Saved from folly, vanity and vice
10 Dec, 2007, 0301 hrs IST,K VIJAYARAGHAVAN, TNN
A very striking and brilliant piece is this portion from Poems of Thomson (as reproduced in Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography): “Save me from folly, vanity and vice”. Of these three afflictions, folly is to be dreaded most because this often is the source of most problems.
Even vanity and vice as also other distressing characteristics are often chastened, if not eliminated, through hard rubs of life and exposures. But folly and also obstinacy, which often goes with this, rarely are visited by refinements. The Bible aptly notes (Proverbs: 26,11), “As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly”.
No doubt, idiocy or folly, when it monopolises a person’s thinking or actions, can hardly be eliminated. However, fortunately in most persons, this malignancy constitutes only a small portion of their personality and character, which otherwise are marked by clarity, wisdom and common sense. The tragedy, nevertheless is that this small portion often serves to suppress the noble and evolved virtues within.
For a seeker, therefore, it is necessary to observe and analyse those manifestations, suggestive of this folly — misplaced priorities, feeling complacent in a fool’s paradise, romantic fantasies running amuck, building castles in the air, day dreaming, scheming and uncontrolled forays into wishful thinking.
Harmful and undesirable though such aberrations could be, these could also finally prove to be manifestations of an abiding creativity and power within. When channelled well, these could finally serve to make and shape the seeker, instead of damaging him.
This process is verily the practical application of the injunction to set for oneself a vision in life, through becoming passionately involved in meaningful avenues, depending on one’s truest interests and capabilities. These could also include particular physical activities or exercises, which would further contribute to his intellectual pursuits.
Only an idle mind is a devil’s workshop, whereas the soul that yearns for vibrant activity, in the spirit of the prayer, mrityorma amritam gamaya, (in Bruhadaranyaka Upanishad) learns instinctively to eliminate the tendencies to folly, vanity and vice for replacement with, what Thomson himself terms as, “knowledge, conscious peace and virtue pure”.