Elizabeth Laren wrote to me asking about this Fake Buddha Quote, which she spotted on Facebook, where it had been posted by “Blue Buddha Quote Collective”:
“Everything that has a beginning, has an ending. Make your peace with
that and all will be well.”
~ The Buddha
“‘Make your peace with that and all will be well,’ just doesn’t sound like Buddha. The first part, yes,” she wrote.
Actually, I thought the use of “beginning” and “ending” sounded too contemporary as well, although that could simply be a matter of word choice on the part of the translator. As Bhikkhu Yuttadhammo reminded me, there’s a common expression in the Pali canon:
“yaṃ kiñci samudayadhammaṃ, sabbaṃ taṃ nirodhadhamman”ti.
“Whatever is of the nature to arise, all that is of the nature to cease”
These words are often put into the minds of those who experience insight by the compilers of the canon. For example:
Then to Moggallana the wanderer, as he heard this Dhamma exposition, there arose the dustless, stainless Dhamma eye: Whatever is subject to origination is all subject to cessation.
“Everything that has a beginning, has an ending,” as an expression in English, goes back a long way. A book called Immortality: The Principal Philosophic Arguments for and Against It, published in 1904, contains that exact phrase. “Whatever has a Beginning has an End” goes back at least to 1702, and The Lives of the Ancient Philosophers.
A more archaic, and reversed, version of the quote, “There is nothing strictly immortal, but immortality. Whatever hath no beginning may be confident of no end,” is found in Thomas Browne’s book, “Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial, or, a Discourse of the Sepulchral Urns lately found in Norfolk.” Thanks to Eric Kaplan for this information, which led me to look search for further examples of that archaic grammar, and led me to a 1665 book, “Another Collection of Philosophical Conferences of the French Virtuosi,” in which we read:
But amongst the French, I account none more ingenious than the Lawyers, who confute the Philosophical Maxim, which saith, That whatever hath a beginning hath also an end, since they render Suits immortal.
This suggests that we’re dealing with a rather ancient philosophical saying that can’t be attributed to any particular author.
Sometimes a translation or paraphrase from the Pali canon with converge toward a more contemporary saying, presumably because of a kind of memetic resonance in the mind of the author. I suspect that that has happened in this case.
I agreed with Elizabeth that “Make your peace with that and all will be well” sounded off. Very much off; more so than the first part.
I found this quote in a 1995 book by Elizabeth Oates Schuster, Awakenings: The Transformative Function of Writing in a Nursing Home. She gives her source for the quote as being “The Sun” — the magazine, not the UK tabloid — in 1995, although she doesn’t say which month. But there is no further detail.
A little more digging around revealed that this is another of Jack Kornfield’s coinages, from his book, Buddha’s Little Instruction Book, published in 1994, just a year before the Sun picked up the quote and changed the attribution from Kornfield to “Buddha.” It’s an understandable error, since it would be easy to assume that a book with such a title would contain the Buddha’s actual words. But in fact Buddha’s Little Instruction book is Jack Kornfield’s adaptation and understanding of Buddhist teachings — not direct quotations from the scriptures.