According to estimates from the Pew Research Center, Buddhists make up seven percent of the world’s population. Half of them are in China. However, this philosophical-spiritual doctrine has spread to all corners of the world. In order to bring you a little closer to its teachings, we’ve compiled a selection of the best Buddhist sayings.
There are dozens of Buddhist schools. Nevertheless, they can roughly be classified into two groups. These are Mahayana and Theravada. Although each one follows different methods, deep down they share the same philosophy. As a matter of fact, with 2,500 years of history, Buddhism remains one of the most important spiritual systems.
The best Buddhist phrases
The beliefs of Buddhism revolve around the teachings of Gautama Buddha (5th – 6th Century BC) and the four noble truths discovered by him after 49 days of meditation under the Bodhi tree. The underlying truths for Buddhists are as follows:
- Suffering is a characteristic of existence.
- The cause of suffering is attachment and desire.
- The cessation of suffering is achieved through Nirvana.
- The path to reach Nirvana is made up of eight steps.
These eight steps are known as the Noble Eightfold Path. It involves achieving fulfillment in the following areas: understanding, determination, speaking, resolution, action, sustenance, effort, and attention. If you’re new to Buddhism, the following Buddhist sayings will serve as an introduction:
1. “If you miss the present moment, you miss your appointment with life. That is VERY serious!”. (Thich Nhat Hanh)
It seems like a no-brainer, but in practice, the banality of life makes you miss out on a great deal. Indeed, in your busy life, a characteristic of modern times, there’s often no room to enjoy the present.
You plan and plan, thinking that you’ll find happiness there. However, if you can’t be happy now, if you don’t take immediate advantage of your life, if you don’t value the present moment, you won’t find it. Your existence will pass by before your eyes without you even noticing.
2. “If something is worth doing, do it with all your heart”. (Buddha)
This is one of the Buddhist sayings that you should always remember. Because apathy when doing things is also a characteristic of modern societies. Therefore, no matter how small the action, always give it your all.
3. “If we don’t occupy ourself with everything, then peaceful mind will have nowhere to abide”. (Shen-Hui)
It seems that our selection of Buddhist phrases wants us to rethink what kind of existence we lead in the 21st century. Indeed, if your mind is always in turmoil, don’t expect to find peace no matter how hard you try.
For instance, 20 minutes of meditation at the end of the day won’t make up for a whole day in which your mind’s been clouded by information, worry, and stress.
4. “Power over others is a weakness disguised as strength. True power is within and it is available to you now”. (Eckhart Tolle)
All power is ephemeral; a fact that’s often forgotten by the person who exercises it. Coming to terms with this fact is one of the most valuable lessons for your life. You must understand the power that you exercise within you. Furthermore, it’s the only power that’s 100 percent safe and is permanent.
5. “Do not seek sanctuary in anyone other than yourself “. (Buddha)
As we’ve already seen in the four noble truths, attachment is one of the causes of suffering. If you build a sanctuary around someone else and start depositing your emotions, dreams and ambitions in them, you could lose everything if they leave.
6. “It all depends on you. You can go on sleeping forever or you can wake up right now”. (Osho)
The choice in the end always rests with you. Whether it involves starting down the Buddhist path or facing any decision in your life.
It’s you, and only you, who’s in charge of your life. Make sure you get a good grip on it and start to guide your own destiny.
7. “The aim of spiritual life is to awaken a joyful freedom, a benevolent and compassionate heart in spite of everything”. (Jack Kornfield)
In this one phrase, all our Buddhist phrases are summed up. The ultimate goal is always freedom, although on the way there you may experience many things. Benevolence and compassion are two of them. Read this link between Buddhism and mindfulness.
8. “If we fail to look after others when they need help, who will take care of us?”. (Buddha)
It’s better not to act in anticipation of what you might receive in return. Understanding the power, the effect, and the joy behind your gesture is the most important thing.
9. “Not thinking about anything is Zen. Once you know this, walking, sitting or lying down, everything you do is Zen”. (Bodhidharma)
Zen is one of the best-known schools of Buddhism. It has several internal schools, although meditation forms a central part of all of them. Learn more about it with this link to an article on the essential principles of Zen philosophy.
