“Imagine that every person in the world is enlightened but you. They are all your teachers, each doing just the right things to help you learn perfect patience, perfect wisdom, perfect compassion.”

I’ve found this misattributed to the Buddha in a number of books:

Imagine that every person in the world is enlightened but you. They are all your teachers, each doing just the right things to help you learn perfect patience, perfect wisdom, perfect compassion.

This bears no resemblance to anything in the Buddhist scriptures. It turns out that it’s from page 83 of Jack Kornfield’s lovely “Buddha’s Little Instruction Book,” which is not (as the title might erroneously suggest) a collection of quotes from the Buddha but is instead a collection of contemporary sayings on practice, some of which are loosely based on scriptural sources, but which are mostly (as far as I can make out) of Jack’s own devising.

Geri Larkin, in her book “Stumbling Toward Enlightenment,” has an unacknowledged borrowing of the first part of the quote, and has paraphrased the rest:

Imagine that every person in the world is enlightened but you. Everyone is your teacher and they are doing just the right things to motivate you to learn whatever it is you need to know.

This quote can be found, presented as a Buddha quote, in books such as Larry Chang’s “Wisdom for the Soul,” Sylvia Lafair’s “Don’t Bring It to Work,” Angela Paul’s “It’s Hard Being Human,” and, most ironically, in Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat’s “Spiritual Literacy.”

It’s also frequently attributed to the Jesuit priest and psychotherapist, Anthony de Mello, although so far I’ve seen nothing to suggest that that attribution is correct.

3 thoughts on ““Imagine that every person in the world is enlightened but you. They are all your teachers, each doing just the right things to help you learn perfect patience, perfect wisdom, perfect compassion.””

  1. I detest this “quote,” since I have seen it used by people who appointed themselves as my “teachers.” Even though supposedly “everyone is everyone’s teacher,” some people are more teachers to others than those others are to them. It just never goes both ways, heaven forbid!

    This reminds of something CS Lewis said:
    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”
    https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/C._S._Lewis

    1. This is why the monarchy was restored in Britain after Cromwell died. Better to have a king than a constant moral guardian whether you want it or not.

      What I want to know is how come we allow our own governments to do this now? The American “War on Drugs” which was exported around the globe is an affront to reason and the basic human right to control ourselves & strive for higher states of consciousness, but few protest it. Why?

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