The Summary of the following Dhamma Talk was given by Venerable Sayardaw U Jotika in Bodhgaya Hall, Bangkok, Thailand at 31st July, 2008.
It was copied and shared in this blog by the agreement of http://littlebang.wordpress.com.
Not To Associate With Fools
In his early life he had not been convinced by any religious teaching, even Buddhism. When signing forms he would always put ‘No religion’ to describe himself, but on the advice of a friend he later changed this to ‘no religion yet’. Picking up the Buddha’s teachings he would examine them very carefully to see if they really made sense, a habit that he has continued to this day. For instance, one line of a famous Sutta, reads:
Asevana ca balanam - Panditananca sevana
Puja ca pujaniyanam - Etamangalamuttamam
Not to associate with fools, but to associate with the wise,
and honour that which is honourable, this is the highest blessing
The Sutta lists 11 such verses, all describing something that is ‘the highest blessing‘.
What does it mean to ‘associate with fools’ ? First you must ask what it is that makes a person a fool; and closer examination of the Buddha’s teaching reveals that foolishness is not so much the nature of a person, as the nature of Greed (Lobha), Anger (Dosa) and Delusion (Moha). If you are acting with a mind filled with greed, then you are acting foolishly. If you are acting with a mind filled with anger, then you are being a fool. In this sense, we are all times fools. But if you are being a fool yourself, who then can you associate with?
Sayadaw points out you can follow the meaning of the Sutta in the behaviour of your own mind - when you have an unwholesome mind, you should not associate with it. When you have wholesome states of mind, you should associate with them. In this way you are not associating with fools.
How though can you disassociate from your own state of mind? The art is stepping back from the mind state by being mindful of it. When you are mindful, when you are the observer of mind states, you have disassociated yourself by one step. If you have lust in the mind, when you are mindful of it, you are no longer the lustful person, but someone who can see and feel that state of mind. It is a pattern of Buddhism that you should make the immediate attention, which means you are no longer paying interest to desires, but becoming interested in the nature of desire itself. You are no longer interested in the targets of your hatred, but paying attention to the nature of hatred itself. In one of the Suttas, the example what Sayadaw gave was the Satipatthana Sutta (Foundations of Mindfulness), the Buddha said your duty is to look and see. Just to be mindful states of mind is enough to generate insight and understanding, which leads to wisdom. Practising in this way then, you are bringing the teachings to life inside yourself. By stepping back from the foolish states of mind, you are no longer assocaiting with the foolish.