“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it…”

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This is just the start of a calamitous misreading of a famous passage from the Kalama Sutta. I’ve dealt with a libertarian mistranslation of this verse elsewhere, but this version is different.

But here’s the full quote, lifted from one of the well-known quotes sites that litter the web:

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”
Buddha quotes (Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C.)

It’s ironic that this, one of the commonest Fake Buddha Quotes, is about not believing things just because you’ve read them somewhere, but for many people the assumption seems to be, “It must be true — I saw it on a website!”

So first let me state that the Buddha was not a “Hindu Prince.” He was not a “Hindu” and he was not a “prince.” We don’t know what, if any, religious tradition the Buddha-to-be followed in his youth, and the first mention that’s made of any religious endeavors is his encounters with the two teachers Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta. These two teachers followed meditative traditions, but it’s anachronistic to refer to them, or the Buddha, as Hindus. The Buddha himself came from a Republic in which there were, of course, no kings and no princes. In the early text there is no mention of him being a prince or his father being a king, and it’s clear that he lived at a time when the last republics (including the one in which he was born) were being swallowed up by the newly-emergent monarchies. Several hundred years later, monarchies were well-established, republics were unthinkable, and so the Buddha was seen as having been born in a kingdom and (because people like their heroes) he was seen as an heir to that kindgom — an heir, no less, that rejected kingship for an even more noble spiritual “career.”

But on to the quote. In the original Kalama Sutta, we have:

“Now, Kalamas, 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.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them.”

I won’t go through a point-by-point comparison, but look at the two criteria for acceptance of teachings:

  • But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.
  • When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them.

In the original quote, accepting something because it “agrees with reason” would seem to be rejected, because “logical conjecture” and “inference” have been rejected, at least as sufficient bases for accepting a teaching as valid. It’s not that logic is rejected as such, just that it can’t be relied on. What is needed is experience. We need to “know for ourselves.”

What we need to know for ourselves is not whether a teaching “agrees with reason” but whether when put into practice they are skillful, blameless, praised by the wise, and lead to welfare and to happiness.

This garbled version of the Kalama Sutta appeared in a 1956 book called “2500 Buddha Jayanti,” celebrating the 2500th anniversary of the Buddha’s parinirvana. I haven’t read the book, but this recasting of the Buddha’s teaching may have been done to make Buddhism appear more “rational.”

PS. The exact quote found in “2500 Buddha Jayanti” (page 39) is as follows (the typos and grammatical errors are in the original):

Do not believe in anything (simply) because you have heard it ; Do not believe in traditions, because they been handed down for many generations ; Do not believe in anything, because it is spoken and rumoured by many ; Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books ; But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

However, it goes back further. A commenter below pointed out that the same quote is found in the first of three lectures given in 1951 by Sayagyi U Ba Khin. These lectures are available online here and are also published in a book called “What Buddhism Is.”

There the quote is:

Do not believe in what you have heard; do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations; do not believe in anything because it is rumoured and spoken by many; do not believe merely because a written statement of some old sage is produced; do not believe in conjectures; do not believe in that as truth to which you have become attached from habit; do not believe merely the authority of your teachers and elders. After observation and analysis, when it agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and gain of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

This is almost identical, the differences being mere changes in wording. This is no doubt the prototype of the “Buddha Jayanti” quote. Unfortunately my local library has been unable to get me a copy through Inter-Library Loan, so I can’t tell if Sayagyi U Ba Khin was the speaker at the conference who used this quote. However, I have searched the Google Book version linked to above, and no results appear for his name.

So at the moment my hypothesis is that in his 1951 lecture, Sayagyi U Ba Khin was loosely paraphrasing the Kalama Sutta from memory, and that someone else (possibly taking this to be a direct scriptural quotation) tidied it up a little and presented it in the context of a talk at the Buddha Jayanti conference, leading to it appearing in this book and thus gaining wider currency.

105 thoughts on ““Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it…””

  1. Thanks for the clarification of the acceptance of information quote. I have long pondered this misquote Metta Barry

      1. “Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it…”

        the site and its zombie dog show there garbage brain ……that’s why Hindustan still hold the religious garbage books

        NOTE : The comment is on the dogs who said FAKE ….there is no option for reply .take care zombies dogs

  2. I think that the most ironic thing about this article Bodhipaksa, is the speculation you supply us on a book (2500 Buddha Jayanti), a book in which you have never read.

    1. It would be ironic if I was making definitive statements about the book “2500 Buddha Jayanti” or claiming that a quote could be found in it when in fact it couldn’t, but since I make it clear that my speculation is in fact speculation and since the quote in question actually does come from that book, I fail to see the ironic angle. Perhaps you could elucidate, Shane?

  3. I have made many experiences of this quote…basically use all bodily faculties to accept any mental ideas thoughts beliefs etc and play with this without getting personal with idea…eventually the body gives the result…. For example, recently I have been some so common sense quotes… Eg all is fair in love and war… What does these quotes really do our cultures and mind sets….

  4. You know, I’ve seen various iterations of both versions over the years and have never really considered the difference. My reading of both concurs with your reading of the original. Perhaps that’s because, as someone who has studied and practiced Buddhism for many years, I assume that the experiential must reign supreme.

    Once you understand that principle, the revised quote, in my opinion, actually conveys the Buddha’s concept in a way much more understandable to 21st century audiences.

    Perhaps, there’s value in both versions.

