“In order to gain anything you must lose everything.”

Also seen as:

To gain heart you must lose everything. ~Buddha

I’m not entirely clear what this one’s trying to say, but the interesting thing is that it appears to be freshly minted. I’ve searched on Google for this quote with and without quotes, and haven’t found a trace of it. Usually these Fake Buddha Quotes have an extensive internet history, and often you can even find them in books. But this one seems to have no history. That makes it interesting, since it may have been newly minted or, perhaps, is so seriously garbled that a Google search doesn’t easily bring up the text it’s supposed to be based on.

@Lotuspad, who passed this on, attributes it to @rock_my_soles, but I haven’t been able to find the quote among the latter’s tweets. I suppose Lotuspad may have made it up, but that seems too good to be true.

It’s a strange case. The closest I’ve found has been "It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.," attributed to Brad Pitt in the film Fight Club. But intriguingly, the poet Jane Hirshfield trots out a similar phrase — "In order to gain anything, you must first lose everything" in a preview to the recent PBS special, The Buddha.

And sure enough, @anniebissett Tweets, the night of the PBS special, "In order to gain anything you must lose everything. -Buddha." Something said by a woman on a PBS program is now promoted to Buddhasāsana — the word of the Buddha — and a Fake Buddha Quote Is Born.

But how, or even if, we get from that to "To gain heart you must lose everything," I just don’t know.


Update: With a bit more detective work, and a chat with the very charming @rock_my_soles, I’ve found that she was actually quoting the PBS show, although evidently she misheard the quote. @rock_my_soles suggested that I have a Real Buddha Quote category on my blog, in which I cite my sources. I think that’s a smashing idea, and I’ll take her (I think it’s a her) up on her suggestion.

3 thoughts on ““In order to gain anything you must lose everything.””

  1. Reminds me of Mark 8:35/ Matthew 16:25/ Luke 9:24:
    For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?

  2. funny you say, it’s not Buddha’s quote may be not. But if you carefully see his life story he had to lose everything as a King in order to gain self realization. That is the whole point that quote is meant to be.

    1. The Buddha gave up attachment to absolutely everything, of course.

      The story about the Buddha being a prince isn’t accurate. The Sakyan territory was a republic rather than a kingdom, and was ruled by a governing council of elders — probably the major landowners in the main. (There are plenty of references confirming this on Wikipedia.) Suddhodana might have been the elected leader of the council. The Sakyans were a vassal state of a true kingdom next door — Kosala. Eventually Kosala invaded and conquered the Sakyans.

      I suspect that the Bodhisatta knew that his country was doomed, which is one reason for his spiritual crisis and his decision to leave home. He might well have realized that there was no place for him there. I think that this is referred to in the Attadanda Sutta. The Buddha’s mention in that sutta to people being like fish in a shrinking pond may also have been intended as a reference to the Sakyan’s and the Koliya’s disputes over access to the waters of the Rohini river for irrigation water.

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