10. “Nothing divides one so much as thought”. (R.H. Blyth)
Not only does it divide you, it also puts obstacles in your way that can make your progress through life insurmountable. As a matter of fact, the obstacles that your mind puts up are worse than those you encounter on the physical plane. Another of the Buddhist phrases that you should keep in mind at all times.
11. “When the mind is clear, what is is what we want”. (Byron Katie)
When your mind’s full of darkness, embodied with worry, stress, insecurities, anger, and so on, you can’t see the picture in front of you at all. It’s rather like the difference between the clear water from a mountain spring and the dark, stagnant water of a lake.
12. “What you are is what you have been. What you will be is what you do now”. (Buddha)
You can’t anchor your present and, much less, your future to what you’ve done previously. Indeed, what you’ve done is in the past and, although it’s still there in the form of experience and learning, it only conditions you to the extent that you allow. You’re the one who decides who you want to be, based on what you’re doing right now.
13. “All the things that truly matter, beauty, love, creativity, joy and inner peace arise from beyond the mind”. (Eckhart Tolle)
Your duty is to find the path that leads to them. Another saying that serves as a suitable introduction to this particular philosophy.
14. “You’re never given more pain than you can handle. You never, ever get more than you can take”. (Byron Katie)
You’ll never get more difficult situations than you’re able to cope with in life, even though you may doubt it at the time.
15. “One who acts on truth is happy in this world and beyond”. (Buddha)
You live more comfortably both with yourself and with others if you choose to walk along the path of truth. Nevertheless, the choice is always yours, and there’s no excuse for not choosing the right option. In fact, taking responsibility is a part of Buddhist philosophy.
16. “The resistance to the unpleasant situation is the root of suffering”. (Ram Dass)
Resistance might be translated in different ways. For example, it could be denial, rejection of changes, and attachment. It’s not enough to free yourself from something on the material plane only, you must also free it from your mind. Even if you’re a thousand miles away from the source of a problem, it’ll always be there in your mind, if you don’t let it go. This is one of the best Buddhist healing sayings.
17. “Letting go is always the lesson. Have you ever noticed how much of our agony is all tied up with craving and loss?”. (Susan Lydon)
You can make sense of these words by applying them to relationships. For instance, the agony in which some people find themselves drowning after a breakup is always related to craving and loss. For this reason, this is one of the Buddhist sayings about love that you should always keep in mind.
18. “All that we are is the result of what we have thought”. (Buddha)
Also, what we’ve done. Thought is often accompanied by action, this is its consummation.
19. “Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get. Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at others move forward with it”. (Ray Bradbury)
Because sometimes the only and the best solution is to just keep going. Value things and people while they’re with you, so you won’t feel bad when you have to let them go at some point in your life.
20. “The practice of Zen is to forget oneself in order to unite with something”. (Koun Yamada)
Something that you can achieve through meditation. In fact, if you’re going through a difficult time, try some of the meditation techniques mentioned here.
21. “Melting our attachment to self is the most powerful medicine for bringing mental and emotional imbalances in check”. (Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche)
We’ve already mentioned avoiding attachment to others, but not towards ourselves. This principle is the same as the one that governs the one that deals with love: “to learn to love others we must first love ourselves.”
However, how can you practice detachment from others if you haven’t done it to yourself? This is another of the best Buddhist sayings about life that you should memorize.
22. “Thousands of candles can be lit with a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never diminishes when shared”. (Buddha)
Wise words that most people tend to ignore in their day-to-day life. However, a gesture towards someone, no matter how small, can be that spark that relights an inner candle in them that had been extinguished. Remember this saying, when you next have an opportunity to do something along these lines.
23. “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive”. (Tenzin Gyatso)
If you eliminate love and compassion from your life, you can’t say that you’ve ever lived. That’s because much of the sum of life experiences revolve around these two elements. They shouldn’t be luxuries that you sometimes cast aside, but they should be an active part of your day-to-day life.
