“Those who are free of resentful thoughts surely find peace.”

This quote is in that gray area of genuine scriptural sayings that are translated in such a free manner that they no longer quite say what the original did. It’s effectively a good paraphrase, but not a quote. I really don’t like describing this as a Fake Buddha Quote, but strictly speaking that’s what it is.

The earliest reference I’ve found to it in this form is in a book by Eknath Easwaran called Words to Live By, originally published in 1990.

I didn’t recognize the quote until I saw it in Words to Live By, where it’s given in a fuller form:

He insulted me, he cheated me, he beat me, he robbed me — Those who are free of resentful thoughts surely find peace.

This of course is a famous verse (verse 4) from the Dhammapada. Here’s Buddharakkhita’s very literal translation:

“He abused me, he struck me, he overpowered me, he robbed me.”
Those who do not harbor such thoughts still their hatred.

In Eknath’s own published translation of the same verse, he has:

“He insulted me, he struck me, he cheated me, he robbed me.”
Those who give up resentful thoughts surely find peace.

I think we can assume that both versions are translations by Eknath. (I’m not being familiar by addressing him as Eknath, by the way — Easwaran was his personal name, Eknath his family name.) He’s definitely playing a bit fast and loose with the translation. In the original Pali, there’s no mention of peace, and the reference is to those who “still their hatred (veraṃ).”

Also in the Pāli there’s no mention of “resentful thoughts.” There’s just a simple “taṃ,” which is an accusative pronoun (“that”) referring back to the previous thoughts.

So that’s two fudges in one sentence. Eknath does preserve the overall meaning of these verses, but it is a paraphrase and not a translation. It’s a damn good paraphrase, actually, and in fact I prefer it in some ways to the original! I like that the kind of thinking the Buddha gives examples of is descried as resentment. That brings a kind of clarity to what’s being pointed out. I also like the positive use of “peace” instead of “stilled hatred.”The Buddha often, in a very Indian way, used negative terminology, which often sits uneasily with our modern tastes. But it’s how he’s recorded as having taught, and translations need to respect that.

So I feel kind of mean saying that this is a Fake Buddha Quote. But it’s not what the Buddha actually said.

(Thanks to David St. Michael for first asking me about this quote.)

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