Good Company –
[Lord Buddhas Teachings]
by B.P. Wadia
© 2003 Online Teosofiska Kompaniet Malmö
There is no companionship with a
fool. ( Verse
Such is the advice of the great Tathagata. Though the Master uttered it for his monks, it is useful for all who are striving for self-improvement.
There are other verses in the Dhammapada on the subject of Satsang or Good Company. No one doubts the truth of the homely adages that "Birds of a feather flock together," and "A man is known by the company he keeps." There are aspects of the subject that are very little understood.
The Master Gautama's implications are numerous and some of them are worth reflecting on.
His words may be taken as referring also to the companionship of ideas, and so, nowadays, of books. Having instructed us to abjure the company of evildoers, and to have for friends the best of men, in Verse 79 he adds:—
"He who drinks in the Law lives happily, with a serene mind; the wise man ever rejoices in the Law as taught by the Ariyas."
This means the companionship of great and good ideas. If one does not desire the company of a fool, he must grant that the wise and the holy do not desire his company. Even though he wishes to be with them, they do not desire his company unless he has striven for knowledge and piety. A man is made of his thoughts. As he thinks, so he acts and so he is. It is evident that one's outer companions are people whose mind content and mind action are consubstantial with one's own.
Two other forthright verses convey the truth about companionship:—
"If a fool be associated with a Pandit, even all his life, he will perceive the truth as little as a spoon tastes the soup. (Verses 64)
"A keen-witted man who waits on a Pandit for one minute only will soon perceive the truth as the tongue tastes the soup." (Verses 65)
Only the mating of consubstantial hearts and minds forges the bonds of friendship. Between casual acquaintances and lasting friends, the difference is due to the similarity or the lack of similarity of mental and moral substances. The substantial aspect of our psychic nature is little known. Through electro-magnetic matter, psychic as well as noetic action takes place. The part that this matter plays in human relationships is not understood, because it is invisible and subtle (sukshma). Its existence is not suspected, so it is ignored.
The principle of consubstantiality is at work among real friends, not only that of coadunation. The spoon and the soup are in coadunation but are not cosubstantial. The tongue and the soup are in coadunation and further are consubstantial.
The Nectar of the Saints and of the Sages is for living men, not for passion-fraught "iron" men. The very existence of the Nectar is not suspected by the ambitious and the greedy. They are like spoons – very close to the soup but unable to taste it.
It is a sign of the Dark Age, that Truth and Peace, although near at hand, are not perceived by the mortal minds of this cycle. In the Chinese version of the Dhammapada, this story is appended to the verses about tongue, spoon, and soup:–
"On a certain occasion, the Master came to know of an 80-year-old neighbor in Saravasti who had just built for himself a large house. Ananda was sent to enquire and to instruct the old gentleman in the certainty of death and the impermanence of things. After a few days, the old man suddenly "fell dead from a stroke received as he walked" – such was the news the Master received, whereupon He spoke the verses about the spoon, the tongue, and the soup.
How can we make ourselves worthy of the company of the godly? The Master says that even the sight of Sadhus, Noble Ones, is good and that to abide with them is blessedness (Verse 206). How can we become alive to the taste of Amrita? How shall we recognize the virtuous and the holy? Appearances deceive and the claimants are many. What can a Sadhu, an Arhat of today, teach but what Sadhus and Arhats of all times have recorded? If Teachings are true, they must be universal. The first qualification of a true teacher is that he teaches nothing new, but only what has been experienced in realization by a long line of perfected Sadhus and Arhats. He uses new words clothing old ideas, adding only "Thus have I heard."
From "Thus have I heard", pages 38-40. Utgiven av Indian Institute of World Culture, 1959.
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