“Hatred does not cease through hatred at any time. Hatred ceases through love. This is an unalterable law.”

This quote is commonly seen on social media, and it’s a genuine scriptural quotation. It’s from verse 5 of the Dhammapada.

In Buddharakkhita’s translation this is:

Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is a law eternal.

In Thanissaro’s version this is:

Hostilities aren’t stilled through hostility, regardless.
Hostilities are stilled through non-hostility: this, an unending truth.

Narada Thera has:

Hatreds never cease through hatred in this world; through love alone they cease. This is an eternal law.

You can see that they’re all basically very similar.

In Pali this is:

Na hi verena verāni sammantīdha kudācanaṃ
Averena ca sammanti esa dhammo sanantano.

Very literally this is:

Not (na) indeed (hi) by means of hatred (verena) hatreds (verāni) at any time (kudācanaṃ — negated by the opening “na”).

By means of non-hatred (averena) and (ca — acts to connect this sentence with the one before) are [“they” — implied] are they stilled (sammanti). This (esa) [“is” — implied] truth/law (dhammo) eternal (sanantano).

Our quotation uses the more conceptually positive word “love” rather than the strictly correct but conceptually negative “non-hatred,” but sometimes translators feel (quite justifiably in my opinion) to make such changes for the sake of accessibility. “Non-hatred” is of course a much broader term than “love,” and can encompass not just love and compassion, but even calm, mindfulness, and patience, which are all “non-hateful” qualities that promote inner peace.

The original translator was Eknath Easwaran, who rendered this verse as:

For hatred does not cease by hatred at any time: hatred ceases by love. This is an unalterable law.

Eknath’s initial “for” has been dropped, and “by” has twice been changed to “through” by some unknown transmitter of the quotation.

15 thoughts on ““Hatred does not cease through hatred at any time. Hatred ceases through love. This is an unalterable law.””

  1. I think this verse is so profound, and ought to be a focus of contemplative reflections (not that I have any to offer). Nations like to think that coming out ‘victorious’ through hostile actions is what leads to peace… But what do we see time and again? … that it just leads to more and more hostile forces crowding in on us. Attack the enemy in front, and more enemies pop up on the sides or from the rear. We have to learn from experience and stop going about things the wrong way. (I didn’t want to specifically target the U.S. Middle East policies in recent decades, since there are so many examples out there to choose from.)

    1. Our first instinct may be to think of applying these verses to others, but the main thing is to use them as a reminder to scrutinize our own actions…

      1. Use them to scrutinize our own actions, use them to scrutinize the world’s actions. Either starting point is a useful beginning. Ideally we can do both simultaneously, testing them with our own experiencing and the world’s experiencing.

        1. Yes, that’s why I said “the main thing is to use them as a reminder to scrutinize our own actions” rather than saying that’s the only thing we should do.

  2. I find it so true… However, I’m happy to know that the exact meaning is “non-hatred”. It sound more right to me. I had a former employer who is a professional deceiver and liar. He acted badly toward me and other employees (one of them is becoming a true friend). When I think about him, I cannot say that I love him, but I pity him. He has such a sad vision of the world. Never being able to trust anyone must be so terrible… In fact, I think I would have loved the man he could become, should he take another path… Such a waste… I was happy to realize I was able to meditate for him.
    However non-hatred does’nt mean to me to accept passively any misdemeanour without fighting (I used to act like that before). A good honest fight does’nt need to be violent. It’s the principle of Tai Chi Chuan… But it can give a good lesson to people who don’t behave properly. And they need it, for their own good.

    1. There is more about this topic in Buddhist discussions of lovingkindness (metta), which is somewhat similar to the Christian concept of brotherly love. It is recognized that lovingkindness is different from approval. I can love someone, yet strongly disapprove of their behavior. It’s easy to see how this can apply to people like children, family or friends. However, it more broadly applies to everyone, including people who I might contend with. Being consumed with hatred interferes with my ability to fight both verbally and physically. Hatred is like a poison.

  3. Non-hatred in my opinion is the right translation because it resembles the mental qualities and experiences one would have through practicing satipatthana meditation, which is not really just cultivating loving kindness.

    1. Non-hatred is definitely a more accurate translation. As I said in the article,

      “Non-hatred” is of course a much broader term than “love,” and can encompass not just love and compassion, but even calm, mindfulness, and patience, which are all “non-hateful” qualities that promote inner peace.

      I can understand the temptation to use the word “love,” though, since “non-hatred” needs a bit of explanation.

