Associating with the Wise

By Desmond Yeoh

Jetavana Grove

The Mangala Sutra, one of the popular Buddhist text, tells the story that once upon a time the Buddha was dwelling near Sāvatthi in the Jetavana monastery built by Anāthapindika (a wealthy merchant of Sāvatthi). Then a certain deity at midnight, having illuminated the whole Jeta-grove with surpassing splendour, came to the presence of the Buddha. Having worshipped the Budhha, he respectfully stood at one side; and asked, “Many gods and men have pondered and wished for blessings. Please tell us what the supreme blessings are”.

The Buddha responded, “Not to associate with fools, but to associate with the wise and to honour those worthy of honour, this is the supreme blessing”. The Buddha then continued with other examples but the focus of this article is on this first verse.

This is perhaps the most practical means of ensuring that we do not stray from our spiritual path. If we just quit smoking, it is best that we avoid those who smoke. Similarly, if we want to live a simple life, it is best that we avoid those who chase after material wealth.

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Recently, my friend told me a story which gave me the idea for this article. He said to me, “I was with a couple of friends who earn high salaries. They just received their bonuses and were talking about buying new cars. The conversation made me feel small and inferior”. Why should he feel inferior? If he truly believes that living a simple life is the road to a peaceful existence, he should feel compassion for his friends and try to help them instead.

This advise from the Buddha takes on an added meaning when we recognise that our ego comprise of our accumulated thoughts, memories and conditioning. If one’s friends are mostly dishonest, one will accumulate thoughts of dishonesty and be conditioned accordingly. Eventually, one will be convinced of the ‘benefits’ of being dishonest.

Therefore, if we were to choose what blessing to grant our children, let us bless them that they always meet and be guided by wise friends and mentors.

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