“When the student is ready the teacher will appear.”


I was surprised when someone wrote and asked about this one, saying that he doubted it was a genuine quote from the Buddha. It had never occurred to me that anyone would think this was a Buddhist quote and I’d never heard this described as Buddhist. And yet, seek, and ye shall find (also not one of the Buddha’s). It turns out that it’s all over the internet, including on at least one quotes site, although as a “Buddhist proverb” rather than directly attributed to the Buddha. But the quote is also ascribed to the Buddha, not just on websites, but in several books.

When I first began investigating this quote it quickly became clear that it likely had a Theosophical origin. If you’re not familiar with Theosophy (which was still popular in certain circles into the mid-20th century, and is still around), Wikipedia tell us,

In 1875 Helena Blavatsky, Henry Steel Olcott, and William Quan Judge co-founded The Theosophical Society. Blavatsky combined Eastern religious traditions with Western esoteric teachings to create a synthesis she called the Perennial Religion. She developed this in Isis Unveiled (1877) and The Secret Doctrine (1888), her major works and exposition of her Theosophy.

For example in a 1914 periodical, The Herald of the Star (a publication of a Theosophical organization, “The Order of the Star in the East”), we’re told that “in the various occult Orders which seem always to have existed throughout the world, it has been expressed in the words, ‘When the pupil is ready, the Master will appear.’”

And in Theosophy magazine of 1918, we have “When the disciple is ready, the Master will appear.”

In a Masonic publication from 1922, The New Age magazine, we also read “It is said, in what is called Occultism, that when the pupil is ready the Master will appear.” “Occultism” here is another term for Theosophy.

And in a 1927 publication, Steps to Self-Mastery, S. R. Parchment says:

“When the pupil is ready, the Master appears” is an old Theosophical statement, and I have been able on several occasions to prove its truthfulness.

Other forms are “When the Seeker is ready, the Master will appear.” “the Master will appear when the disciple is ready” “When the student is ready, the master will appear.”

“An old Theosophical statement” is as close as I got until the magnificent Barry Popik came to the rescue, with his awe-inspiring research skills. Mr. Popik, according to his website,

is a contributor to the Oxford English Dictionary, Dictionary of American Regional English, Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Yale Book of Quotations and Dictionary of Modern Proverbs. Since 1990 he has also been a regular contributor to Gerald Cohen’s Comments on Etymology. He is recognized as an expert on the origins of the terms Big Apple, Windy City, hot dog, and many other food terms, and he is an editor of the Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink.

I bow deeply!

From page 48 of Light on the Path, by Mabel Collins.
Mr. Popik traced the quote further back, to Light on the Path, by Mabel Collins. The third edition, which is on Google Books, is dated 1886, although presumably the first edition was published at least a year earlier.

Light on the Path is an odd work, describing itself as “A treatise written for the personal use of those who are ignorant of the Eastern wisdom, and who desire to enter within its influence.” The title page of the book is inscribed “Written down by M.C., Fellow of the Theosophical Society.” Why “written down by” rather than “written by”? The Theosophists claimed to be in contact with “Masters” or “mahatmas” in the East who dictated works to them. Therefore, M. C (Mabel Collins) presents herself not as an author, but as the Stenographer to the Awakened.

And on page 48 we find, “For when the disciple is ready the Master is ready also.”

Incidentally, the Enlightened Masters with whom the Theosophists were in mystical communion (some of the contact appears to have been telepathic) seem to have been influenced by the King James version of the Bible, for Light on the Path is full of passages like this:

If thou look not for him, if thou pass him by, then there is no safeguard for thee. Thy brain will reel, thy heart grow uncertain, and in the dust of the battle-field thy sight and senses will fail, and thou wilt not know thy friends from thy enemies. (p. 16)

Blavatsky, who founded the Theosophical Society, was widely accused of faking teachings, and of plagiarism. A New York Times review of K. Paul Johnson’s The Masters Revealed, a book exposing Blavatsky says:

In 1884, Richard Hodgson of the British Society for Psychical Research went to India to investigate Blavatsky and called her “one of the most accomplished, ingenious and interesting impostors in history.”

William Emmette Coleman, in The Sources of Madame Blavatsky’s Writings, points out that in one Blavatsy’s Isis Unveiled there were “2000 passages copied from other books without proper credit” and that one work she claimed was a translation of a Tibetan teaching, was in fact “a compilation of ideas and terminology from various nineteenth-century books.”

