[Buddha-l] What Buddhist is Emerson paraphrasing?

L.S. Cousins selwyn at ntlworld.com
Thu Apr 14 13:16:34 MDT 2011


I suspect that he had seen a travel account of the alms round practices 
in Ceylon or S.E. Asia.

> A colleague of mine, Russell Goodman, is a scholar of American philosophy and has asked me if I know of any Buddhist source of a quote that Ralph Waldo Emerson attributes to Buddhists. Emerson writes:
> "The Buddhist expresses the true law of hospitality when he says, 'Do not flatter your benefactors.'  The bread that you give me is not thine to give, but mine when the great Order of Nature has seated me today at your table."
> According to Professor Goodman, the quote "first appears in his journals for 1840 (Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks v. 7, p. 337), then in 'The Transcendentalist' (1841), then near the end of Emerson's essay "Gifts" in the second series of essays (1844.) It's also used in his letters."
> The quote in 'The Transcendentalist' goes:  "The Buddhist, who thanks no man, who says 'Do not flatter your benefactors," but who, in his conviction that every good deed can by no possibility escape its reward, will not deceive the benefactor by pretending that he has done more than he should, is a Transcendentalist." (p. 337 in the old riverside edition of E's works).
> I can think of nothing in any Buddhist texts I have read that sounds like this. If any of you can think of something, please let me know so I can pass it on to Russell Goodman.
> Richard Hayes
> Department of Philosophy
> MSC03 2140
> 1 University of New Mexico
> Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001
> rhayes at unm.edu

More information about the buddha-l mailing list