A reader passed this quote on to me this morning:
“The Buddhists say if you meet somebody and your heart pounds, your hands shake, your knees go weak, that’s not the one. When you meet your ‘soul mate’ you’ll feel calm. No anxiety, no agitation.”
Obviously this is not described as a quote from the Buddha, who was not noted for being a fount of dating advice.
In fact Buddhists generally are not noted for talking about “soul mates.” The word “soul” doesn’t sit very easily within a tradition that teaches that we have no permanent essence, or atman (Pali, atta). The website Tiny Buddha does have an article on soul mates for Buddhists. Spoiler: your soul mate is you. Ram Dass points out that in the Buddhist view, samsara (the endless round of rebirth) is so inconceivably vast that we have each been in every conceivable relationship with each other. We are all each other’s soul mates.
The Buddha didn’t entirely steer clear of relationship advice, although he talked more about married couples than about those looking for a mate. He said, for example,
“If both husband & wife want to see one another not only in the present life but also in the life to come, they should be in tune [with each other] in conviction, in tune in virtue, in tune in generosity, and in tune in discernment. Then they will see one another not only in the present life but also in the life to come.”
In some rare dating advice he pointed out that one who gambles “is not sought after for matrimony,” although this was in the context of arguing against gambling rather than saying what one should do to get hitched.
The source of our quote is a novel by Monica Drake, published in 2007, called “Clown Girl” (page 57). She also says that “every good Buddhist” knows that the Buddha was yellow, which (I admit) I did not actually know. (Another spoiler: it’s not true: he was Indian and would have had brown skin.)
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that “the Buddhists” (taken as a whole) don’t actually say that when you meet your soul mate you’ll feel calm. I don’t take offense at Drake for introducing this rather odd concept; after all “Clown Girl” is a novel, not a treatise on the Buddhadharma!