24. “Forgiveness is a transformative act because it asks you to be a more empathetic and compassionate person”. (Kamand Kojouri)
True forgiveness, not temporary. In fact, all forgiveness must be permanent, sincere, and merciful. If not, it isn’t true forgiveness.
25. “There are three things that cannot be hidden for long: the sun, the moon, and the truth”. (Buddha)
No matter how hard you may try, your appointment with the truth can’t be avoided. In fact, there’s nothing more praiseworthy in this life than to always walk along life’s path guided by truth.
26. “Have good trust in yourself. Not in the One that you think you should be, but in the One that you are”. (Maezumi Roshi)
You often focus on who you want to be and not who you are. However, this is a big mistake since, generally, the distance between one and the other is insurmountable.
It’s far better that you place your trust in who you are now, and always focus on the present. This is one of the Buddhist phrases of strength that can help you overcome prejudices.
27. “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile is the source of your joy”. (Thich Nhat Hanh)
Never stop smiling, especially in those moments that need a bit of joy. Although it might seem like a weak and innocuous gesture, it can actually completely change the way you see your current situation.
28. “You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger”. (Buddha)
All humans are mediated by their emotions, no one escapes from them. However, it’s one thing to experience an emotion and quite another thing to be a prisoner of it. Therein lies the main difference.
29. “Here in this body are the sacred rivers, here are the sun and the moon, as well as all the pilgrimage places. I have encountered another temple as blissful as my own body”. (Saraha)
Your body is a temple that you carry everywhere. It’s always with you. What more can you ask? As soon as you understand this fact, you’ll see a different side from which to face life.
30. “I never see what has been done, I only see what remains to be done”. (Buddha)
It’s possible that if you focus on what’s already there, you’ll get stuck. However, if you focus on what still needs to be done, you’ll find the tools and the way forward to help you improve.
31. “Buddhism is all about finding your own way, not imitating the way of others or even the ways of Buddha himself “. (Brad Warner)
Everyone traces their own path in life. Although at some points it may be connected and even confused with someone else’s, in reality, it always belongs to you.
32. “One of the main practices of Buddhism is understanding and experiencing compassion, and how that ultimately is a road to happiness”. (Goldie Hawn)
In this order. First, understand what it is, how you can practice it, and for what purpose. Then, you can experience compassion and make it part of your life.
33. “Buddhism doesn’t tell you what is false and what is true, but it encourages you to find out for yourself “. (Chögyam Trungpa)
It shows you the way. You choose if you want to travel that path and how you take advantage of the things you find along the way. There’s no division between true and false, you select for yourself what to include in your philosophy of life.
34. “As long as space endures, as long as sentient being remain, until then may I too remain and dispel the miseries of the world”. (Shantideva)
Everyone talks about wanting to change the world, but few take tangible actions to do so. It’s impossible to end all the evils of the world, but you can work miracles on a small scale in those around you.
35. “The one who has conquered himself is a much greater hero than he who has defeated a thousand times a thousand men”. (Buddha)
It seems like an easy battle, one that many take for granted before starting. In reality, many people live their entire lives without conquering themselves, so they are not complete sovereigns of their emotions, their mind, and even their body. This is one of the Buddhist phrases of improvement that should never be overlooked.
36. “The secret of Buddhism is to remove all ideas, all concepts, in order for the truth to have a chance to penetrate, to reveal itself “. (Thich Nhat Hanh)
In simple terms, eliminate all the prejudices you have and face your experiences with a blank slate ready for new additions. Because most prejudices prevent new things coming into your life.
37. “In a mind clear as still water, even the waves, breaking, are reflecting its light”. (Dogen Zenji)
As we’ve already pointed out, only a mind that’s as clear as water is capable of seeing through itself. Otherwise, there’ll only be darkness or opaque glass that’ll prevent you from appreciating what’s hidden behind it.
38. “Having dreams without enthusiasm is like a bird living in a cage”. (Debasish Mridha)
Have you failed in various projects in your life due to your lack of enthusiasm? As a matter of fact, enthusiasm is the fuel that allows you to achieve new things. Furthermore, in many cases, it’s undervalued. You should remember this Buddhist saying whenever you’re facing a new adventure.
