Groucho glasses on the Mona Lisa: Three tools for being better informed

mona lisaBecause I’ve been steeped in the study of Buddhism for decades, and have a reasonable degree of familiarity with the original texts (mostly in English, although I studied Pali at university too) there aren’t too many Fake Buddha Quotes that have taken me in. There were three or four that I’d come across repeatedly in books on Buddhism, often by respected authors, that had me completely fooled, but most of the fakes circulating on Twitter and Facebook stood out like novelty Groucho glasses on the Mona Lisa.

Once I started researching the more obviously fake Buddha quotes, however, I realized that quotes sites have no quality control whatsoever, and that many publishers apparently don’t either. And so I started to question many of the other quotes I came across and that I’d often used in my teaching. That quote from Anaïs Nin, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”? Not by her at all! Petit-Senn’s “It’s not what we have that constitutes our abundance, but what we appreciate”? If it’s anywhere in his works, I haven’t been able to find it. Einstein’s thing about fish climbing trees? Ridiculous!

Now I check almost every quote I find before deciding whether or not to pass it on. Many of the quotes ascribed to the Founders of the US turn out to be patent fakes, serving political ends. Most Einstein quotes turn out to be fakes as well.

It’s all too easy to be taken in by fake information. David N. Rapp of the Department of Psychology and School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University, who has studied why we succumb to false information, points out that “We’re bombarded with tons of information all day; it’s a nightmare to critically evaluate all of it.”

Rapp says it’s not that we’re lazy, “though that could certainly contribute to the problem. It’s the computational task of evaluating everything that is arduous and difficult, as we attempt to preserve resources for when we really need them.” I’m not sure if I quite get the distinction between being lazy and avoiding doing something that seems arduous, however!

Anyway, Rapp makes three suggestions to avoid falling into the misinformation trap, and I’d like to present those and comment on them in relation to fake quotes, rather than the original context of not memorizing junk info:

Critically evaluate information right away.

That may help prevent your brain from storing the wrong information. “You want to avoid encoding those potentially problematic memories,” Rapp said.

I’d suggest assuming that any quote you see is fake or falsely attributed until proven otherwise. Based on my past experience, 90% of the time you’ll be correct. Of course if you don’t mind the fact that our society is drowning in bogus information, and your sense of personal integrity doesn’t extend to caring about whether what you say (or quote) is true or not, then feel free to ignore this advice!

Consider the source

People are more likely to use inaccurate information from a credible source than from an unreliable source, according to Rapp’s previous research. “At this point, it’s even clear to Donald Trump’s proponents that his words are often nonsensical,” Rapp said. “But his strong supporters who want him to be right will do less work to evaluate his statements.”

I’ve had people tell me that a quote from an unknown source is actually by x. Their source for this information? The internet. Yup, “I read it on the internet, so it must be true,” is a guiding principle for many people. Unfortunately, quotes sites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc., are not bastions of fact-checking. Just because a quote pops up on your social media feed doesn’t mean it’s accurate or correctly attributed.

Beware of truthy falsehoods.

“When the truth is mixed with inaccurate statements, people are persuaded, fooled and less evaluative, which prevents them from noticing and rejecting the inaccurate ideas,” Rapp said.

Why do we reflexly hit the share button when we see a quote? It’s because it pushes an emotional button. Those who pass on fake information are often trying to manipulate you, relying on your emotional responses overruling your rational mind. Perhaps the quote outrages us. Perhaps it generates a gleeful sense that “This will show those right wing gun-nuts/anti-2nd amendment liberal traitors!” In the case of a Fake Buddha Quote it may just be that sense of “I agree with this!” (Subtext: “The Buddha agrees with me! I must be so wise!”)

When you notice your emotions surging upon seeing a quote on social media, pause. This is a danger sign. It’s advance notification that you’re about to be someone else’s tool. Pause, take a breath, and then (maybe) do a little digging around to see if the quote’s actually genuine or not. (Hint: just because you see it on a bunch of webpages doesn’t mean it’s genuine!)

