“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”

I’ve obviously become the “go to guy” for Fake Buddha Quotes. Jake Moskowitz just wrote asking about this one, which he thought was “strange.”

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”

Jake was right to sense that something was “off” about this. In the Buddha’s teachings, that one has lovingkindness for oneself is taken as read , and the emphasis is on extending our concern to others.

The first signs of this quote that I found in print are in two books that were published at about the same in early 2001: John Amodeo’s The Authentic Heart, which is “An Eightfold Path to Midlife Love,” and Laura Doyle’s The Surrendered Wife: A Practical Guide for Finding Intimacy, Passion, and Peace with a Man.

I’m getting a little off-topic here, but I learned that The Surrendered Wife “is a step-by-step guide that teaches women how to give up unnecessary control and responsibility, resist the temptation to criticize, belittle, or dismiss their husbands, and to trust their husbands in every aspect of marriage — from sexual to financial.”

I’d buy my wife a copy, but she’d probably hit me with it.

Anyway, given that these books were published more or less simultaneously, it seemed reasonable to assume that there was an original precursor. With a little digging around I found that Sharon Salzberg included essentially the same quote on page 31 of her 1995 book, “Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness,” and even earlier in a magazine called Woman of Power (no “surrendered wives” here), published in 1989. In her book she presents these words as if they were a quote from the Buddha. They’re really not.

The archetype would seem to be in the Udana of the Pali canon, where we read, in Bhikkhu Thanissaro’s translation,

Searching all directions
with one’s awareness,
one finds no one dearer
than oneself.
In the same way, others
are dear to themselves.
So one should not hurt others
if one loves oneself.

Salzberg may have gotten her translation of the quote from one of her teachers, Burmese monk Mahasi Sayadaw, whose 1983 booklet Brahmavihara Dhamma translates the beginning of the Udana quote with the verb “deserves”: “A person who deserves more love and affection than one’s own self, in any place or anywhere, cannot be found. Similarly, other people also, with reference to their own respective Self, love (himself) the most. Inasmuch as every being loves his own Self the most, one who loves his own Self, nay, who cares most of his own welfare or for his own good, will not cause another person to suffer…”

In the original Udana quote, as well as in Mahasi Sayadaw’s translation and exegesis of it, the purpose is to emphasize that we should extend the lovingkindness we have for ourselves toward others, recognizing that they too hold themselves dear. The import of the version Salzberg used has been reversed, to suggest that you should love yourself just as you love others. We of course should have lovingkindness toward ourselves, so there’s no argument with the message—it just so happens that it doesn’t include the entirety of what the Buddha actually said.
But does this all matter? Isn’t a quote valid no matter who the author was? If the spirit of a saying is Buddhist, does the attribution matter? And wasn’t the Buddha himself so spiritually advanced that he wouldn’t have been upset about having words put in his mouth?

In some ways it doesn’t matter. The spiritual usefulness of a quotation indeed is not affected by its origins, although the weight people give the words being quoted does vary depending on whom it’s attributed to. We’re less inclined to pass on a quote if it’s anonymous or attributed to someone we’ve never heard of. And perhaps we like the cachet that comes from passing on quotes attributed to the Buddha, or Plato, or Nelson Mandela. (Is that a form of attachment? I think it is.) But the foundation of right speech in Buddhism is speaking truthfully—and it’s not truthful to say that a quote, however valid, is from the Buddha when there’s no evidence that it is.

There weren’t many things that seemed to rile the Buddha, but being misquoted was one of them (noisy monks being another). According to the Pali canon, the Buddha described one who “explains what was not said or spoken by the Tathagata as said or spoken by the Tathagata” as a “slanderer.” Strong words. And in the Maha-parinibbana Sutta the Buddha encouraged his disciples to compare Buddha quotes with the scriptures and reject them if they were “neither traceable in the Discourses nor verifiable by the Discipline” (Digha Nikaya 16.4.8).

You can quote him on that.

“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the single candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”

Someone on Facebook asked me about this one today:

“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the single candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”

At first I thought this was a spurious quote, but it does in fact have a canonical origin, although it’s heavily modified. In a Chinese text known as the Sutra of 42 Sections, there’s the following passage:

10. The Buddha said, “Those who rejoice in seeing others observe the Way will obtain great blessing.” A Sramana asked the Buddha, “Would this blessing be destroyed?” The Buddha replied, “It is like a lighted torch whose flame can be distributed to ever so many other torches which people may bring along; and therewith they will cook food and dispel darkness, while the original torch itself remains burning ever the same. It is even so with the bliss of the Way.”

