Zen Talk: Who’s the Fool and How Can He Become Wise? Let’s Ask Buddha

“A fool who is conscious of his folly is thereby wise; the fool who thinks himself wise is the one to be called a fool.”

So sayeth Buddha.

This reminds me of what Socrates used to say: the only thing I know for sure is that I know nothing. Yes, the statement is a little contradictory but it’s meant to illustrate a very important point about the difficulty of actually having knowledge.

Socrates spent his life in the pursuance of knowledge, asking everyone to explain anything at all to him. His questioning, known today as the Socratic method, was ultimately designed to remind everyone that he also knew nothing for sure. The sophists, his intellectual rivals who insisted that they knew a great deal, were constantly thwarted by Socrates’ own pursuit of knowledge.

Buddha tells us something similar – and not particularly far away from Socrates in time – which is that a fool aware of his foolishness is actually wise and the only real fool is the one who thinks he’s wise.

What do you think about this saying? True? Trite? Silly? Do you have a favorite Buddha quote? What’s your favorite Socrates moment (all Platonic dialogues are up for grabs!)?

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