“Crying with the wise is better than laughing with the fool.”

Crying with the wise is better than laughing with the fool

This one’s not a quote from the Buddha, as some sources say. It’s found in an 1887 book, compiled by Robert Christy, called Proverbs, Maxims, and Phases of All Ages, where it’s described as being a German saying. In that source it’s found in a slightly different form: “Better to weep with the wise than laugh with fools.”

It also contains gems such as “A wise man things all that he says, a fool says all that he thinks,” “Better with the wise in prison than with fools in paradise” (which is also German), and “Wise men learn by other men’s mistakes; fools by their own.”

The Buddha certainly talked about wise men and fools (there’s a chapter on each in the Dhammapada) but our fake verse is too polished to be from the Buddhist scriptures.

Although the Dhammapada chapters I referred to generally treat the topic of the fool and the wise person separately, here’s an example of the Buddha referring to both categories of person in one statement: “Come! Behold this world, which is like a decorated royal chariot. Here fools flounder, but the wise have no attachment to it.”

Here’s one in which the fool and wise person are contrasted, although not in one sentence:

“Monks, these two are fools. Which two? The one who doesn’t see his transgression as a transgression, and the one who doesn’t rightfully pardon another who has confessed his transgression. These two are fools.

“These two are wise people. Which two? The one who sees his transgression as a transgression, and the one who rightfully pardons another who has confessed his transgression. These two are wise people.”

You’ll note that these lack the literary polish of our fake quote. By modern standards they’re rather “clunky” in style.

There is one verse I know from the Pali canon that does have a literary ring to it, but it’s a verse composed by a monk, Godatta, rather than the Buddha. In Ven Dhammika’s translation it’s

The fools offer praise and the wise
offer blame. Truly the blame
of the wise is much better
than the praise of the fool.

In Pali this is:

Dummedhehi pasaṃsā ca,
viññūhi garahā ca yā;
Garahāva seyyo viññūhi,
yañce bālappasaṃsanā.

“The blame of the wise is better than the praise of the fool” would not have looked out of place in Christy’s book of maxims.

Incidentally, you may notice that the term “fool” hardly embodies the “non-judgmental” attitude that so many westerners expect the Buddha to have had. He seems to have been a feisty old coot, and didn’t suffer fools gladly.

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4 thoughts on ““Crying with the wise is better than laughing with the fool.””

  1. “The fools offer praise and the wise
    offer blame. Truly the blame
    of the wise is much better
    than the praise of the fool.”

    Where in the Pali Canon is this quote from? Thanks!

    1. Sorry, I forgot to mention the source! It’s from the Theragatha (14.2). I mistakenly said at first that the verse was by a nun — somehow I read Theragatha as Therigatha. Apologies!

  2. How come I cannot read the comments anymore after a fake quote? I used to love how people would try to justify a lack of integrity as being OK, and the lengths they would go through to justify that.

    1. If you go back a bit you’ll see that the site got hacked and we lost a lot of information, including the comments.

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