39. “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only with love; this is the eternal rule”. (Buddha)
What happens if you throw a can of gasoline on a burning campfire? Nothing good, you can be sure of that. This example serves to illustrate these words. Although there’s no guarantee that love will completely extinguish the flames, at least you won’t be making it more uncontrollable.
40. “Life gives you exactly what you need to awaken”. (T. Scott McLeod)
Of course, sometimes, life doesn’t turn out the way you expect it to. However, if you refuse to wake up, you’ll never see anything properly. Therefore, if you want to do something, just open your eyes.
41. “One who is patient glows with an inner radiance”. (Allan Lokos)
The flame will initially be extremely small, but if you wait long enough, and dedicate your efforts to fanning it, it’ll only be a matter of time before it illuminates everything inside you. Furthermore, its light will sometimes be so strong that it even illuminates everyone close to you.
42. “It is not a Buddhist approach to say that if everyone practiced Buddhism the world would be a better place. Wars and oppression begin from this kind of thinking”. (Sulak Sivaraksa)
A perfect society is impossible. However, nothing prevents you from developing certain actions that might bring it a little closer.
43. “Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual daily routine”. (Shunryu Suzuki)
Buddhism isn’t something you turn to only when you’re stressed. While this might be better than nothing, you’ll only receive its full benefits if you include it as part of your life.
44. “Buddhism is more a philosophy of life, than a religion or dogma -it’s about being awake, free from illusions and fears, so that compassion and loving-kindness permeate all our relationships”. (Charlotte Kasl)
So much so that they become a natural part of your existence. You don’t think about being kind or practicing compassion, you just do it. Another saying that serves as an introduction to Buddhism.
45. “Mindfulness is often spoken of as the heart of Buddhist meditation. It’s not about Buddhism, but about paying attention. That’s what all meditation is”. (Jon Kabat-Zinn)
Many people follow a Buddhist doctrine without even knowing it. As a matter of fact, the small details of everyday life are closer to Buddhism than to any other practice. This means that its fundamentals aren’t completely alien to people in their day-to-day lives.
46. “The knowledge of the past remains with us. To let go is to simply to release any images and emotions”. (Alan W. Watts)
Especially emotions. Attachment to your emotions is one of the heaviest anchors. It prevents you from taking a single step in the direction you want to go. Nevertheless, what’s in your favor is that you have the key to release those shackles from your ankles.
47. “Buddhism notes that it is always a mistake to think that your soul can go it alone”. (Annie Dillard)
“In unity there is strength”, so says the popular proverb. While, there’s no doubt that individual actions are extremely important, great changes usually occur with the union of several souls.
48. “Buddhism teaches us not to try to run away from suffering. You have to confront suffering. You have to look deeply into the nature of suffering in order to recognize its cause, the making of the suffering”. (Thich Nhat Hanh)
As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, suffering is part of life and you can’t run away from it. In fact, you must face it. Indeed, this is the central theme of Buddhism.
49. “Health is the greatest gift, joy is the greatest wealth, fidelity is the best relationship”. (Buddha)
Another of the Buddhist sayings that teaches you about life. The best thing is that it does it in a single line and with ideas that you can apply in your routine easily.
Big changes are nothing more than a succession of small changes that you decide to include in your life.
50. “Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free”. (Thich Nhat Hanh)
You can’t be free if your emotions are anchored to another person and your happiness depends exclusively on them. Furthermore, if your state of mind assimilates external stimuli very easily, you’ll never be 100 percent free. Remember, you’re the owner of your own emotions.
51. “Try your best before any rest. Life gets its beauty from the best”. (Debasish Mridha)
You won’t be able to fully enjoy life if you always remain static and don’t do the best you possibly can. Another of the Buddhist phrases that can come in handy when you need some words of encouragement.
52. “The tongue like a sharp knife kills without drawing blood”. (Buddha)
Remember this before saying something that might hurt someone. Because sometimes, a handful of words can be worse than a physical assault, especially if they’re meant to hurt. The damage might not be visible to the naked eye, but it’s always there.
