“Who is your enemy? Mind is your enemy. Who is your friend? Mind is your friend.”

I spotted this one on Twitter, in one of Jack Kornfield’s tweets. And he’s used the quote in at least a couple of his books — The Wise Heart and A Lamp In the Darkness.

Who is your enemy? Mind is your enemy. Who is your friend? Mind is your friend. Learn the ways of the mind. Tend the mind with care.

I don’t know what it’s origins are, but I’m quite sure it’s not from the Buddhist scriptures. It’s very slightly reminiscent of two verses from the Dhammapada:

42. Whatever harm an enemy may do to an enemy, or a hater to a hater, an ill-directed mind inflicts on oneself a greater harm.

43. Neither mother, father, nor any other relative can do one greater good than one’s own well-directed mind.

These verses are saying, in effect, that the mind can do us worse harm than an enemy or give us greater benefits than, if not a friend, then at least a relative, although the Buddha doesn’t say here that the mind is either a friend or an enemy.

Apparently riffing off of these verses, Buddhadasa says:

The enemy of the misdirected mind is born in the mind and of the mind. With the mind well directed and fixed on dhamma [truth], the enemy is absent, and the friend is there instead.
[Me and Mine: Selected Essays of Bhikkhu Buddhadasa, page 139]

The closest I’ve found to the exact words Jack Kornfield quotes is actually from a Hindu source, the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 6, Verse 6):

For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his mind will remain the greatest enemy.

Also reminiscent of our suspect quote is a conversation between King Pasenadi of Kosala, and the Buddha.

As he was sitting to one side, King Pasenadi Kosala said to the Blessed One: “Just now, lord, while I was alone in seclusion, this train of thought arose in my awareness: ‘Who are dear to themselves, and who are not dear to themselves?’ Then it occurred to me: ‘Those who engage in bodily misconduct, verbal misconduct, & mental misconduct are not dear to themselves. Even though they may say, “We are dear to ourselves,” still they aren’t dear to themselves. Why is that? Of their own accord, they act toward themselves as an enemy would act toward an enemy; thus they aren’t dear to themselves. But those who engage in good bodily conduct, good verbal conduct, & good mental conduct are dear to themselves. Even though they may say, “We aren’t dear to ourselves,” still they are dear to themselves. Why is that? Of their own accord, they act toward themselves as a dear one would act toward a dear one; thus they are dear to themselves.'”

“That’s the way it is, great king! That’s the way it is! Those who engage in bodily misconduct, verbal misconduct, & mental misconduct are not dear to themselves. Even though they may say, ‘We are dear to ourselves,’ still they aren’t dear to themselves. Why is that? Of their own accord, they act toward themselves as an enemy would act toward an enemy; thus they aren’t dear to themselves. But those who engage in good bodily conduct, good verbal conduct, & good mental conduct are dear to themselves. Even though they may say, ‘We aren’t dear to ourselves,’ still they are dear to themselves. Why is that? Of their own accord, they act toward themselves as a dear one would act toward a dear one; thus they are dear to themselves.”

While the words “friend” and “enemy” don’t appear here, similar semantic ground is covered.

I find the conclusion to Pasenadi’s train of thought to be very interesting: that although we may say we hate ourselves we still tend to lavish attention on ourselves in the way we would toward a dear friend. We may say we hate ourselves, but we rarely take people we ate out to dine in restaurants or buy them wide-screen televisions…

Anyway, there’s nothing at all un-Buddhist about the quote in question — it just doesn’t seem to be something the Buddha said.

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