When I first saw this quote on Twitter, my suspicious were aroused. It just seemed too neat and “literary” to be a genuine Buddha quote. But having researched it I’ve concluded that it’s a translation that’s just close enough to the original to be considered genuine.
“If anything is worth doing, do it with all your heart.”
It’s from Eknath Easwaran’s translation of the Dhammapada, which is generally held in high regard, although I confess I haven’t read it. This particular quote is part of verse 313, from the chapter on “Hell.”
Here are some variant translations:
- If anything is to be done, let one do it with sustained vigor. (Buddharakkhita)
- If something’s to be done, then work at it firmly. (Thanissaro)
- If aught should be done, let one do it. Let one promote it steadily.(Narada Thera)
- If you have something to do, attack it vigorously. (Sangharakshita)
The Pāli is Kayirā ce kayirāthenaṃ daḷhamenaṃ parakkame, which is very literally “If something is to be done, one should do it; one should undertake it firmly.”
Eknath’s “with all your heart” is to my mind a bit of a stretch, but it does idiomatically cover the same territory as “do it firmly.” So this is one of these times when my instincts were slightly off.