Lot of people have written to tell me that the Buddha wouldn’t be at all concerned about being misquoted or having words put in his mouth. Because he was, like, this chill dude who’d say, “Whatever, homie,” or something like that. Apparently the more spiritually advanced you are, the less you’re concerned about things like truth and accuracy.
Anyway, that’s nonsense, which is why I have this series called “The Buddha on Fake Buddha Quotes” where the Buddha makes it clear that him being misquoted is a big deal.
The discourse I’m going to quote here is a kind of companion to another one that I’ve already dealt with, where the Buddha talks about how people will end up listening to teachings that are poetic and sound nice, but that aren’t the genuine teachings.
In that teaching, the Ani Sutta, the Buddha says that there are spiritual practitioners who “will listen to the utterance of such discourses which are literary compositions made by poets, witty words, witty letters, by people from outside, or the words of disciples” rather than the words of the Buddha, which are “profound, profound …
These two things, mendicants, lead to the decline and disappearance of the true teaching. What two? The words and phrases are misplaced, and the meaning is misinterpreted. When the words and phrases are misplaced, the meaning is misinterpreted. These two things lead to the decline and disappearance of the true teaching.
These two things lead to the continuation, persistence, and enduring of the true teaching. What two? The words and phrases are well organized, and the meaning is correctly interpreted. When the words and phrases are well organized, the meaning is correctly interpreted. These two things lead to the continuation,
“Bhikkhus, those bhikkhus who exclude the meaning and the Dhamma by means of badly acquired discourses whose phrasing is a semblance [of the correct phrasing] are acting for the harm of many people, for the unhappiness of many people, for the ruin, harm, and suffering of many people, of devas and human beings. These bhikkhus generate much demerit and cause the good Dhamma to disappear.
“Bhikkhus, those bhikkhus who conform to the meaning and the Dhamma with well-acquired discourses whose phrasing is not [mere] semblance are acting for the welfare of many people, for the happiness of many people, for
Here’s an interesting statement from the Buddha about how fake Dharma endangers the real thing:
Kassapa, the true Dhamma does not disappear so long as a counterfeit of the true Dhamma has not arisen in the world. But when a counterfeit of the true Dhamma arises in the world, then the true Dhamma disappears.
Just as, Kassapa, gold does not disappear so long as counterfeit gold has not arisen in the world, but when counterfeit gold arises then true gold disappears, so the true Dhamma does not disappear so long as a counterfeit of the true Dhamma has not arisen
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
There’s a nice little Sutta called the Ani Sutta, which I stumbled upon today. It includes the following:
In future time, there will be bhikkhus [monks] who will not listen to the utterance of such discourses which are words of the Tathāgata [i.e. the Buddha], profound, profound in meaning, leading beyond the world, (consistently) connected with emptiness, they will not lend ear, they will not apply their mind on knowledge, they will not consider those teachings as to be taken up and mastered.
On the contrary, they will listen to the utterance of such discourses which are literary compositions
From time to time I receive chastisements from people who tell me that the Buddha wouldn’t care about being misquoted. How they know this, of course, is a mystery. Perhaps they have psychic powers that allow them to communicate with the dead. They certainly don’t seem to get their knowledge from the Buddhist scriptures, where one of the few things that really seemed to annoy the Buddha (besides noisy monks) was having words put into his mouth.
“Whatever is well said is a saying of the Blessed One.” Well, maybe not.
From time to time I receive critical messages from people, claiming that the Buddha was too spiritual to bother about things like being misquoted, or having words put in his mouth. How they know this, I don’t know. Perhaps they have some kind of mystical communion with deceased enlightened beings.
Not having such powers, I have to read the Buddhist scriptures for clues to his attitude. There I find the Buddha, at times, facing people who say “I heard you said such-and-such,” and when their information …