“You stand at the crossroads of the path of love and the path of fear. Which do you choose to follow?”

This one was passed on to me by a reader:

“You stand at the crossroads of the path of love and the path of fear. Which do you choose to follow?”

He’d come across it in a book by Sarah Brewer, called “Relaxation – Exercises and Inspirations for Well-Being.” So far that’s the only place I’ve been able to find the quote as well. I haven’t found even any close variations on it, either in books or on the web.

This is peculiar, since these fake quotes often spread like wildfire, especially when they’re pithy and eloquent, like this one. I can only imagine that Brewer’s book wasn’t widely read!

Sarah Brewer may have taken or adapted this from some other source which hasn’t yet appeared online, or she may simply have made it up.

The basic premise of there being choices between two modes of being is deeply Buddhist, although a duality of love and fear isn’t a model that the Buddha taught, to be best of my knowledge.

A good example of the Buddha recognizing bimodal choices is found in the Dvedhavitakka Sutta, where he reflects on his discovery that on the one hand, thoughts imbued with sensual desire, ill will, and harmfulness led to the affliction of self and other, and to confusion and emotional disturbance, while on the other hand thoughts imbued with renunciation, non–ill will, and non-harmfulness did not lead to affliction of self and other, and instead led to discernment, a lack of emotional turbulence, and Awakening.

More succinctly, there are a series of paired verses in the first chapter of the Dhammapada, illustrating that we have choices in each moment that affect the future course of our lives, including our future well-being.

Talking of the Dhammapada, there are a few verses that show certain forms of love not as the opposite but as the cause of fear! For example:

212. From endearment springs grief, from endearment springs fear. For one who is wholly free from endearment there is no grief, whence then fear?

213. From affection springs grief, from affection springs fear. For one who is wholly free from affection there is no grief, whence then fear?

What Brewer means by “love” isn’t entirely clear, but we could take it to be metta, or lovingkindness. “Endearment” could be understood as “liking,” which leads to fear because when we like someone or something there’s inevitably attachment, and we fear separation. “Affection” could be read as “conditional love,” where again we fear change in the object of our attention, and are quick to shift to ill will or even hatred if things don’t go the way we want them to go.

Metta, on the other hand, is an attitude of well-wishing that transcends and doesn’t rely on “liking” and which don’t require the object of our attention to do certain things or to be a certain way. Because there’s no attachment in metta, it doesn’t lead to fear.

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5 thoughts on ““You stand at the crossroads of the path of love and the path of fear. Which do you choose to follow?””

  1. “Buddha” quotes are replicated in Bali on hangings, cushions, etc. in large quantities. I suspect their attributions aren’t checked, as there are also misspellings, letters left out… entire phrases wrong, and so on. Perhaps we can partly thank the Balinese ability to quickly respond to trends which Tourists might purchase, for their wildfire-like spread. One of the banners I’ve seen from Bali is a misquote of Sai Baba… which should read “Life is a song… sing it”, and so on. This banner has added in the line “Life is a Dance – SHAKE IT” !!! Pretty sure Sai Baba didn’t say that… although he may wish he had.

  2. Actually in this context fear is not greed, but aversion or dislike. So the question is “greed” (love) or “aversion [perverse greed]” (fear) and that is a question that arises in the middle of “moha” (not knowing …what to do).
    There is such as a “duality” between love an fear in this context, to be or not to be, bhava-tanha and vibhava-tanha, and its the basic “duality”, with 108 kinds of this craving.

    Actually it’s the beginning of the introduction to the middle path.

    A good further explaining of this “normal” confusion is quite right at the point: Freedom From Fear.

    (Just because it is important, Upasaka, to mark, it’s not right to say within “metta” is no attachment, totally not right. Even is just metta is developed at its best possible, it does not go beyond the rounds of birth.)

    1. “Actually in this context fear is not greed.” Did I say that fear was greed?

      “There is such as a ‘duality’ between love and fear in this context.” Well, of course. I was saying that the Buddha didn’t present love and fear as a duality, not that there was no duality.

      “It’s not right to say within ‘metta’ is no attachment.” That’s a good point. I tend to idealize metta, which is going to be problematic at some point. I’ll give that some more thought.

    1. It’s a rather different metaphor, so I doubt whether to two stories are directly connected. And I’m glad you said “attributed,” since the story is almost certainly not of First Nations origins.

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