These three steps will help you be a more conscious and conscientious sharer. And that’s important. As Einstein said, “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted in important affairs.” Of course Fake Einstein Quotes abound, but as it happens this one is genuine. It comes from the piece of writing he was engaged in at the time of his death.

“Suffering is not holding you. You are holding suffering.”

suffering is not holding youI’ve seen this one in a few places purporting to be from the Buddha. It’s definitely not something the Buddha said.

Mostly it’s attributed to Osho/Rajneesh, and I suspect that’s correct, although I haven’t yet found a definitive source. It’s usually included as part of this longer quotation:

Suffering is not holding you. You are holding suffering. When you become good at the art of letting sufferings go, then you’ll come to realize how unnecessary it was for you to drag those burdens around with you. You’ll see that no one else other than you was responsible. The truth is that existence wants your life to become a festival, because when you are unhappy, you also throw unhappiness all around. .

The Buddha of course had a lot to say about suffering, since his Dhamma (teaching) was aimed at liberating us from suffering. For example, he said:

Now this, monks, is the Noble Truth of dukkha (suffering): Birth is dukkha, aging is dukkha, death is dukkha; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, & despair are dukkha; association with the unbeloved is dukkha; separation from the loved is dukkha; not getting what is wanted is dukkha. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are dukkha.

The Buddha on Fake Buddha Quotes (4)

Something I commonly hear is that the Buddha would be “too spiritual” to be bothered about being misquoted, or about having other people’s words ascribed to him. I have to suspect that in many instances these commenters aren’t familiar with what the Buddha actually said. Here’s one sutta in which the Buddha describes his concern that his teachings will end up being replaced by “the works of poets, elegant in sound, elegant in rhetoric, the work of outsiders, words of disciples.”

Staying at Savatthi. “Monks, there once was a time when the Dasarahas had a large drum called ‘Summoner.’ Whenever Summoner was split, the Dasarahas inserted another peg in it, until the time came when Summoner’s original wooden body had disappeared and only a conglomeration of pegs remained.

“In the same way, in the course of the future there will be monks who won’t listen when discourses that are words of the Tathagata — deep, deep in their meaning, transcendent, connected with emptiness — are being recited. They won’t lend ear, won’t set their hearts on knowing them, won’t regard these teachings as worth grasping or mastering. But they will listen when discourses that are literary works — the works of poets, elegant in sound, elegant in rhetoric, the work of outsiders, words of disciples — are recited. They will lend ear and set their hearts on knowing them. They will regard these teachings as worth grasping & mastering.

“In this way the disappearance of the discourses that are words of the Tathagata — deep, deep in their meaning, transcendent, connected with emptiness — will come about.

“Thus you should train yourselves: ‘We will listen when discourses that are words of the Tathagata — deep, deep in their meaning, transcendent, connected with emptiness — are being recited. We will lend ear, will set our hearts on knowing them, will regard these teachings as worth grasping & mastering.’ That’s how you should train yourselves.”

Here’s the source.

“May all that have life be delivered from suffering.”

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When this one was passed onto me I thought that it might well be scriptural — possibly from the Karaniya Metta Sutta. But even though it’s very much in line with Buddhist teachings it doesn’t seem to be Buddhist at all.

The origins of this particular form of words seem to be in the works of the 19th century German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer. He said “I know of no more beautiful prayer than that which the Hindus of old used in closing their public spectacles (just as the English of today end with a prayer for their king). They said, ‘May all that have life be delivered from suffering.'”

I believe that what he was referring to is the fourth line (“May no one suffer”) from the following mantra:

Om, Sarve bhavantu sukhinaḥ
Sarve santu nirāmayāḥ
Sarve bhadrāṇi paśyantu
Mā kashchit duḥkha bhāgbhavet
Oṁ Shāntiḥ, Shāntiḥ, Shāntiḥ

This means:

May all be prosperous and happy
May all be free from illness
May all see what is spiritually uplifting
May no one suffer
Om peace, peace, peace [source]

As far as I’m aware there’s nothing exactly like “May all that have life be delivered from suffering” in the Buddhist scriptures.

