“There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people….”

This one was sent to me by “lvl_5_laser_lotus.” I hadn’t come across it before. In full, the quote he/she/it sent is:

“There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills.”

It’s in Brainyquote. It’s found in several books, attributed to the Buddha. Each individual part of the quote could just about pass as something from the suttas, but strung together it rings false.

Digging around a little I found it’s from a 1934 book by Dwight Goddard, called “Buddha, Truth and Brotherhood: An Epitome of Many Buddhist Scriptures, Translated from the Japanese.” In full, the quote reads:

Indeed, there is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Faith draws people together, but doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills.is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills. One should beware of cherishing a mind of doubt.

The page continues, “The beginnings of faith were planted by the compassion of Buddha, long, long ago. When one has faith he should realize this fact and be very grateful to Buddha for his goodness,” which pretty much puts to rest the notion that this is a genuine quote.

Unfortunately, I don’t think Goddard gives citations for the “Buddhist Scriptures” that he translates. This section reads more like a book about Buddhism, than any kind of primary scripture. It doesn’t even read like a Mahayana scripture.

There’s nothing “wrong” with the quote except for the attribution. The Buddha did regard doubt (vicikicchā) as a dreadful “habit.” It’s one of the five hindrances to meditation. It’s one of the first three fetters that hold us back from stream entry, the first level of awakening. And it’s one of the seven anusayas, or “underlying tendencies.”

The mind that is full of doubt is compared to a pot of muddy water:

“Imagine a bowl of water, agitated, stirred up muddied, put in a dark place. If a man with good eyesight were to look at the reflection of his own face in it, he would not know or see it as it really was. In the same way, Brahman, when a man dwells with his heart possessed and overwhelmed by doubt-and-wavering… then he cannot know or see, as it really is, what is to his own profit, to the profit of others, to the profit of both. Then even sacred words he has long studied are not clear to him, not to mention those he has not studied.”

The opposite quality to doubt, as Goddard’s words make clear, is faith, or saddha, which is a form of confidence rather than blind belief.

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