Hate mail, part two

Let me put this in a way you will understand!

“‘Worthless man, it is unseemly, out of line, unsuitable, and unworthy of a contemplative; improper and not to be done… Haven’t I taught the Dhamma in many ways for the sake of dispassion and not for passion; for unfettering and not for fettering; for freedom from clinging and not for clinging? Yet here, while I have taught the Dhamma for dispassion, you set your heart on passion; while I have taught the Dhamma for unfettering, you set your heart on being fettered; while I have taught the Dhamma for freedom from clinging, you set your heart on clinging.”

Instead of just worrying about fake quotes and ranting about translations, how about you actually take what you claim to have studied and put it into practice! You see, like all religious and scriptural teachings, a passage, or a quote, can be overlooked, used liberally or conservatively, but they are Buddhist Teachings nonetheless! it would be much more compassionate and Buddha like, to critique and differentiate quotes as Buddhist and Quotes By Buddha!

Not calling out translational errors, or spiritual preferential choice, as incorrect teachings! I have read a lifetime worth of Buddhist Scripture and have yet to finish with my studies, for it would take many lifetimes to read the whole canon of Buddhist scripture, it is a growing and living Dharma, not some dead bible, closed and set in stone! Maybe you should take that into consideration, instead of your need to be some kind of Buddhist Canon Nazi!

Be Well, Be Happy,
Ananda Bodhi

Hate mail, part one

I would suggest you stop inferring that your views and your views alone are correct! Buddha teaches and taught, that everyone can become enlightened and awakened, therefore a Buddha! As one who has studied Buddhist scripture, from all branches of Buddhism, and has practiced Buddhism for 40 years of his life, I would not have the audacity nor arrogance to believe that Canonical text alone, as you call it, can be the only quotes attributed to Buddha! You have three a branches of Buddhism, all inspired by the desire for the attainment of enlightenment, all reflective of Buddhist teachings! I truly find your site offensive and distasteful, and not in the spirit of the Buddha’s teachings… you remind me of the monks, who created the schism within the sangha, in Buddha’s day, debating his teaching, and what he taught! It is divisive and ill advised! Buddha wouldn’t have it in his day, and you shouldn’t be promoting such discord, by judging translations and people’s preferences, of using one word over another… It all comes off very arrogant, divisive, and very self aggrandizing!

Unless you can tell me you have studied all the Pali Suttas, all the Sutras and teachings of Mahayana… You should not be promoting this kind of scriptural divisiveness! It is one thing to point of fake scripture, another thing to be so anally retentive to nit pick translations and people’s preference of a translation!

I hope in the near future you will reconsider your approach, because it comes off as arrogant and self aggrandizing, to say the least!

Be Well, Be Happy,
Ananda Bodhi

“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play…”

Someone picked this one up on Facebook today and passed it on to me.

“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, education and his religion. He hardly knows which is which; he simply pursues his vision of excellence in whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both.”

It had been attributed to the Buddha.

Several books, starting from 1992, claim that the quote is from a “Zen Buddhist text.” This attribution starts with Lester C. Thurow, in a book called Head to Head.

Later, it’s attributed to the novelist, James Michener.

The quote is from a 1932 book, “Education through Recreation” by Lawrence Pearsall Jacks. It’s a bit different in the original form:

A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.”

I’ve highlighted the changes in italic text.

The language of either version of the quote is entirely wrong for any class of Buddhist scripture. Things like “his vision of excellence” in particular stick out like the proverbial sore thumb.

The general idea of the loss of distinction between work and play is, however, found in Mahayana teachings, where the Bodhisattva’s “work” in liberating beings from suffering is described as his “lila” or play. The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism says, “In Sanskrit both the words līlā and lalita denote joyful abandonment in a state of spontaneous play.” Zimmer’s Philosophies of India says, “Mingled with the compassion of the Bodhisattva is a quality, therefore, or “great delight” (māhā-sukha) … These three worlds have been created, as it were, for—by—and of—the enjoyment of this immortal: they are his līlā, his “play.”

This “līlā” is what we would now call a “flow” state of joyful, selfless absorption in a task.

Having found the original source in L.P. Jacks’ book, I discovered that The Quote Investigator
had already tracked it down to the same place. The Quote Investigator’s article is well-worth reading.

“Those who are awake live in a state of constant amazement.”

those who are awake

Three people this week have sent me this quote. Apparently it’s time.

“Those who are awake live in a state of constant amazement” is not from the Buddha. It’s from Jack Kornfield’s Buddha’s Little Instruction Book (page 124), although where he got it from, or whether he coined it himself, are things I don’t know.

The Buddha did often talk about various things being “amazing and astounding,” or “strange and wonderful” (translations vary). The phrase in Pali is “acchariyā abbhutā dhammā.” There are for example eight amazing and astounding things about the ocean, which parallel eight amazing and astounding things about the Sangha.

But it’s not at all clear that the Buddha found these things personally amazing, and it’s more likely, I think, that he thought these were things that, if brought to his audience’s attention, would be amazing and astounding for them.

I don’t pretend to know what the Buddha’s experience was like, but if he went around in a state of constant wonder then that fact wasn’t, to the best of my knowledge, recorded in the scriptures.

