The proverb ‘ An idle brain is the devil’s workshop’ is from H. G. Bohn’s, “Hand-Book of Proverbs,” (1855). The word idle comes from the old English word ‘idel’ which means ‘empty, void, useless’.
The proverb has two key phrases: idle brain and devil’s workshop. When one is idle, he or she is not working or is not active or is doing nothing or is passing time aimlessly. The person is thus lazy and without purpose.
An idle brain means that the person is mentally slothful. The brain has no work to do and as such gets easily distracted. In such a situation, the brain becomes the workshop of wrong ideas and thoughts.
The story of the ‘Idle Monkey and the Wedge‘ from the Panchatantra is a fine example of the proverb. Long ago, a merchant was building a temple in the middle of his garden. The workers partly sawed a log of wood and fixed a wedge in it so that it does not close up and left for lunch. An idle monkey was watching this and having nothing to do got down from the tree and pulled the wedge. The wedge came off and trapped monkey into the rift of the log. The monkey was killed instantly.
Thus it is important to keep the mind constructively occupied so that it will become God’s workshop. The proverb however does not refer to those moments when we spend time leisurely doing nothing.
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