“Everything that has a beginning, has an ending. Make your peace with that and all will be well.”


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.

13 thoughts on ““Everything that has a beginning, has an ending. Make your peace with that and all will be well.””

  1. Of the Comment:
    “Everything with a Beginning,
    has an Ending.”

    I have NOT heard the remainder quoted here.

    AS for the Above Part, THERE ARE PROBLEMS !!
    First, IS in Mathematics !!
    i.e. 22/7; PI; Square Root of 7; Logarithms; Trigonometry; & …

    1. Hi, Dirk.

      I think you’re misapplying the principle here. What the saying means is that anything that comes into being will cease to be. Pi etc are not “things” that have a real existence. They’re abstractions. Any thought you have about pi will come into being and cease to be. Any computer you create to calculate pi will likewise come into being and cease to be.

      1. Dirk Here

        “Cease to be” !!??!!
        ONLY When the Universe Ends ??!!??

        ** “Mathematics”, is an example of Idea Processes !!**
        These “Ideas”, Once Started (Begin)
        HAVE NO ENDING !!

        ** OTHER Ideas **
        There are MANY OTHER Ideas; That HAVE NO END !!
        –MANY ARGUMENTS can be Compared to Ideas,
        –The Statement from a Person: “I am Lying.” !!
        This “Statement” HAS NO ENDING to
        it’s “Complexity”/”Logic”/Reasoning !!
        –Reasoning AGAINST this Statement !!

        **The Universe, is also an example !!**
        According to “Current” Science:
        -Our Universe was CREATED (Began)
        INSIDE ANOTHER Universe.
        -WHEN our Universe Collapses,
        -As there IS NO LOSS of Energy,
        this Cycle WILL CONTINUE FOREVER !!

        “REFLECTIONS in a Mirror !!**
        (Once Created and Placed)
        IF TWO Reflection “Surfaces” are created,
        and they show the Reflection of the Other Surface
        –Two “Flat Surfaces”, will have EVER SHRINKING
        Images of the Reflection !!
        –IF ONE Surfaces, is SHAPED to
        ENLARGE compared to the distance
        from that Surface and Back Again,
        ON FOR EVER !!

        **A Machine that REPAIRS Itself**
        Once Given (Began) a SPECIFIC “Form”,
        it WILL REPAIR itself FOREVER !!
        (So Long as the SPECIFIC “Form” Exists,
        and the Materials are Available !!)

        1. There are many things I could point out about your examples, but the key thing is this: you need to know what it is that the Buddha was talking about in saying “Whatever is of the nature to arise, all that is of the nature to cease.” What he’s discussing is not the external world per se, but our experience. The Buddha was not attempting to do physics or metaphysics, but to get us to look at the nature of our own consciousness.

          As Bhikkhu Bodhi said, “The world with which the Buddha’s teach-ing is principally concerned is “the world of experience,” and even the objective world is of interest only to the extent that it serves as the necessary external condition for experience. The world is identified with the six sense bases because the latter are the necessary internal condition for experience and thus for the presence of a world. As long as the six sense bases persist, a world will always be spread out before us as the objective range of perception and cognition.”

          It’s the world of experience (the meeting of the inner and outer) that the Buddha is concerned with, because unless we understand the nature of that meeting, we’ll continue to suffer.

          So to apply “Whatever is of the nature to arise, all that is of the nature to cease” to abstract concepts like “pi” or to science-fiction versions of the perpetual motion machine (your self-repairing machine) is to take the quote out of context.

          Similarly, when the Buddha talks about everything being subject to change, that applies to experience, and wouldn’t be invalidated by the discovery of something in the physical world that doesn’t change — because your mind is changing all the time and so your experience of this hypothetical unchanging thing would constantly change!

          But just to take a couple of your examples, even though they’re completely irrelevant to the Buddha’s teaching, two mirrors face to face will only theoretically lead to an infinite regression. Given that mirrors are imperfect reflectors, absorbing some photons and scattering others, there is a limit to the number of iterations. And switch off the lights and you’ll have no reflection at all. The lights are going to go out at some point 🙂

          And your self-repairing machine will need a power source. If that’s in the range of a solar system, then eventually the star will die (possibly consuming the machine, or leaving it powerless). But taking the Buddha’s teaching on impermanence into account, the machine you’re hypothesizing is not a “thing” but a process. In every moment, as it repairs itself, it becomes something new. What it was has ceased to be, and there’s something new come into existence. Actually, looking deeper, there is no existence, but only becoming, or existence is becoming.

          This is what the Buddha meant when he said things like this: “As to that end of the world, friend, where one is not born, does not age, does not die, does not pass away, and is not reborn—I say that it cannot be known, seen, or reached by travelling … However, friend, I say that without having reached the end of the world there is no making an end to suffering. It is, friend, in just this fathom-high carcass endowed with perception and mind that I make known the world, the origin of the world, the cessation of the world, and the way leading to the cessation of the world.”