The exact wording, “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the single candle will not be shortened, comes from a Japanese book on Buddhism called “The Teaching of Buddha.” This book does contain translations of Buddhist sutras, but it also includes a lot of explanatory commentary, of which this is a part.

A fuller version reads:

“An act to make another happy, inspires the other to make still another happy, and so happiness is aroused and abounds. Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the single candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared. Those who seek Enlightenment must be careful of each of their steps. No matter how high one’s aspiration may be, it must be attained step by step. The steps of the path to Enlightenment must be taken in our everyday life.”

This seems to be, in part, a paraphrase of Section 10 of the Sutra. It’s not an exact translation, but it’s pretty close. It certainly seems to preserve the meaning and the image, even if the exact wording has been tweaked.

The quote “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the single candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared,” isn’t, I believe, quite close enough to the Sutra of 42 Sections to be considered genuine, so I’ve classed it as “fakeish.”

Several well-known Fake Buddha Quotes originate in this book. The problem may be that quotes appear with the attribution “The Teaching of Buddha,” and people then misinterpret this to mean that they are the “word of the Buddha.”

The Sutra of 42 Sections is said to be a compilation from Indian sources. According to legend, the Emperor Ming sent a delegation west looking for the Buddha’s teachings. The delegation encountered Kasyapa-Matanga and Dharmaraksha in India, and they were brought back to China along with many sutras. The Sutra of 42 Sections was one of the works they translated.

I’m not aware of any text in Pali (or Sanskrit) that corresponds to Section 10. That doesn’t mean that an original didn’t exist. There were originally several different collections of texts in India. What we now call the Pali canon was just one of these, and is significant because it’s so complete. When pilgrims took the teachings to China for translation, it wasn’t just Pali texts that they took with them, and so we often end up with passages in the Chinese Tipitaka (“Three Baskets” – the traditional name for the scriptures) that don’t have any parallels in the Pali texts.

The Buddha did talk about lamps (I’ve never seen any mention of candles, which I don’t think existed) and said things like:

“Just as an oil lamp burns in dependence on oil & wick; and from the termination of the oil & wick — and from not being provided any other sustenance — it goes out unnourished; in the same way, when sensing a feeling limited to the body, he discerns that ‘I am sensing a feeling limited to the body.’ When sensing a feeling limited to life, he discerns that ‘I am sensing a feeling limited to life.’ He discerns that ‘With the break-up of the body, after the termination of life, all that is sensed, not being relished, will grow cold right here.’”

As you can see, this isn’t very pithy or quotable!

A bit more quotable is:

As a flame overthrown by the force of the wind goes to an end that cannot be classified, so the sage free from naming activity goes to an end that cannot be classified.

But then this is rather hard to comprehend.

A later teaching — the Questions of King Milinda, has a similar analogy in reference not to happiness but to the teaching of rebirth:

The king asked: “Venerable Nagasena, is it so that one does not transmigrate and [yet] one is reborn?”

“Yes, your majesty, one does not transmigrate and one is reborn.”

“How, venerable Nagasena, is it that one does not transmigrate and one is reborn? Give me an analogy.”

“Just as, your majesty, if someone kindled one lamp from another, is it indeed so, your majesty, that the lamp would transmigrate from the other lamp?”

“Certainly not, venerable sir.”

“Indeed just so, your majesty, one does not transmigrate and one is reborn.”

This isn’t the Buddha speaking, but it’s one of the best-known Buddhist quotes.

“My doctrine is not a doctrine but just a vision. I have not given you any set rules, I have not given you a system.”

I came across this one on Google+, where I’ve now encountered a couple of Fake Buddha Quotes, both of which were posted by the same person, interestingly enough:

“My doctrine is not a doctrine but just a vision. I have not given you any set rules, I have not given you a system.”

This isn’t from the Buddha, of course. It’s actually from Osho (Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh). Bhagwan was an Indian teacher who had a huge following in the west. He started a massive commune in Oregon, which ran into planning troubles with the local authorities because the ranch they owned, if I remember correctly, wasn’t zoned for the high density population that was living there. Bizarrely, the community decided to launch a biological terror attack on the local town (the first in the modern history of the US) by sprinkling salmonella in cafeterias and restaurants.

