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Lions Roar : September 2017
Did the Buddha say something even vaguely like this? Not really. Often attributed to the Buddha, the quote is actually by the American motivational speaker Zig Ziglar. You see, the Buddha did not teach that happiness depends solely on our thinking. Our speech, our actions, and (above all) our volitions are all important in determining whether we are happy or whether we suffer. Thought is just one part of it. PHOTO©MARGARET619|DREAMSTIME.COM Did the Buddha say something even vaguely like this? Sorry. Completely bogus. There’s nothing in the Pali canon where the Buddha talks about the meaning of life, “the secret of existence,” or any such thing. The phrase, “the meaning of life,” is actually quite modern, at least in English. I haven’t found any instance of that expression before the mid-1800s. All the earliest references to the “meaning of life” come in a Christian context, at a time when Christianity was emphasizing the development of character. That makes this quote rather ironic: what does it say about our character if we think it’s acceptable to fabricate a quote and put it in the mouth of the Buddha? Did the Buddha say something even vaguely like this? Well... This is obviously meant to be a version of Verse 2 of the Dhammapada: “Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts, happiness follows him like his never-departing shadow.” But “we become what we think” isn’t quite the same. It’s very similar to “The mind is everything. What you think, you become,” which also purports to be a translation of the Dhammapada. In this verse of the Dhammapada, the Buddha is talking about how our experience becomes habitual. If we habitually respond to life with thoughts and emotions that are aversive or grasping, we’ll experience greater suffering. And if we respond with mindfulness, patience, and compassion, we’ll experience greater joy. Again, it is what we do in our thoughts, speech, and action that is the determinant of our happiness, not our thoughts alone. LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2017 69