Radical honesty in Buddhism

The Rev. Genryu posted a comment today that I think deserves to be amplified:

For those who keep raising the point that a quote that is misattributed to the Buddha is somehow fine because it’s nice or noble or whatever, that is entirely irrelevant. Honesty is a radical practice in Buddhism. Not just honesty when it suits us but being honest when things are misrepresented (even in a seemingly well intentioned manner).

One thing that the Buddha is recorded as saying is that when teachings or sayings are ascribed to him which he did not say, it is the duty

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“The Bare Bones Dhammapada”

The Dhammapada seems to be regarded as fair game. Not only have rather inaccurate “translations” been done by people who don’t know the Pali language (Anne Bancroft and Thomas Byrom are prominent examples), but now we have someone who wants to liberate the Dhammapada from the Buddha’s meaning and intent altogether.

Fortunately, Shravasti Dhammika, a Buddhist monk for 32 years and the spiritual advisor to the Buddha Dhamma Mandala Society in Singapore,is on the case:

According to the blurb on Tai Sheridan’s The Bare Bones Dhammapada, the original text is “burdened by the stylistic and conceptual dust of

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Fake but not fake: the art of storytelling

There’s a story on Wake Up Sydney’s Facebook page. It like this:

It is said that one day the Buddha was walking through a village. A very angry and rude young man came up and began insulting him. “You have no right teaching others,” he shouted. “You are as stupid as everyone else. You are nothing but a fake!”

The Buddha was not upset by these insults. Instead he asked the young man, “Tell me, if you buy a gift for someone, and that person does not take it, to whom does the gift belong?”

The young man was

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Holding back the tide

A 12th century chronicler tells of how King Cnut (Canute) demonstrated the limits of a king’s powers by commanding the tide not to advance toward him. This is often mistakenly seen as a sign of arrogance, but the lesson was directed at the courtiers; the king himself had no delusions of being able to control nature.

I don’t know how powerful the tide of Fake Buddha Quotes is, but it’s heartening that since I started tracking visits to this site in June 2012, we’ve had a quarter of a million page views. One article, on the quote “Holding onto

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“We Are What We Quote”

Geoffrey O’Brien, author of “The Fall of the House of Walworth,” and general editor of the 18th edition of “Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations,” has a lovely piece in today’s New York Times: “We are what we quote.”

He doesn’t say anything about fake quotes, but if we are what we quote and we pass on fake quotes, what does that say about us?

Quotes are the mental furniture of my life. From certain angles my inner landscape resembles a gallery hung with half-recalled citations, the rags and tag-ends of a lifetime of reading and listening. They can be anything at all,

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The Buddha of the canon and “the Buddha in all of us”

More Buddhas than you can shake a stick at.

I received this interesting email yesterday.

Dear Sir, Your collection is interesting, but also somewhat counterproductive, in my mind. To me, the whole point of buddhism is its lack of a canon, its spirit of welcoming continuous exploration, and its fundamental revelation that individuals are part of a much greater consciousness. The most profound wisdom is that there was no single buddha but that buddha is in all of us and that awakening is a journey for all human beings. Even the exercise of debating whether something is “real” or “fake”

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Is Twitter Wrong?

It isn’t directly connected with Fake Buddha Quotes, but this article on tweets about Hurricane Sandy hits the Fake Information nail right on the head with the following sentence:

It is traditional, when the US is menaced by a weather event, for people to tweet pictures of things that aren’t it.

You have to wonder why this is. Presumably for some people the thrill of sharing false information is more attractive than the prospect of being seen as gullible or deceitful.

And are there even …

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“Is the Lotus Sutra authentic?” by Bhikkhu Sujato

Bhikkhu Sujato, a young Australian monk with a background in philosophy, is one of my heroes because of his ability to think critically about the Buddhist tradition, and especially for his thinking on the relation between samatha and vipassana approaches to meditation. I admire his geekiness.

Anyway, here he is on the question of the authenticity of Mahayana sutras:

One of our commenters asked about whether the Lotus Sutra was considered authentic according to the Theravadin view.

To answer this from the traditional Theravadin point of view, all the Mahayana Sutras are inauthentic in the sense that they were not

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