    1. Ray I agree with your statement of “perhaps there is value in both versions.” I didn’t really starting looking into the Buddha’s teachings until a few years ago when I read a version of this Kalama Sutta misquote. Back then after reading it I was frankly stunned for a moment that a prominent religious figure would instruct his followers in the ways of free inquiry and advocate for them not to accepting any religious teacher’s teachings as truth by default, including his own. Being raised as a Christian, it was really a moment of spiritual joy as I contemplated the quote. After doing some research on it I learned that it wasn’t a direct Buddha quote, but that misquote still led me to read about the Kalama Sutta and Buddha which has been a spiritually rewarding experience. These days I just look at the misquote as a modern derivation of the Kalama Sutta, which as you said can make it more accessible to the modern world and act as a signpost directing seekers of truth to the core Buddhist material.

  5. I read this quote everyday, I’m glad to know that it is the real deal!! I saw the “fake” quote about a year ago and am glad to have found this site!!

  6. I am not someone who has practiced or studied Buddhism for many years, but nevertheless I have an interpretation that it similar to Ray’s.

    First, I fail to see how the ‘internet quote’ is more “fake”, since both are translated into English and interpreted by individuals living in different cultural and historical contexts. And therefor I do not understand -especially with what I perceive to be the essence of this quote in mind- why anyone would put more confidence in the ‘original’. It is a bit of a paradox.

    Second, I think the essence is not to be found in the difference between to know something from experience or to agree with reason (after observation and analysis).
    Actually, ‘reason’ could very much refer to ‘perception of what is just’, i.e. “is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all”.

    It basically very much seems exactly the same as what is meant with ‘knowing from experience’. Note that the internet version mentions analysis/reasoning from observation, not just merely reasoning. Is observation not experience? And is reasoning not an act based on experiencing the ‘social world’?

    PS Are you aware of the scientific debate on Buddhist critical thinking? I wonder what your opinion on this would be. See for example: https://www.academia.edu/7612709/Advanced_Analytical_Assessment_of_Buddhist_Critical_Thinking_Skills_and_Additional_Philosophical_Concerns_or_Perspectives_for_the_Field_of_Critical_Thinking

    1. Hi, Ala.

      I’m confused by your confusion. The fake quote is not a “translation,” in that it doesn’t reflect the content of the original source, and in fact seems to contradict it. In translation we have to take into account what was said and what we can validly assume was meant. Simply making something up and putting it in the mouth of the Buddha is not translation.

      As for your interpretations, to take one example, “reasoning” is clearly not the same as “knowing through experience.” We can certainly reason about our experience, but in this context to reason means to think about something in a theoretical way. Such reasoning can produce valid results, but I think we all recognize that people who try to reason about topics in which they have no personal experience tend to come to false conclusions: garbage in, garbage out.

      1. > I think we all recognize that people who try to reason about topics in which they have no personal experience tend to come to false conclusions

        It’s not accurate Ray. Logic and analysis can reach true conclusions regardless of experience.

        1. Who is Ray?

          Anyway, you neglected to copy and paste the first part of what I wrote, which I’ll put in bold here: “Such reasoning can produce valid results, but I think we all recognize that people who try to reason about topics in which they have no personal experience tend to come to false conclusions.”

          So what I’ve said is not different from your “Logic and analysis can reach true conclusions regardless of experience.”

          1. You can’t understand anything through experience if you don’t use reason. Conversely, you need physical evidence to substantiate any hypothesis you have, no matter how logical it may sound. Good arguments are always both logical and sound.

            The Buddha seems to apply the Pirahã tribe rationalization of knowledge, but it’s fallacious.

          2. Neither the Buddha nor I are suggesting that logic be rejected, just that (as I put it in the article) it’s not a “sufficient basis for accepting a teaching as valid.” The problem with logic is that if the premises are faulty, the conclusions are unlikely to be correct. So in order to have sound premises we need to look at what happens in our real world experience.

            Also, direct experience can reveal things that logic alone might not come up with. The Buddha’s exploration of his experience revealed that there was no separate and permanent self, for example. Most people, without having explored their experience in the same depth, would come to the opposite conclusion. So it’s not just that we look at our experience as it is right now, and take it at face value, but that we should explore our experience to see if it is as it appears.

  7. I know you will defend your point of view till the end of days but… To begin with, this is not a “fake” quote. It is what it’s called an “interpreted” quote. Every time you translate something into a certain language the process implies an interpretation of what the original says. More often than not, more so when it comes to certain languages, it is impossible to translate word by word since it would not made sense in English, for example. As an old old Tuscan proverb goes, “Traduttore, Traditore!” Translator, traitor. In many instances, translating a certain text requires a complete rewriting of it. More than that, what those behind the so-called fake Buddha quote have done was to clarify the meaning of the original. The word by word original can get confusing, and your interpretation of it makes a perfect case for that:

    – “In the original quote, accepting something because it “agrees with reason” would seem to be rejected, because “logical conjecture” and “inference” have been rejected, at least as sufficient bases for accepting a teaching as valid. It’s not that logic is rejected as such, just that it can’t be relied on. What is needed is experience. We need to “know for ourselves.” –

    Not true that,”because it “agrees with reason” would seem to be rejected, because “logical conjecture” and “inference” have been rejected…” According to our dictionaries, inference is “a conclusion reached on the basis of evidence and reasoning.” You may want to rewrite and rethink that since there is some serious disagreement with reason and rational logic there.

    As for the “2500 Buddha Jayanti” that version of the quote has nothing to do with the “libertarians,” as you claim. This book was put together by a group of reputable Buddhist scholars, in 1956. The version of the Kalama Suta you refer to is a translation made by Thanissaro Bhikkhu in 1994. He is an American Buddhist who converted to a form of Buddhism practiced in a certain monastery in Tayland in the 1970s, when it was very trendy to do it. So, I am not sure I would put my money on the accuracy of his translation. Even so, as stated, there is no real difference in the message conveyed by both versions. More importantly, that message is much more clear in the 1956 version, the one most of us work with today, and for good reason. (Made a copy of this comment just in case it accidentally disappears from your blog.)

