Not Consorting with Fools (Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing)

revised on 2020-03-24

By Venerable Uttamo Thera(尊者 鄔達摩 長老)

In the suttas, firstly, the Buddha talked about what should not be done. After that, he continued to talk about what should be done. Someone will has problems and suffering if he acts something which should not be done. Therefore, it is more important. This is not difficult to understand, but if we observe the current world situations in every aspect of it, something is going wrong. A sentient being after taking birth into the human world he or she is not alone and with family members surrounding them.

So man has companions. Each family is the smallest part of the society. Not only human but also animal is the same. The differences between them are a man has knowledge. Every man has two kinds of companion. Natural selection or send by the law of kamma and later with one's own choice or selection. By the law of kamma, you meet this or that family member. With one of the past kammas, someone was born into the family of fishing village, into a Buddhist family, etc.…Later in life one makes one's own choice and consorting with drunkards, drug addicts, gamblers, etc. (these are fools), and with Buddhists who are practicing Dhamma, etc… (these are wise-men). There is a lot to say and contemplate about for these two kinds of companions. And then we will see the importance of the law of kamma and the wholesome educations. (These two kinds of knowledge and action are very important for everyone; if not, he comes to human world just wasting times and doing stupid things only.)

Blessing (maṅgala) has the meaning of the cause for progress or success. Not consorting with fools was so important that the Buddha described it first as a foundation. Without following this instruction and other blessings are also out of reach. What is a fool (bāla)? Someone has unwholesome thoughts, speech, and action is bāla. It leads to bad results. Therefore, he is a fool. Unwholesome energy or element can spread like a disease. This is the nature of energy. Element also has the nature of the combination. For example, Ven. Sāriputta was foremost in wisdom, and his energy spread to his students, who also had wisdom. The monk Devadatta was a renegade to the Buddha, and his students also like him. The negative element or energy not only affected human beings but also to nature, such as animals, trees, fruits, weather, etc.

Positive or wholesome energy is also in the same way. If there are more fools in the world, and it will lead to destruction. Living together with fools is like living with enemies. The Buddha even mentioned that fools made sufferings. If we contemplate the current situations around the world will appreciate this point. Someone consorts with fools not only without benefits in his life but also next life to come. For example, prince Ajātasattu was consorting with the renegade monk Devadatta, later killed his father King Bimbisāra and after death fell into hell. Consuming of unwholesome things such as drugs, alcohol, polluted media, etc. is making a person becoming a fool. At last at the dhammic level, association with the unwholesome dhamma (greed, aversion, delusion, etc.) is foolish and with the wholesome dhamma is wise.

Commentary gave some examples of fool at the time of the Buddha. They were the six teachers such as Purana Kassapa; some monks as Devadatta, Kokālika, and the young woman Ginca etc.)

The Buddha, noble beings, sages and wise men always warned people of the dangers and misfortunes brought to them by the fools. In a Jātaka story, the Bodhisatta was the hermit Akitti. Sakka, the king of devas offered a boon to the wise hermit Akitti. The hermit made the following wise prayers of boon from him. (J. iv. 236f.; Jat. 480)

These were: he might never see or listen to fools, never dwell with them and might not concert nor agree with them. After the hermit made his boon from him, Sakka asked the hermit why he made these wishes.

His answers were: the fool led one to ruin and enjoined one in reckless ways; it was difficult to guide the fool to be good, the fool easily got upset and did not know disciplines.

All these points were very important to anyone and not only for the Bodhisatta. The Buddha Gotama had suffered a lot from many lives as Bodhisatta until his last life by association with Devadatta. In a very long one of their past lives, Devadatta carried the grudge with him to the Bodhisatta out of jealousy and hate. Therefore, he always harmed the Bodhisatta whenever and wherever they met (see many jātaka stories about their meetings).

In a sutta of Aṅguttara Nikāya (AN.3.1 Bhayasuttaṃ), the Buddha gave an analogy for a fool: “Just as a fire that starts in a house made of reeds or grass burns down even a strong and good house closed by; so too, whatever disasters, calamities and perils arose all arise on account of the fool, not on account of the wise person.” They brought all these dangers and misfortunes to others. So, the Buddha compared the fools like a rotten fish which smeared a leaf and became smelly by using to wrap it (J. iv. 271; Jat. 503 Sattigumba-Jātaka).

revised on 2020-03-24; cited from (posted on 2019-09-12)

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