This is indeed fake. It’s from Byrom’s appalling rendition of the Dhammapada although it’s found there as “Yet the teaching is simple. Do what is right. Be Pure.” Now the Dhammapada is a scriptural text, so you might wonder why I regard it as fake. Of course it’s not the Dhammapada itself that I think is fraudulent, but Byrom’s version of it.
As far as I’m aware, Byrom didn’t know any Pali, which is the language that the Dhammapada is written in. So he didn’t translate it, but more likely used other people’s translations and perhaps a Pali-English dictionary, and then made up some inspiring poetry that bore little if any resemblance to the original. Even his publisher, Shambhala, doesn’t call Byrom’s Dhammapada a translation.
“Yet the teaching is simple. Do what is right. Be Pure” is supposed to be verse 183, which is one of the most well-known verses from this well-known work. The fact that you probably didn’t recognize the quote’s origins is enough to tell you what a bollocks Byrom made of it.
Here are a few other translations of verse 183, all of them fairly literal:
Mine: “Ceasing to do evil, learning to do good, purifying the heart — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.”
Buddharakkhita: “To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one’s mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.”
Thanissaro: “The non-doing of any evil, the performance of what’s skillful, the cleansing of one’s own mind: this is the teaching of the Awakened.”
Fronsdal: “Doing no evil, Engaging in what’s skillful, And purifying one’s mind: this is the teaching of the Buddhas.”
Narada: “Not to do any evil, to cultivate good, to purify one’s mind, this is the Teaching of the Buddhas.”
You’ll see that “The teaching is simple. Do what is right. Be Pure” is a complete outlier (I accidentally typed outliar” at first, and was tempted to leave it!).
This isn’t, by a long shot, the worst fakery that Byrom pulled off in his Dhammapada. At least, unlike some of his other inventions, this one doesn’t conflict with what the Buddha taught (although he stressed how profound and subtle, and not how simple the teachings were. It’s just a terrible, terrible translation.
Sometimes this quote ends with “At the end of the way is freedom.”
This is actually the start of the next verse of the Dhammapada in Byrom’s version, which reads “At the end of the way is freedom. Till then, patience.”
In Buddharakkhita’s very literal translation this is: “Enduring patience is the highest austerity. ‘Nibbana is supreme,’ say the Buddhas.”
Sometimes I wish that Shambhala, Byrom’s publisher, would just pulp the beautiful mess they’ve created.