About

My name is Bodhipaksa, and I’ve been a Buddhist since 1982 and a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order since 1993. I run a site called Wildmind, which teaches meditation. I’m an author. And I have a more personal blog, the value of which I’m currently questioning because I don’t publish anything very personal there anymore. In fact the Fake Buddha Quotes posts started off on my personal blog before I decided to move them all over here.
My name is Bodhipaksa, and I’ve been a Buddhist since 1982 and a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order since 1993. I run a site called Wildmind, which teaches meditation. I’m an author. And I have a more personal blog, the value of which I’m currently questioning because I don’t publish anything very personal there anymore. In fact the Fake Buddha Quotes posts started off on my personal blog before I decided to move them all over here.
They’re everywhere you look: Twitter, Facebook, blogs, quotes sites — even in books by well-known Buddhists. Fake Buddha Quotes abound.

To those who are familiar with the Buddhist scriptures, these Hallmark-style quotes attributed to the Buddha ring false, but it seems many people are preferentially attracted to the fake variety.

It’s hard sometimes to pinpoint why they sound fake. Usually it’s the language, which may be too flowery and poetic. Sometimes it’s the subject matter, which sounds too contemporary. The thing is, that although the Buddhist scriptures are vast (way larger than the Bible) they’re often not very quotable, or at least they tend not to have the immediate appeal that some of the fake variety has.

One question that arises though is whether there’s such a thing as a Genuine Buddha Quote. And in a sense there’s not. The earliest scriptures we have were passed down for hundreds of years before being committed to writing. What was passed down was no doubt simplified, edited, and made easier to memorize through chanting by being made repetitious. Hence the mind-numbing boringness of much of the Pāli canon. Some of what was passed down as the Buddha’s words probably wasn’t even his words to start with. After a few generations, who would be able to tell if a particular saying was just a popular piece of folk-wisdom, or something the Buddha actually said.

And then there are later Buddhist scriptures that were definitely not in any literal sense the word of the Buddha, although they may be of great spiritual depth. These Mahāyāna scriptures are all arguably Fake Buddha Quotes.

So if there’s no such thing as a for-sure, no-doubt-about-it Genuine Buddha Quote, then how can there be such a thing as a Fake Buddha Quote? Well, if something being passed around on Facebook can be definitively traced down to a source that isn’t Gautama Buddha, then that’s an obvious misattribution, and definitely not a Genuine Buddha Quote. Of if a saying’s origins can’t yet be traced, but the idiom and subject matter are so far removed from those of recognized Buddhist scriptures, then that’s (almost certainly) fake.

Then there’s another category. Some translators of Buddhist texts aren’t so much translators as Khalil Gibran wannabes who creatively render the Buddha’s words into a “new, improved” version that expresses their own views of spirituality but are so far from the original meaning that they’re essentially fake.

Another question: does this matter? Some people get very upset over this question. If their favorite Buddha Quote — about kittens and puppies, perhaps — is pointed out as not being traceable to the Buddha and perhaps attributable to some contemporary or historical writer, they tend to get annoyed. It’s as if you’re invalidating the inherent goodness of kittens and puppies. But that’s not my point here. Pointing out that something was not said by the Buddha doesn’t invalidate the quote. It just removes false attribution. Kittens and puppies are fine, but let’s be clear about the attribution of our quotes, where we can.

Again, does it matter, if the quote seems to be spiritually valid? If you’re one of those people who don’t think factual accuracy matters, then I guess this doesn’t matter. I’m not one of those people, though.

Would the Buddha care? I’ve been told often that he wouldn’t It’s amazing how much insight some people have into the Buddha’s mind. It’s as if they know exactly how he thought, and oddly he seems to agree with them a lot. Well, if you look at the Buddhist scriptures, there are many occasions where someone comes to the Buddha and tells him that they’ve heard that he has made a certain statement. If the statement is not something the Buddha has said, he tended to put his questioner straight in no uncertain terms.

So the Buddha seems to have been concerned about Fake Buddha Quotes, 2,500 years ago. I’m sure there will be new Fake Buddha Quotes being passed around 2,500 years from now. But hopefully this site will slow down their spread.