    1. Sorry for the delay, Paul, but I was on retreat for two weeks.

      You say “I know you will defend your point of view till the end of days…” but actually you don’t “know” this at all.

      “To begin with, this is not a ‘fake’ quote. It is what it’s called an ‘interpreted’ quote.”

      It’s called an “interpreted quote” by whom? I’m unfamiliar with this term, and looking it up on Google I found no evidence that this is a term that’s used at all widely. In fact, one of the few results that comes up is from Scott Adam’s blog:

      The cousin to the manufactured quote, and even more dangerous, is the interpreted quote. That’s when a person with low reading comprehension, or bad intentions, or both, misinterprets a quote, then replaces the actual quote with the misinterpretation. That path might look like this:

      Original quote: “Some men are rapists. Society needs to punish them.”

      Morph One: “He says men are rapists.”

      Morph Two: “He says all men are rapists by nature.”

      Morph Three: “He excuses rape because he says it’s natural.”

      “As for the ‘2500 Buddha Jayanti’ that version of the quote has nothing to do with the ‘libertarians,’ as you claim.”

      Please point out to me exactly where I made the claim that the “Jayanti” version of this quote had anything to do with libertarians. I did point out that I’ve dealt with a (separate) libertarian mistranslation of this verse elsewhere. The 2,500 Jayanti version predates the libertarian version by decades.

      1. Bodhi, defending something “to the end of days” is never to be taken literarily. We learn that in grammar school. It was obviously said in jest.

        Sorry you could not find “interpreted quote” in Google. I used that, and I am entitled to put words in a sequence that would convey a certain point. Just because you could not find it in Google it does not mean it has no meaning. I’ll make sure you’ll find in Google from now on.

        Am I misreading you when you state that “I’ve dealt with a libertarian mistranslation of this verse elsewhere, but this version is different?”

        You did not addressed the fact that the “fake Buddha quote,” as you call this wonderful authentic Buddha quote, was actually a translation buy a group genuine Buddhist scholars, as opposed to your version being the work of a 1970’s individual converted to a form of Buddhism which has nothing to do with the authentic, the original Buddha school of thought.

        At least please refrain from calling “fake” something you disagree with while having little supporting evidence for your version of the story. This quote is clearly something religious organizations hate because it annuls their otherwise illegitimate authority. For that reason alone it is certainly not fake, it makes sense and it is fully supported by rational logic. Once again, if you want to embrace a dope, love, peace converted Buddhist’s dubious interpretation of an ancient text, at least do not spread false rumors, and yet who could stop you from doing that. One must reach his own conclusions, though, and as an ancient Buddha saying goes, “Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in… a blog on the Internet.” I don’t think that’s fake.

        1. I’m afraid it’s never really “obvious” online, and often offline, when someone is joking or whether they intend their words to be taken literally. But it wasn’t the expression “to the end of days” that I was critiquing, it was your claim that you “know” whether or not I’m open to changing my mind. That is not something that can be known.

          Sorry you could not find “interpreted quote” in Google. I used that, and I am entitled to put words in a sequence that would convey a certain point.

          You’re entitled to write anything you want, but what you wrote was “It is what’s called an ‘interpreted’ quote.” If you’d said “It’s what I’d call an ‘interpreted’ quote,” that would be one thing. But to say it’s “called” an ‘interpreted’ quote indicates that this is some kind of widely known term, when in fact it isn’t.

          “You did not addressed the fact that the “fake Buddha quote,” as you call this wonderful authentic Buddha quote, was actually a translation buy a group genuine Buddhist scholars.”

          I didn’t address this because it’s a nonsensical position. You’re committing the fallacy of “appealing to authority.” Just because the translation was done by a “scholar” doesn’t mean it’s accurate. Lots of scholars produce inaccurate translations. Also, I very much doubt you could name the “scholar” (or “scholars,” as you insist) who concocted this quote. What was his//her/their track record in translation? Did he/she/they even know Pali? You’re simply creating a story in your mind in an attempt to validate this quote.

          In calling this a “wonderful authentic Buddha quote” you’re committing the logical fallacy of “proof by repeated assertion.” Doubling down and repeating that something is the case, regardless of contradiction, and without evidence (for which you’d have to refer to the original Pali or a valid translation) doesn’t make your case any stronger. This is simply a propaganda technique.

          The thing is, what’s paramount in translation is representing accurately what the original says. If you change the message in a substantive way, then it’s a bad translation. It’s even a fake translation, if the inaccuracies are the result of intentional bias.

          As for your disparagement of Bhikkhu Thanissaro, I didn’t address that because it also didn’t really deserve to be addressed. It was in fact nothing more than an ad hominem attack, and thus another logical fallacy.

          You wrote: “He is an American Buddhist who converted to a form of Buddhism practiced in a certain monastery in Tayland (sic) in the 1970s, when it was very trendy to do it. So, I am not sure I would put my money on the accuracy of his translation.”

          The fact that Thanissaro is American is irrelevant. What possible bearing could his nationality have on his ability to translate Pali accurately? The fact that he “converted to a form of Buddhism practiced in a certain monastery” is also irrelevant. He became (and remains) a rather orthodox Theravadin Bhikkhu. Your attempt to make it sound like he joined some kind of weird and obscure branch of Buddhism is laughable, as is your rather sad insinuation that he became a monk because it was “trendy” to do so.

