“Ennui has made more gamblers than avarice, more drunkards than thirst, and perhaps as many suicides as despair.”

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Only someone completely unaware of the the tone and content of the Buddha’s teachings could think that these were his words:

Ennui has made more gamblers than avarice, more drunkards than thirst, and perhaps as many suicides as despair.

And yet I’ve seen it all over the place. (And thank you, Aditya Prasad, for reminding me that I hadn’t yet tackled it).

This is actually a quote from the Rev. Caleb Charles Colton, found in his book, “Lacon: Or, Many Things in Few Words: Addressed to Those Who Think” (1820).

According to Wikipedia, “Colton (1780–1832) was an English cleric, writer and collector, well known for his eccentricities.”

He’s best know for coining the phrase, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

I’ve never seen the word “ennui” used in any translation of a Buddhist text. Thanissaro translates “arati” as “boredom” in one place, which is certainly one of its meanings. But the main thing that gives this quote away is its polished, literary quality. The Buddhist scriptures come from an oral rather than a written tradition, and tend to be stylistically rather basic, often being highly repetitive and employing lists of synonyms or near-synonyms.

As an example, here’s an extract from the sutta (discourse) in which Thanissaro uses the word “boredom”:

And what is the food for the arising of unarisen sloth and drowsiness, or for the growth and increase of sloth and drowsiness once it has arisen? There are boredom, weariness, yawning, drowsiness after a meal, and sluggishness of awareness. To foster inappropriate attention to them: This is the food for the arising of unarisen sloth and drowsiness, or for the growth and increase of sloth and drowsiness once it has arisen.

Here you can see the characteristic repetition: “And what is the food for the arising of … This is the food for the arising of…”

You can also see the use of near-synonyms (“boredom, weariness, yawning, drowsiness after a meal, and sluggishness of awareness”), which helps with memorization but does tend to give rise, in the modern reader, to the very phenomena being discussed.

Unfortunately this quote is found in a number of books, which I’m sure means that the end times are near!

2 thoughts on ““Ennui has made more gamblers than avarice, more drunkards than thirst, and perhaps as many suicides as despair.””

    1. Thanks! You can save a link to the site as a web app on your phone. Or at least you can on an iPhone — I imagine that’s possible on an Android as well.

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