Faking an entire Sutra takes Fake Buddha Quotes to a whole new level! Madame Blavatksy, Fake Buddha Quoter Extraordinaire, I salute you!

Mabel Collins later regretted having claimed that the book was dictated to her by the Mahatmas. In a letter of April 18, 1889, she wrote:

So far as I can remember I wrote you that I had received “Light on the Path” from one of the Masters who guide Madame Blavatsky. I wish to ease my conscience now by saying that I wrote this from no knowledge of my own, and merely to please her [Blavatsky]; and that I now see I was very wrong in doing so.

Blavatsky herself maintained her cover story to the bitter end.

92 thoughts on ““When the student is ready the teacher will appear.””

  1. This is a great way to uncover old phases – I too thought it was an old buddhist teaching – I like how you put your articles together – well done!

    1. Origins are an interesting and worthwhile area for inquiry but I feel like the Buddha or Lao Tzu or any deeply wise person might say or is telling me now somehow through my inner voice:

      “Don’t worry much about it or spend too much time on it if there is wisdom and learning and growth to be had in those words.”

      The saying certainly echoes the wisdom of both, of many. The point today for me is the message.

      I too often get sidetracked by all the information at our disposal on the internet and sometimes get sucked into this or that debate.

      Today I am not going to do that but focus on my practice, my path, and growth.

      Namaste and cheers!

      1. Well, that’s the problem. You tell yourself what you think the Buddha might have said when he was misquoted, rather than checking to see what the Buddha did actually say when he was misquoted. When people put words in his mouth (as you just have) his answer was typically “Worthless man, from whom have you understood that teaching taught by me in such a way?” That seems a bit harsh to me and I wouldn’t use such language myself, but it seemed he took being misrepresented very seriously.

      1. Though, since Theosophy admittedly gleaned their teachings from ancient philosophies, beliefs and religions, I think it may still be possible that the idea of this quote might still have come from some ancient text. Did Mr, Popik eliminate all other source texts? I don’t want to belabor the subject, and question the stated assertion that it is not Vedic or some other ancient quote, it has some import to my research for a book I am developing. Thanks.

        1. If this quote had originated in the Vedas, or some other ancient source, it would surely have come to light by now, Linda.

          1. Thanks for your reply. I read something similar in Thich Nhat Hanh’s book Living Buddha, Living Christ just this afternoon after I sent the other comment. Thây attributed the quote to Buddha: “When conditions are sufficient, the body reveals itself, ands we say the body exists. When conditions are not sufficient, the body cannot be perceived by us, and we say the body does not exist.” Granted, he was writing about the ultimate dimension of reality, through mindfulness of our no-body, but the statement echoes of “when the seeker is ready

          2. Hi, Linda.

            In that particular context, what Thich Nhat Hanh is talking about is how the human body arises in dependence upon causes and conditions, and then ceases to be (dies) when those conditions can no longer be sustained. And so, in a sense, any perception we have of the body as a “thing” is just a snapshot, losing a dynamic appreciation of the body as part of the cycle of the elements. It isn’t connected, in any way that I can see, at least. with the idea of the teacher appearing when the student is ready.

            I’d also very much doubt whether this is something the Buddha said. Thay’s books seem to contain a number of paraphrases masquerading as quotes. I think what happens is that he gives a talk in which he says “The Buddha said…” and then gives a description, in his own words, of a Buddhist teaching. Then when his editors are turning his talks into books, they take these as actual quotes. I’ve seen several instances of this.

      2. its a buddhist saying , in the 3rd century text by lengthen pa, there is a saying , DUL ZA YO NA DULZED NANG

        1. Most interesting! Do you mean Longchenpa, Khamsung? Which text is that, and is it available in English? It’s extremely unlikely that Mabel Collins would have had access to any Tibetan texts, so this may just be a coincidence. But you never know.

        2. finally, someone cleared this one up. we’re back to references (radiocarbon) to him made in 6th-century bc. He probably said something like that for the very simple reason that it’s an element of the core of understanding Buddhism and the statement is made when talking about that progression.

          1. Please help me out if this is cleared up, Joel. Who is this “lengthen pa” that Khamsung is talking about, and what’s the “Yhedshen zhod”?