Not surprisingly, Osho was deported from the United States, and the commune collapsed.

The quote is from Osho’s commentary on the Buddhist Diamond Sutra. This of course brings up its own questions of whether Mahayana sutras constitute Fake Buddha Quotes. While we’ve no way of knowing whether the Buddha actually uttered anything that’s recorded in the Pali canon, we can be almost absolutely sure that he didn’t compose the Mahayana Sutras, although they were in many cases elaborations of his original teachings in literary form.

Here’s the part of the Sutra Osho comments on:

Subhuti, in these bodhisattvas no perception of a self takes place, no perception of a being, no perception of a soul, no perception of a person. Nor do these bodhisattvas have a perception of a dharma, or a perception of a no-dharma. No perception or non-perception takes place in them.

And why? If, Subhuti, these bodhisattvas, should have a perception of either a dharma, or a no-dharma, they would thereby seize on a self, on a being, on a soul, on a person.

And why? Because a bodhisattva should not seize on either a dharma or a no-dharma. Therefore this saying has been taught by the Tathagata with a hidden meaning: “By those who know the discourse on dharma as like unto a raft, dharmas should be forsaken, still more so, no-dharmas.”

The Lord asked: What do you think, Subhuti, is there any dharma which the Tathagata has fully known as “the utmost, right and perfect enlightenment,” or is there any dharma which the Tathagata has demonstrated?

Subhuti replied: No, not as I understand what the Lord has said. And why? This dharma which the Tathagata has fully known or demonstrated – it cannot be grasped, it cannot be talked about, it is neither a dharma nor a no-dharma. And why? Because an absolute exalts the holy persons.

That’s rather lovely, and mysterious, as the Perfection of Wisdom texts (of which this is an example) tend to be.

Here’s Osho’s commentary:

A few things to be understood, then it will be easy to enter into today’s sutra. First, the good doctrine, the dharma. Buddha calls a doctrine good if it is not a doctrine. If it is a doctrine it is not a good doctrine. Buddha calls a philosophy good philosophy if it is not a philosophy. If it is a philosophy then it is not good philosophy.

A doctrine is a set, fixed phenomenon. The universe is in flux; no doctrine can contain it. No doctrine can be just to it, no doctrine can do justice to existence. All doctrines fall short.

So Buddha says: “My doctrine is not a doctrine but just a vision. I have not given you any set rules, I have not given you a system.” He says: “I have only given you an approach towards reality. I have only given you the keys to open the door. I have not said anything about what you will see when you open the door. Nothing can be said about it.”

Just think of a man who has lived always in a dark cave, who knows nothing of light, who knows nothing of color, who has never seen the sun or the moon. How can you tell him about the rainbows? How can you talk to him about stars? How can you describe roses to him? It is impossible. And whatsoever you say to him, if he understands it, it will be wrong. He will create a doctrine and that will be wrong.

It’s clear here that this is Osho’s paraphrase of what he believes the Buddha to have been saying, and not the actual words of the Buddha himself. It’s easy to see how someone glancing at the page might think that these words were being presented as a verbatim quote from the Buddha.

This one so far hasn’t made it into any books, as far as I can see, but it is in some of the more popular quotes sites, and I guess it’s only a matter of time.

“The wise ones fashioned speech with their thought, sifting it as grain is sifted through a sieve.”

This Fake Buddha Quote was forwarded to me today, and it’s one I’d never seen before:

“The wise ones fashioned speech with their thought, sifting it as grain is sifted through a sieve.”

This one’s quite straightforward: it’s from the Rg Veda (10:71) , which of course is a pre-Buddhist text that nowadays we’d say was Hindu, although the people of the Rg Veda would not have recognized that word.

This is, of course, found in many of the quotes sites that are found on the internet, and which as far as I can see take little if any care to attribute their quotations correctly. I’d imagine their primary motivation is to get traffic and earn money, and that fact-checking would no doubt inhibit those activities.

The earliest dated misattribution I’ve found on the web is dated Jan 30, 1992, where it’s in the company of many other Fake Buddha Quotes.

It’s also found in at least five books (in one it’s paired, rather ironically, with “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it”) although we can expect to see many more in the future, as the cycle of websites quoting books quoting websites kicks in. Ain’t the internet a wonderful thing — making it easier for misinformation to circulate.

“Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.”

Welcome to the first Fake Buddha Quote of 2011 (and on the occasion of my 50th birthday, no less).

A Twitter friend (someone I don’t know personally) tweeted the following the other day:

Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most. Buddha

As is usually the case, the language bears little or no resemblance to how the Buddha taught, which is not to say that the quote is false in its substance or lacking in poetry. It’s certainly a lovely metaphor, and in a sense true. It’s just very unlikely that these words are anywhere in the Buddhist canon.

Google Books brings up only a small selection (around eight) of books containing this exact quotation, and all but one attribute it to the Buddha. The one exception provides the correct source. These are not, in fact, the words of the Buddha, but are the words of the Insight Meditation teacher and psychotherapist, Jack Kornfield. They’re found in his delightful work, “The Buddha’s Little Instruction Book” (page 79). It seems likely that someone has taken the book to be a collection of scriptural verses rather than Mr. Kornfield’s contemporary and poetic presentation of Buddhism. The title of the book quite unintentionally lends itself to that misunderstanding (which I’ve also noted with regard to quotes from a book called “The Teaching of the Buddha”).

I wonder if Jack Kornfield is aware of his promotion to full Buddhahood?

Incidentally, the first part of the quote is very similar to the words of the 4th century Greek poet, Palladas, who wrote “Day by day we are born as night retires, no more possessing aught of our former life, estranged from our course of yesterday, and beginning today the life that remains.”

In fact, the Finnish poet Anselm Hollo used the exact same wording as Jack Kornfield in his translation of Palladas:

each morning we’re born again
of yesterday nothing remains
what’s left began today

(Corvus: Poems, page 32).

“It is better to travel well than to arrive.”

I found this one on “BrainyQuote“:

It is better to travel well than to arrive.

This seems to be a variation on Robert Louis Stevenson’s “To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive,” which is from an 1878 essay entitled “El Dorado”).

From “The Complete Works of Robert Louis Stevenson.”

Arthur C. Custance made an obvious reference to this saying when he wrote, in his 1978 Science and Faith, “To distort a well-known adage, It is better to travel well than to arrive at the right destination.”

Quite how this came to be attributed to the Buddha, I don’t know. The earliest link I was able to find in print between the Buddha and the “travel well” variant of Stevenson’s quote is from The Panic-Free Pregnancy, by Michael S. Broder (p. 153), from 2004, where the author attributes the saying to “Buddha,” but I’d imagine that Broder got the quote from the internet. Unfortunately Google’s not very good at identifying dates of publication on the web, so I haven’t been able to ascertain when “It is better to travel well than to arrive” became a Buddha quote.

A year before Broder’s book, Applied Economic Analysis for Technologists, Engineers, and Managers has the quote as a “Tibetan saying,” but (Google’s imperfections in ascertaining timing aside) it seems probably that the “Buddha” attribution was already in existence.

“A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things that renew humanity.”

Marianne Marquez’ Why the Buddha Smiled — a book of photos accompanied by Buddha Quotes (many of them fake) — is the gift that keeps on giving, as far as this Fake-Buddha-Quote-ologist is concerned. Here’s one that immediately struck me as suspect:

Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things that renew humanity.
(original here)

The language of “renewing humanity” is just way off, and “life of service and compassion” is too contemporary for this to be a canonical quotation.

One later source (2007) is a book called The Dead Guy Interviews, by Michael A. Stusser. The book is fiction: it’s imagined conversations with famous dead people. The quote is certainly more quotable than some other excerpts from what the Tathagata shared with Stusser, such as:

The Buddha: I have many devoted followers in Seattle.


The Buddha: I’m happy to be the icon for self-reflection


The Buddha: Now it is you who are kvetching like a Jewish bubbe.

What can be confusing about a book like Stusser’s is that it contains a compilation of things the Buddha actually said, things Stusser made up, and recycled Fake Buddha Quotes that he no doubt picked up on the web. I’m not sure if even I can always reliably tell the difference (references to Seattle, Yiddish, and Victoria’s Secret aside). Some people will assume real Buddha quotes are Stusser’s fictions, while others will take some of the fiction to be genuine quotations.

