5. The Chapter about Fools

Dīghā jāgarato ratti, dīghaṁ santassa yojanaṁ,
Long is the night for one awake, long is a league for one tired,

dīgho bālānaṁ saṁsāro Saddhammaṁ avijānataṁ. [60]
long is the round of births and deaths for fools who know not True Dhamma. The similes do not quite match the statement, nights feel long, leagues feel long, but the continuance in saṁsāra actually is long for a fool. The verse provides a good illustration of how adjectives, here dīgha, adapt to the nouns they qualify: ratti, feminine; yojana, neut, and saṁsāra, masculine.


Carañ-ce nādhigaccheyya seyyaṁ sadisam-attano,
If while roaming one cannot find one better or the same as oneself,

ekacariyaṁ daḷhaṁ kayirā: natthi bāle sahāyatā. [61]
one should resolve to go alone: there is no friendship with fools. Although this does express a common Buddhist sentiment, we should remember that in the early Tuvaṭakasuttaṁ of the Aṭṭhakavagga (Sn 4, XIV vs. 4), we are cautioned about thinking of others as better, the same or worse than ourselves.


“Puttā matthi, This parses as me atthi. dhanam-matthi,” iti bālo vihaññati,
“Sons are mine, riches are mine,” so the fool suffers vexation,

attā hi attano natthi, kuto puttā, kuto dhanaṁ? [62]
when even self is not his own, If his self was really his, he would have control over it, and be able to say: let this body be thus, let it not be thus, but he cannot (see Anattalakkhaṇasuttaṁ). how then sons, how then riches?


Yo bālo maññati bālyaṁ, paṇḍito vāpi tena so,
The fool who knows (his) foolishness, is at least wise in that (matter),

bālo ca paṇḍitamānī, sa ve bālo ti vuccati. [63]
the fool who is proud of his wisdom, he is said to be a fool indeed.


Yāvajīvam-pi ce bālo paṇḍitaṁ payirupāsati,
Even if a fool attends on a wise man for his whole life long,

na so Dhammaṁ vijānāti, dabbī sūparasaṁ yathā. [64]
he does not learn Dhamma, just as spoon learns not the taste of curry.


Muhuttam-api ce viññū paṇḍitaṁ payirupāsati,
If a perceptive man attends on a wise man even for a second,

khippaṁ Dhammaṁ vijānāti, jivhā sūparasaṁ yathā. [65]
he quickly learns Dhamma, just as the tongue (learns) the taste of curry.


Caranti bālā dummedhā amitteneva attanā,
Stupid fools live having themselves as their own foes,

karontā pāpakaṁ kammaṁ, yaṁ hoti kaṭukapphalaṁ. [66]
committing wicked deeds, which produce bitter fruit.


Na taṁ kammaṁ kataṁ sādhu, yaṁ katvā anutappati,
That deed is not well done, which, having done, one has regret,

yassa assumukho rodaṁ, vipākaṁ paṭisevati. [67]
for which he has tears on his face, as the result follows him round.


Tañ-ca kammaṁ kataṁ sādhu, yaṁ katvā nānutappati,
But that deed is well done, which, having done, one has no regret,

yassa patīto sumano, vipākaṁ paṭisevati. [68]
for which he is pleased and happy, as the result follows him round. These two verses again form a pair, and interestingly neither mention fools, the subject of this chapter, but may have come in through collocation on the word kamma.


Madhuvā maññati bālo, yāva pāpaṁ na paccati,
The fool thinks it sweet, as long as the wicked deed does not ripen,

yadā ca paccati pāpaṁ, bālo dukkhaṁ nigacchati. [69]
but when the wicked deed ripens, the fool undergoes suffering.


Māse māse kusaggena bālo bhuñjetha bhojanaṁ,
From month to month the fool may eat food with the tip of kusa-grass, Meaning he may be an ascetic engaging in very strict practices, such as eating very little.

na so saṅkhātadhammānaṁ kalaṁ agghati soḷasiṁ. [70]
(but) he is not worth a sixteenth part of those who have mastered Dhamma.


Na hi pāpaṁ kataṁ kammaṁ, sajju khīraṁ va muccati,
A wicked deed that has been done, like milk, does not turn all at once,

ḍahantaṁ bālam-anveti, bhasmacchanno va pāvako. [71]
smouldering, Ḍahati means burns, smoulders, consumes, torments; it is hard to get the force of it over in natural English. it follows the fool, like a fire covered with ashes. There is a mix of similes in this verse, which don’t fit well together.


Yāvad-eva anatthāya ñattaṁ bālassa jāyati,
As far as learning arises for a fool, it is only to his disadvantage,

hanti bālassa sukkaṁsaṁ, muddham-assa vipātayaṁ. [72]
it destroys the fool’s good fortune, and it will destroy his head. The commentary explains that his head here means his wisdom, though it would have been easy to write paññam-assa vipātayaṁ if that was what was intended.