            Of course if this saying is, as he says, from the 3rd century then of course this doesn’t affect the fact that this quote isn’t from the Buddha. But it would be good to know if it quote does have a source in a Buddhist text.

      1. Hi, Rusty.

        It’s Lao Tzu (or Lao Tze, or Laozi), not Loa Tsu. He’s supposed to have lived in the 6th century BCE, not 2500 BCE.

        And the quote is not from the Tao Te Ching.

        Really, the Dao Te Ching is not a very long text, and it wouldn’t have taken you long to establish that the quote is nowhere to be found in it — had you cared to look. But perhaps you go by the philosophy, “It must be true; I read it on the internet”? 🙂

        1. So I have two versions of Corpus Hermeticum and cannot find that quote or any other similar one. Do you know which part of the corpus contains it?

    1. Thanks, Bill. That’s later than Collins’ book, of course. I wonder if she was one of the sources the “three initiates” drew on? Or perhaps they just picked up on the phrase somewhere after it went into circulation.

    2. This comment is several years too late, but the Kybalion was published long after Mabel Collins’ “Light on the Path.” The saying would have been well known by 1912, and could have been borrowed from any number of places.

    3. The Three Initiates are very likely William Walker Atkinson, who also probably was Theron Q. Dumont and Yogi (won’t even attempt to spell it) who wrote The Science Of Breath, all published by the Yogi Publication Society, which was headed by (you guessed it) William Walker Atkinson.

  2. i have read in a 11 century buddhist text saying when the disciple is ready teacher appears , it also gives an example of a pot full of water which reflect the moon,,,

    1. I’d like to know what that text is, Khamsung. I prefer to look at primary texts rather than simply take people’s word. It’s nothing personal — just that our recollection is often faulty. Please do let me know!

  3. Its all from ancient Egypt…that’s who Crowely and Madame B were most influenced by 🙂 Hermetiscm and Hindu philosophy are their basis. And Daniel is correct….

    1. Claims like this aren’t really meaningful without a source, Amelia. Anyone can make a claim that the quote came from a particular source, but those competing claims simply muddy the waters unless you can point to an actual text (rather than, say, someone else repeating the same claim).

  4. Can one really claim that any spiritual teaching are plagiarized? Plagiarism implies that one person owns the work. Surely concepts like “all is one” or “god is love” cannot be attributed to one person, regardless of who wrote them down. The entire history of spiritual knowledge, going back to the first cave paintings and art forms, in little more than an attempt to understand the same concept within the contexts of the current culture. When John Wheeler called Richard Feynman as 2AM in the spring of 1940 and said, “Feynman, I know why all electrons have the same charge and the same mass” “Why?” “Because, they are all the same electron!” was he plagiarizing whomever was the first to say “all is one”?

    1. The charming example you quote from the interaction between Wheeler and Feynman is clearly not plagiarism. Plagiarism is taking another person’s words and claiming them as your own. If Blavatsky took passages from other people’s works, cobbled them together, and said it was her work, then this is plagiarism. Concepts can’t be plagiarized, although specific wordings of those concepts can.

      1. Actually, concepts can be plagiarized! You can take someone else’s ideas, repackage them, and claim they’re original to you. But what Blavatsky was accused of was copying entire passages wholesale, not merely recycling ideas.

  5. This comment is regarding the reference made to “seek and ye shall find”. That is a quote from Jesus, The Christ in the Holy Scriptures recorded in the Gospels of both Luke and Matthew. Both Luke 11:9 and Matthew 7:7 record, ” Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” The next verse in each reference continues on with this message. The above quote is taken from the New International Version translation of the Holy Bible.

    1. Laurie, perfect tie-in thanks!!! and much better in my case to quote Jesus than some fake budhist quote lol… and so clearly, better actually, gets to the heart of the original quote… busted… & supremely authenticated

    2. Hi, The gospels of Matthew and Luke do not specifically read ‘the teacher/master will appear’ rather these gospels encourage people to continually ask, seek, and knock to find the truth. Good to see this happening on this forum.

  6. This website is great, both ‘Fake Buddha Quotes’ and ‘Real Buddha Quotes’. There are many ‘Buddhist’ quotes in Social Media and this website allowed me to see which quote is a genuine quote from the Lord Buddha. This is a great deed, all the best on your journey to open eyes!

  7. It’s best to just credit some “wiseman or person once said” then specifically naming them because “Once a wise person said if the shoe fits wear it”!

