Fake Buddha Quote #197: “When you realize how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.”

I came across this one in the feed of someone who started following me on Twitter. Here’s a link to the original status update.

When you realize how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky. ~ Buddha

This of course bears no resemblance to anything the Buddha’s recorded as having said.

With some Fake Buddha Quotes it’s possible to trace the origins to a bad translation or some other obvious misattribution (for example a quote appears in a book called “The Teaching of the Buddha,” is subsequently quoted and attributed “The Teaching of the Buddha,” and is then requoted as attributed to “the Buddha”). But this one’s rather mysterious. It simply starts appearing on the web about 2005. The first mention I have found so far is on Nov 29, 2005 on a blog. In 2007 it appears in “A Year of Questions,” by Fiona Robyn, and (in a slightly different form) in “Hell in the Hallway,” by Sandi Bachom. This of course lends the quote a false air of legitimacy, and it’s now found in most of the appalling quotes sites that litter the web.

If you come across any references to this quote earlier than Nov, 2005, please let me know.

40 thoughts on “Fake Buddha Quote #197: “When you realize how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.””

  1. Sounds like a stanza from a Tibetan Dzoghcen text:

    thams cad mnyam rdzogs sgyu ma’i rang bzhin la//
    bzang ngan blang dor med pas dgod re bro//

    Since everything is but an illusion,
    Perfect in being what it is,
    Having nothing to do with good or bad,
    Acceptance or rejection,
    One might as well burst out laughing!

    from chapter 1 of The Great Perfection’s Self-Liberation in the Nature of Mind, by Longchenpa (1308-1364)

    1. That’s very interesting, thanks. Zen and the Tibetan tradition are big on laughter. I don’t recall the Buddha of the Pali texts ever being described as laughing. I’m sure he did, however, and it’s just been edited out.

  2. This quote is actually published in a book titled, “1001 Pearls of Yoga Wisdom” by Liz White. In fact, I think might have read it to my yoga class… :s

    1. If you do a search on http://books.google.com/ you’ll find it’s in a lot of books. Once a Fake Buddha Quote is in print, it develops a life of its own. Frankly I’m surprised publishers don’t ask authors to do more fact-checking. For my own books I’ve had to spend many hours in libraries, tracking down obscure volumes so that I could send photocopies in to my publisher in order to verify the quotes.

  3. Years ago I had an initiated Sufi and Zen teacher who stated that people rarely read the words that Buddha wrote but would spend all their time reading and quoting secondary sources. It is similar to Christians reading interpretations of the Bible and being unfamiliar with what the Bible actually says.

    1. That’s very much my experience as well. A lot of people don’t even read books that are “about” Buddhism (in the sense of outlining and explaining Buddhist teachings) but that are more along the lines of “how Buddhism can make you happy.” Admittedly, a lot of Buddhist scriptures aren’t very approachable and need a lot of commentary in order to bring out their meaning.

  4. As obscure as the origins of this quote is, I still find it to be incredibly beautiful.

    However, I am still hoping someone will be able to clear the mystery behind it here.

  5. Certainly I can not substantiate if the Buddha said this or not. But I have met numerous Lamas and Rinpoches that have indeed said this in many ways and in almost the same words. It is a marvelous statement, absolutely marvelous.

  6. Dan,…. please…this is not meant to be take so literally…as if one was laughing at the sky making fun of the sky…
    Laughing at the sky is to lift up ones awareness which at laugh with pure joy of the realization of the spaciousness of everything and it’s emptiness which is vast as the sky. Peace.

  7. How can there be such thing as a “fake” Buddha quote since we all have the potential to be Buddhas, in essence, we are all Buddhas. Siddh?rtha Gautama aka “The Buddha” (or the “one” people claim to be the Buddha) himself, when asked what he was, replied, “I am awake.” And that is all the word, Buddha means, the awakened, or enlightened, one.

    Just like Jesus, Moses, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Siddhartha Gautama was not seeking to acquire followers or fans, nor for people to treat him as someone or something more special than anyone else. These people were living their lives as examples for the rest of humanity, sharing the truth within their hearts, lighting the way, hoping that other people would see that the same was/is possible for them, for everyone.

    I truly believe that he would be laughing at the mere notion and/or concept of the existence of a “fake” buddha quote. ;)))

    1. I don’t know where to start. Did the Buddha say “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99% perspiration”? No, that was Thomas Edison (more or less). If you take the words of someone else and put them in the Buddha’s mouth, that’s a false attribution, or as I prefer to call it, a Fake Buddha Quote.

