“People with opinions just go around bothering each other.”
When I first saw this quote I thought it was almost certainly fake. After a bit of investigation I came to be conclusion that it’s a paraphrase that’s close enough to the original to be considered genuine.
The original of this striking verse is found in the Magandiya Suta in the Sutta Nipata, which is generally held to be one of the oldest texts in the Pali canon.
Bhikkhu Thanissaro translates this verse as:
“Those who grasp at perceptions and views
go about butting their heads in the world.”
Fausböll, a 19th century pioneer translator, has:
“But those who grasped after marks and philosophical views, they wander about in the world annoying people.”
“Those attached to the notion ‘I am’ and to views
Roam the world offending people.”*
The original Pali is:
Saññaca diṭṭhiñca ye aggahesuṃ
Te ghaṭṭayantā vicaranti loketi.
My rendition would be:
Those who cling to perceptions (saññā) and views (diṭṭhi)
Wander (vicarati) the world offending (ghaṭṭeti) people.
[Added later: Bhikkhu Varado's translation, which I just discovered, is almost identical to mine: "Those attached to perception and views / roam the world offending people."]
So this colorful little gem has strong canonical roots. The form of this quote, “People with opinions just go around bothering each other,” seems to be a minor variant of something from A Path With Heart, a 1993 book by Jack Kornfield: “People with opinions just go around bothering one another” (page 50). What’s missing here compared to the Pali is that in the original it’s “clinging” to views and perceptions that’s the cause of conflict, while Jack merely has “opinions.” But opinions aren’t, in popular parlance, opinions unless they’re views that are clung to, so the difference seems minimal. Still, in the graphic above I’ve included the “clinging.”
The Buddha in fact regarded himself as being free of opinions, and saw opinions as bonds and shackles:
“And how is there the bond of opinions? Here, monks, someone does not understand as it really is the arising, the subsiding, the sweetness, the wretchedness, and the leaving behind of opinions. For one not understanding as it really is the arising, the subsiding, the sweetness, the wretchedness, and the leaving behind of modes of opinion; who, with respect to opinion, is obsessed with passion for opinion, delight in opinion, affection for opinion, intoxication with opinion, thirst for opinion, fever for opinion, attachment to opinion, craving for opinion: this, monks, is called ‘the bond of opinion’. Thus the bond of sensual pleasure, the bond of being, and the bond of opinion.”
* The translator notes that “I am” is not in the quotation, but that its inclusion is warranted by material nearby.