“When you realize how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.”

When you realize how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky

I came across this one in the feed of someone who started following me on Twitter. Here’s a link to the original status update.

When you realize how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky. ~ Buddha

This of course bears no resemblance to anything the Buddha’s recorded as having said.

With some Fake Buddha Quotes it’s possible to trace the origins to a bad translation or some other obvious misattribution (for example a quote appears in a book called “The Teaching of the Buddha,” is subsequently quoted and attributed “The Teaching of the Buddha,” and is then requoted as attributed to “the Buddha”). But this one’s rather mysterious.

The origins of this quote are slowly being pushed earlier in time.

At first the earliest use of this quote I cold find was from a blog post from Nov 29, 2005.

I then found an earlier example on a forum post dated November 30, 2004, as a signature.

But then an astute commenter (see below) found an example from the Usenet group, alt.quotations, from Nov 27, 2001, where it had been posted by a Robert Muhich. Muhic didn’t attribute this to the Buddha, but simply described it as “Buddhist.”

In 2007 it appears in a book, “A Year of Questions,” by Fiona Robyn, and (in a slightly different form) in “Hell in the Hallway,” by Sandi Bachom. This of course lends the quote a false air of legitimacy, and it’s now found in most of the quite appalling quotes sites that litter the web.

If you come across any references to this quote earlier than November 2001, please let me know.

Thanks to George Draffan, we have a potential original from which this quote might be derived. George wrote, saying:

Sounds like a stanza from a Tibetan Dzoghcen text:

thams cad mnyam rdzogs sgyu ma’i rang bzhin la//
bzang ngan blang dor med pas dgod re bro//

Since everything is but an illusion,
Perfect in being what it is,
Having nothing to do with good or bad,
Acceptance or rejection,
One might as well burst out laughing!

This is from chapter 1 of “The Great Perfection’s Self-Liberation in the Nature of Mind,” by Longchenpa (1308-1364)

That sounds like a good candidate for the origins of this quote. It’s certainly possible that someone paraphrased Longchenpa’s saying, and that this was first described as a “Buddhist” quote, which was then taken to be a quote from the Buddha himself.

Some readers will recognize an added irony in the image above, which is not even of the Buddha. The graphic is akin to a quote being attributed to Jesus when it’s actually by Duns Scotus, and illustrated with a picture of Santa Claus. There’s more info on this happy chappie here.

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15 thoughts on ““When you realize how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.””

  1. Just came across this quote on a computer game – namely, Civilization 5. It links the quote to Buddha. Are you sure this is fake? Judging by the popularity and the quality of the game, I can hardly imagine it making a mistake as such.

    1. I’ve heard the argument “It must be true, I saw it on the internet,” but this is the first time I’ve come across “It must be true, I saw it on a video game” 🙂

      Anyway, to answer your question, I’m sure this is a fake quote.

  2. I first heard this saying while listening to old Alan Watt’s lectures – He died in 1973 and although it’s been a while it was one of his younger lectures I think, so for the sake of avoiding semantics let’s just say he said it in the 50’s or 60’s somewhere. Definitely an old quote, perhaps it was or perhaps it wasn’t said by the Buddha but it’s been around quite longer than this article implies (2004).

    1. I’d love to know what lecture that was from, Sam. Presumably this was on a recording you heard someplace. Do you happen to remember where?

  3. What do I know for sure. I’ve been working as a healthcare professional with Thai forest monks for the last 15 years. My client base is the Who’s Who of senior monks in Thailand. Eight years in Asia now, Ladahk, Nepal, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Indonesia. The last year and a half have been spent at a monastery on the border of Burma. Literally nothing that I have learned from the monks through the original teachings, The Theravada Book, are very well understood in the West. People often take their lens of perception. and put their twist on what was said. I heard a variation of this quote long ago from a senior monk in Thailand who doesn’t even know how to turn on a computer or use a cell phone for that matter.

    Lane

  4. It may not have been said by the Buddha, but it’s a wonderful observation. I don’t recall hearing this quoted by Alan Watts, and I’ve heard most of his lectures many times. I admit, however, there’s a LOT of material there…so it’s just possible I could have forgotten. It has a definite Zen style to it, and whatever the origin, it certainly rings true.

    1. To “realize” that we are all Buddhas means to become fully enlightened. “Realize” in this context means to “make real,” not “to assent to an idea.” Once you’re there, Steven, do tell us whether or not bogus quotes matter. All I can say is that the Buddha (who I’m going to assume was fully enlightened, got mightily pissed off at being misquoted. I think that in this instance I’ll trust his judgement rather than yours 🙂

        1. It seems so, Heather. There were a couple of things he really didn’t like. One was noisy monks (he actually quit as leader of the Sangha because of this) and the other was being misquoted or misrepresented.

        2. Here’s an example, from when someone has misrepresented the Buddha’s teaching: “Of whom do you know, foolish man, that I have taught to him the teaching in that manner? … But you, O foolish man, have misrepresented us by what you personally have wrongly grasped. You have undermined your own (future) and have created much demerit. This, foolish man, will bring you much harm and suffering for a long time.”

          I don’t know about you, but “pissed off” would seem to be a valid description of his attitude here.

          He also said that anyone who misquoted him was a “slanderer,” which is strong language.

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