“Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it.”

Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it – Buddha

— Demetrius Clay (@clayuiza) September 7, 2012

This is one of the more common Fake Buddha Quotes. It’s found also in the form

“Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart give yourself to it.”

In an article by Soren Gordhamer in The Huffington Post, called “If the Buddha Used Twitter,” it appears as:

Your work is to find out what your work should be. Clearly discover your work and attend to it with all your heart.

None of these sounds even vaguely genuine. They all sound more like Khalil Gibran than the Buddha. It’s just not the Big B.’s style. I did a bit some digging around and found it on a Beliefnet discussion forum, complete with a reference to the Dhammapada:

Your work is to find out what your work should be and not to neglect it for another’s. Clearly discover your work and attend to it with all your heart. (Dhammapada, v. 166)

And this turns out to be from Anne Bancroft’s “rendering” of the Dhammapada. This A.B. is not the actress of Mrs. Robinson fame, but a British Buddhist who was involved (I’m told) in the same Buddhist organization that I’m part of — the Triratna Buddhist Community (although in those days it went by the clumsy monicker of the “Friends of the Western Buddhist Order”).

If you look at Buddharakkhita’s translation you can see Bancroft’s rendition is a wild paraphrase:

Let one not neglect one’s own welfare for the sake of another, however great. Clearly understanding one’s own welfare, let one be intent upon the good.

Thanissaro’s version is:

Don’t sacrifice your own welfare
for that of another,
no matter how great.
Realizing your own true welfare,
be intent on just that.

The word translated by Buddharakkhita and Thanissaro as “welfare” is “attha,” which means “interest, advantage, gain; (moral) good, blessing, welfare; profit, prosperity, well-being.” And absolutely nothing to do with work.

I suspect that from time to time certain authors, for some reason, “translate” texts without knowing the languages in question. I And I suspect that Bancroft is one of those authors, and that Thomas Byrom (another “translator” of the Dhammapada) is too. In Bancroft’s version she’s credited not as “translator” but as “editor” and in Byrom’s version he’s described as the “renderer.”

I’m imagine that what Bancroft and Byrom did was to work from existing translations (which often vary considerably) and consult dictionaries. I call this approach the “pin the tail on the sutta” style of translation.

So this is an interesting example of a quote that actually has some connection (although rather a tenuous one) with a Buddhist scripture, and which has been altered in various ways.

And you can buy this Fake Buddha Quote on a T-shirt!

5 thoughts on ““Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it.””

  1. Thank you!
    This is actually verbatim from the “translation” by the ever-creative (and never accurate) Thomas Byrom (1976).
    In the 1993 edition, this is on p. 45. On Amazon, can find it by “Search Inside This Book” for “discover your work” at:
    http://amzn.com/0877739668

    1. Thanks. It’s odd that it’s in Bancroft’s version of the Dhammapada as well! I’ll double check that in case I made an error. It’s tragic that Byrom’s mangled version of the Dhammapada is so popular.

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