Monday, January 13, 2014
Photo credit: Karpati Gabor from morguefile.com
If a wayfarer fails to find
one better or equal,
steadfast he should fare alone
for a fool offers no fellowship.
Verse 61 from the Dhammapada
Sometimes, you have deal with fools. And sometimes, maybe you're the fool being dealt with. Might be helpful to recognize that you land on both sides of that coin, even if less so than some others do.
Anyway, one thing I've noticed over the years about Buddhists, yogis, and the like is that have a strong desire to "be compassionate." Or perhaps for some it's more to be seen as compassionate. I know I have. Desiring either the "be" or the "be seen as," sometimes at the same time.
So, there's this wanting to help, wanting to offer some wise words or in some other way, be the person who sparks a turn around for another. The one being a fool somehow.
On the flip side, though, I've also noticed a corresponding desire to keep the damned fools away. To be "pure" somehow, least you get contaminated somehow.
It's easy to read this verse from the Dhammapada in that way. To hear it as a justification to stay far away - at ALL times - from anyone you deem a fool or messed up or not spiritual or whatever it is you label others. In fact, the verse might actually aim slightly in that direction, which makes it all the more easy to mistake it's message for cutting yourself off from this muddy world of sangha, community, and/or society.
Notice, then, the tension. Maybe you've seen this in your own life. The compassionate side leaning heavily towards caring and trying to help everyone, while the other side seeks to disengage from, and/or keep far away, from anyone, or anything that has even a whiff of dysfunction.
I see our path as learning to remain upright and balanced, allowing these sides to come and go without leaning hard in either direction. Another way to look at it is allowing the dualisms of life to reconcile themselves.
For example, I think one of the best ways to respect people is to let them take care of their own thoughts and reactions. Maybe someone feels a little hurt that you don't want to spend time with them. Or maybe they could care less. Maybe someone is terribly unskillful in their speech, for example, and you can see that nothing you say will help shift that, so you remain silent or walk away. Or maybe you say what you need to say, and then let it go. The way I see it, the way of the bodhisattva includes knowing when to intervene (not so often) and when to just be.
It's good to have a nose for fools, but your nose needs to point both ways, otherwise you'll miss the fool in you.