I recently happened to do a search on Google for “Buddha Quotes on Friendship” and was perturbed to find that the top result was on a quotes website page that entirely consisted of fake quotes. Not only that, but Google had pulled information from that site and listed it in their “featured snippets,” which is a little information panel at the top of the results.
- Click here to see all ten fake Buddha quotes on friendship
- Click here to see genuine quotes by the Buddha on friendship
This is a major Google fail, since they pride themselves on the quality of their search results, and yet here they are promoting inaccurate information to the top of the search results.
Most quotes sites contain inaccurate information. Their “Buddha quotes” are usually about half genuine, if you’re lucky. And they probably don’t have much motivation to change this state of affairs, because the point of these sites is not to provide accurate information, but to make money through advertising. From that point of view, fake quotes are just as good as the genuine article. In fact they’re probably better, because quotes that are genuinely from the Buddhist scriptures tend not to be as pithy or attractive in form as the fake quotes, and people are less likely to be interested in them or to search for them.
So quote sites are generally pretty bad, but this site has gone all the way, and doesn’t contain a single genuine quote—at least not on the page on friendship quotes, which resemble Hallmark card pablum. And the site contains a lot of ads, which are, I assume, the real content. (I wrote to the site owner. He didn’t reply.)
At first I assumed that the website in question (which I’m not going to link to) had simply made up all of the quotes. On further examination that turns out not to be the case, at least for the first of them, which is the one I’m examining here. And on reflection, given that the website is written in broken English it’s unlikely that the site’s creator would have the literary skills to do so.
The quote, “Friendship is the only cure for hatred, the only guarantee of peace” actually has a bit of history behind it, to the extent that I’m surprised I haven’t seen it before. It’s in many, many books going back to the 1960s. The earliest I’ve found so far is older than I am. The quote is found, in an expanded form, in a book from 1960 — Royal de Rohan Barondes’ “China: Lore, Legend, and Lyrics” (page 65). There the quote is in the following context:
When asked for a definition of friendliness, Buddha answered, “It means to have hope of the welfare of others than one’s self . . . it means affection unsullied by hope or thought of any reward on earth or in heaven.”
Buddha admitted that such generous wholeheartedness would not be easy, yet it is intensely practical. “Compassion and knowledge and virtue are the only possessions that do not fade away. Friendship is the only cure for hatred, the only guarantee of peace. To do a little good is more than to accomplish great conquests.”
Of course both the passages he quoted bear no resemblance to how the Buddha is recorded as having talked. They’re much too literary and polished, and lack the repetition and clunky sentence structure that’s characteristic of the originally oral texts of early Buddhism.
It’s clear from the ellipsis that de Rohan Barondes was quoting another book, and he seems to have believed that the words were those of the Buddha.
The same quotes are found in a book first published in 1962 and called “The Third Book of Words to Live By,” edited by William Ichabod Nichols (you’d think I was making these names up!). In this book, which is a compilation of columns from “This Week Magazine” there is an essay titled “To Be a Friend,” written by Robert Hardy Andrews (“Novelist and Motion Picture Writer”) which contains the exact same words, although they’re laid out differently, with “Compassion and knowledge and virtue are the only possessions that do not fade away,” “Friendship is the only cure for hatred, the only guarantee of peace,” and “To do a little good is more than to accomplish great conquests” being given as separate quotes, rather than lumped together, as in Barondes’ version.
Because the essays in “The Third Book of Words” were originally published between 1955 and 1962, I can’t say whether Andrews’ essay is earlier or more recent than Barondes’. Certainly one of them was plagiarizing the other, since the connecting sentences are the same.
Whoever was the first to write these supposed quotes from the Buddha, the probable source of the “definition of friendliness” that reads, “It means to have hope of the welfare of others than one’s self . . . it means affection unsullied by hope or thought of any reward on earth or in heaven,” is “Buddhist Texts Through the Ages,” by Edward Conze.
On page 180 we read “For hatred, friendliness is the antidote . . . Friendship means to have hopes for the welfare of others, to long for it, to crave for it, to delight in it. It is affection unsullied by motives of self-desire, passion, or hope of a return.” The source, however, is not the Buddha, but the 8th century teacher Śāntideva’s work, the Śikṣasammucāya.
“To do a little good is more than to accomplish great conquests” is probably an distillation of some of the verses from the chapter on “The Thousands” in the Dhammapada. There we have sayings about conquest (“Self-conquest is far better than the conquest of others”) and doing good deeds (“Better it is to live one day virtuous and meditative than to live a hundred years immoral and uncontrolled”).
“Compassion and knowledge and virtue are the only possessions that do not fade away” may be an adaptation of a passage in the Nidhikaṇḍasutta (“On Hidden Treasures”):
A person stores away their savings in a deep pit by the water’s edge: “When need arises it will be there to help free me from rulers if I am slandered, or from bandits if harassed, or to release me from debt, or in case of famine or losses.” What the world calls savings get stored away for such reasons.
But no matter how well stored away they are in a deep pit by the water’s edge, all their savings will fail to aid them all the time.
For perhaps those savings are removed from there, or they forget what marks the site, or dragons make off with them, or spirits carry them away, or unloved heirs secretly unearth them. When their merit is used up, all of that will vanish.
But by giving and morality, restraint and self-control, a women or man keeps their savings safe.
Or it could be a summary of the Uggasutta, where the Buddha says:
There are these seven kinds of wealth that [fire, water, rulers, thieves, and unloved heirs] can’t take a share of. What seven? The wealth of faith, ethical conduct, conscience, prudence, learning, generosity, and wisdom.
Anyway, it seems likely that “Friendship is the only cure for hatred, the only guarantee of peace” is an alteration of Śāntideva’s “For hatred, friendliness is the antidote,” since that’s found close to another of the quotes, but it could also be Dhammapada verse 5, “Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased.” Either way, it’s not an accurate quote from the scriptures.