“The inclination to accept unverified opinion simply because of currency or familiarity is a dangerous human weakness that is instrumental in self-deception, and easily exploited for the deception of others.”

inclination

Goodness gracious. Sometimes I see a quote like this one:

The inclination to accept unverified opinion simply because of currency or familiarity is a dangerous human weakness that is instrumental in self-deception, and easily exploited for the deception of others

and I’m simply staggered that anyone would think it was uttered by the Buddha 2,500 years ago. The language and syntax is just so very, very modern that this just has to be 20th century.

The Buddha did give advice about not believing something simply because of its “currency” or “familiarity,” and perhaps the true author of this quote had that in mind:

Don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, “This contemplative is our teacher.”

You’ll notice that the language is much more down to earth, and doesn’t get lost in heady latinate formations.

But who is the author? It’s definitely not the Buddha, but is Thomas Cleary, in the introduction to his No Barrier: Unlocking the Zen Koan, published in 1993.

Fortunately this misattribution doesn’t seem to have spread much yet, and hopefully we can keep it that way!

“Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant with the weak and wrong. Sometime in your life, you will have been all of these.”

Consider this post to be a “stub.”

“Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant with the weak and wrong. Sometime in your life, you will have been all of these.”

I’m still researching this quote, but it seems to be by a journalist called Bob Goddard, who wrote for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat around the 1960s. (It’s definitely not the Buddha.)

The Globe folded in the early 1980s.

So far I’m not having much luck tracking down an original source. It’s a bit tricker with newspaper sources, especially if they haven’t been scanned by Google.. If I find out anything more I’ll add to this blog post.

“If you cannot find a good companion to walk with, walk alone, like an elephant roaming the jungle. It is better to be alone than to be with those who will hinder your progress.”

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this quote is fake:

“If you cannot find a good companion to walk with, walk alone, like an elephant roaming the jungle. It is better to be alone than to be with those who will hinder your progress.”

As soon as I saw it I was reminded of a verse from the Dhammapada, and my instincts turned out to be right.

However, it’s not exactly a quote, but an adaptation of two Dhammapada verses:

329. If for company you cannot find a wise and prudent friend who leads a good life, then, like a king who leaves behind a conquered kingdom, or like a lone elephant in the elephant forest, you should go your way alone.

330. Better it is to live alone; there is no fellowship with a fool. Live alone and do no evil; be carefree like an elephant in the elephant forest.

So, this isn’t quite fake, but is kind of in a gray area, being more of an interpretive paraphrase than an actual quotation.

I’m afraid I have no idea of its origins, since it’s not in any books on Google Books, as fas as I’ve found, although the last part of the quote is very similar to a piece of advice given in Instant Karma, by Barbara Ann Kipfer (2003): “Choose to be alone rather than be with those who will hinder your progress.”

But you may be surprised at how common such sentiments, and even precise turns of phrase are. For example, at the tender age of 14, George Washington apparently compiled a list of 110 rules for civility. Rule number 56 was, “Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for ’tis better to be alone than in bad company.”

Debunking Fake Albert Einstein Quotes

There’s a pressing need for a “Fake Dalai Lama Quote” website and perhaps even more of a need for fakeeinsteinquotes.com. In the meantime, we have this post by someone calling themselves “Borna” on the site, Skeptica Esoterica.

Presumably Fake Einstein Quotes appear for the same kinds of reasons that Fake Buddha quotes appear: things like people wanting a quote to seem more substantial by attaching the name of a great man, simple errors, wishful thinking, etc.

One of the quotes I saw most recently attributed to Einstein was this one:

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is.”

This was oohed and aahed over as if it was the most profound thought imaginable. But give it a moment’s thought and inquire whether these two positions do in fact constitute the “only two ways” to live life. Is there really no middle ground, where you could regard some things as being miracles and others as not being miracles? (I’m not arguing for the correctness of one view or another, but for the existence of this third view.) In fact I’d argue that many people fall into the third category — the one that’s dismissed as impossible in the quotation. A great many people believe in the existence of miracles as actually existing, but rare.

So having established that the quotation presents a false dichotomy, and is an example of black-and-white thinking, ask yourself whether the Einstein you know was a black-and-white thinker. Of course it could be that he had off days, but the crudity of thought expressed in the quotation should make us pause before automatically assuming that this is a quotation from Einstein.

And investigating the quote online suggests that it only became attributed to Einstein around 1993, which casts further doubt on it being Einstein’s.

The article I’ve linked to debunks several Fake Einstein Quotes, but there’s still plenty of work to be done. Have at it!

“Regardless of the shadows that cross the moon to make it appear less than it is, to the moon, it is always full. So it is with us.”

Someone passed this on to me the other day, saying they’d found it on Facebook:

Regardless of the shadows that cross the moon to make it appear less
than it is, to the moon, it is always full. So it is with us.

I’m 100% certain it’s fake, although I don’t know where it comes from originally. The first uses of this quote that I’ve found online date from only 2011, which is rarely a good sign for a quote that purports to be 2,500 years old.

There’s not a lot of hard astronomy in the Pali canon. There are references to the moon being obscured by clouds, or coming out from behind clouds. There are references to the phases of the moon, which were an important part of the Buddhist lunar calendar. There are references to meditators being able to touch the moon (and sun!) with their hands. There are references to the moon as a god. But I’ve never seen anything suggesting that the Buddha knew the moon to be a sphere that was hidden and revealed by shadows. I’m not saying those references don’t exist, just that I haven’t seen them. If you know of any, or if you have any clue where this quote might have originated, please let me know!