Discussion Forum

Can someone help me understand the context of this quote from the Buddha?

The quote is:

“If, in your course, you don’t meet your equal, your better, then continue your course, firmly, alone. There’s no fellowship with fools.” – Dhp 61 [PTS, Translation by Thanissaro Bhikkhu]

Does anyone know who whom the dhammapada was given? Was this instruction given to monks, brahmins or lay people? How do you think this quote relates to the monastic Sangha today? Is “teaching” the same as “fellowship”? Is it even possible for this instruction to be adhered to?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this 🙂 and if you are a Buddhist practitioner I’d appreciate it if you could tell me which tradition you follow and for how long you have been a student of the dhamma.
(also, feel free to correct my terrible typos!)
[David] thank you for that. I use accesstoinsight daily and it was from accesstoinsight that I copied and pasted the quote. I think it’s interesting you say you follow Mahayana and, therefore, are not familiar with the dhammapada because it’s also found in the āgamas. I was really asking for the context in which this specific quote was stated. From the commentaries I found this story of why the Buddha taught this:

A teacher reproached his pupil for some misdemeanour. The displeased pupil set fire to the teacher’s hut and fled. The Buddha, hearing of the incident, commended a solitary career in preference to companionship with the foolish.

(this story is written by Nârada Thera’s analysis of the commentaries, see http://home.nethere.net/dsparks/narada/ )

I think it’s clear here the word “fool” doesn’t just mean someone who is slightly less than an equal, it means someone who is drastically deluded.

Anyway, thank you [David] for reminding me to post links to my sources.


  • Balavagga: The Fool
    translated from the Pali by
    Acharya Buddharakkhita
    © 1996—2009
    Alternate translation: Thanissaro
    61. Should a seeker not find a companion who is better or equal, let him resolutely pursue a solitary course; there is no fellowship with the fool.

    I am not of the Theravada school. So I am not familiar with the text. Th first link below is where I found the infor mation. I am Mahayana Buddhist since 1983. Anyway I hope that helps.

  • I’m not a Buddhist, so I have no idea to whom this was directed, but it’s a great piece of advice for anyone. Basically, the gist of it seems to be: “If you lie down with dogs, you get fleas”. In other words: be wise about whom you associate with.

  • I think it means that we head out on a journey, and we are on the search for something. If for some reason we do not find exactly what we are looking for (for example, love, money, power) this does not mean we have to stop dead and live the rest of our lives regretting, we can live our life and live our journey.

    This advice would have probably been given to everyone, it is one of the many life lessons.

  • i understand it to mean – carry on in your course of action, your life, your pursuit, accept all challenges to what you are doing with good grace, but never let them dissaude you, unless you see that their way is better.
    Be true to yourself but never close yourself off from others and the lessons of the world.

  • It doesn’t matter. Buddahs didn’t save but Jesus did so Jesus is supposed to by your God and getting saved it what everyone needs 2 do. 🙂

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