  4. While I find this quote true for many scenarios, there are some cases where I consider it to be just naive… my first thought is the Nazi Germany, is it reasonable to think that such situation could have been stopped without a war? Or in the context of our daily lives, is it reasonable to stop thieves and killers without using some violence against them?

    In my life I have encountered quite a few people who simply have no consideration for others, even to the point of being violent and feeling no regret about their own violence. I have tried to talk with those people in the past, and they haven’t listened to me. I have tried to stop their violence in non-hateful ways, still they didn’t care much. So I reached a point where I had to become agressive myself, and while at first I encountered some resistance from them, in the long term it did helped to diminish their agressive behaviours.

    Maybe I don’t understand Buddha well enough yet… but I sometimes feel he was kind of naive, like many other teachers we’ve seen through out history.

    PS: If the author of the website reads this, I love the work you’ve done here, thank you very much for this website!

    1. Hi, Fabian.

      These are good things to think about. I have a few comments on your example. First, were the allies motivated, on the whole, by hatred? It seems to me that the motivation of protecting allies, even if this causes suffering, is very different from the simple desire to make an enemy suffer. Had the allies been primarily motivated by hatred, would the US have set up the Marshall Plan after the war to help European countries — including Germany — rebuild their infrastructure. Hatred is about wanting to destroy. It’s about wanting to make someone suffer as a way of gratifying yourself. Hatred would presumably look more like getting revenge by punishing the entire German population for having supported the Nazi regime and for having waged war. It would have involved killing them, enslaving them, humiliating them. But that’s not what happened. So what you’re talking about is, I believe, not hatred opposing hatred, but force opposing hatred, which is a very different thing.

      Also, was hatred defeated? Only in a very limited sense. A particular political manifestation of hatred was militarily defeated, but hatred itself, no. Similarly, with your aggressive opposition to hateful people, you didn’t eradicate their hatred. You just helped them to keep their hatred in check. It wasn’t defeated. And I wonder if you did act out of hate (a desire to hurt) or whether you were simply standing up for yourself. I don’t know, of course.

      Even if the other person does overcome their own hatred, they’re going to have to do that by learning to empathize and to replace their ill will with love. So in the end, only love can eradicate hatred.

      I doubt very much that the Buddha was naive. His words are very similar to those of Dr. King: “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” MLK, like the Buddha, was a smart and effective guy, living at a turbulent time. They both got a lot done. The Buddha was lucky enough to live a long life. Sadly the same was not true for Dr. King, but he wasn’t naive: he knew and accepted the risk. I don’t think the Buddha was naive either.

      And thanks for the appreciation. I hope you buy the book!

    2. Worldly goals and the Buddhist goal are drastically different. Buddhism isn’t about getting more gains in this world. It is about release from suffering, where suffering is twofold: mental & physical.

      Buddha’s words of wisdom are meant to help to break the bonds of the world, and help one not to be further entangled. Therefore that’s how “hatred does not cease through hatred” should be understood, because practicing hatred entangles one further in this world.

      The goal of a war was not to cease hatred at all, therefore if you try to understand it with the Buddha’s words you’ll find yourself bewildered. Once again, the Buddha’s words were to be understood as helping one to be released from Samsara’s bonds, but if you’re seeking ways to get worldly gains, fame, power, etc., Buddhism may not be the right practice for you. Although there were certain times that the Buddha described what kind of practice leads to those, but he wouldn’t really teach people those arts since that’s not the goal.

      1. I don’t think this accurately reflects the Buddha’s teachings, Peter. There are suttas where he talks about how we can act in ways that create positive conditions in society. Yes, his main purpose was to encourage individuals to liberate their hearts from greed, hatred, and delusion, but he recognized that social conditions can create or reduce suffering, and create better or worse conditions for people to practice the Dharma in.

        And so he talked about the drawbacks of having rulers who didn’t follow ethical principles (e.g. AN 4.70) and outlined how rulers could promote the general welfare (e.g. in DN 26). He talked to the Vajjians how they could conduct themselves so that their society would prosper rather than decline (AN 7:21). And he also talked about the futility of war (SN 3.14).

        And just on the topic of “gains,” he encouraged lay-followers to work diligently and to create wealth. The important things were to do so ethically, and to practice non-attachment through giving, particularly in supporting religious teachers.

        Lastly, I don’t think it’s wise to try o convince someone that the Buddhadharma is not the path for them. It’s a path for everyone. Not all of us want to become monastics, but we can still benefit ourselves and others through our practice.

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