Hello! I have come across this quote and would like to know your input. (smells fishy). Thank you! Buddha was asked: “What have you gained from Meditation?” He replied: “Nothing.” “However”, Buddha said, “let me tell you what I lost : Anger, Anxiety, Depression, Insecurity, Fear of Old, Age and Death.”
That one’s as fishy as a barrel of mackerel in a heatwave.
This particular quote is found in many variants. The locus classicus for this particular version would seem to be Eknath Easwaran’s introduction to his translation of the Dhammapada, which itself is the source of a number of Fake Buddha Quotes. Here’s the relevant portion of the introduction:
Someone once asked the Buddha skeptically, “What have you gained through meditation.”
The Buddha replied, “Nothing at all.”
“Then, Blessed One, what good is it.”
“Let me tell you what I lost through meditation: sickness, anger, depression, insecurity, the burden of old age, the fear of death. That is the good of meditation, which leads to nirvana.”
That was first published in 1985.
That in turn may be based on something published in 1972 by Douglas M. Burns. In the appendix to an essay called “Buddhist Meditation and Depth Psychology,” published in “Collected Wheel Publications Vol VI,” Burns wrote:
It may be stating the case too strongly to say that in meditation one seeks to gain nothing. For there is an increase in happiness and peace of mind. But when asked, “What have you gained from meditation?”, the answer would be: “It is not what I have gained that is important but rather what I have diminished, namely, greed, hatred, and delusion.”
This is clearly not the Buddha who is supposed to be speaking, but simply a hypothetical meditator, or perhaps Burns himself. Burns formulation of what is lost (greed, hatred, and delusion) is very traditional. Eknath’s list is not.
But Eknath may have borrowed this trope from Osho (aka Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh), rather than from Burns. Osho was the leader of a prominent cult that drew in many thousands of western followers. He tended to take liberties with many things, including the Buddha.
When Buddha attained Enlightenment, somebody asked him, “What have you gained?”
He laughed. He said, “I have not gained. I have lost much. I am far poorer than I used to be. I have lost all ignorance, all illusions, all dreams. Now I am just my originality.”
This is from a book called “Zen: The Art Of Enlightenment,” which was previously published as part of “Take It Easy, Vol 1,” which in turn was based on talks given in April, 1978. There is an emphasis in Zen on non-attainment, because Zen tends to be non-dualist. I may be wrong (I’m not a Zen scholar) but I think the Zen approach is to emphasize that both loss and gain are illusionary, and so it’s unlikely that they’d emphasize that there is anything to be lost.
Osho may have been paraphrasing something Huang Po said, as translated by John Blofeld in “The Zen Teaching of Huang Po: On the Transmission of Mind.” There he twice has Huang Po saying, “I truly attained nothing from complete unexcelled Enlightenment.” (There are other paraphrases of the same message.)
In the same text, Huang Po also says, “Nothing is born, nothing is destroyed. Away with your dualism, your likes and dislikes.” [Emphasis added]