“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”

There’s nothing at all unBuddhist about this quote, or the sentiment it expresses, but as far as I’m aware “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” isn’t found in any Buddhist scriptures.

It sounds like someone has tried to distill the Buddha’s teaching (or eastern spiritual teachings generally) into a nice maxim, and hit on a saying that was already popular.

This probable Fake Buddha Quote seems to have been around for some time. According to Google Books, it’s found attributed to the Buddha in Distilled Wisdom: An Encyclopedia of Wisdom in Condensed Form, by Alfred Armand Montapert, from 1964, although it has to be said that Google Books’ dating is sometimes off. And Google also says it’s found in a 1959 book by George Francis Allen, with the splendid title of Words of Wisdom: The Buddhist Companion Book; Containing 365 Maxims and Utterances Attributed to Gotama Buddha for Each Day and Night of the Year.

Something very similar is found in an 1873 book, A Twofold Life, by Wilhelmine von Hillern:

“There is also a heaven upon earth in our own breasts. Do not seek it without, but within your heart ; then you will not come into heaven for the first time when you die, but remain in it always.”

A year later, in 1874, Joseph Jerome Vaughan added a footnote in the book, “The Spiritual Conflict and Conquest,” saying “Men foolishly seek peace of mind and contentment from without, whereas it comes from within.”

The saying was around in 1907 as “For the spirit of contentment and peace comes from within, not from without.” (Library Journal, December, 1907), and in 1908’s Country Life magazine as “Peace comes from within, not from without,” where it is described as “the message of Marcus Aurelius.”

I haven’t found any instances before the 20th century, but in “The Complete Words of W. E. Channing,” I’ve found the following:

“There can be no peace without, but through peace within. Society must be an expression of the souls of its members.”

This is from a lecture, “On War,” delivered in 1838. The general idea is no doubt much older, but the expression “peace comes from within” seems not to be much more than a century old.

Incidentally, not everyone has believed that peace comes from within.

A Scottish minister, John Purves, wrote in “Sermons touching some points much controverted at present” (1846):

Beware … of taking peace to yourselves because things are right within. Awakened souls are ever looking for this. They are ever inquiring, is this right or this ? is this the thing I need or that? Poor souls, so long as you try, and look, and think of a rightness within, you never can be right; you must be wrong. The very trial prevents you being right. It proves you to be wrong, and it keeps you so. For it shews you are seeking your peace from a source within, which is just seeking the living among the dead. And it is, therefore, keeping out the only peace, which is not from within, but from without; which is in the open Gospel, waiting, like an angel of light, at your door to be taken in.

A commenter helpful notes below that there’s a verse in the Tuvaṭaka Sutta of the Sutta Nipāta that says “Totally calm within himself / A bhikkhu would not seek peace from another.” There’s certainly a resemblance of theme, but the “peace comes from within” saying isn’t a translation of this, nor even a paraphrase. A paraphrase might look something like “Having found peace within, there is no need to seek it without.” “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without” seems instead to be a distillation of a viewpoint that had been brewing for a long time.

Anyway, “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without” is definitely not a saying of the Buddha, and shouldn’t be attributed to him.

20 thoughts on ““Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.””

  1. There can be no peace without, but through peace within. Society must be an expression of the souls of its members.

    can you give me full reference of this sentence ?! in which line and page ? with original sours? thanks

    picture of this ? its important for me .. any thing regarding peace as a human nature …
    The saying was around in 1907 as “For the spirit of contentment and peace comes from within, not from without.” (Library Journal, December, 1907), and in 1908’s Country Life magazine as “Peace comes from within, not from without,” where it is described as “the message of Marcus Aurelius.

    1. The only point I’m making is that it’s not a quote from the Buddha, any more than it’s a quote from Jesus, Albert Einstein, or your own good self.

    1. Because truth is better than bullshit? Because, as Einstein said, “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted in important affairs”?

      1. Can you please give me an example of a buddha quote that is not fake? It seems that most of the buddha quotes I’m run into is fake, according to this website. Remember, buddha is originated from southeast asia. I’m sure there’s something along the line of these fake buddha quotes in its original form. Perhaps, it’s not fake but rather lost in translation?

        1. Hi, Tom. You’re correct that the majority of “Buddha quotes” in circulation are fake. In many of the articles on this site I do include quotes from the Buddhist scriptures, but you can always check out Real Buddha Quotes or visit Access to Insight, where there’s a large selection of scriptural translations.

          Where there’s a problem with a quirky translation, I always note this in the article. The main problems are misattributed quotes and people just making stuff up and sticking the Buddha’s name on the end.

    1. Other Buddhas are legendary or mythical. Such Buddhas put in an appearance in the early scriptures and also in the Mahayana Sutras, but I’m fairly certain that this quote is not to be found in any of those sources.

  2. Thank you Bodhipaksa for you Right Effort in transmitting accurate information. as far as we can know. about the Buddha’s wisdom.

    1. Hi, Jhon.

      There’s certainly a similar theme in that verse from the Sutta Nipāta, but “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without” is not, as far as I know, a translation of that verse. If you have any evidence it is, please do pass it on.

      All the best,
      Bodhipaksa

  3. We cannot find these sentences (“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without”) exactly in the Tuvaṭaka Sutta of the Sutta Nipāta. But the meaning of “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without” lies within “Totally calm within himself, A bhikkhu would not seek peace from another.” Therefore, the saying of “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without” is acceptable.

    1. Hi, Jhon.

      You say that “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without” is “acceptable,” but acceptable as what? It’s not a translation. As far as I can see, the saying “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without” emerged without reference to any Buddhist scripture. It’s not in any translation of the Sutta Nipata.

      It’s not even a particularly close paraphrase: paraphrasing the quotation would give something more like “Having found peace within, there is no need to seek it without.” What we have here is nothing more than a scriptural verse and a common saying bearing a passing resemblance to each other. To say that “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without” is something the Buddha said is just not accurate.

      All the best,
      Bodhipaksa

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