Ugh. In investigating this quote, kindly passed on to me by one of my meditation students, I delved into an entire subculture devoted to saccharine quotes and trite parables, often rife with typos, poor grammar, and the kinds of abbreviations teenagers use in text messages.
This particular one turned up on a Facebook page called “Buddhism: Being truly human.”
What is the difference between “I like you” [and] “I love you”? Beautifully answered by Buddha. Buddha’s answer was so simple. When you like a flower, you just pluck it. But when you love a flower, you water it daily.
It’s also seen as:
When you like a flower, you just pluck it. But when you love a flower , you water it daily…..One who understand this, understand life….
Sometimes it’s not the Buddha to whom the quote is attributed, and the words are presented as an exchange between an unnamed student and master. Some of the earliest versions I’ve found present this, rather absurdly, as a conversation between Alexander the Great and Socrates:
Alexander the Great:
“Sir what’s the difference between “like” and “love”?
Socrates’s answer was a masterpiece:
“When you like a flower, you just pluck it.
But when you love a flower, you water it daily..!
The One, who understand this, understands Life…
Socrates died in 399 BCE, while Alexander was born in 356 BCE. Any conversation they had would have had to be posthumous. (Although Socrates was the mentor of Plato who was the mentor of Aristotle, who was the tutor of Alexander, so there was a connection.)
The quote itself only seems to go back to 2013 or so. Google’s not very good at helping us search by date, unfortunately.
I’m grateful to this quotation, however fake it is. The Buddha talked about “affection” as something to be avoided. The term he used is “pema.” Metta, however, which is love, lovingkindness, or just plain kindness, is to be encouraged. I wrote about this in the context of another (genuine) quotation.
The reason for my gratitude is that I’d never really thought of pema in terms of “liking.” It’s not quite right as a translation, but I think that the difference between liking and loving does point to something that lies in the distinction between pema and metta. At the very least the contrast provides a useful analogy.
The source of our fake quote? I’ve no idea. Presumably it started as a nice little message to be passed around on the web, and then some bright spark thought it would be a good idea to add the Buddha’s name.