      How is it relevant whether the Buddha did or did not want followers? (For a man who didn’t seek followers, he had an awful lot of them, incidentally, and he even went seeking them, but never mind that for now). How is it relevant if he did or did not want people to treat him as more special than anyone else? (Although five minute’s perusal of the Buddhist scriptures will reveal that he reportedly was very insistent on being treated with respect). If I just make something up and say the Buddha said it, that’s a fake Buddha quote. If I take something clearly attributable to another person and say the Buddha said it, that’s a fake Buddha quote. If I “translate” the Buddha’s words so badly that I’m turning them into an entirely different message, that’s a fake Buddha quote.

      Whether you believe the Buddha would laugh at the “notion and/or concept” (what’s the difference between a notion and a concept anyway?) of a fake Buddha quote is neither here nor there. You can imagine whatever you want about the Buddha. We do however, if you care to read the Buddhist scriptures, see numerous examples of the Buddha being confronted by people asking him about various “quotes” he had been said to utter, denying that they were from him, and putting the record straight. The Buddha, apparently, was very familiar with the concept of the “Fake Buddha Quote” and he’s not, I’m afraid, recorded as having laughed at any of them, never mind having laughed at the very “notion and/or concept.”

      I’d suggest that it’s useful to actually read the Buddhist scriptures before making pronouncements about what the Buddha was like and what he believed.

      1. Its amazing to me that someone who is quite so into this topic would be quite as rude as you, Bodhipaksa. It takes away from any authority you may have on the subject. Instead of arguing with people, find your similarities and try to have a positive exchange. It’s what Buddha would want :)

        1. I’m afraid I’ve no idea what I’ve said that you consider to be rude.

          As for “find(ing) your similarities and try(ing) to have a positive exchange,” that’s fine. But the Buddha was not one to shy away from critiquing other’s views, and I follow in his footsteps in that regard. I believe that a spiritually positive exchange is unlikely to result from blithely overlooking others’ lack of logic or their factual inaccuracies.

          1. If we leave the teaching to the Buddha, then the Dharma is dead and gone. We need to constantly practice, and to pass on what we’ve understood.

  8. I agree with the quote but it’s obviously not something Buddha would say.

    That wasn’t his form of medicine. When you devote your life to spread the noble truth of Suffering, you’re not teaching perfection

    1. In response to the statement, “I agree with the quote but it’s obviously not something Buddha would say.That wasn’t his form of medicine. When you devote your life to spread the noble truth of Suffering, you’re not teaching perfection.” by Karl Baba.

      The Noble truth of Suffering is a lesson intended to be used as what I call a “pointer”. The meditation on the concept of life being suffering is one that leads (i.e. points) the practitioner to an awareness that we are the creators of our suffering. When we realize this and accept this into our practice we then begin the transformation of our perspective and how we choose to view our place in this world in human form. This is some times referred to as bliss consciousness or God consciousness. We are the creators of our reality. If we choose suffering then we live a life of suffering. However, when we realize that we have a chose in this matter then a shift in consciousness takes place which enables us to become awake to the life that we are creating in this moment. This state is a state of higher consciousness that allows us to let go of suffering. In the letting go of suffering one understands and is made aware that everything in this moment is as it should be. Everything is perfect as it is. It could not be any other way. Love is what emerges from this realization. Love for everything and everyone. We are all part of the one.

      Choose not to suffer and you make the chose to Love ; )

  9. Since the Buddha spoke Pali, an energetic language, a translation into English (mostly intellectual) is very difficult. Therefore we should go off of what the Buddha may or may not have said, 😉 “Don’t beleive a word I say”…His teachings are purly based on experientials and if it works for u great use it if not u must abandon it… If this quote works for you in some way to liberate ur suffering then use it, Bodhipaksa is simply outting fake quotes he is not denying the truth of it that it may have for some people…Yet, even Bodhipaksa is using an opinion , he never met the physical Buddha (Siddhartha), he is going off of research and texts and translations. . . and in that respect I would say he is both right and wrong …Not everyword Buddha said was documented and most are severly misinterpreted…Buddha never wrote anything down in fact it wasnt written until after his death…And this is possibly a reason he didnt. :) Om Tat Sat

  10. Actually, we don’t know whether the Buddha spoke Pali, or whether Pali was a spoken language or perhaps a literary construction. There are indications that Pali is based on (or was) a language spoken in the north west of India, far from where the Buddha was born, lived, and taught. It just so happens that the only complete canon we have is in Pali, but had history turned out differently we could have had many different recensions of the canon in different languages.

    Anyway … in some cases it’s possible to trace a Fake Buddha Quote back to a modern author, or to a mistranslation, which makes it possible to say that the quote didn’t originate with the Buddha.

  11. To make things even more complicated, the Tibetan teacher Minling Khandro Rinpoche (one of the only female Rinpoches that I have ever heard of), for her 2012 New Year address combined this quote with one by Jean Houston.

    “When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back
    and laugh at the sky. At the height of laughter, the universe is
    flung into a kaleidoscope of possibilities.”

