Ugh. In investigating this quote, kindly passed on to me by one of my meditation students, I delved into an entire subculture devoted to saccharine quotes and trite parables, often rife with typos, poor grammar, and the kinds of abbreviations teenagers use in text messages.
This particular one turned up on a Facebook page called “Buddhism: Being truly human.”
What is the difference between “I like you” [and] “I love you”? Beautifully answered by Buddha. Buddha’s answer was so simple. When you like a flower, you just pluck it. But when you love a flower, you water it daily.
It’s also seen as:
When you like a flower, you just pluck it. But when you love a flower , you water it daily…..One who understand this, understand life….
Sometimes it’s not the Buddha to whom the quote is attributed, and the words are presented as an exchange between an unnamed student and master. Some of the earliest versions I’ve found present this, rather absurdly, as a conversation between Alexander the Great and Socrates:
Alexander the Great:
“Sir what’s the difference between “like” and “love”?
Socrates’s answer was a masterpiece:
“When you like a flower, you just pluck it.
But when you love a flower, you water it daily..!
The One, who understand this, understands Life…
Socrates died in 399 BCE, while Alexander was born in 356 BCE. Any conversation they had would have had to be posthumous. (Although Socrates was the mentor of Plato who was the mentor of Aristotle, who was the tutor of Alexander, so there was a connection.)
The quote itself only seems to go back to 2013 or so. Google’s not very good at helping us search by date, unfortunately.
I’m grateful to this quotation, however fake it is. The Buddha talked about “affection” as something to be avoided. The term he used is “pema.” Metta, however, which is love, lovingkindness, or just plain kindness, is to be encouraged. I wrote about this in the context of another (genuine) quotation.
The reason for my gratitude is that I’d never really thought of pema in terms of “liking.” It’s not quite right as a translation, but I think that the difference between liking and loving does point to something that lies in the distinction between pema and metta. At the very least the contrast provides a useful analogy.
The source of our fake quote? I’ve no idea. Presumably it started as a nice little message to be passed around on the web, and then some bright spark thought it would be a good idea to add the Buddha’s name.
39 thoughts on ““When you like a flower, you just pluck it. But when you love a flower, you water it daily.””
“Google’s not very good at helping us search by date, unfortunately.”
Search tools > Any time > Custom range…
Yes, I’m aware of that function, Gruff. Unfortunately, as I said, Google isn’t very good at actually doing what you want it to do because the dates given are usually wrong. For example, go to Google and search for “Facebook” in the date range 1990 to 1999. Since Facebook was launched in 2004, you wouldn’t expect much to show up, and yet the results are full of hits from Facebook itself. You can even find many web pages that apparently predate the existence of the world wide web 🙂
I see. Those results appear to be all timeline results with “date founded” or other earlier dates being read as actual dates of posting. So with a some effort and judicious application of search operators, results could be filtered better. But I take your overall point.
That kind of date confusion makes it well-nigh impossible to do meaningful date-limited searches on Google’s web search. The date filters on books.google.com work better, but even those are faulty. What will often happen is that a book from a particular period will show up in the unfiltered results, but when you select the period the book belongs to it will no longer appear in the results.
Is it said by osho?
I haven’t found any evidence of this having been said by Osho, Sachi.
Closest I can come so far is this: http://www.osho.com/iosho/library/read-book/online-library-gorakh-shaw-flowers-4c59b587-295?p=2367107b60bc827d577ca6994cfe9c16
But I have heard this quote and very possibly read it in one of the lectures by Osho…there’s just so much material to pore through…but if it’s there, I’ll find it. It looks from the above quote, that it could have been inspired by his reading of Shaw.
Thanks for this!
Osho / Bhagwan/ rajneesh quotes are often really just reworked stuff he had read – often times just direct steals from krishnamurti lectures – only Bhagwan had better comic delivery .
Interesting. I hadn’t heard that Osho/Rajneesh based his teachings on Krishnamurti’s.
Rajneesh also lifted a lot of sayings from Meher Baba, who came from the same town (Pune) and whose own community was located two hours north in Ahmednagar.
I also have seen this quote being attributed to Osho. Can’t be sure that it was reall y from him though.