But where did Stusser get his quote from? It’s floating around on the internet, of course, but the earliest book source I’ve been able to find was Elaine Parke’s 2001 Join the Golden Rule Revolution, where the quote appears full-fledged. Where did she get it from? Sadly, I just don’t know. Google is unfortunately not very good at letting us search for sources on the web by date; the results are often impossible (such as a Facebook or Twitter post being time-stamped February, 2001, although neither of those services existed at that time).

Although this isn’t a quotation from the Pali canon, it’s clearly related to a canonical teaching called the four sangaha vatthuni. These are mentioned in a famous discourse called the Sigalovada Sutta, where the Buddha says

Generosity and kind words,
Conduct for others’ welfare,
Impartiality in all things [alternatively: “exemplification” of the good];
These are suitable everywhere.

These four winning ways make the world go round,
As the linchpin in a moving car.
If these in the world exist not,
Neither mother nor father will receive,
Respect and honor from their children.

The first two lines of this quotation correspond closely to “A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion” (these being the first three of the four sangaha vatthuni, or virtues promoting social harmony). But it’s a stretch to say that “things that renew humanity” is even a reasonable paraphrase of “These are suitable everywhere” or even of “These four winning ways make the world go round,” although the notion of revolving does suggest renewal, in the sense that each day is a new beginning.

Who added the “renew humanity” words? I’m afraid I just don’t know. Because that language is so far from the idiom the Buddha used, I can’t quite stretch to calling this quote “fakeish,” and have to declare it a Fake Buddha Quote, despite the fact that part of it is based on a scriptural source.

“In separateness lies the world’s great misery, in compassion lies the world’s true strength.”

Today, my skills as a Fake-Buddha-Quote-ologist were called upon once again. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.

A Twitter friend asked me what I thought of this quote:

In seperateness [sic] lies the world’s great misery, in compassion lies the world’s true strength ~ Buddha

My gut response was that it stank. In my fairly extensive reading of the Pali canon (not to mention Mahayana Sutras) I don’t recall the Buddha ever talking about our “separateness.” It’s a popular topic of discourse in modern Buddhist writing (I’ve written about it myself in Living as a River) but the Buddha just didn’t use that language (or if he did, it’s not been recorded). He talked a lot about misery, but he talked of the origins of misery lying in greed, hatred, and delusion. Now I know you can interpret greed, hatred, and delusion in terms of separateness (again, I’ve done so) but the point is that the Buddha didn’t use that language.

And the Buddha just didn’t use language like “in compassion lies the world’s true strength.” The “world’s true strength”? I’m not even clear what that would mean, anyway. So my gut feelings tell me this is a genuine Fake Buddha Quote.

This one has murky origins, and the “quote has thickened” over the years, it would appear.

My first recourse in investigating such matters is Google Books. The first appearance I could find of “In separateness lies the world’s great misery” was in 1993, in Wayne Muller’s “Legacy of the Heart: The Spiritual Advantages of a Painful Childhood” (p. 155). But the second part of the quote is absent.

“In compassion lies true strength” (without “the world’s”) crops up first on page 108 of “Human Values and Abnormal Behavior: Readings in Abnormal Psychology,” by Walter D. Nunokawa: a book from 1965. But the Buddha isn’t mentioned. Of course it could be a complete coincidence that this phrase is similar to our Fake Buddha Quote. In fact I think it’s likely that it is a coincidence.

The full quote puts in an appearance in “Sorrow Mountain: The Journey of a Tibetan Warrior Nun,” by Ani Pachen and Adelaide Donnelley (2002), where Gyalsay Rinpoche is quoted as saying, “Remember the words of Buddha: ‘In separateness lies the world’s greatest misery, in compassion lies the world’s true strength’” (page 79). Here it’s “greatest” rather than “great” misery.

The version with “great misery” rather than “greatest” appears first in “Let It Begin with You: Your Personal World Peace Guidebook,” by Viki Hurst, which has a quotes section at the back. I think we can assume that Hurst was the originator of this version, although she may have picked it up from a magazine or some other publication that Google has not yet scanned. I’ve found seven books that appear to have copied Hurst’s misquotation of “Sorrow Mountain.” These things metastasize rapidly once they get into circulation, and Google currently lists more than 4,000 web sites that contain that quote, the majority of which attribute it to the Buddha.

