“Happiness or sorrow — whatever befalls you, walk on, untouched, unattached.”

whatever befalls you, walk on, untouched

This is from Byrom’s translation of the Dhammapada. But since Byrom’s words bear little or no relation to the original I have no hesitation in regarding it as a Fake Buddha Quote.

The verse in question is verse 83 of the Dhammapada. In full, Byrom’s attempt at this verse is:

Want nothing.
Where there is desire,
Say nothing.
Happiness or sorrow —
Whatever befalls you,
Walk on, untouched, unattached.

In Buddharakkhita’s translation this is,

The good renounce (attachment for) everything. The virtuous do not prattle with a yearning for pleasures. The wise show no elation or depression when touched by happiness or sorrow.

Thanissaro’s version is:

Everywhere, truly,
those of integrity
stand apart.
They, the good,
don’t chatter in hopes
of favor or gains.
When touched
now by pleasure,
now pain,
the wise give no sign
of high
or low.

You can see that those two alternative translations are very similar in meaning (with the exception of “stand apart” and “renounce everything,” where some interpretation of the original is taking place.

The original Pali is:

Sabbattha ve sappurisā cajanti na kāmakāmā lapayanti santo
Sukhena phuṭṭhā atha vā dukhena noccāvacaṃ paṇḍitā dassayanti.

This could be translated very literally as:

Excellent people abandon everything/everywhere (Sabbattha ve sappurisā cajanti).
Good people do not chatter, desiring pleasure (na kāmakāmā lapayanti santo).
Wise people do not show elation or depression when touched by happiness or suffering (Sukhena phuṭṭhā atha vā dukhena noccāvacaṃ paṇḍitā dassayanti)

You can see that Byrom’s rendering, although lovely as poetry, is only slightly related to these three more literal versions.

Byrom basically just made up poetic phrases as he went along. He’s particularly fond of taking a descriptive phrase (“excellent people abandon everything”) and turning it into an exhortation (“want nothing”). This completely changes the character of the text.

It’s like taking a quote such as this, from Hamlet.

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!

presenting it as:

Speak truth to yourself.
Walk in lightness and in dark.
When all men are false, depart!
Blessings grow from within.

and saying it’s a quote from Shakespeare.

Translating poetically is fine, but any translation should reflect the meaning of the original.

Unfortunately Byrom’s version of the Dhammapada is very popular. Personally, I’d like to see it go out of print and stay that way, since it’s so poorly executed and misleading.

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