  12. I came across this discussion while looking for a quote to add to a painting I’m doing with a laughing buddha on it. Does anyone know of any good laughter quotes by Buddha or by any of the buddhist teachers? Thanks.

    1. You might want to know that the “Laughing Buddha” isn’t the Buddha, but is a figure called Ho Tei. He’s identified with a historical monk, but he’s really a kind of household deity of prosperity. In Asia he’s also identified with Maitreya, who is the mythical Buddha who, it’s said, will follow Gautama Buddha.

      Gautama doesn’t seem to have been big on laughter! As far as I can recall, there isn’t a single instance of him laughing in the entire Pali canon, which is many times the length of the Bible. Typical quotes are things like:

      When this world is ever ablaze, why this laughter, why this jubilation? Shrouded in darkness, will you not see the light? (Dhammapada)

      Shedding laughter, chattering, lamentation, hatred, deception, deviousness, greed, pride, confrontation, roughness, astringency, infatuation, one should go about free of
      intoxication, steadfast within. (Sutta Nipata)

      You’d have better luck in the Zen tradition, which seems very austere, but which is actually a laugh-riot compared to the Pali tradition. For example the monk Ryokan wrote:

      Everyone eats rice
      Yet no one knows why.
      When I say this now
      People laugh at me.
      If they laugh, that’s just fine.
      Laughing is something I like, too!
      Laughing and laughing, we won’t stop.
      We’ll welcome Maitreya here and now.

      That last two lines would be very appropriate to accompany a “laughing Buddha,” especially since he’s associated with Maitreya.

      1. One thing that is forbidden to monks and nuns in the Vinaya is to tickle someone (because a monk was once died from being tickled). Disparaging jokes are also forbidden. In general, laughing out loud seems not to be done. Not that Theravadan Buddhist monks and nuns don’t have good senses of humor. They do. In my experience they smile, smile broadly or chuckle a bit, but don’t do out-loud open-mouthed laughs. Immodest perhaps ?

        Thank you for the information on fake quotes attributed to the Buddha.

          1. I don’t have a systematic list, I’m afraid, but it you look at the right sidebar you’ll see a heading “Tags and Categories,” and the two links underneath should take you to those I’ve mentioned in blog posts. I have bunch more that I haven’t investigated yet — some of which may be genuine (or at least canonical, which may not always be the same thing), although my guess is that they’re all fake. They just keep on coming!

        1. I’m a big fan of How to Train a Wild Elephant, and I’m honored that you commented.

          I recall a passage in the Pali canon where the Buddha smiles, and Ananda thinks to himself, “Not for nothing does the blessed one smile,” which gives him and opening to ask the Buddha what he’s thinking about. I believe the Buddha was recalling a previous life…

          I’m glad that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is fond of a good laugh! Presumably the Tibetan vinaya is a little more permissive.

  13. It is remarkably similar to this quote:

    “Since everything is like an ‘apparition,’
    Perfect in just being ‘What It Is’ — as it is.
    Having nothing to do with ‘good’ or ‘bad,’
    ‘acceptance’ or ‘rejection’ —
    You might as well just burst out laughing!”

    — Tibetan master Longchenpa, fourteenth century Tibet

  14. I wouldn’t have said it was “remarkably” similar, but you do get the idea in Zen, also, that insight experiences can be accompanied by hilarity. I suspect the Buddha liked at least a good chuckle, and that he wasn’t as po-faced as the Pali canon would have him.

  15. The stoic statues of a Buddha tell a tale of a serious man… He doesn’t really look like the life of the party…I ask you to try this…sit where you are, open your eyes and engage fully in the moment, notice the colors become richer the moment more real, try for just a second not to engage in thoughts of past or future…This technique brings immense joy when practiced. It’s all about experience, if it works then use it to better the world by bringing joy. You may even find you will start to laugh…go ahead, laugh. And this is where the Buddhas are, fully engaged in the present moment, it is not boring as u may think from statues and pictures, in fact its completely engaging each moment new and innocent and fresh. What’s boring is the same thing over and again, delusion after delusion spinning around for eons, quite boring…
    How about this quote: ( I believe the Buddha asked us to decide truth for ourselves…) Historical or not.

    “Don’t blindly believe what I say. Don’t believe me because others convince you of my words. Don’t believe anything you see, read, or hear from others, whether of authority, religious teachers or texts. Don’t rely on logic alone, nor speculation. Don’t infer or be deceived by appearances.”
    “Do not give up your authority and follow blindly the will of others. This way will lead to only delusion.”
    “Find out for yourself what is truth, what is real. Discover that there are virtuous things and there are non-virtuous things. Once you have discovered for yourself give up the bad and embrace the good.”
    Om Tat Sat :)

  16. Interesting disscussion on this quote. It’s beginning may be a mystery, but it’s reality certainly has been my experience!!

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