This quote is actually from a talk given by Swami Vivekananda in the US in 1895, which made me wonder when people started talking about a “secret of existence.” It struck me as being rather a 19th century expression.
Google Books only gives one result from the 18th century for that phrase, one more (excluding duplicate results) from 1800 to 1820, and then dozens from 1820 to 1830. Even allowing for sample bias in Google’s database, it seems that the phrase only came into vogue in the early 1800s — earlier than I’d thought.
The phrase “the secret of life” seems to have become common much earlier, and is found in books throughout the 1700s.
When the Buddha talked about “secrets” or things being “secret” he seems to have done so in quite a literal way. He’d talk about people doing evil deeds in secret, and about friends keeping your secrets and sharing their own. But he doesn’t seem to have talked about a “secret of life” or a “secret of existence.”
Thanks for Bhikkhu Pandit for sending me this quote, which he found on Facebook.
This Fake Buddha Quote also crops up from time to time on Twitter:
“The whole secret of existence is to have no fear.”–Buddha
— Awake The Light (@AwakeTheLight) June 23, 2012