“The most valuable gift you can receive is an honest friend.”

This quote is one of ten found on the page that currently ranks first on Google for the search term, “Buddha quotes on friendship.” It’s not from the Buddha, and that’s the case for the other nine quotes on that page.

It’s sad that Google’s algorithm is promoting false information in this way.

Worse, Google has chosen the quotes on that page to appear in its “featured snippet,” which is a presentation right on the search results page. The fact that they appear directly on Google’s page gives them an spurious air of authenticity.

Although this quote isn’t from the scriptures, it, of all the quotes on that page, strikes me as most likely to have been said by the Buddha. He valued honest friends, and he was also fond of saying that something was the “greatest” example of something or other — although he would more likely say “highest” (parama).

We see this in one particular phrase from the Dhammapada, in verse 24, which reads “Vissāsaparamā ñāti.” Buddharakkhita translates this as “A trustworthy person is the best kinsman.”

  • Ñāti means “a kinsman; a relation; a relative.”
  • Parama means “highest, most excellent, superior, best.”
  • Visāssa means “confidence; trust; intimacy” but can also refer to a person who has those qualities — that is, “a trustworthy one.”

That’s not too far from our fake quote, although there’s no mention of gifts.

It’s not at all clear where “The most valuable gift you can receive is an honest friend” actually comes from. It’s often attributed on the internet to a self-help slash personal development guru called Stephen Richards, but unfortunately no source is given. Richards’ books seem all to have been published by his own company and neither the Amazon nor the Google Books listings allow you to search inside most of his publications.

Richards’ quotes are often quite good, with things like “The discontent and frustration that you feel is entirely your own creation,” which is certainly in line with the Buddha’s teachings. Then again we have things like “Reality is a projection of your thoughts or the things you habitually think about,” which is not.

If this quote is from one of his books, it may be from “Forgiveness and Love Conquers All: Healing the Emotional Self.” But that’s just a guess.

The general notion of honest friends being a gift is of course a common one. A good example is found in the Scots song, “John o’ Badenyon,” by the Rev. John Skinner

A friend I got by lucky chance—’twas something like divine;
An honest friend’s a precious gift, and such a gift was mine.
And now, whatever may betide, a happy man was I,
In any strait I knew to whom I freely might apply.

Anyway, so I don’t have a definitive source for our fake quote yet. If you have access to any of Richards’ books, and find or don’t find it there, please let me know.

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