          Perhaps you’re also disparaging of Bhikkhu Bodhi (another American!) who became a bhikkhu in the 1970s (when, apparently, it was “trendy”) to do so. But here’s his translation:

          Come, Kalamas, do not go by oral tradition, by lineage of teaching, by hearsay, by a collection of scriptures, by logical reasoning, by inferential reasoning, by reasoned cogitation, by the acceptance of a view by pondering it, by the seeming competence [of a speaker], or because you think, “This ascetic is our guru.” But when you know for yourselves: “These things are wholesome; these things are blameless, these things are praised by the wise; these things, if accepted and undertaken, lead to welfare and happiness,” then you should live in accordance with them.

          You really think that “But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it” means the same as “But when you know for yourselves: ‘These things are wholesome; these things are blameless, these things are praised by the wise; these things, if accepted and undertaken, lead to welfare and happiness,’ then you should live in accordance with them”?

          You really think that the emphasis on accepting a teaching because it “agrees with reason” is the same as “do not go … by logical reasoning, by inferential reasoning, by reasoned cogitation”?

          Well, we have you arguing that something is “obvious” when in fact it cannot be obvious, implying that a term is in common use when in fact it’s not, using the fallacy of the appeal to authority, the fallacy of proof by repeated assertion, and the fallacy of argumentation ad hominem. All this suggests to me that you may have some fundamental difficulties in thinking logically about the differences between the fake and real versions of this passage.

  8. Retards.

    You think a buddha cannot see cause and effect in motion.
    Dont try to revide words or masters when you dont have the knowledge to see trough illusions yourself.

    What you know about the spiritual logic to revide hes words mentally retarded consumers.
    The hell with you planet destroyers mind and earth poiseners.

    IDIOTS.

      1. ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them.” –Too bad there is no mention of anything being true.

        1. You’re right, Joel. There is no mention of truth in that extract from the sutta. But the Kalamas were fundamentally asking about how to discern the truth of competing spiritual teachings. What the Buddha’s responding to is this question:

          “Lord, there are some brahmans & contemplatives who come to Kesaputta. They expound & glorify their own doctrines, but as for the doctrines of others, they deprecate them, revile them, show contempt for them, & disparage them. And then other brahmans & contemplatives come to Kesaputta. They expound & glorify their own doctrines, but as for the doctrines of others, they deprecate them, revile them, show contempt for them, & disparage them. They leave us absolutely uncertain & in doubt: Which of these venerable brahmans & contemplatives are speaking the truth, and which ones are lying?”

          It’s interesting that the Buddha’s reply doesn’t mention truth. In a way he may have been saying is “truth, spiritually speaking, is what works, in terms of liberating you from suffering.” He’s more interested in method than in confirming particular statements as factually correct. But he does engage in a Socratic dialog with the Kalamas, in which he leads them to see how his teachings are effective (and therefore, presumably, true).

      2. Mike did nothing but talk dog shit and he’s the smart commenter? Nevermind, Paul Greene at least questioned you and attempted to make a decent arguement.

        Mmm okay. ? “Smart people”

  9. Thanks for the information. I like the “fake” quote because it’s easier for us to read in modern times. It’s good to know where it was interpreted from and the original. If anything, I’ll be sure NOT to use it as a Buddha quote, but will still use it.

    1. Thank you. That’s very helpful. The lectures you’re referring to would be those published in the book, “What Buddhism Is” and also found here.

  10. .. so .. wait.. are we supposed to believe THIS because we read it on here? Your interpretation is exactly that: YOURS. We all choose to believe what we want, and that’s how it becomes our truth. If you insist on there being a universal truth, you’re delusional.

    1. I don’t expect you to believe anything I say, Tim. You’re welcome to examine the evidence I’ve laid out, to compare it with what expects have said, and to make up your own mind.

  11. Making a meme of the hardest quote ever and branding it fake (in red) is pretty harsh. Like it or not, you’re famous now! Inji’s…

    1. Oh, I don’t make the graphics. I just find them and add the stamp. Whether that’s harsh or not, I don’t know. I’m not sure whose feelings I’d be hurting…

    1. No one is asking you to automatically believe anything. If you have the inclination, check out any claims I make against whatever evidence there is, and make up your own mind.

  12. Ok, so I think what is important is naming our standpoint as part of our argument. As a white, male who has practiced Buddhist meditation primarily in the tradition of S.N. Goenka, but also inspired by the teachings of Thich Naht Hanh, I am familiar with this passage. Obviously, I am coming to it from a Western, contemporary, perspective. I believe it is an important text, as it describes the movement of the Dhamma/Dharma from culture to culture. So, I think this hairsplitting is actually great. What I would like to look at is this excerpt from the “fake” text: “after observation and analysis.” I am wondering if we can understand observation and analysis as experiential? I think so. I know that Buddhist texts, writers, scholars, practitioners, speak of “direct knowing.” However, I think there is a lot to question and think about. Is anything ever “direct?” Or, as symbol making beings are we always “interpreting” our experiences? I’m no expert, and I know there are whole bunch of experts out there in epistemology, ontology, hermeneutics, and the like. I do think it is too soon to say that this or that is “fake.” I think you need to go deeper. I know Thich Nhat Hanh somewhere argues that the historical Buddha didn’t actually speak Pali, or at least not as his first tongue. Pali was a kind of common, or commercial language. Who knows. But you will have those who will argue that everything outside of Pali is translation, therefore to understand the “true” dhamma one must read Pali, or get it from a Pali scholar. What I like about the above passage is that it draws a line in the sand. Buddha is saying that we are not going to keep doing things a certain way just because that’s the way we have always been doing it. As in Fiddler on the Roof: “Tradition.” He was breaking with the past in the pursuit, not of truth, but of freedom.

    XO
    -d

    Thoughts?

    1. “I am wondering if we can understand observation and analysis as experiential?”