The Karaniya Metta Sutta does say:

May all be well and secure,
May all beings be happy!

But that’s not quite the same. Oddly, I haven’t so far found anything in the Pali canon that expresses a direct wish that beings be free from suffering, which strikes me as very odd indeed! If you know of anything, please let me know.

“Meditation brings wisdom; lack of meditation leaves ignorance.”

meditation brings wisdom

A reader brought this one to my attention today:

Meditation brings wisdom; lack of meditation leaves ignorance. Know what leads you forward and what holds you back and choose the path that leads to wisdom.

He commented, “This feels odd – I think it’s the ‘holds you back’ phrasing.”

This phrasing does sound suspiciously contemporary, but in this case that’s the result of the translation rather than a modern saying being retroactively ascribed to the Buddha.

This quote is actually verse 282 from Eknath Easwaran’s translation of the Dhammapada, which is of course a well-known Buddhist canonical text, traditionally regarded as the word of the Buddha. The only difference is that Eknath has “Know well what leads you forward” rather than the “Know what leads you forward” that was passed on to me.

For comparison, here’s Buddharakkhita’s version from Access to Insight:

Wisdom springs from meditation; without meditation wisdom wanes. Having known these two paths of progress and decline, let a man so conduct himself that his wisdom may increase.

The phrasing Eknath has used is very contemporary, but I think it’s a far rendering of bhavaya —progress — (“What moves you forward”), and vibhavaya —decline — (“what holds you back”).

Thannisaro’s version (also on ATI) is a bit different:

From striving comes wisdom;
from not, wisdom’s end.
Knowing these two courses
— to development,
decline —
conduct yourself
so that wisdom will grow.

Thanissaro has “striving” rather than Buddharakhita and Eknath’s “meditation.” The word in the original is “yoga” and I think “practice” or “meditation” would actually be more appropriate than “striving.”

Anyway, I’m pleased to say that this one is genuine, despite the suspiciously modern phrasing.

“There is only one time when it is essential to awaken. That time is now.”

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This quote was passed on to me by Joseph Young, who intended to use it but wanted to be sure that the attribution he’d seen—to the Buddha—was correct. I have to say it’s heartening whenever I hear that someone is interested in accurate citations!

“There is only one time when it is essential to awaken. That time is now,” is not a quote from the Buddha. It’s actually from Jack Kornfield’s “Buddha’s Little Instruction Book,” where it can be found on page 33. BLIB is not a collection of sayings by the Buddha, but of contemporary expressions, adapted by Kornfield. Unfortunately the title misleads people into thinking it’s a book of scriptural sayings, which is understandable, especially if people are unfamiliar with the Buddhist scriptures.

Once a Fake Buddha Quote has appeared, however, it will tend to be passed on uncritically and to spread. This quote is found, attributed to the Buddha, in many books, including “Compassionate Coaching” (2011), “Zen and the Art of the Monologue” (2002), and “Awakening the Spirit Within” (2001), which is the oldest use of this Fake Buddha Quote that I’ve found. It’s always a bad sign when a quote from someone who lived centuries ago only appeared recently!

This quote is very similar to “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment” and “The past is already gone, the future is not yet here. There’s only one moment for you to live.” Neither of these is a genuine scriptural quote, although they’re often attributed to the Buddha.

“There is only one time when it is essential to awaken. That time is now,” doesn’t sound like something from the Buddhist scriptures. When the Buddha talked about awakening, it was as a process unfolding over time — sometimes a considerable period of time. So when awakening was talked about, it was as something that would happen in the future, or sometimes as something that had happened in the past. As far as I know, the concept of some continuous NOW in which we perpetually live didn’t exist.