Asataṁ bhāvanam-iccheyya, purekkhārañ-ca bhikkhusu,
He may wish for the respect that is lacking, and status amongst the monastics,

āvāsesu ca issariyaṁ, pūjā parakulesu ca: [73]
for control in the living quarters, and worship amongst good families:

“Mameva kata’ maññantu gihī pabbajitā ubho,
“Householders and renunciants should both think this was done by me,

mameva ativasā assu, kiccākiccesu kismici”,
let them (all) be under my sway, in all to be done and not done”,

iti bālassa saṅkappo, icchā māno ca vaḍḍhati. [74]
so does the fool think, (meanwhile) his desires and conceit increase.


Aññā hi lābhūpanisā, aññā Nibbānagāminī,
For the means to gains is one thing, the (path) going to Nibbāna another,

evam-etaṁ abhiññāya bhikkhu Buddhassa sāvako
thus knowing this the monastic disciple of the Buddha

sakkāraṁ nābhinandeyya, vivekam-anubrūhaye. [75]
should not delight in honours, (but) practise in solitude. Again the verse lacks any mention of fools, and might have been better placed in the Bhikkhuvagga.

Bālavaggo Pañcamo
The Chapter about Fools, the Fifth


Related Verses from the Dhammapada

Pamādam-anuyuñjanti bālā dummedhino janā,
The foolish and stupid people cultivate heedlessness,

appamādañ-ca medhāvī dhanaṁ seṭṭhaṁ va rakkhati. [26]
but the sagacious one guards heedfulness just as his greatest wealth.


Pamādaṁ appamādena yadā nudati paṇḍito,
When the wise one eliminates heedlessness with his heedfulness,

paññāpāsādam-āruyha, asoko sokiniṁ pajaṁ,
and mounts the palace of wisdom, griefless, (he looks) on grieving people;

pabbataṭṭho va bhummaṭṭhe dhīro bāle avekkhati. [28]
the wise one, like one standing on a mountain, looks down on the fools, who are standing on the plains.


Māppamaññetha pāpassa: na maṁ taṁ āgamissati,
One should not despise a little wickedness (thinking): it will not come to me,

udabindunipātena udakumbho pi pūrati,
through the falling of water drops the water-pot is (quickly) filled,

bālo pūrati pāpassa, thokaṁ thokam-pi ācinaṁ. [121]
the fool, gathering bit by bit, becomes full of wickedness.


So appaduṭṭhassa narassa dussati,
One offends against the inoffensive one,

suddhassa posassa anaṅgaṇassa,
a purified and passionless person,

tam-eva bālaṁ pacceti pāpaṁ,
that wicked deed (then) returns to the fool,

sukhumo rajo paṭivātaṁ va khitto. [125]
like fine dust that is thrown against the wind.


Atha pāpāni kammāni karaṁ bālo na bujjhati,
The fool does not understand the wicked deeds he is doing,

sehi kammehi dummedho aggidaḍḍho va tappati. [136]
the stupid one is consumed by his deeds as (by) a burning fire.


Etha passathimaṁ lokaṁ cittaṁ rājarathūpamaṁ,
Come, look upon this world adorned like a king’s gilded chariot,

yattha bālā visīdanti – natthi saṅgo vijānataṁ. [171]
where fools become depressed – there is no bond for those who understand.


Na ve kadariyā devalokaṁ vajanti,
The miserly go not to the world of the gods,

bālā have nappasaṁsanti dānaṁ,
fools surely do not praise giving,

dhīro ca dānaṁ anumodamāno,
but the wise one rejoices in giving,

teneva so hoti sukhī parattha. [177]
and through that he is happy hereafter.


Sāhu dassanam-ariyānaṁ, sannivāso sadā sukho,
Meeting with the noble is good, living together (with them) is always pleasant,

adassanena bālānaṁ niccam-eva sukhī siyā. [206]
through not meeting foolish people one will constantly be happy.


Bālasaṅgatacārī hi dīgham-addhāna’ socati,
For he who consorts with fools grieves for a long time,

dukkho bālehi saṁvāso amitteneva sabbadā,
dwelling with fools is always suffering as it is with enemies,

dhīro ca sukhasaṁvāso ñātīnaṁ va samāgamo. [207]
the wise one dwells happily as with an assembly of kin.


“Idha vassaṁ vasissāmi, idha hemantagimhisu”,
“Here I will dwell during the rains, here during winter and summer”,

iti bālo vicinteti, antarāyaṁ na bujjhati. [286]
in just such a way a fool thinks, not understanding the danger.


Ekassa caritaṁ seyyo, natthi bāle sahāyatā,
It is better to live alone, there can be no friendship with a fool,

eko care na ca pāpāni kayirā,
one should live alone and not do anything bad,

appossukko mātaṅgaraññe va nāgo. [330]
unconcerned like a solitary elephant in the forest.


Suññāgāraṁ paviṭṭhassa, santacittassa bhikkhuno,
For the one who has entered an empty place, a monastic with a peaceful mind,

amānusī ratī hoti sammā Dhammaṁ vipassato. [373]
there is superhuman delight from insight into true Dhamma.