      I think they are.

      “…as symbol making beings are we always “interpreting” our experiences?”

      I suspect that all experience is interpretation. My take is that we need to purify our interpretations of aversion, craving, and delusion, so that we can see more clearly. Awakening is supposed to be a state of “seeing things as they really are,” but to me that simply implies that we’ve let go of false and unhelpful interpretations.

      For example, a key delusion (which necessarily entails clinging and aversion) is the interpretation that we have a “self” that owns our experiences and actions. We can lose that delusion, and see more clearly that what we are is not unified and not “owned” by any central part of us. The “self” we used to believe in is as mythic as Santa Claus, Jehovah, or Brahma. We’re still interpreting our experience in many ways but we’re now doing so without the obstacle of a major delusion.

      The Buddha didn’t speak Pali, for sure, but he spoke one or more languages that would have been very similar to it, and that were really related dialects — quite easy to translate. I think more important is that what we’ve received as “the word of the Buddha” is really lecture notes that have been passed on, edited, and interpreted over centuries. Anyone who has lectured will know that even the best lecture notes are a hollow representation of the original presentation!

      In this particular case, though, we have a Pali original, which is as close as we’re going to get to what the Buddha originally said, and some fairly clear misrepresentations of those which can be shown to have originated very recently. We can also look at the cultural context of western individualism, and be fairly sure that these misrepresentations are an attempt to find “evidence” for something like western individualism in the Buddhist tradition, in order to make Buddhism seem more palatable.

  13. Wow. How funny! I cam late to the conversation but …
    I never fail to be amazed, astonished, and yes, at time, amused at the way present-day, europeans and euro-centric ‘would-be authorities and ‘intellectuals’ work back and forth on something as out-of-this [present-day] world as a Buddhist quote! Wow.
    Are any of you aware of elderly, women and children, veterans living homeless on the streets of the US? Have any one of you ever read anything by any African-American, Latino, Asian, Gay/Lesbian Writers? How DO you gain so much authority on something so totally unreal? Seriously. Yawl sound just like the defenders of the cross, none of whom has ever dared to love his neighbor as himself.

    Just so amazing. Thanks for sharing. sd

    1. I never fail to be amazed and astonished by the assumptions people make about others’ lives. What do you know of the lives of me and other people who have commented here?

  14. OH, I forgot to say thanks. That quote [a version of it, anyway], was on the front flap of a book I read while in pursuit of my Master’s Degree n Christian Education at the Premiere institution of Liberation Theology!
    I wanted to use it to open my local radio talk show this month, being it is African-American history month! You see the connection, right? I figured it!
    LivewellToday!

  15. While there’s certainly nothing positive about misattributing a quote to someone, I find it almost irrelevant in this case. Whether Buddha said this or not, it’s still an incredibly powerful phrase and a great philosophy to live your life by.

    Plus the sheer amount of irony makes me giggle.

    1. Whether the Buddha said this or not is irrelevant to whether it’s true or not. But if we want to base a spiritual practice on what the Buddha taught, then knowing (to the extent that such a thing is possible) what the Buddha did and did not say makes the quote’s authenticity or otherwise very relevant. Also, if we’re interested in accuracy, then it’s relevant, too. As Einstein said, “Whoever is careless with truth in small matters cannot be trusted in important affairs.”

      1. This is pretty sad, Bodhipaksa.

        The quote says “do not appeal to authority”.

        And it’s true, beneficial and useful. We don’t base our spiritual practice on what the Buddha said exactly but on the points he taught.

        As in the Einstein quote, it’s about truth. You make it feel as it’s about exact words.

        1. Since you posted seven comments on this post in the space of a few minutes I take it you’re emotionally triggered by this topic. I’d suggest that maybe you take some time to work through your feelings and perhaps come to a bit more clarity. Regardless of whether you think I “make it feel as (if) it’s about exact words,” that’s not what I’m saying. I’ve never said that and never will.

          However, words can mislead. In the case of this particular quote the “teaching” being offered is not only different from what the Buddha taught but contradicts it.

          The Einstein quote is offered because I was discussing the ethics of passing on inaccurate information, such as saying that the Buddha said something that he almost certainly never said. This is a form of false speech, and therefore an ethical issue. Einstein’s point is that if someone is not to be trusted with the smaller, easier ethical issues, it’s unwise to trust them with larger issues.

  16. I really like your juxtaposition between the two quotes, and the clarification of what the original meaning was. The main difference is that the original admonition is to base one’s views on personal experience and practical results. It is not enough, in other words, to think things through logically, one must test those theories in practice, and see which ones produce a happy life. Buddha was advocating a personalized scientific approach, based on empirical observation rather than deductive inference.

    However, your presentation is marred by the claim that Buddha was not born a Hindu. Of course he was. There wasn’t much else to be during that time. The whole of the culture was dominated by Brahmanism, by Vedic rituals and beliefs, and by the various forms of religion that all come under the broad umbrella of “Hinduism”. The teachers he had as a youth were clearly teaching various forms of Hindu asceticism and meditation practice. And when he began to teach, the Buddha was highly critical of these, and even of the political hold Brahmanism had over people through the caste system, which he also rejected.

    As to whether Buddha was actually a prince or not, we really don’t know. All the various traditional stories of his life say he was a prince, but those could be mythical, created to make a point about Buddha’s process of recognizing the impermanence of all things. We’ll never actually know. But throughout Buddhism, for at least the last 2,000 years, it’s been taught and accepted that he was born a Hindu Prince. So that’s not something made-up by the author of this quote. It’s simply a basic element of Buddhist tradition.

