Inspired by one of my favorite sutta.
“Not to associate with the foolish, but to associate with the wise;
and to honor those who are worthy of honor — this is the greatest blessing.
Having started following the Buddhist principle at age of 16, I must thank this sutta for keeping me out of trouble in life.
Many of us want to enjoy happiness in life and think that blessings from God or Goddess help us enjoy a blissful existence. An existence that is filled with happiness and free from set back.
It is then surprising that the celestial beings (an angel) approached the Buddha, asking the same question! It seems like these heavenly beings are searching for the same answer too.
Here, we discuss the Buddha’s first stanza in His answer to the Deva (Angel)
Personally, I find this advice very practical.
It acknowledges that our circle of friends and associates have great influence over us. If we associate with foolish people, it will influence us negatively and the reverse is true also. So what is considered foolish in Buddhism?
Stupid people – those who intentionally commit wrong on themselves or towards others. The intention may be just for laughter, but the unfortunate consequences may be dire.
The internet is full of such examples. It includes pulling dangerous pranks on others, indulging in dangerous acts for amusement. Not Funny, life is precious.
Wicked people with strong aversion in their mind. Hate is a bad thing since the Buddha’s time. Buddhism discourages discrimination and hate.
Negative people – This topic was covered in another post previously.
People who rejoice, encourage and enjoy unskillful acts or unwholesome deeds. In Buddhism, we can use the 5 precepts as our yardstick. Therefore the following actions are considered unskillful / unwholesome
- Harming other sentient beings physically or causing them distress
- Stealing and dishonesty (includes skiving in the pantry instead of working)
- Tale bearing, falsehood, rumor mongering, harsh speech etc
- Intoxicating ourselves using drugs or liquor
People who promote indulgence in the senses are also considered foolish. Not saying we cannot have fun in life. We can still enjoy a movie or two. However, spending the entire day in front of the TV would be considered bad.
The Buddha does not mince his words. NOT TO ASSOCIATE.
For ordinary folk like me, I am deeply aware that my environment and friends have deep influence over me.
If I mix with the “complainers”, I start to develop negative outlook at work and in life too. You know, those who just whine throughout your lunch break at work?
If I mix with paranoid people, their paranoia rubs off on me over time.
I think here is no shame in protecting ourselves. This cannot be confused with being hateful or being non-compassionate. It is just regretful that we have our limitation and cannot help them see their folly.
When I decide to distance myself and not associate with someone or “walk away”, it is always with a deep sense of regret. If only I have better wisdom to help them see the truth,
Wise people are those who are contrary to the foolish. These are good friends who will not hesitate to correct us out of genuine concern for our welfare.
They hold us back from ruining ourselves and discourage us from unwholesome deeds.
They are positive and encourage us, they motivate us and have a good impact to our life.
Buddha advises us to seek companion with the wise.
honor those who are worthy of honor
To honor someone is to be respectful and hold them in great esteem. Not simply by singing praises of their deeds but also to copy their deeds of honor.
A monk once taught me not to judge a person’s deed or second guess his intention.
For example, when we see someone volunteering for charitable work or donating to charities, we should not second guess their intention as being motivated by fame or other impure thoughts.
Instead, we should just focus on that act of charity and the benefits that it brings.
The karma arising from a person’s intention is his to bear and completely non of our business.
When I was volunteering at an organization, my leader (the president) was full of zeal in his works. He worked hard and tirelessly to benefit the organization in his own way. Unfortunately, negative people accused him of trying to build a legacy or a name for himself during his term as president.
Their reason for opposing his hard work is to stop him from having a “wrong motivation” I believe those negative people do not have clairvoyance or telepathic abilities.
According to what I learnt from the monk,
That president would have earned his share of merit (if his intention is genuinely good) even though the project was stopped.
On the other hand, the negative people would have created tons of bad karma by stopping a noble project.
In conclusion, I think it is important to honor a noble deed because one good deed brings on another. Being negative and second guessing another’s intention is not helpful.