53. “The point of the spiritual revolution is not to become a good Buddhist, but to become a wise and compassionate human being, to awaken from our life of complacency and ignorance and to be a Buddha”. (Noah Levine)
Most people live their life lethargically, almost as if they don’t really exist. However, you can always choose to wake up and start living your real life.
54. “If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher”. (Pema Chodron)
Even from these kinds of people, you can learn something. It might simply be the fact that you don’t much like them. However, you can always turn your back on them and pretend they don’t exist. Just remember, this doesn’t mean that they’ll go away.
55. “There is surely nothing other than the sole purpose of the present moment. A man’s whole life is a succession of moment after moment. If he fully understands the present moment there will be nothing else to do and nothing else to pursue”. (Yamamoto Tsunemoto)
In this, and other Buddhist phrases, you can see that enjoying the present, the now, is one of the pillars of Buddhism.
Live your life always in the present, not conditioned by the past or the future. Free of this anguish, you’re able to fully enjoy it.
56. “Even if things don’t unfold the way you expected, don’t be disheartened or give up. One who continues to advance will win in the end”. (Daisaku Ikeda)
It’s impossible for your whole life to pass as you’d planned. Uncertainty is a part of life and that’s precisely what makes it worth living.
57. “Buddhism talks about the possibility of transforming greed, hatred, and delusion. But sometimes need turns into greed”. (Jack Kornfield)
The need to achieve these transformations and to make others reach them, paradoxically points in the opposite direction to the way of Buddhism. One of the best Buddhist sayings to use to ensure you don’t lose sight of the horizon.
58. “We all wish for world peace, but world peace will never be achieved unless we first establish peace within our own minds”. (Geshe Kelsang)
This follows the same analogy of love that we mentioned earlier. How do you expect there to be peace in the world if a storm of hatred dwells within you?
Peace is only achieved with the commitment of all of the parties so that, together, they become a whole. It has to start with each person cultivating it.
59. “How wonderful would it be if people did all they could for others without seeking anything in return! One should never remember a kindness done, and never forget a kindness received”. (Kentetsu Takamori)
Keep these words with you and make them your philosophy of life. Forget your own kind acts, but remember every benevolent action that others do for you affectionately. The sum of both will translate into peace of mind for you.
60. “When we are aware of our weaknesses or negative tendencies, we open the opportunity to work on them”. (Allan Lokos)
If you turn your back on them and pretend that they’re not there, it’s impossible to deal with them. For example, imagine that you want to stop being proud. You’ll never do it if you don’t start by accepting that you are and that you really want to take the step to leave it behind.
61. “Compassion is not religious business, it is human business, it is not luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability, it is essential for human survival”. (Dalai Lama)
You don’t have to be a religious person to practice compassion, you just need to belong to the human race. In fact, compassion is necessary for you to achieve your own peace, but also to promote peace in others.
62. “Buddhism holds that everything is in constant flux. Thus, the question is whether we are to accept change passively and be swept away by it or whether we are to take the lead and create positive changes on our own initiative”. (Daisaku Ikeda)
At the end of the day, the choice rests with you. However, if you want to participate in change, you must take action. Think about these and other Buddhist sayings the next time you think everything seems to be working against you.
63. “The more truthful I am with myself and others, the more my conscience is clear and tranquil. Thus, I can more thoroughly and unequivocally inhabit the present moment and accept everything that happens without fear”. (Lama Surya Das)
Pay attention to the first part: with myself. Indeed, it’s not enough that you practice honesty with others, you should also be honest with yourself. If you don’t, you’ll be putting on a mask and hiding behind someone you’re not.
64. “The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on Earth”. (Linji)
Being alive is, in itself, a miracle, and one that you must cherish and enjoy every day. If you take your life for granted, you’ll never get a glimpse of how wonderful it is.
65. “Support the type of thinking that leads you to feeling good, peaceful and happy”. (Allan Lokos)
It doesn’t matter where this thinking comes from. In fact, any act that seeks the peace and happiness of people, without the intention of imposing force on them or favoring only one group, must be supported.
