The Fool Inside Me

“Someone who associates with fools invariably goes to a bad rebirth, and someone who dissociates himself is not liked. What is gained from contact with fools? They are friends in the moment, enemies the next. At an occasion for being pleased they get angry. The multitude of people are impossible to satisfy. When given good advice they get angry, and they prevent me from taking good advice. If they are not listened to they get angry and go to a bad rebirth. Superiority causes jealously. Equality causes rivalry. Inferiority causes arrogance. Praises causes intoxication and criticism causes enmity. When could there be any benefit from a fool?” (88-89)

As I read this, I thought to myself what fools exist in my own life, and where have I seen examples of this type of behavior. Who are the types of people who change their disposition at a whim, are impossible to satisfy, reject good advice and prevent the taking of good advice from others, is never content with their position, gets intoxicated with praise, and hates criticism. While I contemplated the plenty of examples of this in my own life which have frustrated me, I came to two realizations.

First, people seem to be neither simply foolish nor not foolish. All of the people who I would consider “foolish” with examples of their behavior are only foolish in the specific moments when they carry out one of these actions. On the whole, however, they could be considered fairly intelligent and wise people who seem to have a unique insight into reality and life as a whole, but they are simply flawed in the way they responded in a certain situation.

Second, I myself seem to demonstrate a lot of qualities of someone who is “foolish”. I tend to change my disposition, reject good advice, feel those negative emotions when I am placed relative to other people, hate criticism, and get full of myself with praise. This is a troubling insight because while I acknowledge and dislike these qualities when I see them in others, I never truly reflect on my own behavior and how I can change those qualities about myself.

This is not altogether true – in the sense that like my friends, I would not consider myself a “fool” but someone who acts foolish in certain situations, but if I truly wish to improve myself as a person than this is a fact of life which I certainly need to pay more attention to. How, when I feel myself acting foolishly, can I know to really reflect and fix my actions in that moment? How can I teach myself to not act foolishly at all in the first place?

These are the questions which fill my mind as I continue to carry out the readings and rid myself of attachments that are detrimental to me (which I guess is all attachments according to Buddhism).

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