“Happiness does not depend on what you have or who you are, it solely relies on what you think.”


Last night I came across someone lauding Miley Cyrus’ Twitter bio because it contained only a Buddha quote. Of course I had to go visit, and what I found was this:

“Happiness does not depend on what you have or who you are, it solely relies on what you think. -Buddha”

This quote sounds similar to the famous first and second verses of the Dhammapada, of which here is the second:

Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts happiness follows him like his never-departing shadow.

You may notice, though, that here “mind” (which in Pali is manas — a word that includes thought) is only one factor affecting our happiness, with speech and actions being another two. Body, speech, and mind are seen, in Buddhism, as three ways in which we can either produce suffering for ourselves, or free ourselves from suffering. Mind is, however, seen as primary. Our speech and actions don’t arise without cause, but rather spring from the mind — not necessarily from what we think of as thought — but certainly from the mind. So there’s nothing outrageously un-Buddhist about this quote.

But despite this similarity, this quote doesn’t comes from a Buddhist source. The form of this quote comes from American author, salesman, and motivational speaker, Hilary Hinton “Zig” Ziglar, born 6 November 1926.

“Remember, happiness doesn’t depend upon who you are or what you have; it depends solely upon what you think.”
Zig Ziglar, Steps to the Top, p 186. (1985)

However, Ziglar attributes the quote to the legendary Dale Carnegie, the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936), although he seems to have been paraphrasing the earlier writer, since what Carnegie wrote was this:

“Everybody in the world is seeking happiness—and there is one sure way to find it. That is by controlling your thoughts. Happiness doesn’t depend on outward conditions. It depends on inner conditions. It isn’t what you have or who you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.”
Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People, p 67. (1936)

And this seems to be to be rather different from Ziglar’s quote, and perhaps even more closely aligned to the Buddha’s teaching. It’s still not the Buddha’s words, though, and so this is most certainly a Fake Buddha Quote.

4 thoughts on ““Happiness does not depend on what you have or who you are, it solely relies on what you think.””

  1. I appreciate your effort into this matter. A friend of mine is in Dharamshala, India – the hub of Buddhism in India, and he sent me this quote painted on a wall wondering whether it is of Buddha at all or not.

    We had a feeling that Buddha couldn’t have said this, and just then we found this page. Thanks for the clarification.

    May God save Buddha from these fake gurus.

  2. I personally think that their is a difference between these quotes and the teachings of buddha. These quotes seem to indicate you should make the mind be happy all the time. Buddha teaches to watch the mind, let it say bad things and see that it is not who you are.

  3. thank you ! “I cant believe its not Buddha” ! how brilliant and English is that ?!! love your work. anyone who practices meditation could tell you that the mind and its thoughts change by the second and when its silenced your bathed in clarity , bliss , peace … the kind of experience that shows thought to be the illusion that it is. It produces happiness that stays with you as a feeling not a thought or an idea but a reality which shines light even through the dark times. happiness which rely “solely” on thought is not real happiness and relies “solely” on circumstance Im so glad Buddha didnt say this… Its not nice that our teachers words are corrupted like this. the mind and heart do battle, and this miss quote is a warrior (unintentional pun) for the mind

    1. Thanks. Yes, indeed, our happiness can arise from taking our thoughts less seriously, from letting go of them, and even from not having them!

      I’m randomly reminded of an old New Yorker cartoon where two monks are sitting in meditation, and one of them says to the other, “Are you not thinking what I’m not thinking?” LOL!

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