When it comes to ancient wisdom, the Buddha remains one of the most quotable sources on Earth. His words carry straightforward advice, but they are couched in mystical or metaphorical terms that make the quotes perfect for putting on inspirational posters and painting on walls today. Some people, however, see those nearly lyrical phrases and assume that they are just empty words. Others think that there is no way the advice of an ancient man is applicable to the modern era. Still others refuse to read the Buddha’s words because they belong to a different religion or claim to eschew religion entirely. All of these groups of people are wrong. The Buddha’s words are filled with excellent advice, and they are still applicable to the contemporary world. Human nature, after all, has not changed. As for those who dismiss the Buddha’s words simply because they are from the Buddha, they are missing out on a great source of wisdom. One does not need to be a Buddhist to understand that there is truth and comfort in the Buddha’s best quotes for everyday life.
“No one saves us but ourselves. No one else can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”When the Buddha said this, he was talking specifically about the Buddhist concept of liberation. That said, the advice is still valid when applied to everyday issues. You cannot expect someone else to save you from all of your troubles. They may be able to help you, but you alone can fix the underlying cause. You cannot live your life as a damsel in distress. At some point, you must accept that you are going to have to save yourself from your own bad habits and self-defeating thoughts.
“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”If you talked to others the way most people talk to themselves, no one would ever speak to you again. For some reason, many people treat themselves as if they do not think they are worthy of love. As the Buddha makes clear, however, that is ridiculous. You deserve love and affection just as much as anyone else in the world. So, start treating yourself with kindness rather than loathing.
“The mind is everything. What you think, you become.”The mind is an amazingly powerful thing. It can convince your body of all sorts of things that are not true. To test this, simply sit down and tell yourself over and over that you feel tired or ill. Focus on that long enough and you will find that your stomach begins to churn or your eyelids begin to droop. You can, very literally, trick your body into believing a falsehood simply by thinking about it enough. You can also convince your subconscious that you are a failure, a hopeless procrastinator or have a terrible memory. Then, you will struggle with success, time management or remembering details. On the other hand, if you tell yourself that you are successful or can become a good time manager, you will find that you have created a self-fulfilling prophecy for the better.
“Every morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.”Everyone has days where everything conceivable seems to go wrong. Thankfully, as the Buddha says, each day is a day you can begin again. If yesterday was awful, that is alright. Today is a new day. You can make it a better one. What a glorious gift to receive each morning!
“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”Happiness is not a finite quality that everyone must hoard in order to ensure they receive their fair share. In fact, happiness only grows when you share it with those around you. It does not take much to spread happiness either. A kind word, a smile or a small gesture of kindness are more than enough to turn someone else’s day around.
“If you propose to speak, always ask yourself: is it true, is it necessary, is it kind.”It is so easy to underestimate the pain your words can cause. They can cut as deep as a knife and leave wounds that linger for years. This makes the Buddha’s words especially relevant in today’s culture where people routinely demonize those who disagree with them on political matters. Rather than finding common ground, people dismiss entire groups of people as heartless, bigoted or even evil simply for sitting on the other side of the political aisle. There is undoubtedly a time and a place for tough love, hence the requirement that words be “necessary,” but far too many people simply speak without care for the consequences of their words. It would be quite a different world if people truly only spoke honest, necessary and kind words, and you can begin that change yourself by following this piece of ancient advice.
“Like a fine flower, beautiful to look at but without scent, fine words are fruitless in a man who does not act in accordance with them.”It is easy to say the right words, but it can be hard to do the right thing. That said, all the words in the world can become meaningless when it becomes clear that you are unwilling to live up to them. In a more modern phrasing, if you are going to talk the talk, you better be prepared to walk the walk.
“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”How many people do you know that complain about how their relationship, career or life in general is going nowhere? Now, how many of those people have made serious changes to try and correct the situation? Far too many people talk about how they do not like the direction of their lives, but they refuse to do anything to change it. If you continue going in the same direction as always, do not be surprised when you end up in the same destination. If you want to go somewhere new, you need to change something yourself rather than hoping things will spontaneously change on their own. Adjust your sails rather than uselessly cursing the wind.
Basic advice about human nature and finding purpose in life does not expire after a certain number of years, nor does it belong to any one culture or religion. Whether a person is a devout Buddhist, a curious Christian or an atheist desperate for some advice, the Buddha’s words can provide guidance and comfort to them all. No culture or religion has a claim on happiness.