Long is the night for the sleepless,
long is the league for the weary one,
samsara’s way is long for fools
who know not the Dhamma True.
Explanation: To a sleepless person the night is very long. To the weary the league seems quite long. To the ignorant, bereft of an awareness of the Dhamma, the cycle of existence is very long, as he is not aware of how to shorten it.
If a wayfarer fails to find
one better or equal,
steadfast he should fare alone
for a fools no fellowship.
Explanation: People need companions. But if one does not find a person who is better than, or at least equal to oneself, it is better to be alone rather than keep company with foolish people. There is no profitable companionship with fools.
“Sons have I, wealth have I”,
thus the fool is fretful.
He himself is not his own,
how then are sons, how wealth?
Explanation: The fool worries “I have sons,” “I have wealth.” When the self is not his own, then how can he claim, “I have sons,” “I have wealth”?
Conceiving so his foolishness
the fool is thereby wise,
while ‘fool’ is called that fool
conceited that he’s wise.
Explanation: If a foolish person were to become aware that he is foolish, by virtue of that awareness, he could be described as a wise person. On the other hand, if a foolish person were to think that he is wise, he could be described as a foolish person.
Though all through life the fool
might wait upon the wise,
no more Dhamma can he sense
than spoon the taste of soup.
Explanation: The fool, even if he kept the company of a wise person intimately over a life-time, will not become aware of the nature of experience, just as a spoon will not know the taste of soup.
Though briefly one intelligent
might wait upon the wise,
quickly Dhamma he can sense
as tongue the taste of soup.
Explanation: If a wise person were to associate with a wise person, even for a moment, he will quickly understand the Teaching. This is very much like the tongue being able to discern the subtle flavours of soup. This stanza could be further appreciated when you contrast it with the previous one. In the previous one the image used is the soup. Though it serves tasty food endlessly, it just cannot appreciate how food tastes, very much like a foolish individual being unable to appreciate the teaching even when he keeps company with the wise. An intelligent man, even though he is associated with a wise man only for a moment, quickly understands the Dhamma, just as the tongue knows the taste of soup.
Fools of feeble wisdom fare
enemies to themselves,
making evil kamma
which is of bitter fruit.
Explanation: Those unwise foolish people behave in a manner that is harmful to themselves. Their sinful actions yield bitter fruit. They are their own enemy.
That kamma’s not well-made
from which there is remorse,
of which one senses the result
with weeping and a tear-stained face.
Explanation: It is good if one were to avoid committing such actions which would later lead to regret. When one regrets one weeps.
But well-made is that kamma
which done brings no remorse,
of which one senses the result
with glad mind and with joy.
Explanation: It is good if one were to do such actions that would not bring repentance later. One should do things that bring pleasant consequences.
When evil kamma’s immature
the fool thinks it is honeyed,
but when the evil has matured
then to the fool comes dukkha.
Explanation: When a sinful act is being done, the ignorant person enjoys it as if it were honey. But the suffering comes when it begins to yield its evil results.
Month after month with blady-grass tip
the fool may take his food;
he’s not worth the slightest bit
of one who Dhamma knows.
Explanation: A foolish person sets out to attain the highest reward of spiritual life. As an austere ascetic, he eats a mere morsel of food with the tip of a blade of grass. And, that too, only once a month. Still that kind of misguided ascetic will not at all be nearer liberation than when he started. With all that, he is not worth even one-sixteenth part of an Arahant who has achieved the Unconditioned.
As milk, is evil kamma done,
so slowly does it sour.
Smouldering does it follow the fool
like fire with ashes covered.
Explanation: When an ignorance person commits an act of sin, it does not immediately yield bad results. This is like the freshly extracted milk, which does not curdle immediately on being extracted from the cow’s udder. The sin that has been committed remains concealed like the sparks covered with ashes, and continues to follow and burn the doer of sins.
Truly to his detriment
skill is born to the fool;
ruined is his better nature
and scattered are his wits.
Explanation: Whatever is learned by the ignorant is conducive to harm. It brings about his own downfall. Misplaced learning destroys whatever potential the learner possesses and renders him useless in terms of real knowledge.
For position a fool may wish:
among the bhikkhus precedence,
in monasteries authority,
from other families honours.
Explanation: He is fond of being recognized for what he, in reality, is not. Yearns for pre-eminence among peers. He craves for preference in matters relating to residences. He is enamoured of the idea of receiving gifts and requisites from other families as well.
Both monks and laymen, let them think
‘This was done by me,
whatever the works, both great and small,
let them depend on me’.
Such the intention of a fool,
swollen his greed and conceit.
Explanation: The ignorant has this attitude of mind: “Let everybody know that this was done by me alone. In whatever activity small or big my leadership shall prevail. Everybody must follow me.” This conceit of the ignorant leads to craving, uncontrolled desire and to a groundless pride, to a false sense of superiority. These begin to grow.
One is the way to worldly gain,
another to Nibbana goes.
Clearly comprehending this
the bhikkhu, Buddha’s follower
should wallow not in proffered gifts,
surrendering instead to solitude.
Explanation: There is one way to worldly and material progress and profit. But the way to Nibbana is quite different than that. The monk, who is the Buddha’s disciple, should be clearly aware of this difference. He must not take delight in the worldly gifts with which he is being enticed. He must on the other hand seek solitude.