“People with opinions just go around bothering each other.”


“People with opinions just go around bothering each other.”

When I first saw this quote I thought I was certain that it was fake. After a bit of investigation I came to be conclusion that it’s a paraphrase, but close enough to the original to be considered a genuine quote.

The original of this striking verse is found in the Magandiya Suta in the Sutta Nipata, which is generally held to be one of the oldest collection of texts in the Pali canon.

Bhikkhu Thanissaro translates this verse as:

“Those who grasp at perceptions and views
go about butting their heads in the world.”

Fausböll, a 19th century pioneer translator, has:

“But those who grasped after marks and philosophical views, they wander about in the world annoying people.”

Suttas.net has:

“Those attached to the notion ‘I am’ and to views
Roam the world offending people.”*

The original Pali is:

Saññaca diṭṭhiñca ye aggahesuṃ
Te ghaṭṭayantā vicaranti loketi.

My rendition would be:

Those who cling to perceptions (saññā) and views (diṭṭhi)
Wander (vicarati) the world offending (ghaṭṭeti) people.

[Added later: Bhikkhu Varado’s translation, which I just discovered, is almost identical to mine: “Those attached to perception and views / roam the world offending people.”]

So this colorful little gem has strong canonical roots. The form of this quote, “People with opinions just go around bothering each other,” seems to be a minor variant of something from A Path With Heart, a 1993 book by Jack Kornfield: “People with opinions just go around bothering one another” (page 50). What’s missing here compared to the Pali is that in the original it’s “clinging” to views and perceptions that’s the cause of conflict, while Jack merely has “opinions.” But opinions aren’t, in popular parlance, opinions unless they’re views that are clung to, so the difference seems minimal. Still, in the graphic above I’ve included the “clinging.”

The Buddha in fact regarded himself as being free of opinions, and saw opinions as bonds and shackles:

“And how is there the bond of opinions? Here, monks, someone does not understand as it really is the arising, the subsiding, the sweetness, the wretchedness, and the leaving behind of opinions. For one not understanding as it really is the arising, the subsiding, the sweetness, the wretchedness, and the leaving behind of modes of opinion; who, with respect to opinion, is obsessed with passion for opinion, delight in opinion, affection for opinion, intoxication with opinion, thirst for opinion, fever for opinion, attachment to opinion, craving for opinion: this, monks, is called ‘the bond of opinion’. Thus the bond of sensual pleasure, the bond of being, and the bond of opinion.”

* The translator notes that “I am” is not in the quotation, but that its inclusion is warranted by material nearby. That’s just how Pali rolls, bitches.

8 thoughts on ““People with opinions just go around bothering each other.””

  1. That the translated verse was enough to understand its original thought, the truth is unique and ideal. The options will arise. And people have to bother each other because they don’t know the truth. And they have many options.
    It was close enough to the quote in dammapada,
    “If you can’t find a companion, who equal or better than you. Go alone, there is no companionship with a fool”

    1. One will never find a a companion that is better than one self if everyone only accepts the company of someone equal or better.

      1. The reference is to Dhammapada verse 61: Should a seeker not find a companion who is better or equal, let him resolutely pursue a solitary course; there is no fellowship with the fool.

        If we’re being strictly logical, you’re correct. But this addresses the specific need to avoid people who are spiritually foolish — which means not just that the person is spiritually less developed than oneself, but that they are obstructive and unwilling to learn. In circumstances like that, you’re better being on your own. Someone could be a complete novice but not a “fool” because they’re willing to learn. And it could be spiritually beneficial for both parties were a more experienced practitioner to spend time with them.

  2. Ironically, there are so many opinions on this not clinging to opinions thing, that I am left with no choice but to refrain from opining upon it. Point being; please stop trying to figure out what your opinion is on this matter. It’s annoying.

    1. Thank you for that excellent illustration of the very point the quote is making, Mary Anne. I’m truly indebted to you.

  3. It’s impossible not to have a point of view or an opinion for that is the nature of perception. To impose it on another is yet another matter, smacking as it does of semantic violence.
    The idea is to let all fools have opinions, some peaceful, others not, whilst maintaining an equanimity that is born of compassion, which is the child of Love, as mother Tara loves everyone, including the BodhiSattvas.

    1. I don’t think the Buddha would see things the same way. For example, what does it mean to “impose your opinion” on someone? When the Buddha was discussing another person’s behavior or their opinions, he felt free to tell them they were foolish or that their opinions were harmful or nonsensical. No doubt some of the people he said those things to were upset at being criticized. So was the Buddha “imposing” his opinions in those cases. Arguably he was.

      What he was talking about here was people clinging to opinions, not merely having them. He pointed out elsewhere that when we cling to opinions we inevitably think of them and ourselves as “superior” and we think of others and their opinions as “lesser.” And those attitudes of “superiority conceit” therefore lead to conflict. When we cling to opinions, then no discussion is merely about which ideas fit the facts better. Every discussion is a battle.

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