There is one lovely passage about time:

You shouldn’t chase after the past
or place expectations on the future.
What is past
is left behind.
The future
is as yet unreached.
Whatever quality is present
you clearly see right there,
right there.

This passage is unusually poetic for the Buddhist scriptures, which were originally passed down orally and are often rather clunky and repetitive.

There’s one term that’s often translated as “here-and-now” and could easily be rendered as “the present moment” or simply as “now,” and that’s sandiṭṭhika. It’s found in a common pericope outlining the major qualities of the Dharma, which means “the teachings” or “the Buddhist path,” but which in this case could be rendered as “reality.”

So the Buddha says things like:

“The fact that when greed is present within you, you discern that greed is present within you; and when greed is not present within you, you discern that greed is not present within you: that is one way in which the Dhamma is visible in the here-and-now, timeless, inviting verification, pertinent, to be realized by the wise for themselves.”

The part of the passage from “visible in the here-and-now” onwards is found scores of times in the scriptures.

The late Maurice Walsh translated sandiṭṭhika as “the present moment” in a lovely little discourse that portrays an encounter between a deva (god) and a monk called Samiddhi. I take this to be a representation of Samiddhi’s inner struggle, where some part of his mind tried to tempt him to abandon his monastic path and to embrace sensuality. The deva says to Samiddhi:

“Get your fill, monk, of human pleasures. Don’t reject the present moment (sandiṭṭhika) to pursue what time will bring.”

Samiddhi’s answer turns this around:

“I, friend, do not reject the present moment to pursue what time will bring. I reject what time will bring to pursue the present moment.”

What a lovely insight! Incidentally, this is a figure of speech known as a chiasmus, where terms are inverted. A chiasmus can have the effect of demolishing one proposition and presenting another as preferable. Probably the most famous is JFK’s “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

With regard to awakening “now,” both Thanissaro and Walsh use “here and now” to translate “diṭṭhe dhamme,” which literally means something like “in (or among) visible things.” For example in the Mahānidāna Sutta the Buddha outlines a list of eight emancipations, and says that when a practitioner knows them back-to-front and has broken the last vestiges of craving and delusion, then “having directly known it and realized it in the here and now, he is said to be a monk released in both ways.”

That’s about as close as we’re going to get to Jack Kornfield’s quote, and it’s not at all similar.

The purpose of Jack’s quote is very worthy. It’s a reminder that we shouldn’t continually assume that awakening is going to happen in the distant future. In fact being overly focused on the future can become a serious spiritual problem since it makes us think that the future is where happiness is going to happen, and that the present moment is rather dull and unsatisfying in comparison. When we have that perspective, we want to escape our present-moment experience rather than accept it and look deeply into it. And yet acceptance of and close observation of our present-moment experience is the only way we can wake up to reality.

Jack’s quote is wonderful, and spiritually valuable: it’s just not something the Buddha said.

“Don’t be attached to my philosophy and doctrine. Attachment to any religion is simply another form of mental illness.”

This is a quote that Lama Yeshe has used in his books and articles, for example in this piece:

Don’t be attached to my philosophy and doctrine. Attachment to any religion is simply another form of mental illness.

It’s crept into a couple of publications (such as a “quote of the day” ebook), but otherwise isn’t very widespread at the moment. In fact this quote — of this exact form of words — seems to originate with Lama Yeshe. That’s not necessarily evidence of it being fake; after all, he might have translated some Buddhist verse himself, and so these exact phrases might be unique to him. But they don’t strike me as being genuine. Pema Yangchen, who passed this quote on to me, was concerned about the phrase “mental illness,” which the Buddha, of course, wasn’t likely to have used.