It’s possible that Gyalsay Rinpoche in “Sorrow Mountain” is quoting a Tibetan source, but I think it’s more likely he’s simply teaching what he understands Buddhism to be, and putting words in the mouth of the Buddha.

At present, therefore, I see no evidence suggesting that this quotation is canonical, and I’m reasonably confident in declaring it a Fake Buddha Quote.

“In the sky there is no distinction of east and west; people create the distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.”

This is another of the Fake Buddha Quotes that appeared in Tricycle’s blog yesterday. Tricycle managed to pull off the feat of having every single one of the Buddha quotes in an article be fake (some I’ve already covered, and the others I’ll tackle later), although Tricycle was in turn citing the work of an artist who combines quotations with images.

“In the sky there is no distinction of east and west; people create the distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.”

To be honest, this only barely registered on my inner Fake-osity Meter. The Buddha did use sky metaphors, but the second part, about creating distinctions in the mind and then believing in them, didn’t seem typical of the way the Buddha’s recorded as speaking.

Sure enough, the original source appears to be a book called “The Teachings of Buddha,” which is a Gideon Bible-type publication by a non-profit organization called Bukkyo Dendo Kyonkai, which puts copies in every hotel room in Japan.

Now the problem with citing a quote from “The Teachings of Buddha” is that people are inclined to think that the quote is literally one of the teachings of the Buddha (i.e. something the Buddha said) rather than an explanation of the kinds of things that Buddhism teaches.

If I quote a bit more of the passage, you’ll recognize that on the whole it’s absolutely contemporary and not the kind of thing we find in Buddhist scriptures:

In the sky there is no distinction of east and west; people create the distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.

Mathematical numbers from one to infinity are each complete numbers, and each in itself carries no distinction of quantity; but people make the discrimination for their own convenience, so as to able to indicate varying amounts.

Only a mention of quantum physics could render it more obvious that this isn’t a genuine Buddha quote.

“In every trial let understanding fight for you.”

Another Fake Buddha Quote has surfaced. It’s funny, but I don’t see as many of these as I used to. It may be that I’ve pounced on transgressors so often that people are now scared to post anything attributed to the Buddha until they’ve held the palm-leaf manuscripts in their own hands, and painstakingly translated every word themselves.

Anyway, this one’s all over the net:

“In every trial let understanding fight for you: Buddha.”

Jnanagarbha brought it to my attention.

Sometimes I don’t know how I know a particular saying is a Fake Buddha Quote. You just feel it in your bones.

This one wasn’t hard to track down. First I found it attributed not just to “The Buddha” but to a specific text that I know well: the Dhammapada. And it was in the context of a verse I know well, from chapter three, “The Mind.”

But where the verse will normally say something like:

Perceiving the body to be (fragile) like a clay pot,
(and) fortifying the mind as though it were a city,
with the sword of wisdom make war on Mara.
Free from attachment, keep watch over what has been won.

(that’s from Sangharakshita’s translation), here we have:

Know that the body is a fragile jar,
And make a castle of your mind.
In every trial, let understanding fight for you
To defend what you have won.

So it’s that third line that’s been mangled. In the original Pali it’s “yodhetha māraṃ paññāyudhena” which translates literally as “fight against (yodhetha) Mara (māraṃ) with the weapon of wisdom (paññāyudhena).”

Sangharakshita is being a little poetic in using “sword” for “āyudha” (weapon), presumably for the sake of alliteration (wisdom/war) and to evoke the image of Mañjushri, the bodhisattva of Wisdom who holds a flaming sword above his head, ready to destroy delusion. That seems well within the bounds of reasonable translation.

Our fake quote entirely omits Māra, which is unfortunate. The original quote is not about using wisdom “in every trial” but about confronting delusion, as personified by the demon Māra.

So, were some translator’s words mangled on the internet? No, this is a straight quote from Thomas Byrom’s “translation” of the Dhammapada, published by Shambhala.

This is a neat example of Fake Buddha Quote by Mistranslation. I’m guessing that Byrom thought that mention of Mara (the Buddhist personification of wily ignorance) would be offputting, and that “wisdom” was too high-fallutin, and decided to dumb the text down a bit.

PS. Star Wars fans may be interesting to know that the name “Yoda” is apparently a reference to the Pāli/Sanskrit word “yodha,” which means “warrior.” You’ll find the same root in the verb “yodhetha” (from “yodheti,” to fight) in the Pāli verse above.