“What you think you create, what you feel you attract, what you imagine you become.”

What you think you create, what you feel you attract“What you think you create, what you feel you attract, what you imagine you become.”

This one is commonly attributed to the Buddha, although it’s very modern and law-of-attraction-y. It’s also found as “What you think you become, what you feel you attract, what you imagine you create.”

I believe that the quote in this form was written by Adele Basheer, who designs greetings cards for her company, Intrinsic.

According to her website, “While her personal mantra is the “what you think you create” message, Adele also feels that all it takes is believing…”

Basheer has taken these phrases from the writings of the Irish-born New Thought author Joseph Murphy. In his 1963 book “The Power of Your Subconscious Mind” he said, “Know that belief is a thought in your mind, and what you think you create.” And in his 1968 “The Cosmic Power Within You” he wrote, “You have faith when you know that thoughts are things; what you feel, you attract; and what you imagine, you become.”

Sometimes the quote is prefaced by “The law of the mind is relentless…” but I’ve found no source for that. If that’s by Murphy then I haven’t yet found it in any of his books.

The Buddha, on the other hand, pointed out in the Ittha Sutta that if we want qualities like long life, beauty, happiness, status, or a good rebirth, there’s no point simply wishing for those things. Wishing positive things is fine, but we must also engage with the path of practice that leads to them.

He certainly wouldn’t agree with a statement like “all it takes is believing,” and in fact that’s a notion that he roundly ridiculed:

Suppose a man were to throw a large boulder into a deep lake of water, and a great crowd of people, gathering and congregating, would pray, praise, and circumambulate with their hands palm-to-palm over the heart [saying,] ‘Rise up, O boulder! Come floating up, O boulder! Come float to the shore, O boulder!’ What do you think: would that boulder — because of the prayers, praise, and circumambulation of that great crowd of people — rise up, come floating up, or come float to the shore?

I can imagine that discourse raising a few chuckles from the bhikkhus!

28 thoughts on ““What you think you create, what you feel you attract, what you imagine you become.””

  1. So Buddha did say that that it was possible to “get” positive things in your life by “doing” something? What do you mean by “the path of practice that leads to them”?

    1. I was actually citing the Ittha Sutta (which the article links to) in talking about the “path of practice” that leads to beauty, health, happiness, etc. In general this would be the entire path of Buddhist practice, but the Buddha often emphasized being ethical, and especially the act of giving, as creating health, happiness, and beauty.

      Generally I find this to be the case. People who are kind and compassionate have a beauty that isn’t dependent on the genetic lottery that creates symmetrical features, high cheekbones, full lips, etc. Those purely physical attributes can create an impression of beauty up to a certain point in life, but our emotional life soon takes over. As Orwell said, “At fifty, everyone has the face he deserves.” Personally I’d put the cutoff date a bit earlier.

  2. Your article delivers your ignorance on the subject of the power of thinking. Your article has no substance or point. If you believe in what you are writing to the world, you would have put your name on the end of the article.

    1. Benjamin, the point of the article is to point out that the quote is not actually attributable to Buddha. The substance is that there actually is a path to manifest positive change in one’s life, but it is not simply wishing for it.

    2. all that is being said is that “What You Think, You Become. What you Feel, You Attract, What You Imagine, You Create” is indeed, not Buddha

  3. “The Buddha, on the other hand, pointed out in the Ittha Sutta that if we want qualities like long life, beauty, happiness, status, or a good rebirth, there’s no point simply wishing for those things. Wishing positive things is fine, but we must also engage with the path of practice that leads to them.” Is there a quotable passage that can be used to embody this?

    1. Are you thinking that the Ittha Sutta isn’t very quotable? There certainly is a problem with the suttas tending to make points in a rather long-winded and repetitive way. I guess the following passage from that sutta is almost quotable:

      “It’s not fitting for the disciple of the noble ones who desires happiness to pray for it or to delight in doing so. Instead, the disciple of the noble ones who desires happiness should follow the path of practice leading to happiness. In so doing, he will attain happiness.”