    1. I’ve already rebutted the claims you’ve made here, but you say “throughout Buddhism, for at least the last 2,000 years, it’s been taught and accepted that he was born a Hindu Prince.” I’m certainly not aware of anything in the Pali scriptures that would back you up. In any event, if Buddhists, hundreds of years after the Buddha’s death, assumed he had been “born a Hindu” (something, actually, that is an impossibility because it’s so anachronistic) this would only tell us what they, at a time when historical awareness was close to zero, assumed about the past — not what was actually the case. They made similar assumptions about the Buddha’s homeland having been a kingdom, and the Buddha, therefore, having been a prince—not realizing that the Shakyas lived in a republican oligarchy. It’s not at all true to say, as you do, that “we really don’t know” whether the Buddha was a prince or not. He could not have been a prince because the Shakyans did not have a monarchy, and therefore had no princes.

      You see how a religious tradition can make a complete dog’s breakfast of its own history?

      As for religious alternatives at that time, there were many. There was Jainism, which was a major religious force at the time the Buddha was teaching. It was, incidentally, a school focused on the kinds of ascetic practices you’re assuming must have been “forms of Hindu asceticism,” and it predates Buddhism, possibly by millennia. Some scholars think it has its roots in the Indus Valley civilization, which predates the arrival of the Vedas.

      If it’s true that the Buddha practiced asceticism for a while (and not in all of his autobiographical discourses is this part of the narrative) it may be that they were Jaina practices. In fact, I’m not aware of the Brahmins having practiced asceticism at all! (Was it, at that time, even partly an ascetic tradition? I think not, although many young Brahmins rejected the vedas and went off to join the shramanas.) Speaking of which, also older than Buddhism were the six shramana schools of philosophy, some of which were materialist/atheist and all of which rejected the vedas. The Buddha was well aware of these, knew the names of their founders, and critiqued their teachings.

      There’s no evidence whatsoever that the Buddha’s two named teachers, Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta, were followers of the Vedas. In fact they seem to have been Shramanas. For a start, they meditated. Do you see any evidence from the Pali canon that orthodox Brahmins meditated? I don’t recall any. I may have missed or forgotten it, of course. I’ll keep my eyes open.

      As far as I’m aware, we know nothing definite about the religious beliefs and practices of the Buddha’s family. However, their society does not seem to have been divided into four varnas (castes), suggesting that the Vedas had not influenced their social and religious practices. There are references to “Brahmin villages” in the Shakyan territory, suggesting that Brahmins were not well integrated into Shakyan society. The Shakyans considered themselves, as warriors, to be superior to the Brahmins, which is a profoundly non-Vedic position! And so the evidence is that the Buddha did not grow up in the caste-centric, Veda-ridden, Brahmin dominated society that you are (anachronistically) calling “Hindu.”

      Ironically, given the quote under discussion here, you’re basing your argument on the claim “people have said it for a long time,” which is one of the bases for belief that the Kalama Sutta specifically rejects. How ironic! 🙂

  17. Dumb… I haven’t met this kinda stupidity yet. You are so wrong on so many levels it’s not even worth proving it to you

  18. It’s interesting that you think it’s a fake when even the Buddists think it is a real quote. I just visited one of the very few Buddist Temples and they had the exact “fake” quote displayed at their temple. I am more inclined to believe monks ,who actually speak the language and are able to make comparisons, than you.

  19. I love people that can critizice something that they don’t know, first learn the language, second read the original text and then sumit your opinion. Remember the karma law.

  20. you wrote ” So at the moment my hypothesis is that in his 1951 lecture, Sayagyi U Ba Khin was loosely paraphrasing the Kalama Sutta from memory,”

    who told you that ? wow you really need some serious thinking to do , before you even write anything as this . esp. in context to a world famous Master Sayagyi U Ba Khin . And then adding ” Sayagyi U Ba Khin was loosely paraphrasing the Kalama Sutta from memory,”

    it seems you are the only wise man left on this planet dude !

    1. I described what I wrote as a “hypothesis” — which means that it’s an educated guess. No one “told” me it.

      Are you suggesting that respected teachers never paraphrase, speak from memory, or make errors?

  21. And for your information the book ” 2500 Buddha Jayanti” was written by Shri. Ananda W.P. Guruge . A very well known scholar and also if you have not read the book then how do you know the exact Page no. 39?

    1. “2500 Buddha Jayanti” was not written by Guruge. It was edited by him. As I can gather, the book is a compilation of talks, and thus the quality of the information therein depends on the individual speakers, not on the editor.

      One edition of the book is available on Google Books. It’s searchable, so you can find out whether it contains a particular phrase and what page it’s on, but you can’t see the complete contents. Unfortunately my local library has been unable to obtain a copy.

      [Update: it was searchable on Google Books. That particular edition seems to have been removed from the index.]

  22. Born and raised in a Buddhist family here, and practised for decades. Please give me the archaeological evidence where it mentioned Buddha was not born in one of the Hindu castes and not a prince. Then we can discuss further. Your information is contradicting with what I learnt, but I’d go with science. And, if you’re looking for more reliable source of Buddha script, you must go for the ones documented in Pali language and Theravada Buddhism.

    1. The evidence is not archaeological, but textual, and from the Pali scriptures. There’s plenty of good scholarship around, analyzing these texts, if you want to go look for it.

      Strangely, much of what we Buddhists “know” about the Buddha isn’t to be found in the Pali canon. For example, everyone “knows” his first name was Siddhattha. That’s not found anywhere in the scriptures. Everyone “knows” the Buddha left home after seeing the “four sights.” That’s not in the scriptures (or not applying to him — the Buddha does tell this story but it’s about someone else).

      What we, as Buddhists, “know” about the Buddha is often not from the scriptures, but from later commentaries. It actually takes a lot of effort to set aside that “knowledge” and look at what the scriptures actually say!