66. “If you want to take care of tomorrow, take better care of today. We always live in the now. All we have to do is trust ourselves in the life we live now”. (Dainin Katagiri)
This doesn’t mean that you stop sowing seeds to reap their fruits tomorrow. Just don’t waste your life sitting and waiting for this to happen. Instead, start seeing the fruits that you can collect today. Another of the Buddhist sayings to carry with you at all times.
67. “What makes human life -which is inseparable from this moment – so precious is its fleeting nature. And not that it doesn’t last, but that it never returns”. (Steve Hagen)
It’s extremely common for people to lament the shortness of life. Actually, one life is enough if you know how to live it.
68. “If the whole universe can be found in our own body and mind, this is where we need to make our inquiries. We all have the answers within ourselves, we just have not got in touch with them yet”. (Ayya Khema)
Many of the answers about life are within you, so you shouldn’t look anywhere else for them. Keep this in mind the next time you’re eager to find the solution to a question that really bothers you.
69. “This body is fragile. It is just flesh. Listen to the heartbeat. Life depends on the pumping of a muscle”. (Stephen Batchelor)
The worldliness of society prevents you from appreciating this truth that’s right in front of you.
70. “If you cannot find a good companion to walk with, walk alone; like an elephant roaming the jungle. It is better to be alone than to be with those who hinder your progress”. (Buddha)
Sometimes you have to give people a bit of a push. However, if they’ve got no intention of continuing to the end, you’re better off carrying on without them.
71. “Although social and personal circumstances will play their part in influencing how an individual suffers, in Buddhist thought blame is seen as a “poison” that will only lead to negative actions and will do nothing to reduce suffering”. (Desmond Biddulph)
This is why we talked above about true forgiveness and the burdens that keep you from moving forward. Free yourself from them and you’ll be free to find peace.
72. “The Buddha-nature which is ours from the very beginning is like the sun which emerges from the clouds, or like a mirror which, when rubbed, regains its original purity and clarity”. (Edward Conze)
A mirror that everyone possesses, but they forget to polish in order to see their inner reflection. Always hold this mirror in front of you.
73. “From the Buddhist perspective, the only lasting way to bring about change is for people themselves to change”. (Pat Allwright)
We can’t expect things to change with inertia, or that it’ll happen without intervention. As a matter of fact, Buddhism is more active than many people realize, partly because of certain prejudices toward it.
74. “If you are fortunate enough to enjoy great success, you should never forget the spirit of the beginner, and not grow indolent and arrogant”. (Kentetsu Takamori)
Arrogance and ego destroy you from within. They do it slowly and without you initially even noticing. For this reason, it’s sometimes a good idea to pay attention to how others value your actions.
75. “By healing our mind with great compassion, we will be able to solve all our own problems and those of others. The positive thought of compassion will not only help us to recover from sickness, but it will bring us peace, happiness, and satisfaction”. (Thubten Zopa)
These three elements are what allow you to enjoy a pleasant life. Another of the Buddhist sayings about life that we couldn’t miss off our list.
76. “The enlightened person is like a clear window through which the light of reality shines, through which that light can be seen almost as it is”. (Sangharakshita)
Think of yourself via this analogy and you’ll be taking the first steps on the path that leads to enlightenment.
77. “The real miracle is when someone can stop the cause of suffering and create the cause of happiness by knowing that their own mind is the source of their suffering and happiness”. (Thubten Zopa Rinpoche)
A good number of your problems have their solutions in your own mind. However, sometimes you forget this and end up in a loop that you can’t get out of.
78. “Feeling gratitude for being alive, being able to experience an inner delight in the moment is one of the essential roots of happiness”. (Ezra Bayda)
You must always feel gratitude towards life. This is the spark that makes the light of happiness possible.
79. “It takes no deep insight to see that both the source of our well-being and our maladies lies within our own hearts and minds”. (B.A. Wallace)
One of the first lessons Buddhism teaches you. One that you should also always carry with you no matter where you go.
80. “Because goodness has to mature; it doesn’t just occur, it must be nourished, and it must grow”. (Roger Weir)
In other words, you have to work on it day by day.
We hope that in our selection of the best Buddhist sayings you’ve found just the words you were looking for. Don’t forget to continue along the path. Follow this link for 31 tips to help you.
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