      If the Buddha had an editor we might have ended up with something like “Don’t wish for happiness. Cultivate happiness.”

      This is why we end up with so many fake quotes!

  4. You are right, without action wishful thinking won’t get results. However, one should remember every action begins as a thought FIRST.

  5. When we say that any particular quote is a fake ‘Buddha-quote’, it doesn’t necessarily (but may) mean that the quote itself is of no value or against Buddhist principles

  6. Thanks! I’ve loved the greeting card Buddha quote and glad to see this lineage how it was created.

    Still love it.

    Love your flexibility.

    peace of wild beings to you


    1. Love that phrase “peace of wild beings”. It captures so well the peace that comes from being your own authority in this world, and the sense of knowing the right actions.

      It is a reminder of how right action results from a deep understanding and caring for both others and yourself, rather than being driven by social programming.

  7. Because a person in 1960 wrote some words, it’s taken as fact that this person was the first in history to have these thoughts? That’s absurd to suggest although the possibility exists. I’ll enjoy reading this quote and attributing it to Buddah. “It’s the thought that counts”, and while Buddah may not have phrased it precisely, certainly this general train of thought has existed for thousands of years before 1960.

    1. Hi, Max.

      If you find an earlier source for the various sayings by Murphy that Basheer collected together (and that were then misattributed to the Buddha), then please let me know. I can’t definitively say that Murphy was the originator of these words but it seems likely. I don’t say anything about “thoughts” since we can only know about thoughts that are documented in writing.

      You’re free to misattribute quotes to the Buddha to your heart’s content, of course, although I’d imagine that you’d prefer to be the kind of person who spreads truthful rather than bogus information.

      All the best,

  8. Hello All,
    It was fascinating to read the explanations, reflections and commentary. Although, I think it is important to be kind and respectful of other peoples courage to share their thoughts in such an open platform. I am grateful to all of you for sharing and was inspired to do the same. A few point bubbling in my mind: As a person who loves to see people’s thoughts and juxtapositions about life’s sensations, as they encounter them, I like that there was an effort to get the quote and its author accurately aligned. We should always give credit where and when it is due and to whom it is attributed. I read somewhere, I don’t recall, that imitation is the best form of flattery.

    Best Wishes to All, 2020

  9. i always come to this site to check Buddha’s quotes!
    and reading all comments helped me do understand even more around the topic.
    congrats for the great work!

  10. You and most Westerns knowledge in Buddhism is very limited .You don’t find anything that doesn’t mean that doesn’t exist .
    I am from that land where buddha took birth .we Got original teaching of buddha not perverted teaching which most of western think teaching of buddha . There are many Western scholars who even didn’t have precise knowledge on sanskrit and pali tried to convert it in English made error they are baffled and make others and enticing .There are several verses where buddha mentioned remesmbled to this .So I refute you claim it as fake buddha Quote Which claim
    is utter fake

    1. Hi, Saswata.

      All you need to do to convince me I’m wrong is to tell me which suttas these verses are in.

      All the best,

  11. Hi Bodhipaksha and all,
    It is impresive to go through the article and the comments. Gives us a hint how a “dhamma” discussion should be… Thus this discussion glances how profoundly, many people in this globular world put Buddhas teaching in to practice mindfully. Hope these articles refers to the Thripitakaya (Pali Canon). Translating it to other language is a (should be) work done by a panel of bilingual experts.
    This work done by you all revealing the covers, so shines up the light of buddhism to the world from east to west and vice versa.

    “Thathhaagathappa weditha dhamm vinayo vivato virochathi no patichchanno”

    The preachings of lord Buddha shines when uncovered, not when hidden…

    Three things can never be long hidden…

    Keep up the good work…time to time i look in to this valuable website to enlightned with correct Budddhas words.

    With Metta

  12. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) explores the links between thoughts, emotions and behaviour.
    CBT help the individual enact change in thinking patterns and behaviors, thereby improving quality of life not by changing the circumstances in which the person lives, but by helping the person take control of his or her own perception of those circumstances.

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