, socati.

Worse than an intelligent foe
Is a fool who has compassion,
Look at the servant Rohiṇī:
Having killed her Mother, she grieved.

Never Seeing a Fool is Best

Jā 480 Akittijātakaṁ

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,
Bālen’ allāpasallāpaṁ na kare, na ca rocaye.

May I not see or hear a fool,
May I not reside with a fool,
May I not hold talk with a fool,
Nor find any pleasure in him.

442. Anayaṁ nayati dummedho, adhurāya niyuñjati,
Dunnayo seyyaso hoti, sammā vutto pakuppati,
Vinayaṁ so na jānāti, sādhu tassa adassanaṁ.

The foolish one brings misfortune,
Being quite irresponsible,
The best he does is badly judged,
He is angry when spoken to,
And he does not know discipline,
It is good not to meet with him.

The Truly Wise Man

Jā 522 Sarabhaṅgajātakaṁ

Sakka asks the Bodhisatta who is the truly wise man.

443. Gambhīrapañhaṁ manasā vicintayaṁ,
Nāccāhitaṁ kamma’ karoti luddaṁ,
Kālāgataṁ atthapadaṁ na riñcati:
Tathāvidhaṁ paññavantaṁ, vadanti.

The one who can enquire deeply into things,
Who does not commit bad or cruel deeds,
Who does not neglect truth that is timely:
Such a person, they say, has great wisdom.

Fools are Noisy

Sn 3.11 Nālakasuttaṁ

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,
Aḍḍhakumbhūpamo bālo, rahado pūro va Paṇḍito.

What is empty makes a great noise,
What is full is quiet indeed,
The fool is like a pot half-full,
The Wise One is like a full lake.

Wisdom brings Respect

Jā 202 Keḷisīlajātakaṁ

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,
Sabbe sīhassa bhāyanti, natthi kāyasmi’ tulyatā.

Geese and herons and peacocks too,
Elephants and the spotted deer,
All respect the lion, although they
Are different in many ways.

446. Evam-eva manussesu daharo ce pi paññavā,
So hi tattha mahā hoti, neva bālo sarīravā.

Even so amongst men a boy
Is respected if he be wise,
But though he is big in body,
A fool is never respected.

Wisdom is Best say the Good

Jā 522 Sarabhaṅgajātakaṁ

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

447. Paññā hi seṭṭhā kusalā vadanti,
Nakkhattarājā-r-iva tārakānaṁ,
Sīlaṁ siriṁ cāpi satañ-ca Dhammo,
Anvāyikā paññavato bhavanti.

Wisdom is best, is what the skilful say,
Even as the Moon is best amongst stars,
Virtue, glory, mindfulness, and Dhamma,
All are connected to those who are wise.