    1. He may well have used the phrase. Many people have. Berdyaev’s first publication came out several decades after Collin’s book was published, though.

  8. Whomever first said it, can anyone argue that it does not hold true and then explain why it does not hold true? This site is full of replies/comments from unready and ready pupils and madters. Receptivity opens up to absorption of knowledge. Rejection/resistance nullifies any attempt by anyone to spread wisdom. See how difficult it is to get this idea acceoss! So go for it, use the fake proverb because it reflects a truth.

    1. I would think the onus is on you to demonstrate that the message of the quote is true, Henrik! (But how would you do that?)

      Anyway, my only concern is that people not attribute the quotation to the Buddha, since it’s not something he said.

  9. Isn’t all so called knowledge subjective? If, for instance, I (like so many people I know) refuse to accept the scientific method as the ultimate system of knowledge; i. e., Arriving at conclusions about our observations and predicting outcomes from the knowledge gained, and instead rely on superstition and fallacious appeals of one kind or another, how will anyone or any force cause me to accept that as gospel? Until I choose to recieve and assimilate incoming knowledge am I not immune to it? And how can anyone teach me or cause me to see their truth if I reject all attemts at such?

    1. I think you will find the word ‘gospel’ means good news rather than specifically ‘true’. Although as a whole their message is said to reinstate the truth, to a nation who had deviated far from it.
      Matthew and Luke do not say ‘the teacher will appear’ rather it encourages people to continually ask, seek, and knock to find the truth.
      It is very hard to find the originator of a quote or idea, yet often easy to spot who isn’t. I am very grateful for forums like these where the truth has been searched for.

  10. Christians say theirs is the only gospel and all else is false. Whether they read it out of a book or hear the so called gospel from a preacher don’t they have to process that and come to a conclusion about its varacity in their own minds?

  11. I have never heard anyone attributing this quote to Buddha. Blavatsky, who is one of the greatest thinkers of the last millennium, and who the Catholic Church made great efforts to denigrate precisely because she exposes in her works the fraud Christianity and the church are, she too never attributes this quote to Buddha, and your material actually acknowledges that. So, you certainly don’t have a case here. More so, when you put the stamp FAKE over the saying, as you do in your meme, the implication is that the saying is not a word of wisdom. It certainly is, and its message is, when one reaches a certain level of enlightenment, he is ready to make advancements with his cognitive growth.

    1. Just because you’ve never seen anyone attributing this quote to the Buddha doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Here are a few examples for you.

      I never claimed that Blavatsky said this was a quote from the Buddha, so I’m not sure what you mean by saying that I “don’t have a case.” That’s not a case I tried to make.

      That the “FAKE” stamp on the image means that the saying is not an expression of wisdom is your inference, not my implication. Questioning the authenticity of a quote’s attribution, which is my task here, is completely different from questioning its validity.

      1. Almost two thirds of your post is dedicated to discrediting Blavatsky, and the implication is that she is the one who started this “fake” Buddha quote. So your saying you were not trying to make the case against Blavatsky, is at least disingenuous. More so when you now claim you “never claimed that Blavatsky said this was a quote from the Buddha.” Let me quote here your original post, the sentence where this is being claimed so I refresh your memory: “Faking an entire Sutra takes Fake Buddha Quotes to a whole new level! Madame Blavatsky, Fake Buddha Quoter Extraordinaire, I salute you!”

        1. Well, by my count it’s only 14% of the article that’s dedicated to discrediting Blavatsky, but let’s not quibble about that. However, there is no implication in the article that she started this quote. I think I make it quite clear that Mabel Collins was the author.

          “Faking an entire Sutra takes Fake Buddha Quotes to a whole new level!” is a reference to the “one work she claimed was a translation of a Tibetan teaching,” not to Mabel Collins’ book or the quote that’s being discussed here.

