Vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?
Parable of those who reject their Lord: their works are as ashes on which the wind blows furiously on a stormy day. No power have they over aught that they have earned. That is straying far, far from the goal.
Men think much of their own advancement and of many other worldly things; but there is no improvement in this decaying world, which is as a tempting dish, sweet-coated, yet full of deadly gall within… It is as intangible as a mist; try to lay hold of it, and it proves to be nothing!
Yoga Vasishtha (Hinduism)
Not by a shower of gold coins does contentment arise in sensual pleasures.
Dhammapada 186 (Buddhism)
Desire never rests by enjoyment of lusts, as fire surely increases the more butter is offered to it.
Laws of Manu 2.94 (Hinduism)
The benighted one is incompetent to assuage sufferings, because he is attached to desires and is lecherous. Oppressed by physical and mental pain, he keeps rotating in a whirlpool of agony. I say so.
Acarangasutra 2.74 (Jainism)
Intoxicated by the wine of illusion, like one intoxicated by wine; rushing about, like one possessed of an evil spirit; bitten by the world, like one bitten by a great serpent; darkened by passion, like the night; illusory, like magic; false, like a dream; pithless, like the inside of a banana-tree; changing its dress in a moment, like an actor; fair in appearance, like a painted wall—thus they call him.
Maitri Upanishad 4.2 (Hinduism)
I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I applied my mind to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven; it is an unhappy business that God has given to the sons of men to be busy with. I have seen everything that is done under the sun; and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.
What is crooked cannot be made straight,
and what is lacking cannot be numbered.
I said to myself, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” And I applied my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.
For in much wisdom is much vexation,
and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
I said to myself, “Come now, I will make a test of pleasure; enjoy yourself.”… Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them; I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind…
So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes a man who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by a man who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. What has a man from all the toil and strain with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of pain, and his work is a vexation; even in the night his mind does not rest. This also is vanity.
When men get together to pit their strength in games of skill, they start off in a light and friendly mood, but usually end up in a dark and angry one, and if they go on too long they start resorting to various underhanded tricks. When men meet at some ceremony to drink, they start off in an orderly manner, but usually end up in disorder, and if they go on too long they start indulging in various irregular amusements. It is the same with all things. What starts out being sincere usually ends up being deceitful. What was simple in the beginning acquires monstrous proportions in the end.