“Every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind. The goal is to find it.”

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Oh. My. Buddha.

This one was passed on to me this morning. Apparently you can even buy it on a T-shirt:

“Every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind. The goal is to find it.”

I’m not going to get into whether this statement is true or not, but it’s simply not something that the Buddha said. Both the sentiment and the vocabulary are totally alien to the Buddhist scriptures. It sounds more like something from a modern self-help or spirituality book.

But which one? That’s a mystery.

In fact it doesn’t show up in any books on Google Books at all. Perhaps it’s in a book they haven’t scanned, or perhaps it originated in a video or blog.

It seems to be quite new. I spent a while looking through the Google search results for this quote, and the earliest uses of the quote that had dates on them were from an internet profile dated September 12, 2010 (not attributed to the Buddha), and a blog post dated June 11, 2008 (where it does purport to be a Buddha quote).

Where did the authors of these pages get the quote from? I simply don’t know.

However, a book called Wisdom From World Religions: Pathways Toward Heaven On Earth, by John Marks Templeton and published in 2008, contains the following:

…we always have a choice. We can become bitter or we can choose to become bigger and better people. When we learn to recognize that every experience can bring a blessing of some kind, our upset is softened.

A 2007 book called The Passion Test, by Janet Bray Attwood and ‎Chris Attwood, contains this statement:

When you begin to look for reasons to believe that every experience is a blessing, you will start to find those reasons.

Ever earlier (1957) Henry Miller’s Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch tells us:

…the wise man knows that every experience is to be viewed as a blessing.

But I doubt if any of these is the source. These various books are merely restating a meme that is common in our culture.

If you ever find a book or magazine prior to 2008 that contains the full quote, or something similar to it, please let me know.

I’ll leave you though with the blessing of the Dharma: some words (on the topic of “blessings,” in fact) from the Mangala Sutta.

“Not to associate with the foolish, but to associate with the wise; and to honor those who are worthy of honor — this is the greatest blessing.

To reside in a suitable locality, to have done meritorious actions in the past and to set oneself in the right course — this is the greatest blessing.

To have much learning, to be skillful in handicraft, well-trained in discipline, and to be of good speech — this is the greatest blessing.

To support mother and father, to cherish wife and children, and to be engaged in peaceful occupation — this is the greatest blessing.

To be generous in giving, to be righteous in conduct, to help one’s relatives, and to be blameless in action — this is the greatest blessing.

To loathe more evil and abstain from it, to refrain from intoxicants, and to be steadfast in virtue — this is the greatest blessing.

To be respectful, humble, contented and grateful; and to listen to the Dhamma on due occasions — this is the greatest blessing.

To be patient and obedient, to associate with monks and to have religious discussions on due occasions — this is the greatest blessing.

Self-restraint, a holy and chaste life, the perception of the Noble Truths and the realisation of Nibbana — this is the greatest blessing.

A mind unruffled by the vagaries of fortune, from sorrow freed, from defilements cleansed, from fear liberated — this is the greatest blessing.

Those who thus abide, ever remain invincible, in happiness established. These are the greatest blessings.”

4 thoughts on ““Every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind. The goal is to find it.””

  1. This sounds like a cheap Internet rehash of the Napoleon Hill quote: “every adversity, every failure, every heartache contains within it the seed of an equal or greater benefit”

  2. A heartfelt thanks for doing this work. I think it’s really important. Nobody will be admonished for faking Buddha quotes, but a lot of them are just awful. Reading the real one in your post above – on the other hand – really made me smile 🙂

  3. We never know. Maybe he said that to a friend, and this friend kept the secret into his own family only, and then, centuries later, his decendents decided to put it in a Shirt. Why not?

    1. So you’re sugegsting that a spiritual teacher has said something to one person (something that, incidentally, bears no relation to anything else he’s said), and then that person’s descendants have passed on the saying for 2,500 years, without mentioning it to anyone else and with no errors in transmission despite the fact that the language of the original quote is now dead, until finally one of the descendants decides to translate the saying into English and publish it on a t-shirt?

      And this sounds likely to you? More likely than a quote having simply been misattributed to the Buddha?

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