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White flowers of orchid cultivar

In this compilation of nearly 60 quotations there is no general view of Buddhism, just a selection of common sayings brought together.

Notable Buddhist works advocate the spirit over the letter: there is a need to exercise good judgement. The context of a passage should often be taken into account, and also that some terms, like "heaven" and "sin," do not correspond exactly to all Western conceptions.

Many of the sources referred to are in the Sacred Books of the East series, published by Clarendon Press, Oxford, and reissued lately on the Internet by Sacred Texts. Apart from these publications there are many others; they go unmentioned here.


A loving heart is the great requirement! . . . not to oppress, not to destroy; . . . not to exalt oneself by treading down others; but to comfort and befriend those in suffering. [Fo-sho-hing-tsan-king]

A wise man never resents with passion the abuse of the foolish [Ta-chwang-yan-king-lun]

As he who loves life avoids poison, so let the sage avoid sinfulness. [Udanavarga]

Ask not of (a person's) descent, but ask about his conduct [Sundarikabharadvaja-sutta]

Be not careless; for carelessness is the great foe to virtue. [Fo-sho-hing-tsan-king]

Beauty without courtesy is like a grove without flowers. [Buddha-charita]

Better would it be to swallow a red-hot iron ball than that a bad, unrestrained fellow should live on the charity of the land. [Dhammapada]

Cultivate equanimity. [Nalaka-sutta]

Do good to some around you. [Cf. Fo-pen-hing-tsih-king]

Do not have evil-doers for friends. . .. Take as your friends the best of men. [Dhammapada]

Dwell together in mutual love. [Brahmanadhammika-sutta]

Even if a man have done evil a hundred times, let him not do it again. [Udanavarga]

Fault is not to be found unnecessarily [Ta-chwang-yan-king-lun]

Give in charity to people of good conduct. [Jatakamala]

Happy . . . is the man that honours his father: he also that honours his mother is happy. [Udanavarga]

Happy is he that is virtuous [Dhammapada]

Have you not heard what Buddha says in the Sutra (where he bids his followers), not to despise the little child? [Ta-chwang-yan-king-lun]

He who lives far from me yet walks righteously, is ever near me. [Fo-sho-hing-tsan-king]

Hell was not created by any one. . .. The fire of the angry mind produces the fire of hell . . . When a person does evil, he lights the fire of hell, and burns with his own fire. [Mulamuli]

I consider the welfare of all people as something for which I must work. [Rock Inscriptions of Asoka]

If we know that we have done wrong, and yet refuse to acknowledge it, we are guilty of prevarication. [Chinese Pratimoksha]

If you desire to honour Buddha, follow . . . [Fo-sho-hing-tsan-king]

If you have wisdom, then will thou be like the lotus-flower growing out of the mire. [Mod. Jitsu-go-kiyo]

If you speak . . . to a woman, do it with pureness of heart. [Sutra of Forty-two Sections]

In what does religion consist? In (committing) the least possible harm, in (doing) abundance of good, in (the practice of) pity, love, truth, and likewise purity of life. [Pillar Inscriptions of Asoka]

In whom there is truth and righteousness, he is blessed, he is a Brahman. [Dhammapada]

It is not as a means of procuring my own happiness that I give in charity, but I love charity that I may do good to the world. [Jatakamala]

Keep watch over your hearts. [Mahaparinibbana-sutta]

Let a man say that which is right, not that which is unrighteous, . . . that which is pleasing, not that which is unpleasing, . . . that which is true, not that which is false. [Subhasita-sutta]

Let him not grieve for that which is lost. [Attadanda-sutta]

Let the wise man guard his thoughts, for they are . . . very artful and rush wherever they list. [Dhammapada]

Like food besmeared with poison, I abhor such happiness as is tainted with unrighteousness. [Jatakamala]

My duty is to bear all the insults which the heretics launch against me. [Buddhaghosa's Parables]

Offensive language is harsh even to the brutes. [Suttavaddhananiti]

Our deeds, whether good or evil, . . . follow us as shadows. [Fo-sho-hing-tsan-king]

Scrupulously avoiding all wicked actions;
Reverently performing all virtuous ones;
Purifying his intention from all selfish ends:
This is the doctrine of all the Buddhas.

Self-examination can be painful. [Cf. Pillar Inscriptions of Asoka]

Sin easily develops. [Rock Inscriptions of Asoka]

That which your heart rejoices in - try to follow.

The (real) treasure is that laid up . . . through charity and piety, temperance and self-control. [Nidhikanda-sutta]

The body may wear the ascetic's garb, the heart be immersed in worldly thoughts: . . . the body may wear a worldly guise, the heart mount high to things celestial. [Fo-sho-hing-tsan-king]

The man of honour should minister to his friends . . . by liberality, courtesy, benevolence, and by doing to them as he would be done by. [Sigalovada-sutta]

The member of Buddha's order . . . should not intentionally destroy the life of any being, down even to a worm or an ant. [Mahavagga]

The sinner is never beautiful. [Lalita Vistara]

The virtuous retain in their mind the good done to them. [Jatakamala] [41]

The wise do not grieve, knowing the terms of the world. [Salla-sutta]

The wise man . . . regards with reverence all who deserve reverence, without distinction of person. [Ta-chwang-yan-king-lun]

There is in charity a proper time and a proper mode. [Fo-sho-hing-tsan-king]

There is no such thing as secrecy in wrongdoing. [Jataka]

There is not a spot on earth, neither in the sky, nor in the sea, nor in the mountain-clefts, where an (evil) deed does not bring trouble (to the doer). [Udanavarga]

Those who have sin at heart, but are sweet of speech, are like a pitcher smeared with nectar, but full of poison. [Lalita Vistara] [33]

To a righteous man death must bring gladness. [Jatakamala]

To feed a single good man is . . . greater in point of merit, than attending to questions about heaven and earth, spirits and demons, such as occupy ordinary men. [Sutra of Forty-two Sections]

Trust is the best of relationships. [Dhammapada]

What has been designated "name" and "family" . . . is but a term. [Vasettha-sutta]

Where there is uprightness, wisdom is there, and where there is wisdom, uprightness is there. [Sonadanda-sutta]

Work out your own salvation with diligence. [Mahaparinibbana-sutta]


Buddhism quotations, Buddhist sayings and quotes, Literature  

Haldeman-Julius, E. ed. The Essence of Buddhism. Girard, Kansas: Haldeman-Julius Company, 1922. Gutenberg ed., April 21, 2006 [EBook #18223]

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