          1. First of all, how did you figure out it was 14%? You looks like you also are very poor on statistic. After the first paragraph, the rest of the post is dedicated to attacking Theosophy and Blavatsky, the one who founded the famous Theosophical Society of New York. That would make at least 80% of your post. Once again, you claimed you never said she said that was a Buddha quote but you keep accusing her that her allegedly “faking” a whole sutra (where is your evidence?), a sutra that has nothing to do with Buddha, she is taking Faking Buddha Quotes on a new level. Kind of illogical, don’t you think? If you put the stamp “FAKE” over the quote, as you did, no matter who you spin it that means the quote is a fake. Had you put an “X” over the name Buddha, we would have understood this quote is wrongly attributed to Buddha. The very use of the word “fake” on your blog is disingenuous, actually wrong. Fake means fabricated, which is not one with being wrongly attributed to someone. Last but not the least, the only one who would have a vested interest in denigrated Buddha and words of wisdom associated with Eastern philosophy would be some kind of Christian church. The entire history of the Christian church and of Orthodox Judaism is an effort to denigrate and distort Buddhism, concepts of Kundalini Yoga, Taoism and Confucianism. It worked with the poor in spirit. Never with the educated ones.

          2. I selected the part of the post dedicated to Blavatsky, did a word count, and factored that as a proportion of the total. It came to 14%.

            You’re losing focus here. You were asserting that I was claiming Blavatsky as the author of this Fake Buddha Quote. I clearly wasn’t, and now you’re flailing around, quibbling about what the word “fake” should apply to. “Fake” in this context means “falsely attributed.” That’s what the site’s about. If you don’t agree with that definition, you’re of course free to start your own site.

            The implication that anyone interested in clarifying which quotes are falsely attributed to the Buddha must be part of a Christian church is rather hilarious. Thank you for the chuckle!

  12. Would you be kind enough to enrich this article on Wikipedia with an update from your article as i see it can be a valuable add to it, and great great article and nice form, thanks for all the effort.

    1. Hi, Mo. The link you provide wasn’t to Wikipedia, but in any event Wikipedia isn’t something I have an interest in contributing to. It’s too easy for someone with an agenda to undo something you’ve contributed.

  13. I was actually searching for this quote to post on a friend’s Facebook page when I came across your article. First, thank you for keeping me from attributing it to the wrong person, as I am usually quite careful about such things. Second, I enjoy much of the discourse that follows your article; nevertheless, I’ve never understood the need of some people to denigrate others’ arguments….you handle it very well. Nice job.

  14. Thank you, Bodhipaksa for a most interesting post. I would have liked to have read a bit more about Madam B and the Star in the East and possibly her discovery of Krishnamuti and his teachings. Didn’t she claim he was the new Christ which he later refuted in old age?
    I cut my acolyte teeth on those books and they evoke pleasant memories. Guirdief ( sorry, I forget how to spell it) and some other fellow also figure in the story.
    Anyway, my quote is, ‘never let the truth interfere with a good story.’ ?
    I have a quote that you can attribute directly to me: you don’t really know a faith until you are completely submerged in it!

    1. I actually started to wonder, irregardless of who said it, is it true?
      Does the master appear when the student is ready?

      1. How would you know? It’s impossible to quantify or define “readiness.” The likely problem is of adopting a circular argument where “obviously” the student is not ready because the master hasn’t yet appeared.

        I think there’s a grain of truth in the saying in that there are parts of the brain that register information that it detects as salient, ignoring others. So if you’ve only just developed an interest in meditation, say, then you’ll register the flyer advertising the local meditation course, while the previous week you would have walked right past it. This kind of thing can give us the feeling that opportunities are appearing just when we need them: “What do you know: I was just thinking I’d like to learn to meditate and then this flyer starts appearing everywhere in town!”

        1. It’s a mind game. Similar if not integral to hypnosis. In an insidious way. Subliminally.

        2. Isn’t this question really just the same as asking why anything happens as and when it does? I’m not sure why the relation between teacher and student is more special than between student and friend, dog and master, or any other serendipitous pairing in life. One could say ‘when the owner is ready, the dog appears’. Or ‘when the owner is hungry, the food appears’.

          In the fuller version attributed (apparently falsely) to Lao Tsu, which ends ‘when the student is truly ready, the master disappears’; surely it should be ‘when the student is truly ready, they become the master’. It’s not that masters disappear as students graduate, but rather that they become more numerous.

        3. Like never seeing a red car until you buy a red car.

          Even so, the master will appear when the student is ready could just as easily be interpreted as the student will only recognize the master when the student is ready to learn.

          Thank you for your edification of this quote. I was about to use the quote and went looking for its source. Happily, I found your article.

        4. What you are describing in this comment is an example of what (strangely) has been called the Baader Meinhoff phenomenon, or frequency (or recency) illusion.