I was struck more, however, by the first part: “Don’t be attached to my philosophy and doctrine.” Although there’s a tendency for modern teachers to emphasize this and to claim it’s what the Buddha taught, it actually boils down to a kind of pandering to our modern fear of dogmatic religion. Most of us who come to Buddhism in the west are put off by, and critical of, the way, first, that theistic religions demand that we “believe” certain propositions that can’t be empirically verified and thus have to be taken on faith, and, second, the way in which those same religions insist on the “rightness” of their own belief and the “wrongness” of any others. When westerners come to Buddhism, they bring those fears with them, and they’re relieved to be told that the Buddha said not to be attached to his teachings, and that we need to test them in our own experience.

Those statements aren’t exactly false, but there’s a bit of spin involved. The Buddha did point out, in the Kalama sutta, that the truth of a teaching was to be seen in whether it increased or reduced attachment, ill will, and aversion. But he was talking there about teachings in general, not his own. I don’t recall him ever specifically saying that his teachings were to be tested.

Of course saying that teachings, in general, are not to be clung to implies not clinging to the Buddha’s Dharma, but that isn’t something, to the best of my knowledge, that he emphasized. He wanted people to practice his teachings, not to be constantly doubting them.

Here’s one way that the Buddha talked about not clinging to views:

A person who associates himself with certain views, considering them as best and making them supreme in the world, he says, because of that, that all other views are inferior; therefore he is not free from contention (with others).

In fact he sometimes talked about the need to correctly grasp his teachings:

There are here, O monks, some foolish men who study the Teaching; having studied it, they do not wisely examine the purpose of those teachings. To those who do not wisely examine the purpose, these teachings will not yield insight. They study the Teaching only to use it for criticizing or for refuting others in disputation. They do not experience the (true) purpose for which they (ought to) study the Teaching. To them these teachings wrongly grasped, will bring harm and suffering for a long time. And why? Because of their wrong grasp of the teachings.

“Suppose, monks, a man wants a snake, looks for a snake, goes in search of a snake. He then sees a large snake, and when he is grasping its body or its tail, the snake turns back on him and bites his hand or arm or some other limb of his. And because of that he suffers death or deadly pain. And why? Because of his wrong grasp of the snake.

He goes on to say that “these teachings, being rightly grasped, will bring welfare and happiness for a long time.”

His emphasis in this teaching is that we should recognize and apply the spiritual purpose of the teachings, which is personal transformation leading to awakening, rather than seeing them as being a set of “correct” teachings that we can use in debate in order to feel superior. Of course that’s pretty much what we’d mean by “not grasping” after the Dharma! The word “grasping” here is being used in a way different from how we’d understand “attachment” or “clinging.”

Slightly further on in the same sutta I’ve just quoted, the Buddha uses the famous simile of the Dharma as a raft. He explains how a raft is used to get from point A to point B, and that having arrived at the destination we don’t then carry the raft around with us.

In the same way, monks, have I shown to you the Teaching’s similitude to a raft: as having the purpose of crossing over, not the purpose of being clung to.

“You, O monks, who understand the Teaching’s similitude to a raft, you should let go even (good) teachings, how much more false ones!

Of course on the way to the further shore, we need to rely upon and even “correctly grasp” the raft, even if we don’t cling to it in the sense of using it as a way to aggrandize our sense of self by using it as a basis for disputation.

My point isn’t that the Buddha thought we shouldn’t be attached to, or cling to his teachings. It’s just that he didn’t, in any neat way, seem to have articulated the kind of message that Lama Yeshe attributes to him.

As for madness, the Buddha did say:

…beings, destroyed by wrong-view,
go mad [khittacitta], out of their minds [visañña].

The quote as a whole is fine as a paraphrase of the Buddha’s teaching, but it’s not something he said. I suspect that Lama Yeshe has coined such a paraphrase, and that he has come to see it as a direct quote, when in fact it isn’t. It’s not uncommon for paraphrases to turn into quotes in this way.

In fact, in his “Freedom Through Understanding,” he says the following:

Lord Buddha said that we should not be attached to even the realizations of Nirvana or enlightenment. He also said that it’s wrong for his followers to be dogmatically attached to his doctrine, that that’s another type of psychological sickness or disease.

