Hello Bodhipaksa. I really admire how calmly you deal with these
Here’s one from a blogger who puts a thought, her own or someone
else’s, into the Buddha’s mouth:
Monkey mind, I read, is a Chinese coinage. I think that the Buddha
uses the second person plural here in itself is enough to expose the
quote. There isn’t any scripture where the Buddha does that, is there?
I’d never seen this as a quote attributed to the Buddha, although that doesn’t mean much, since I’m always coming across new Fake Buddha Quotes. I almost hesitate to review this quote because it’s not in wide circulation, I prefer to deal with those quotes that are. But the topic interests me, and if this particular quote does take off we’ll have its origin documented here.
It’s “Zen Mama” Betsy Henry who I think created this quote, giving us one of those rare moments when we can pinpoint the birth (on April 10, 2012) of a Fake Buddha Quote:
I recently read that Buddha imagined the human mind was filled with drunken monkeys who jumped around and were constantly chattering. “We all have monkey minds,” Buddha said. All these monkeys want our attention and steal our energy.
Henry seems to be drawing heavily from a Huffington Post article by BJ Gallagher, who uses the same expression, but who (quite properly) doesn’t put the words in quotation marks. Gallagher had written:
Buddha described the human mind as being filled with drunken monkeys, jumping around, screeching, chattering, carrying on endlessly. We all have monkey minds, Buddha said, with dozens of monkeys all clamoring for attention.
I think what Gallagher did is fine — simply paraphrasing what the Buddha said. But Zen Mama steps over the line by turning this into a direct quotation.
But did the Buddha talk about “monkey mind”? I’d be interested to know Dan’s source about the Chinese origin of this saying, but the Buddha did indeed use the metaphor of the mind being like a monkey in several places, and with varying meanings.
In Dhammapada verse 334, he said: “The craving of one given to heedless living grows like a creeper. Like the monkey seeking fruits in the forest, he leaps from life to life.”
Samyutta Nikaya 12.61 has “Just as a monkey, swinging through a forest wilderness, grabs a branch. Letting go of it, it grabs another branch. Letting go of that, it grabs another one. Letting go of that, it grabs another one. In the same way, what’s called ‘mind,’ ‘intellect,’ or ‘consciousness’ by day and by night arises as one thing and ceases as another.”
Sutta Nipata 4.4 has “Having left a former (object) they attach themselves to another, dominated by craving they do not go beyond attachment. They reject and seize, like a monkey letting go of a branch to take hold of another.”
And in Therigatha 19, Talaputa quotes the Buddha: “Said He who speaks the best, Best among mankind,
man-taming trainer, Physician Great indeed: ‘Unsteady, likened to a monkey is the mind, extremely hard to check when not rid of lust.’”
So it’s a metaphor he’s recorded as using. The phrase “monkey mind” isn’t found in the suttas, to the best of my knowledge, although according to my Pali dictionary the term kapicitta — “having a monkey’s mind” (meaning capricious, or fickle) — is found in the Jatakas.
It’s great that Dan spotted the use of the first person plural. This is very rare. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that he never used “we,” but it’s certainly rare, and he seems only to have used “we” when suggesting what other people should think or say, as in “Thus, friends, you should train yourselves: ‘Being Dhamma-devotee monks, we will speak in praise of jhana monks.’”
He used phrases like “All tremble at violence; all fear death” when referring to some widespread condition, rather than “we.” I know of at least one place when he used “you and I.”