“Good friends are like stars. You don’t always see them, but you know they are there.”

This quote — “Good friends are like stars. You don’t always see them, but you know they are there” — was one of the ten quotes to be found in the page that ranked highest on Google for the term, “Buddha quotes on friendship” when I recently ran that search.

All ten of the quotes on that page were fake, which means that Google’s algorithm is failing miserably at identifying quality content. Worse, the algorithm is actively spreading misinformation, because people trust Google and so they copy and share the quotes. In fact other pages in top results for this search contain fake quotes too, although they’re not all as bad as the one in first place, which is the absolute worst.

What a mess.

Anyway, the meme of friends being like stars is an old one, although it doesn’t go back to the Buddha. In the past, friends were often compared to stars in an unflattering way. After all, stars are cold and distant and outshone by more prominent celestial objects.

And so in a Greek poem from 290 BCE, Demetrius I of Macedon was hailed in a hymn with the following words when he visited Athens:

His friends are like stars
And he is like the Sun.

So, Demetrius’s friends are pretty cool, but they pale in comparison to him.

Closer to our time, a poem published in 1879, called “Thy Words,” warns that the person whose words are “stern like winter’s blast” will find that “Friends, like stars, hide from thy sight.”

Here again, friends being like stars is not a good thing.

On the other hand, in an essay called “Evening Visions,” M. A. H. Dodd used the image of friends being like stars in a positive way:

Ye friends, like stars clustering near and shining brightly upon my pathway! Ye are among the exceeding great and precious gifts for which my heart would daily offer up its gratitude to heaven.

This was in the “Ladies Repositary,” Volume XVIII published in 1850.

In “Moore’s Rural New-Yorker” newspaper on Feb 4, 1854, the unattributed line,

True friends are like stars — they shine out
only in the night of misfortune

is squeezed in between an anecdote with the title, “The Fond Wife, Or, The Firmness of the Female Sex” and a piece called “Hotel Belles,” passing judgement on women who choose to live in hotels. After all, “A woman of true delicacy and refinement will neither exhibit her charms nor her graces nor her accomplishments to the public. Exclusiveness is the very essence of ladies’ society.”

Anyway, the 20th and 21st centuries seems to have settled on “friends as stars” being a good thing. The “Good friends are like stars. You don’t always see them, but you know they are there” quote was used at least twice by Francis Gay (real name, Herbert Leslie Gee) in his annual Friendship Books. Incidentally, he kept churning those out every year, long after his death in 1977. You can’t keep a good man down!

In the Dhammapada, which is attributed to the Buddha, we have verse 208, which in part reads:

Follow the Noble One, who is steadfast, wise, learned, dutiful and devout. One should follow only such a man, who is truly good and discerning, even as the moon follows the path of the stars.

As far as scriptural quotations go, that’s probably as close as you’re going to get to the quote above. And it’s not very close.

You can follow this link if you’re interested in reading some genuine Buddha quotes on friendship.

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