Gautama Buddha? Buddhaghosa? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: Feelings and actions driven by anger and resentment are self-destructive. This notion can be metaphorically illustrated by a red-hot coal which one grabs with the goal of striking another person. The poorly conceived plan causes one’s hand to suffer burns and pain. This figurative framework has been attributed to the Buddha? What do you think?
Quote Investigator: The Visuddhimagga (The Path of Purification) is an important treatise of Theravada Buddhist thought written by the scholar Buddhaghoṣa during the 5th Century (approximately) in Sri Lanka. Pe Maung Tin who was a Professor of Oriental Studies at University of Rangoon created a translation into English that was published by 1931.
The second part titled “Of Concentration” included a section on “The Developing of Love”. The text argued against performing deeds inspired by anger: 1
And he should ponder thus concerning himself: “Man, what wilt thou do getting angry with another man? Will not this angry deed which is the origin of hate lead to thy harm?”
Two vivid and complementary metaphors highlighted the unintended consequences of such anger. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:
Thou who dost such deeds art like a man who seizes with both hands glowing live coals or dung in order to strike another man therewith, but who first burns and befouls himself.”
Gautama Buddha did not deliver the words above; instead, they were written many years later by Buddhaghoṣa who was presenting his interpretation of Buddhist thought.
The Quote Investigator has explored an analogous expression, and the article can be read by clicking the following statement: “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die”.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1931 (Part III was published in 1931 and Part II was completed before this), The Path of Purity: A Translation of Buddhaghosa’s Visuddhimagga by Pe Maung Tin (Professor of Oriental Studies, University of Rangoon), Part II: Of Concentration, Translation Series Number 17, Chapter 9: Exposition of Divine States: Section 1: The Developing of Love, Quote Page 346 and 347, Published for The Pali Text Society by Oxford University Press, London. (Verified with scans) ↩