A fool associating with a sage,
Even if for a lifetime,
Will no more perceive the Dharma
Than a spoon will perceive the taste of soup.
A discerning person who associates with a sage,
Even if for a brief moment,
Will quickly perceive the Dharma,
As the tongue perceives the taste of soup.
the Dhammapada, v. 64-65, translated by Gil Fronsdal
Does a spoon know the taste of soup?
These verses bring up the question: what are we looking for? If we are tuned in to the wavelength of wisdom vs. foolishness, we are more likely to recognize both. But if we fill our minds with self-consiousness (what do they think of me? how do I look?) or other not-so-important stuff, we miss the opportunity to experience reality directly. It is unbelievably easy to have our main recurrent question be: how can I make myself more comfortable right now?
It is rare to meet someone whom we recognize as wise, but so important to have our antennae out for such people! Sometimes we know where they are and can find them and put ourselves in their company, even if briefly. Can you imagine seeking out the wise as a priority leisure-time activity? It is possible.
A sage might be a monk in robes, but could just as easily be your aunt Bertha. Don’t let appearances mislead you. Some quite high and mighty “holy people” haven’t seen wisdom in a long time, and some very humble people have really let go of clinging.
Some people think there are “silent buddhas” (realized beings) walking among us. What do you think? Does deep wisdom move among us unrecognized?