          Thanks for this post. I saw the quote in “The Little Zen Companion,” a fun little collection, but I was suspicious of this quote, and started googling around, and found you.

          1. I appreciate when people have those niggling doubts about the authenticity of quotes, and when they feel motivated to investigate them. Thank you!

  15. Why are so many people upset that this is not a Buddha quote?
    It is not, it doesn’t exist anywhere in the scriptures and its quite out of line with Buddhist teachings.
    Mind is so funny, if it wants to believe something it will ignore facts and reality…

  16. For many years now I’ve been searching successfully for the sources of G.I. Gurdjieff’s fourth way system, & the quote “when the student is ready the teacher appears” & its varients could be applied to his concept of the magnetic centre

    1. Mostly it’s a question of finding that a quote has a non-scriptural source, so most of my research involves non-Buddhist sources.

  17. Going to ask, I’ve seen as Tao Te Ching — ‘When the student is ready the teacher will appear. When the student is truly ready… The teacher will Disappear.’

    Did I miss any discussion about this in the article/comment thread somewhere?

    1. Are you assuming that because you’ve seen that attribution it must be correct? Have you looked in the Tao Te Ching to see if that saying is there?

  18. No I haven’t, that’s why I was asking. Not assuming, merely wondering if I missed this reference in this discussion, or if someone had shared something that I might have somehow overlooked….

  19. I came across the same quote, attributed to Lau Tsu: “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear; when the student is really ready, the teacher will disappear.”

    1. In the Gia-Fu Feng & Jane English translation of the Tao Te Ching, neither phrases exist. There is only one reference referring to teacher and student in the same para i.e. in section 27 “If the teacher is not respected, and the student not cared for, confusion will arise, however clever one is.”

  20. Regardless of origins, many quotes lose their origins and are passed down and are altered and changed. It still makes some sence and I would think that it might have been mistaken to be a buddha quote due to its similar style of Buddha teaching. I do agree with it regardless of its origin. I has merit. A person not willing to learn is not fit for a teachers presence.

  21. Well! Six years of discussion. So what? Does anyone really know what Buddha said? Everything?

    I remember the comment from my acquaintance with hermeticism; also the corollary “When the teacher is ready the student will appear.” How does attribution certify “truth?” Revelation from God? But do I know for sure God said that? When God says it to me!

    In my experience the “teacher” can be almost anyone or anything crossing my path when I am finally ready for the revelation.

    1. So you’re implying on the one hand that the conversation is pointless. But on the other hand you feel the need to contribute to it anyway. Apparently the Buddha talked about hasapañña, or laughing wisdom, which is something we all need to learn so that we can preserve our sanity 🙂

      “Does anyone really know what Buddha said?” The question here is not what the Buddha said (we can never be sure of that) but what he didn’t day. It’s about what’s been misattributed to him — in other words it’s claimed he said something but there’s no reason to think he did.

      I wonder if anyone ever said, “When the teacher is ready you’ll argue with him on the internet?” 🙂

  22. Keep musing on this one. I’m not sure there is much depth to it. ‘When the drug addict is ready, the drugs appear’. The problem is we’re assuming that the ‘teacher’ here is a useful teacher, but that depends entirely on what the student is ready for. Whatever mental state they are in, they will find a teacher that meets the purpose. The saying takes on a more sinister tone when looked at this way, in other words: ‘no matter what you think, you’ll always find something out there to support, encourage or mesmerise you’.
    In other words, the teacher is you: the depth you can see in the teacher is the same as the depth you have in yourself.

    1. Thus, we have the second half of the expression or synchronistic proverb, “When the student is truly ready, the teacher will disappear.” I also like what actually comes from the Tao Te Ching (bad English spelling of Chinese words, sorry), “To know that you do not know is the highest…” (line 1 of the 7-line “chapter” numbered 71). I read the entire thread and went down the “rabbit hole” of this quote because I am a teacher who is always a student. I am still looking for the “Tibetan Masters” that the Theosophists and their founders claim to be the source. I think it has something to do with the journey as opposed to the destination. Thanks, everyone for the best thread I have read on mystical quote attribution.

  23. Do you actually believe that what was written down 2,000 a 5,000 years ago is accurate? What if society ends today … bam gone. Fast forward 2,909 years and someone finds a comic book deep in a cave and begin to study it. Will they also make assumptions that at one point in human history there was a Superman. Praise Superman !!! Com on man’

    Ever rule or law or quote written down was done so by man to in an effort to control other men. Fact. If rules and laws actually worked then there would be no more murder, rape, theft, etc.

