“My actions are my only true belongings: I cannot escape their consequences. My actions are the ground on which I stand.”

tnh quote

“My actions are my only true belongings: I cannot escape their consequences. My actions are the ground on which I stand,” which is often attributed to the Buddha, is actually by Thich Nhat Hann. It’s from his book “The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching,” page 124.

It’s his paraphrase of the Buddha’s “five reminders.”

In their original form they’re as follows:

“There are these five facts that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained. Which five?

“‘I am subject to aging, have not gone beyond aging.’ This is the first fact that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained.

“‘I am subject to illness, have not gone beyond illness.’ …

“‘I am subject to death, have not gone beyond death.’ …

“‘I will grow different, separate from all that is dear and appealing to me.’ …

“‘I am the owner of my actions,[karma] heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have my actions as my arbitrator. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir.'”

8 thoughts on ““My actions are my only true belongings: I cannot escape their consequences. My actions are the ground on which I stand.””

  1. Neither is a “real” quote, the Buddha did not speak English. This is calling a “tighter” translation “real” and a “looser” translation “fake”.
    In my experience, due to cultural and linguistic differences, a paraphrase can sometimes more accurately convey the meaning of a text than a “tight”, word-for-word translation.

    1. The Buddha didn’t speak Pali either, incidentally. There are no “real” Buddha quotes — just quotes that are found in the scriptures.

      Anyway, you’re correct in highlighting that there’s a gray area. This is something I struggle with, and it’s why I have a category on the site called “fakeish.” But in this case we’re clearly dealing with a loose paraphrase rather than even a liberal translation, and I don’t have much hesitation in saying that this one is fake — or not a genuine translation from the scriptures.

  2. It is not proper, Upasaka Bodhipaksa to call it fake, since the meaning is well conform with the Buddhas teaching and it stand with the Dhamma.

    Kammassakomhi kamma-dāyādo kamma-yoni kamma-bandhu kamma-paṭisaraṇo.

    I am the owner of my actions, heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and live dependent on my actions.

    Yaṃ kammaṃ karissāmi kalyāṇaṃ vā pāpakaṃ vā tassa dāyādo bhavissāmi.

    Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir.

    Five Subjects for Frequent Recollection

    1. Just because something conforms with the Buddha’s teaching and agrees with the Dharma doesn’t mean that it’s something the Buddha said (or, more properly, something the Buddha’s said to have said). Is it truthful speech to say “X said Y” when there’s no evidence that X did in fact say Y? I think not. And as Einstein said, “Whoever is careless with truth in small matters cannot be trusted in important affairs.”

  3. The 5 remembrances are not written by Thich Nhat Hann. He is quoting the Upajjhatthana Sutta. It’s true we have no idea exactly what the Buddha said but The Dharma we know. The Sutras are thousands of years old. Anything that you say as a truth like “Fake” is a lie. It’s your opinion and your entitled to it but in this case your’e information is just your opinion and in my opinion you are wrong.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upajjhatthana_Sutta

    1. Just to be clear what I am saying is you are wrong about Thich Nhat Hann writing the 5 Remembrances. Every Quote by “The Buddha” is clearly subject to query. It was kept as an oral history for 5 centuries which is what it is. Ananda passed on this history and I am good with the intentions of the Dharma and at times am irritated by things people attribute to the Buddha, but I don’t need to put up a meme saying you are “Fake” because you said Thich Nhat Hann wrote it.

      1. I think you were perfectly clear the first time 🙂

        You wrote: “I don’t need to put up a meme saying you are “Fake” because you said Thich Nhat Hann wrote it.”

        I’m not saying anyone is fake. That would be a weird thing to do. All I’m doing is clarifying which quotes can be validly attributed to the Buddha and which cannot. The latter — non-scriptural quotes masquerading as canonical — are what I call “Fake.”

        I see that someone has started a blog for fake Shakespeare quotes. We need blogs for Einstein, Gandhi, and the Founders of the US constitution as well.

    2. He’s not quoting, Sean. He’s paraphrasing. It’s of course completely fine to paraphrase, of course.but not to regard a paraphrase as a quote.

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