      1. Please give the website link or the exact page number of the Tripitaka so that I won’t have to spend much time on it. And, not sure whose or what commentaries you meant. Having language barrier.

        1. Why don’t you provide me with references to the Pali scriptures showing that the Buddha was born as a Hindu and was the son of a king?

          By commentaries I basically mean everything in the Buddhist tradition that isn’t the suttas or vinaya, right up to and including modern books about Buddhism. Such commentaries can be very useful in explaining the Buddhadharma, but they also at times depart from the suttas and even replace the information in them (I’ve given you two examples already).

          In the meantime, you’ll find some references here.

          1. You don’t have the link or exact reference, do you? And, when did I say I read those in the original Pali script? You’re the one kept claiming and pointing at the Original Pali Scripture as the source without actually leaving any link or so. However, I had read them in our school textbooks (apart from translated religious books from practising buddhist monks) which are more reliable than from a random blogger claiming something without any reference link, isn’t it?

            I’ve gone through your link quickly. Looked like you may have misunderstood several terms like- Caste system in Ancient India, Hinduism, Practitioner, non-practitioner etc. Wouldn’t really prefer wasting my time if it’s going nowhere, however, I’d love to unlearn and relearn without having to spend much time!

          2. Your question is faulty, which is why I haven’t answered it. You asked for “evidence where it mentioned Buddha was not born in one of the Hindu castes and not a prince.” You’re asking for the Pali texts to state a negative regarding the Buddha’s birth status and non-royalty, which is not something they do. What the Pali texts offer us is a portrait of a man who was born into a society which was an oligarchy, governed by a council, and not a kingdom. Therefore he was not a prince in the sense that we would understand that term. They offer no evidence that the family of the Buddha-to-be followed any sort of Brahminical tradition, or even that such a tradition was common in the Sakyan country.

            I of course have no idea what you read in your school textbooks, but generally most texts simply repeat the stories that the commentarial tradition developed. I’d imagine that your books gave the familiar account of the Four Sights too, didn’t they? And as I’ve explained, that’s not something that’s in the scriptures (or it is, but it’s a story about someone else).

  23. Summary of our conversation:

    You claimed Buddha was not a hindu prince >> then I asked for the archaeological evidence of your claim>> then you said it’s just textual, from pali scriptures>> then I asked for it (web link/ exact page number of the book), yet you avoided, and instead asked me to give those links/references which I never claimed to have in original Pali script>> Then I questioned if you truly have the references I asked for>> then you blamed me of asking a faulty, illogical question, thereby avoided to provide the reference links again…….

    However, I’m truly glad that I now know of peoples with entirely contradicting information that I’ve known. Someday if I have enough time and interest, I’d check them myself from the original scriptures. And, it’d save both of our time and energy if we end it right here. It’s very hard for me to resist curiosity upon receiving the email notification of your comment, so I’d appreciate if I stop receiving the notification. Peace.

    1. I’ve said that your question is malformed in two ways: 1) You asked for archeological evidence that the Buddha was not a Hindu prince. What conceivable archeological evidence could there be for such a thing? The main evidence (and most specific) we have for the Buddha is textual, so we have to look at the scriptures. 2) You’re the one who is defending the claim that the Buddha was a) Hindu and b) a prince. It’s really beholden to you to support (from the scriptures) your claim for those things. A school textbook doesn’t really work!

      As for my evidence, I’ve pointed you to a number of sources that support the conclusion that the Buddha was not a prince. If you’d like to follow those up and check the original sources, feel free. There’s plenty of evidence in the original scriptures, some of which is cited in the link I provided. This includes the facts that the Buddha didn’t live in a monarchy, and that (as you’d therefore expect) no royal palaces have been found in any of the archeological sites that are contenders for the Buddha’s home town. The word that’s sometimes translated as “palace” in reference to the Buddha’s childhood dwellings isn’t even the same word used for a royal palace — it’s more likely a term for a “mansion,” or a large and impressive house, not the dwelling of royalty.

      I’m sure there’s a way of unsubscribing you from comment notifications. I’ll look and see what I can do!

  24. Ahhh…how fascinating it is to see the Buddha’s magnificent teaching lives on! It is fulfilling exactly what it meant for all of us to do and almost everyone here is in participation of. That is, to question everything!

    Namo Amituofo

  25. The suttas were written after The Buddha passed away. It’s weird if the Buddha said “Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books”.

    1. Indeed. There were religious “books” around at that time, but they were preserved orally, and so nothing in them was “written.” That’s an anachronism that I’d overlooked! Thanks for pointing it out.

  26. The Sad thing for people who believe in this philosopher, is the fake comment is a better well rounded statement and serves people better. The fact that it has been improved upon by someone unenlightened suggests People should just do as best as they can to avoid deity superstition paranormal nonsense. Reality is the nature that surrounds you.

    1. Actually I find it sad that the “dumbed down” version of the quote is more generally appealing than the original, which is much more sophisticated.

      The Buddha was, to my mind, the most profound thinker and practical philosopher that the world has ever seen. Very little of the body of teachings ascribed to him have to do with “paranormal nonsense,” and none of that is central. The core of his teaching is about advanced psychology, the nature of perception, and how to live well. The “superstitious” stuff is, in many people’s opinion, including my own, more likely to be a later addition by well-meaning scribes.

      The Buddha’s teachings are taken very seriously by neuroscientists and philosophers investigating the nature of the self. Buddhist meditation techniques are being investigated and found useful in literally hundreds of universities across the world.

  27. Being a person that believes all religions are stories written by humans, I think the rewrite is better. My 10 year old daughter can understand it. A wheel on a modern car is more advanced then the first wheel someone created.