He did say things about not picking flowers, but so far I haven’t seen anything confirming that this particular quotation is one of his. Thanks for the tip, though. I’ll keep investigating.
I agree, date of original publication should be in the metadata of every print source uploaded to the web. Absent a remarkable archaeological discovery, if someone has been dead for hundreds of years, everything that is known about what he actually said was already known long before the internet was invented.
I am not a scholar, and I don’t think I have particularly strong powers of discernment, but so many of these mis-attributed quotes seem laughable to me, way off base in terms of language and tone, never mind content.
The quote is most likely invented. It paraphrases a part of “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
Which part of The Little Prince did you have in mind, Jake? I’ve found several passages:
“If I owned a flower, I could pluck that flower and take it away with me. But you cannot pluck the stars from heaven.”
“If some one loves a flower, of which just one single blossom grows in all the millions and millions of stars, it is enough to make him happy just to look at the stars. He can say to himself, ‘Somewhere, my flower is there . . .'”
“One never ought to listen to the flowers. One should simply look at them and breathe their fragrance.”
“If you love a flower that lives on a star, it is sweet to look at the sky at night. All the stars are a-bloom with flowers.”
Those are the only references I can see that are even vaguely similar, but none of them looks like a basis for this quote. Perhaps I’ve missed something though!
I found the following discourse from Osho:
“The flowers are beautiful, but your plucking them was not a beautiful act. For whom
beauty is equivalent to Love, it is impossible to sever the flowers from their plants. The
plucking of flowers hastens their death; and nothing is uglier than taking life, even of a
flower. Non-violence is the acme of beauty; violence is the nadir of ugliness.
[Someone quipped, “But we like flowers: that is why we pluck them!”]
Love is opposed to the act of plucking flowers. Love and plucking of flowers can not coexist.
Plucking is not symbolic of love, but of cruelty. It is symbolic of our authoritarian
nature; we want to possess whatever seems beautiful, regardless of the possibility of
destroying that object of beauty. This is true not only of flower-plucking, but of all our
dealings in life, and of all our human relationships. We practise the same cruelty with
even the human beings whom we profess to love. For example, even with the beloved, a
lover seeks to enforce authority. We all seek to pluck the human flower, and in the
process, rob that flower of the sap or life, leading to its premature wilting”
Where there is love, there is no possessiveness or bondage; and bondage separates one
person from the other. Love is what unites and not what separates; Love is what protects,
not what destroys life; Love is what frees, not what enslaves. If you love flowers, you
give yourself to flowers; you do not try to own them by plucking. Love knows only
giving; it knows not the language of receiving — to say nothing of the language of
robbing. And please note that this is an axiom applicable to all aspects of life. Those who
know not this truth, look upon their cruelty and violence as a form of love. Though they
do not realise it, their hatred lies latent in their so-called love. And where they lay claim
to a sense of beauty, their outward aesthetics is just a cloak hiding crass ugliness. ”
The source is the lecture/book “Lead, Kindly, Light,” from talks given in 1972.
Can you please tell me where you found this so I can quote it and read it all? I’m only finding a Hymn with the same name,….thanks ! 🙂
Amira gives the source at the end of her comment, Leslie.
“pema” means lotus in tibetan
That’s true, Karen, but the two words aren’t related at all. The Tibetan word pema arises from their attempt to pronounce the Sanskrit word for lotus: padma. It’s not from the Pali word “pema” or its Sanskrit equivalent, “prema.”
When the Dalai Lama talks about affection as a good thing, this is against what Buddha taught? If it’s loving I think it’d beneficial.
It’s good to bear in mind that the words the Buddha used don’t correspond exactly to the ones we used. We can use “affection” in ways that don’t correspond to the Buddha’s use of the word pema.
When the Buddha talked about pema, he seems to have meant an emotional response that was based on “liking,” and that was therefore limited. So we see a cute puppy or adorable baby, and we have a biologically conditioned pleasant feeling, and on the basis of that feeling we feel “love” for the baby or puppy. Or we meet an adult with a pleasing face, voice, and manners, and do likewise. We behave in a kind way to them because we like them.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just limited.