It may be that this was the original, and that Lama Yeshe mistakenly turned his own words into a quote.

“Life looks meaningless because I am searching for meaning … If I don’t long for meaning, then what is meaningless?”

This rather long quote was passed on to me by Christopher Leibow (Myoshin) of the Salt Lake Buddhist Fellowship:

Life looks meaningless because I am searching for meaning. Life is not meaningless; it becomes meaningless, it looks meaningless, because of my longing for meaning. The problem is my longing for meaning, not the meaninglessness of life. If I don’t long for meaning, then what is meaningless? Then great joy is released.

Sometimes the words “All is as it is” are added to the end.

Myoshin kindly pointed out that this (including the extra “All is as it is”) comes from a talk by Osho, who put these words in the Buddha’s mouth as having been said by him at the dawning of his Awakening. These words are presented as a direct quotation rather than as a paraphrase. There’s a reference to “the last star disappearing into the [morning] sky,” which suggests that Osho had in mind the Zen account of the Buddha’s awakening, which is of course much later than the Pali account. The latter runs like this, in Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation of the Ariyapariyesana Sutta:

“Still in search, bhikkhus, of what is wholesome, seeking the supreme state of sublime peace, I wandered by stages through the Magadhan country until eventually I arrived at Senānigama near Uruvelā. There I saw an agreeable piece of ground, a delightful grove with a clear-flowing river with pleasant, smooth banks and nearby a village for alms resort. I considered: ‘This is an agreeable piece of ground, this is a delightful grove with a clear-flowing river with pleasant, smooth banks and nearby a village for alms resort. This will serve for the striving of a clansman intent on striving.’ And I sat down there thinking: ‘This will serve for striving.’

“Then, bhikkhus, being myself subject to birth, having understood the danger in what is subject to birth, seeking the unborn supreme security from bondage, Nibbāna, I attained the unborn supreme security from bondage, Nibbāna; being myself subject to ageing, having understood the danger in what is subject to ageing, seeking the unageing supreme security from bondage, Nibbāna, I attained the unageing supreme security from bondage, Nibbāna; being myself subject to sickness, having understood the danger in what is subject to sickness, seeking the unailing supreme security from bondage, Nibbāna, I attained the unailing supreme security from bondage, Nibbāna; being myself subject to death, having understood the danger in what is subject to death, seeking the deathless supreme security from bondage, Nibbāna, I attained the deathless supreme security from bondage, Nibbāna; being myself subject to sorrow, having understood the danger in what is subject to sorrow, seeking the sorrowless supreme security from bondage, Nibbāna, I attained the sorrowless supreme security from bondage, Nibbāna; being myself subject to defilement, having understood the danger in what is subject to defilement, seeking the undefiled supreme security from bondage, Nibbāna, I attained the undefiled supreme security from bondage, Nibbāna. The knowledge and vision arose in me: ‘My deliverance is unshakeable; this is my last birth; now there is no renewal of being.’

According to the commentary on the Dhammapada, the following verse represents his first words upon awakening:

O house-builder, you are seen! You will not build this house again. For your rafters are broken and your ridgepole shattered. My mind has reached the Unconditioned; I have attained the destruction of craving.

The later Chan/Zen tradition seems to have added the morning star reference, and says that his first words were:

When the morning star appeared, I and the sentient beings of earth simultaneously attained enlightenment.

Osho’s version doesn’t match any Buddhist rendition that I’ve come across. Osho, incidentally, was something of a scoundrel, to put it mildly. His community is renowned for having launched the first biological warfare attack on US soil (apart from those “smallpox on the blankets” allegations regarding the US Army and Native Americans). This was part of a plan to cripple a town on the eve of an election, since Osho’s community was in violation of planning laws.

Not long after, Osho was deported from the US. He then changed his name, which had formerly been Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. You can imagine why.

Osho’s Fake Buddha quote isn’t very widespread. So far I’ve found it in a few articles but not on social media.

