“The secret of happiness lies in the mind’s release from worldly ties.”

12733579_969056473186994_4410220237074096210_nAn alert reader spotted this quote in the form of an illustration by Molly Hahn’s “Buddha Doodles”: “The secret of happiness lies in the mind’s release from worldly ties.” It struck him as being fake, and he was right.

The Buddha did of course talk about happiness, but not of a “secret of happiness.”

This quote seems to originate in an article in the British Buddhist Society’s journal, “The Middle Way,” from February 1974. Here’s the passage in question:

In the Anguttara Nikaya we learn that while staying in Alavi the Buddha was asked by Hatthaka the following very direct questions : ‘Is the Blessed One joyful and contented with his lot ? Does he live happily ?’ Not surprisingly the Buddha replied, ‘Yes dear friend I live happily. My life is filled with happiness’. ‘But how can this be sir’, Hatthaka persisted, ‘for your thin robes and this inadequate carpet of dry leaves cannot possibly protect you against the bitter cold of the long night and the inhospitality of the rough ground ? How can you really be happy?

‘I am nevertheless’, replied Gotama, ‘Do you imagine that happiness is only possible in a palace ?

Is a man certain of happiness if he lives in luxury with his devoted family in a fine house with honest and efficient servants ?’ ‘Yes sir, he is’.

‘Perhaps he may be … in the beginning. But is he not also liable to be uneasy about his possessions ?

Is not such a person subject to fear, envy, gossip and jealousy and can his happiness long endure in the face of all the conflicts that arise from his being forced to keep continual watch on his wealth ?’

‘That is certainly true sir. Such a man must indeed be subject to all kinds of anguish due to his riches. In spite of appearances I suppose he could not really be called a happy man’.

‘Friend’, concluded the Buddha, ‘though it may not appear so, judged by my material circumstances, I am free from sorrow and all the troubles of worldly life. I am not continually harassed with the tiresome details of social life. I have cut off at at the root the whole tree of sorrow and misery, and have eradicated all need for greed, malice and delusion and also those sins inseparable from selfishness. Therefore I am truly happy.

Remember my friend :

The secret of happiness lies
In mind’s release from worldly ties.

You’ll notice that the quote here is in the form of a rhyming couplet, and it’s “mind’s release” and not “the mind’s release.”

The original sutta is easily identifiable as the Hatthaka Sutta (AN 3.34).

In Thanissaro’s version, linked to above, the closing verse is:

Always, always,
he sleeps in ease:
the brahman totally unbound,
who doesn’t adhere
to sensual pleasures,
who’s without acquisitions
& cooled.
Having cut all ties
& subdued fear in the heart,
calmed,
he sleeps in ease,
having reached peace
of awareness.

Bhikkhu Bodhi’s version is:

He always sleeps well,
the Brahman who has attained nibbana,
cooled off, without acquisitions,
not tainted by sensual pleasures.

Having cut off all attachments,
having removed anguish in the heart,
the peaceful one sleeps well,
having attained peace of mind.

So it appears that the author of the article (who’s name I can’t see, since I’m struggling with Google Books’ snippet view) was paraphrasing heavily. Perhaps he got the quote from somewhere, or perhaps he made it up in order to summarize the Buddha’s verse as a couplet. I’m certain it’s not genuine, though.

PS. Buddha Doodles has a book that just came out. Judging by their website I strongly suspect there are other Fake Buddha Quotes in the book. The illustrations are charming, however!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *