“In every trial let understanding fight for you.”

Another Fake Buddha Quote has surfaced. It’s funny, but I don’t see as many of these as I used to. It may be that I’ve pounced on transgressors so often that people are now scared to post anything attributed to the Buddha until they’ve held the palm-leaf manuscripts in their own hands, and painstakingly translated every word themselves.

Anyway, this one’s all over the net:

“In every trial let understanding fight for you: Buddha.”

Jnanagarbha brought it to my attention.

Sometimes I don’t know how I know a particular saying is a Fake Buddha Quote. You just feel it in your bones.

This one wasn’t hard to track down. First I found it attributed not just to “The Buddha” but to a specific text that I know well: the Dhammapada. And it was in the context of a verse I know well, from chapter three, “The Mind.”

But where the verse will normally say something like:

Perceiving the body to be (fragile) like a clay pot,
(and) fortifying the mind as though it were a city,
with the sword of wisdom make war on Mara.
Free from attachment, keep watch over what has been won.

(that’s from Sangharakshita’s translation), here we have:

Know that the body is a fragile jar,
And make a castle of your mind.
In every trial, let understanding fight for you
To defend what you have won.

So it’s that third line that’s been mangled. In the original Pali it’s “yodhetha māraṃ paññāyudhena” which translates literally as “fight against (yodhetha) Mara (māraṃ) with the weapon of wisdom (paññāyudhena).”

Sangharakshita is being a little poetic in using “sword” for “āyudha” (weapon), presumably for the sake of alliteration (wisdom/war) and to evoke the image of Mañjushri, the bodhisattva of Wisdom who holds a flaming sword above his head, ready to destroy delusion. That seems well within the bounds of reasonable translation.

Our fake quote entirely omits Māra, which is unfortunate. The original quote is not about using wisdom “in every trial” but about confronting delusion, as personified by the demon Māra.

So, were some translator’s words mangled on the internet? No, this is a straight quote from Thomas Byrom’s “translation” of the Dhammapada, published by Shambhala.

This is a neat example of Fake Buddha Quote by Mistranslation. I’m guessing that Byrom thought that mention of Mara (the Buddhist personification of wily ignorance) would be offputting, and that “wisdom” was too high-fallutin, and decided to dumb the text down a bit.

PS. Star Wars fans may be interesting to know that the name “Yoda” is apparently a reference to the Pāli/Sanskrit word “yodha,” which means “warrior.” You’ll find the same root in the verb “yodhetha” (from “yodheti,” to fight) in the Pāli verse above.

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