But what the Buddha was encouraging was kindness that wasn’t based on liking. Metta is kindness based instead on an empathetic understanding that beings want to be happy, and that that happiness is as real to them and as important to them as our own. We treat then with kindness because we respect their wellbeing. Since it doesn’t matter if you “like” them (i.e. whether they give rise to pleasant feelings in you) or not, metta is potentially universal — that is you can apply it to everyone you meet or think of.
Our word “affection” implies a feeling of warmth toward someone, and those feelings arise with metta. So when we talk in English about metta, we think of it as including affection. But what we’re describing isn’t what the Buddha would have called “pema.”
The problem is not with the use of the English word affection, it’s with the underlying concept of limiting our kindness to those we like, as well as to the attachment we have to the pleasant feelings of “liking” and the aversion we have to “disliking.” What metta does is decouple our sense of wellbeing from liking and disliking so that we can be at peace regardless.
While i am 100% sure Buddha never said this quote, we can all agree on that, this is the only link on Google that seems to suggests that socrates said this. Does anyone have a link or proof of this? I am trying to be positive and would love to have a link
Of course Socrates never said this. Isn’t that clear from the article? But as for this being the only page on the internet linking this quote to Socrates…
Te word Buddha is not a name it is a title, meaning “The Enlightened One”. This enlightenment refers to being enlightened to the truth through compassion and self-sacrifice. Every living being has some form of compassion and goes through some form of self-sacrifice (sacrifice of the ego). Not everyone one has reached Buddha-hood, however everyone is still Buddha. I have learned this from many studies and mostly from “The Avatamsaka Sutra”. Don’t worry about misquoted quotes, it only matters if the quote speaks truth.
I’ve been a Buddhist for 35 years, and I’m well aware that “Buddha” is a title and not a name. However when a quote is ascribed to “the Buddha” this means Gautama Buddha, Shakyamuni. As for not worrying about misquotations, the historical Buddha profoundly disagreed with you. But what did he know? 🙂
The Buddha on Fake Buddha Quotes (1)
The Buddha on Fake Buddha Quotes (2)
The Buddha on Fake Buddha Quotes (3)
The Buddha on Fake Buddha Quotes (4)
The Buddha on Fake Buddha Quotes (5)
Saying that something was said by the Buddha when there’s no evidence it was is false speech — something the Buddha strongly condemned:
While truthful speech is something he praised:
I am familiar with the saying and I use it while dating
“By plucking the petals of a rose, you don’t gather its beauty.” – Rabindra Nath Tagore
This is in a couple of quotes books as “By plucking her petals, you do not gather the beauty of the flower,” but I haven’t found it anywhere in the form you offered, Phoenix. I haven’t confirmed that Tagore said even the widely quoted version, though.
The quote is from original Bengali text, so it can be variously translated. But it’s surely his.
Osho was a sham who peddled in pseudo-philosophical banter that appealed to the remnant hippies in the west. Not many cared about him in India.
While not from Buddha, I find it odd that you would see this statement as trite. How happy and satisfying many marriages could be if they were less based on plucking the cute spouse, and more on nourishing love upon that spouse!
Sometimes in life one needs to let things be. It’s not about proving who’s wrong and who’s right for the sake of it. In the grand scheme not of it matters. If the words mean something to somebody and, for example, it led them to buy a plant for a loved one rather than a bunch of flowers then some good has come from it. “Nobody was hurt in the relating on this misquote”. Go in peace & kindness x
“Sometimes in life one needs to let things be.” And yet you chose to post a comment here 😉
Given that the vast majority of quotes attributed to the Buddha on social media and even in books are not actually anything to do with his teaching, and given that I’m a teacher of Buddhism, I find myself wanting to let people know what’s genuine and what isn’t. I’m sorry you feel bothered by that.
I know that Thich Nhat Hanh said something very similar; if not exactly this.
If you find a source, please pass it on.
I really value your site as a source and am comforted that the Buddha took a firm stand on misattributed sayings. I keep telling people they might as well be lying when they defend the words as being “good, so who cares?”. I also celebrate this as a forum, for what you uncover and your commenters. Thank you!