“If hate worked I would teach you that.”

So far this quote, “If hate worked I would teach you that,” doesn’t seem to be very widespread. So far it’s shown up in a few social media posts, but not in any blog posts or books that I’ve found. Maybe we can stop this one in its tracks.

As soon as I saw this I knew which scripture it was a paraphrase of. In fact I may even have used the words above in order to explain that teaching.

In Aṅguttara Nikāya 2.19, the Buddha says:

It is possible to give up the unskillful [i.e., greed, hatred, and delusion]. If it wasn’t possible, I wouldn’t say:  ‘Give up the unskillful.’ But it is possible, and so I say: ‘Give up the unskillful.’

And if giving up the unskillful led to harm and suffering, I would not say:  ‘Give up the unskillful.’ But giving up the unskillful leads to welfare and happiness, so I say: ‘Give up the unskillful.’

And he goes on to say:

Develop the skillful. It is possible to develop the skillful. If it wasn’t possible, I wouldn’t say: ‘Develop the skillful.’ But it is possible, and so I say: ‘Develop the skillful.’

If developing the skillful led to harm and suffering I wouldn’t say: ‘Develop the skillful.’ But developing the skillful leads to welfare and happiness, so I say: ‘Develop the skillful.’

These are remarkable statements. The Buddha is saying, in effect, that we should get rid of greed, hatred, and delusion not because they are morally “bad,” but only because they give rise to suffering. And he’s saying, conversely, that we should cultivate skillful qualities, such as mindfulness, compassion, and wisdom not because they are morally “good” but because they give rise to happiness.

And he’s saying that if greed, hatred, and delusion actually worked — if they did indeed create long-term happiness — he wouldn’t say to get rid of them.

So the quote in question above is an accurate interpretation or paraphrase of what the Buddha taught. But they’re not even close to the words he used, so they’re not a quote. Therefore, “If hate worked I would teach you that” is a Fake Buddha Quote.

 

3 thoughts on ““If hate worked I would teach you that.””

  1. Hello, I think there is a typo in your post above: you mean “happiness”, not “suffering”, in “not because they are morally “good” but because they give rise to suffering”. Thank you for your very valuable blog!

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