Monday, October 29, 2012

concerning the fool

humata, hukhta, huvarshta. we had a nice exchange in our last reading. here are my ten cents.

first, what's a fool?

64. If a fool be associated with a wise man, even all his life, he will perceive the truth as little as a spoon perceives the taste of soup.

the spoon perceives nothing. so, the fool is basically ignorant: he/she just cannot tell the difference. thus,

67: That deed is not well done of which a man must repent, and the reward of which he receives crying and with a tearful face.

the fool doesn't understand the cause-effect correspondence between deed and reward. this is pratitya sumutpada: you reap what you sow.

don't take this to be an ethical pronouncement. rather, it's the way things are! in this case, dharma & karma follow a universal law. the fool's ignorance is that he/she's out of synch with reality. the fool wishes the reward to be different than it is when time is ripe. but the deed/reward correspondence cannot be bent. thus:

69. As long as the evil deed done does not bear fruit, the fool thinks it is like honey; but when it ripens, then the fool suffers grief.

the problem with the fool is that he/she doesn't understand that reality is surreptitiously piecemeal. the effect of our deeds is pending in the future. we really don't know when the time comes. this heavy -likely unnoticed weight- pursues the fool -and the wise- wherever he/she goes: 

71. An evil deed, like newly-drawn milk, does not turn (suddenly); smouldering, like fire covered by ashes, it follows the fool.

now comes 63, which suggests a possible fool/non-fool limit:

63. The fool who knows his/her foolishness, is wise at least so far. But a fool who thinks himself wise, he-she is called a fool indeed.

acknowledging one's own foolishness is wise "at least so far." this is not really wisdom, but a hopeful sign. obviously, there are degrees. one can be a total fool, or the least-so-far  that understand his/her condition, which automatically makes him/her a bit different.

could the wise ever become a fool?

once the wise thinks he's wise there lies an opening for foolishness (as long as the wise's confidence doesn't make him/her less wise by ignoring his/her own potential fallibility,  thus opening up the dreaded possibility of self-delusion).

let's problematize 63. we take it that the wise knows, but how much?  the wise needs to know (that he knows), but for knowledge's sake, he must leave room for doubt. why? because we're fallible.

infallibility is not a trait of the wise, (who by principle keeps his/her fallibility in check). rather it's the fool who believes himself to be infallible. finally, it seems that being wise is not so much thinking it but doing it. when it comes to talking, the wise should not boast being wise -nor fool.


Marisabel Lavastida said...

Could a wise person become a fool?

Yes, becoming a wise person is not necessarily a permanent state. Since wisdom in a person can arrive at any point of their lives, they will always have their wisdom tested by everyday circumstances. The most unwise thing someone who has attained true knowledge can do is think that they are never subject to forgetting it. True wisdom and knowledge are very frail; they can become a distant memory, no matter how grand and unforgettable it seems. Every day is a battle to hold on to wisdom. Wisdom can get lost due to a lack of a person's conscience effort to recite and apply it constantly.

The perfect example is Paulo Coelho's book "the Journey to the East". In the book the main character talks about a League that he vaguely remembers being a part of. He describes only certain aspects of this league that he used to enjoy and embrace very vividly. There is a key conversation he recalls with members of the league about his friend that once renounced the ancient order. The man recalls that the members explained to him that his friend will have a hard time finding the league again. That he will always be close to the league but to him it will seem impossible to find them. This story is a great metaphor for how fragile wisdom is that you have to protect it constantly from your material self.
The book is very short and rich with spiritual metaphors so I hope people read it.

atRifF said...

Since wisdom in a person can arrive at any point of their lives, they will always have their wisdom tested by everyday circumstances.

tx, marisabel. good point.

Francisco Silva said...

Regarding how much a wise knows, to the point that he can call himself wise; I bring up the quote: "the more I grow, the less I know." The "wise state of being" is easier said than done.

Just like Marisabel said "we are tested by everyday circumstances," learn from them. We are surrounded by a world of fools. Learn from their ignorance. Once one is mindful, he/she can only benefit from these "everyday circumstances."

Wanna feel wise? Wanna feel peace of mind? Wanna feel enlightened? Challenge those everyday circumstances yourself. Focus on understanding, control your thoughts, dare to disagree, contradict - act wisely.

atRifF said...

francisco: !