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18 thoughts on “About”

  1. Rev Bodhipaksa,

    My heartfelt reverence for the untiring mission for true enlightenment, in today’s language understandable by the people. Can not stand it to see Lord Buddha as commodity and confusing the peace searching people with fake paths to Nirvana.
    My best wishes for the endevour.

  2. Dear Bodhipaksa, Thanks so much for this website. I have seen many fake Buddha quotes on Facebook and have encountered people on the internet who consider themselves Buddhists, but know nothing of the authentic teachings of the Buddha, just the fake quotes. I have been studying the Sutta Pitaka (both the Wisdom editions trans. by Bodhi Bhikkhu, Bhikkhu Nanamoli, Maurice Walsh and a series of anthologies of Sutta translations by Thanissaro Bhikkhu) for quite awhile now so I’m pretty good at knowing what is a real quote and one that looks fishy. And I do think it is important to know what is authentic Buddhist teaching and what is not. One leads to the deathless, the other, who knows where it might lead?

  3. Thank you Bodhipaksa!
    I have found your site very imformative and amusing! I feel that is very important to attribute as best as we can otherwise messages will get morphed and lost in translation! I will enjoy reading your posts!

  4. I remember the days I started commenting on social media websites. I spread many quotes never thinking about the source of them. Later I started thinking where do they come from, but couldn’t find any trace.
    So I find this website is very useful for me. Meanwhile, I agree that there can be many questions such as ‘what is genuine’, ‘does it really matter’ etc and as you have rightly mentioned there will be many such new quotes. However, I appreciate your effort to ‘slow down’ their spread.

  5. Thanks for this site. I came here after stumbling on the moon, sun and truth quote and wondering. As a writer, I agree that words matter.

    On the other hand, I guess I’m a little surprised (and really kinda saddened) at the cranky, condescending tone. But, hey, I know only the basics about Buddhism (I’m a questioning Christian, sort of,) so what do I know? Don’t yell at me, please!

    1. Sometimes I can be cranky, for sure. I can’t say whether my tone comes across as condescending, although perhaps that’s just another manifestation of my crankiness!

  6. I love this site! While my background is Buddhist, I think I love this site above all as a cyber anthropology! I’ve always been fascinated about how jokes and stories spread and change, for me, your detective work in how of fake buddha quotes evolve is an adventure!

  7. Lord Buddha’s all teachings lead to one direction only. That is Nibbana.

    If the quote does not simply comply this rule, it is a fake quote.

    Thanks for maintaining such site.

  8. Thank you sirs for the interesting conversation on the meaning of ‘dipa’. To conclude my part in the discussion, I think my position is best summed up in these words from our host:

    “One question that arises though is whether there’s such a thing as a Genuine Buddha Quote. And in a sense there’s not. The earliest scriptures we have were passed down for hundreds of years before being committed to writing. What was passed down was no doubt simplified, edited, and made easier to memorize through chanting by being made repetitious. Hence the mind-numbing boringness of much of the Pāli canon. Some of what was passed down as the Buddha’s words probably wasn’t even his words to start with. After a few generations, who would be able to tell if a particular saying was just a popular piece of folk-wisdom, or something the Buddha actually said.”

    1. What I said there is, I hope, technically correct, Malcolm. At the same time, scholarship tends to assume, by convention, that what is in the scriptures is what the Buddha said, unless there’s a very good reason for thinking otherwise. And sometimes there are such reasons!

      My task here isn’t to identify genuine Buddha quotes, since of course that’s a fruitless exercise., but to identify quotes purported to be from the Buddha but which aren’t in the Buddhist scriptures or can be proven to come from elsewhere.

  9. I very much appreciate this site! My husband is a minister who often asks me to search online to find the source of quotes that he remembers from poetry or various other sources. I am continually distressed by how few people seem to care about accurate quotation and citation. My pet peeve is the myriad sites devoted to quotes that give only the name of the supposed author of the words without bothering to say in what work those words appear.

    1. Thank you, Terri. I guess most quotes sites are mainly, or exclusively, interested in making money from advertising. Verifying quotes, or finding the sources for them, would eat into their profits. And yes, it is distressing (and surprising) how few people care about accurate citations. From the volume of hate mail I get, it seems more people are angry at citations being questioned than are bothered by attributions being false.

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