Long is the night for the insomniac
Long is the journey for the weary traveller
And long is the cycle of suffering
For the fool who does not know the Way of Enlightenment.
As I travel, if I cannot walk with someone I can learn from,
And I cannot walk with one who is my equal,
Then I should steadfastly travel alone.
There is no true companionship with the fool.
"Look at all my wealth and possessions!"
The fool suffers by being attached to these things.
But he doesn't even have ownership of himself.
So where is his wealth? Whose are his possessions?
A fool who knows he is a fool
Is wise, at least to that extent.
But a fool who believes himself to be wise
Truly fits the title "fool".
A fool may be around a wise person his whole life
But that does not mean he will know the Way of Englightenment,
Any more than a spoon can know the taste of the soup it touches.
If I am perceptive and aware,
Then even if I listen to a wise person for just a moment
I will quickly recognize the Way of Enlightenment
As the tongue immediately knows the taste of the soup it touches.
Foolish people with poor understanding
Are their own worst enemies.
They plant the seeds of unethical acts2
And when the plant grows to a tree, the fruit is bitter.
When I do something but later regret it,
Weeping and mourning,
Then I should not have done it in the first place.
But when I do something
And look back on it with true gladness,
Then it was a good deed to have done.
An evil deed may seem, to a fool,
To be as sweet as honey,
But only because it has not yet ripened.
When it ripens, the fool comes to grief.
I could fast for months,
Eating only what fits on a single blade of grass
But I would not gain a fraction of the benefits
Of comprehending the true nature of things.
Unethical acts, like milk,
Do not sour right away.
They follow the fool,
Burning like a coal smoldering within ashes.
Knowlege and skill only bring a fool to ruin.
This shallow knowlege separates him from wisdom
As if decapitating him.
- The Pali word is Samsara (the same in Sanskrit), which refers to the endless cycle of reincarnation, of action and reaction, and cause and effect. Enlightenment is a way to end the cycle of Samsara, both in the metaphysical sense of ending reincarnation and in the more practical sense of no longer needing to continue in the many cycles of anger and suffering in our lives.
- The verse refers to negative Kamma (Karma). Kamma is seen as a natural law in Indian philosophy, sort of a law of cause and effect that applies to ethics. According to this belief, all actions, either positive or negative, will come back to affect you in equal measure, either in this life or the next. Concepts like "punishment" and "mercy" do not apply to Kamma, any more than they do to gravity (although gravity admittedly lacks an ethical dimension).