“Ennui has made more gamblers than avarice, more drunkards than thirst, and perhaps as many suicides as despair.”

quote-ennui-has-made-more-gamblers-than-avarice-more-drunkards-than-thirst-and-perhaps-as-gautama-buddha-66-79-83

Only someone completely unaware of the the tone and content of the Buddha’s teachings could think that these were his words:

Ennui has made more gamblers than avarice, more drunkards than thirst, and perhaps as many suicides as despair.

And yet I’ve seen it all over the place. (And thank you, Aditya Prasad, for reminding me that I hadn’t yet tackled it).

This is actually a quote from the Rev. Caleb Charles Colton, found in his book, “Lacon: Or, Many Things in Few Words: Addressed to Those Who Think” (1820).

According to Wikipedia, “Colton (1780–1832) was an English cleric, writer and collector, well known for his eccentricities.”

He’s best know for coining the phrase, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

I’ve never seen the word “ennui” used in any translation of a Buddhist text. Thanissaro translates “arati” as “boredom” in one place, which is certainly one of its meanings. But the main thing that gives this quote away is its polished, literary quality. The Buddhist scriptures come from an oral rather than a written tradition, and tend to be stylistically rather basic, often being highly repetitive and employing lists of synonyms or near-synonyms.

As an example, here’s an extract from the sutta (discourse) in which Thanissaro uses the word “boredom”:

And what is the food for the arising of unarisen sloth and drowsiness, or for the growth and increase of sloth and drowsiness once it has arisen? There are boredom, weariness, yawning, drowsiness after a meal, and sluggishness of awareness. To foster inappropriate attention to them: This is the food for the arising of unarisen sloth and drowsiness, or for the growth and increase of sloth and drowsiness once it has arisen.

Here you can see the characteristic repetition: “And what is the food for the arising of … This is the food for the arising of…”

You can also see the use of near-synonyms (“boredom, weariness, yawning, drowsiness after a meal, and sluggishness of awareness”), which helps with memorization but does tend to give rise, in the modern reader, to the very phenomena being discussed.

Unfortunately this quote is found in a number of books, which I’m sure means that the end times are near!

“If you are quiet enough, you will hear the flow of the universe. You will feel its rhythm. Go with this flow. Happiness lies ahead. Meditation is key.”

If you are quiet enough, you will hear the flow of the universe

No, this is not the Buddha:

If you are quiet enough, you will hear the flow of the universe. You will feel its rhythm. Go with this flow. Happiness lies ahead. Meditation is key.

I have absolutely no idea where this one originates from. It seems to be quite recent, and hasn’t made its way into any books that are indexed by Google Books (one of my main research tools).

It’s on a number of websites, and graphics containing this quote are common on Pinterest. So far the oldest instance of it I’ve seen is from May 5, 2012, in a Facebook post. It was undoubtedly around before then, though.

The Buddha did not use metaphors like “the flow of the universe.” He didn’t tell us to go with the flow. He did however talk about streams and rivers in a metaphorical way. Here’s a lovely example:

Know from the rivers
in clefts and in crevices:
those in small channels flow noisily,
the great flow silent.
Whatever’s not full makes noise.
Whatever is full is quiet.

This next one is less appealing to our modern sensibilities:

Whatever streams are in the world, it is mindfulness that obstructs them and restricts them, and by wisdom they are cut off.

The “streams” here are the currents of craving that flow in the mind. It’s as if we’re swept along by these streams:

The misguided man in whom the thirty-six currents of craving strongly rush toward pleasurable objects, is swept away by the flood of his passionate thoughts.

That one’s from the Dhammapada, verse 339.

The 36 streams are three types of craving (for experiences to happen, to continue, and to end) combined with the six sense-channels through which the cravings flow (mind being the sixth sense).

Accordingly, the first level of realization is the “stream-winner” (sota-panna), who has broken through the fetters of 1) belief in a separate and permanent self, 2) of doubt in the attainment of awakening, and 3) of using spiritual practices as a way to avoid realization.