“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.”

This is yet another of the quotes I found in the site that currently ranks highest on Google for “Buddha quotes on friendship.” All ten of the quotes on that web page are fake. I’m working my way through all ten, although it’s going to take a while.

This one is often attributed to Helen Keller, presumably because she was blind, and there’s a natural association between darkness and blindness. The quote was even used in an experiential exhibition about blindness. But as far as I can see [no pun intended], these are not Keller’s words.

Instead they seem to be an alteration of lines from a 19th century poem by Mary Gardiner Brainard. Here are the final few verses:

O restful, blissful ignorance! ’t is blessëd not to know;
It keeps me still in those mighty arms which will not let me go,
And lulls my weariness to rest on the bosom that loves me so.

So I go on not knowing,—I would not if I might;
I would rather walk in the dark with God than go alone in the light;
I would rather walk with Him by faith than walk alone by sight.

My heart shrinks back from trials which the future may disclose,
Yet I never had sorrow but what the dear Lord chose;
So I send the coming tears back with the whispered word, “He knows.”

According to Edmund Clarence Stedman, in his “An American Anthology (1787-1900),” Brainard was the daughter of a prominent Connecticut lawyer, and the niece of the poet John Gardiner Calkens Brainard, and her poem, which has the title “Not Knowing,” was first published in The Congregationalist in 1969.

Stedman described “Not Knowing” as a “womanly and touching expression” of faith.

So this isn’t the Buddha. There are lines in the Buddhist scriptures that vaguely resemble this. For example, in Buddharakkhita’s translation of Dhammapada verse 87, we have “Abandoning the dark way, let the wise man cultivate the bright path.” No mention here of friends, though.

And in verse 61 of the Dhammapada he has “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.” So here the topic is who we walk with rather than whether we’re walking in the dark or light.

For more genuine quotes from the Buddha on the topic of friendship, visit 10+ Genuine Buddha quotes on friendship over on Wildmind.org.

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