          “The world” (i.e. our experience of the world) ceases to be a “thing” (something we cling to and take as having a real, permanent, separate existence) when we fully recognize the moment-by-moment change in our experience, which makes “being” impossible.

        2. A “scholar” I see. I am fairly well versed in mathematics- and at my old workplace (Lawrence Berkeley Lab), Dr. David Bailey has contributed to the most advanced research on the transcendental number known as pi. Here is an ancient press release: https://www2.lbl.gov/Science-Articles/Archive/pi-random.html. Eventually Dr. Bailey figured out a way to compute arbitrary indexed numbers in pi without figuring out what the previous numbers were.. want the 1,000,00th digit? He has a way of finding that. But computers use discrete mathematics, and in general- you may notice that that the word ‘quantum’ in quantum physics just means ‘integer’, or ‘discrete’.

          What I’m getting at is that within the observable universe, there is no reason to think that anything vaguely resembling infinity exists. Not even black holes are infinite- they leak information and dissipate. Eventually, all matter will achieve its lowest energy state, and then (we predict) that even protons will decay, resulting in a universe of non-interacting force-carrier particles (photons, etc) that has essentially no structure or dynamics of causality. Nothing effects anything else. It is the final stage of heat death. Perhaps the universe is infinitely large- but not in the time axis. Hence everything that has a beginning, also has an ending.

          Enjoy your time here. It is an amazing gift. I try to remind myself of that as often as I can. Enjoy even the struggle- I say. My path is my goal, not my destination.

          ps: I was trying to track down the origin of “You are what you hate.” So far it seems possibly it originated with “the great kabbalist and chassidic master”, R. Yitzchok Safrin, known as the Komarna Rebbe, and then spread to Jung and Herman Hesse. (I’m not really into mysticism tough I do believe in Maya, zazen, and Satori, right action/etc. – as metaphors, though.)

  2. The Buddha realized that nothing in this world stays the same; everything is in a constant state of change. Pleasurable conditions, favorable circumstances, our relationships with those we hold dear, our health and well-being–any sense of comfort and security we derive from these things is continually threatened by life’s flux and uncertainty, and ultimately by death, the most profound change of all. in order to inevitable sufferings of life aimed at freeing people, you must live without any attachment, make peace with it means you need to understand the fact everything which has a beginning has an ending , even things, nothing stays the same, This expanded sense of self is based on a clear awareness of the interconnected fabric of life which we are part of and which sustains us. When awakened to the reality of our relatedness to all life, we can overcome the fear of change and experience the deeper continuities beyond and beneath the ceaseless flow of change… so conclusion , its the same meaning yet people has change few things to make it more simple for the Quote ,

    1. “Same Meaning” ??!!??
      CLOSE, NOT QUITE !!!!

      “Close” (by Definition)
      There ARE MISTAKES !!
      ( Ideas vs Things vs Processes vs Action vs …)

  3. But, let’s say something, or mainly someone has no ending. Would that automatically mean they have no true beginning ? In other words, they’re infinite (for lack of a better word) on both ends of the spectrum !? As a separate question, is there a way to describe or explain some being that has always existed, never having “began”, in our definition of the word. (I wish I was better at articulating my thoughts more clearly. Hope you can understand what I’m asking )

    1. I suspect this will be disappointing, but, there are questions that the Buddha said are essentially a waste of time because they “are not connected with the goal, are not fundamental to the holy life. They do not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, calming, direct knowledge, self-awakening, Nibbana.” And this would be one of those questions. Buddhism is fundamentally a set of practices and teachings designed to help us reduce and eventually eliminate suffering from our lives. It doesn’t attempt to give answers to every philosophical question that may occur to us.

      The quote, by the way, is from the Cula-Malunkyovada Sutta.

      1. Thank you Bodhipaksa! I wish the so-called “multiverse theory” camp of science-philosophers were as wise as you. (Not all philsophy is like that, granted- and an understanding of the anthropic principle / fine-tuning is at the very least stimulating and interesting. It just isn’t particularly useful beyond being a distraction when the walls come crumbling down.)

        1. Well, I’m a big science fan, and I applaud those who are trying to work out the origins, workings, and future of our universe. Curiosity is a marvelous thing, and curiosity that arises in a scientific setting can potentially be applied in a more — for want of a better word — spiritual setting, and vice versa.

          Science can be illustrative as well. The Buddha even used the evolution of the cosmos as a teaching tool; even planetary systems are impermanent, so why do we keep overlooking our individual impermanence? I find a lot of science helpful in this way, and my book, “Living as a River” draws on science as a way of understanding impermanence and non-self.

          But we don’t have to sort out scientific problems — especially not poorly formulated hypotheticals — in order to make spiritual progress. The kind of question above strikes me as being no more than a distraction.

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