I’ve obviously become the “go to guy” for Fake Buddha Quotes. Jake Moskowitz just wrote asking about this one, which he thought was “strange.”
“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”
I think Jake was right to sense that something was “off” about this. In the Buddha’s teachings, that one has lovingkindness for oneself is taken as read , and the emphasis is on extending our concern to others.
The first signs of this quote that I found in print are in two books that were published at about the same in early 2001: John Amodeo’s The Authentic Heart, which is “An Eightfold Path to Midlife Love,” and Laura Doyle’s The Surrendered Wife: A Practical Guide for Finding Intimacy, Passion, and Peace with a Man.
I’m getting a little off-topic here, but I learned that The Surrendered Wife “is a step-by-step guide that teaches women how to give up unnecessary control and responsibility, resist the temptation to criticize, belittle, or dismiss their husbands, and to trust their husbands in every aspect of marriage — from sexual to financial.”
I’d buy my wife a copy, but she’d probably hit me with it.
Anyway, given that these books were published more or less simultaneously, it seemed reasonable to assume that there was an original precursor. With a little digging around I found that Sharon Salzberg included essentially the same quote in an article in a magazine called “Woman of Power.” My only source for this is Google Books, which doesn’t show me the entire quote, or an exact date for the edition the article appeared in, but it was likely the early 1980′s.
The original would seem to be in the Udana of the Pali canon, where we read, in Bhikkhu Thanissaro’s translation,
Searching all directions
with one’s awareness,
one finds no one dearer
In the same way, others
are fiercely dear to themselves.
So one should not hurt others
if one loves oneself.
So the purpose of the original is to emphasize having lovingkindness towards others, not towards ourselves. The import of the Salzberg version has been reversed, to suggest that because others deserve love, so too do we. We of course should have lovingkindness towards ourselves, so there’s no argument with the message — it’s just that that’s not what the quotation says.
The altered quotation is interesting, though, because it points to a need for self-metta that seems to be predominantly or largely a western problem. When Sharon Salzberg asked the Dalai Lama a question about self-hatred he was totally baffled. It had never crossed his mind before that someone might hate themselves! So I can see the reason for why this quote has been altered.