    Don’t even get me started in the Bible which was supposedly scribed at its earliest 500-700 years after Christs Death. Christ we can agree on what happened in WWII let alone 2,700 years ago. All an effort to create rules and regulations so cerulean men could control other men. Period.

    1. Hi, Scott.

      I’m afraid your analogy isn’t at all sound. The Buddhist scriptures were not written down thousands of years ago, lost, and then rediscovered. (Or at least only a tiny fraction of them were.) The vast bulk of Buddhist scriptures have been in continuous use since they were first composed. That continuity means that the situation is very different from what you describe.

      Also, it’s not a black and white case where you either believe the scriptures are accurate, or you don’t. It’s possible to read them critically, looking for signs that they have been altered, or weren’t meant to be taken literally in the first place. Since the scriptures were originally oral, spread over a wide area covering a variety of languages, and were then independently written down in those various languages, we have multiple versions to compare. There are some differences, but mostly they’re relatively minor — the order of things in a list changing, for example, or texts being organized under different categories. The essence of the various editions is the same.

      You also misunderstand the nature of the scriptures. They’re not a collection of “rules and laws.” Yes, there is a body of rules for monks, and those are meant to safeguard the integrity of the monastic community. But that’s a relatively unimportant part of the scriptures. The main body of ethical teachings in Buddhism doesn’t involve rules that are imposed by others, but ethical training principles that are voluntarily undertaken. These are called “precepts” rather than rules. They all include the formula “I undertake the training principle of abstaining from…” The cover voluntarily undertaking to avoid violence, stealing, causing harm through sexual activity, deceiving, and getting intoxicated. These are explicitly training principles, and the point is to try them out and see what effect they have on your life and on the lives of others around you. So it’s not about people controlling others, but about people learning to be responsible human beings. A lot of the scriptures are also to do with meditation and with the experiences that arise in meditation. Those meditation practices are still in use, and so we can test them in our own experience.

  24. Are ya’ll ready for the answer or are you not ready? I think that is what matters most. All this back and forth tells me that you should probably have a forum on whatcamefirstthechickenortheegg.com
    Seems like, “who was first? Is not as important as who is ready?” If that makes sense, the meaning is your teacher, if it doesn’t makes sense, hopefully your teacher will appear soon.

    1. Hi, Pete.

      It’s easy to forget this, but the purpose of this site is to clarify whether quotes attributed to the Buddha are genuinely from the Buddhist scriptures. This one isn’t, and it doesn’t correspond to anything the Buddha taught. In fact he stressed how fortunate people are when they’re able to encounter teachers, not the inevitability of such a thing happening. Anyone’s free to believe that the quote reflects what actually happens in the world, but it’s not a statement that’s falsifiable (if someone doesn’t find a teacher then, for some reason, they’re considered “not ready”) and it’s not possible to produce evidence to support it. Given those realities, I consider it hardly worth discussing, outside of its origins.

  25. Hi Bodhipaksa,

    I have been trying to follow the suggestion made by @khamsung in the thread above, that this quote may be attributed to Longchenpa in Yid Bzhin Mdzod the “Wish-fulfilling Treasury” but have been having trouble finding a translation of the text — wondering if you might have better luck finding it? It would be very interesting to discover that this quote or something similar actually does date to the 14th century, and the possibility that Mabel Collins did not spin it out of whole cloth but was repeating something from an older source. Clearly this still would not justify the common attribution of this quote to the Buddha (or Lao Tse) but would be worth clarifying further.

    1. It would indeed be interesting to find out if this is actually in a Tibetan text! Unfortunately only parts of the Wish-Fulfilling Treasury seem to have been translated, and I don’t have access to them, so I can’t help you out. If you make any progress, please let me know!

  26. Although it is not widely acknowledge in mainline Christian teaching, spiritual growth is reliant upon our human readiness to receive it. There is a text in Isaiah (Jewish Prophet) where the Lord criticizes the people for their running in panic..and instructs them to stop, rest and “enter into” a quietness of trust. His promise is that once they do, the Teacher will no longer be hidden. Isaiah 30:20b

    A great way to summarize that Isaiah text is by saying “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear”

    Thank U for your work and site.

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