    1. I’d disagree that the rewrite is better, and question your assumption that a sign philosophical statements are improved is that they can be understood by children. But that’s not really my point here. The quote has been altered to the point where it doesn’t reflect what the Buddha taught, and so it shouldn’t be ascribed to him.

  28. The rewrite is better for my use, and that is to print it out and hang over my daughters bed, as words of wisdom, and want to pass on. If I printed out the original version she would not understand it. So my point is that adaptations or rewrites are totally ok. I might even sign it: Based on Buddha:)

    1. Wow. Thanks for that. It’s most interesting that the quote is in an essay by Anagarika Dharmapala. As a revivalist and modernist Buddhist he was very much concerned to promote the image of Buddhism as rational, so it makes sense that he would use this quote. I wonder if he was quoting from an old translation of the sutta, or whether this was his own rendering?

    2. I was interested in the slight shift from “good and gain” to “good and benefit.” It seems our version of the quote is from a slightly altered version created by the scholar Max Müller, who attributed the quote to the World Parliament of Religions book you linked to. Müller was an important scholar, but also a western rationalist who wanted to believe that eastern religions were at their core rational systems, albeit corrupted. Read just a little further than the extract below and you’ll see that in operation.

      quote from Max Mueller

      https://books.google.com/books?id=zSQYAAAAYAAJ&dq=%22with%20reason%20and%20is%20conducive%22&pg=PA114#v=onepage&q=%22with%20reason%20and%20is%20conducive%22&f=false

      1. It’s interesting to read how the approach to Vedic/Buddhist writings is to separate the “wheat from the chaff”. In my research of some of the Christian apologists of that era, they try to do the same. They reject biblical literalism. They accept Darwin’s insight as fact, even while polemicizing against Huxley’s Agnosticism, which they regard as a species of atheism. Now modern progressive Christians are involved in “deconstruction”, whereby they are striping their theology down to a humanist core and further adopting naturalism.

  29. “These qualities are skilful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted and carried out, lead to welfare and to happiness – then you should enter and remain in them”. These words. (sorry).

  30. You still can’t prove it’s fake and we can’t prove he really said it. But the main message is still in line with Buddhism. Things weren’t written down back then but it’s safe to assume that the Buddha did say something like this. And you not having proof of the first quote being take from somewhere else, shows that you can’t say it’s fake… I also should realize this myself and not listen to you.

    1. If a teaching purports to be from the Buddha but isn’t in the scriptures, then we should regard it as fake — it’s either misattributed or invented. (This is not just my position, but is what the Buddha’s recorded as saying.) In this particular case the quote is partly invented. It’s based on the Kalama Sutta but has been altered to fit someone’s agenda.

      Contrary to what you say, this quote isn’t in line with the Buddha’s teaching. It in fact directly contradicts the Kalama sutta’s insistence that common sense and reason are not sufficient for determining the truth of a teaching.

      1. >If a teaching purports to be from the Buddha but isn’t in the scriptures, then we should regard it as fake — it’s either misattributed or invented. (This is not just my position, but is what the Buddha’s recorded as saying.)

        This is getting very disingenuous, you’re saying that you can check what the Buddha was recorded as saying.

        1. I’m really not sure what point you’re trying to make. Yes, I am saying that we can check what the Buddha was recorded as saying. The scriptures are what the Buddha is recorded as saying. We can read those and check whether a purported quote is to be found there. This one isn’t. Or are you trying to argue that it is?

  31. Tomato, toh-mah-toh…. I’m sorry but in my never ending thoughts and understanding, as I read these they seem to speak the same to me… I’m not misinterpreting either one to be saying something different than the other except that the words being used are different. But, some people I suppose, are die hard literature radicals. Which is what makes this a great article for those who too share the same requirements for literally absolute definition I would think. At first it frustrated me, to see the lengths one dissects a carried over quote to make it resonate to their liking. However, I see there are people who need absolute specifically precise words for their vocabulary to properly define what they are reading. So, with that this is appreciable and without such explanation some would still be lost and reading into the wrong definitions of this quote. I’m not sure how much it may matter to one or the other of who precisely made this statement …. Nevertheless, it’s a wonderful quote that I truly feel is what our unity could phenomenally progress and make us want to be more understanding and live in “good light” as opposed to being reduced to politics, religions, and monetary status quos… Well that’s just an opinion so I suppose it wanted to be heard. Thanks for your dedication on something you truly emit passion for. It is absolutely appreciated.

    1. So you’re saying that “rely on reason and common sense” and “don’t rely on reason and common sense,” are just different ways of saying the same thing?

  32. First off, Siddartha Gauthama, the real name of The Buddha was a Hindu Prince, his father was the King of the land where he lived. So to say he was neither Hindu nor Prince is false, so I have to wonder about the rest of your site, need to take it with a grain of salt.
    Please do your own research on the matter.

    1. I’ve done lots of research, including reading the early Buddhist texts in the original Pali, and completing a Master’s degree that was 50% Buddhist studies. It’s natural that you would simply pass on information you’ve read in books about Buddhism or that you have been taught, but rest assured that Gotama did not grow up in a kingdom, but in an oligarchic republic. This is quite clear from the early texts, Again, later sources “upgraded” his status to one of prince, partly no doubt to make his renunciation even more impressive and partly because by that time India had become a monarchy or collection of monarchies (depending on which period we’re talking about) and people had forgotten that there could be any other way of governing.

      (Another point is that there is no evidence in the earlier texts that the Buddha’s first name was Siddhartha; this name was only attributed to him centuries after his death).

      And the “Hindu” thing is a complete anachronism, as I’ve pointed out in the text.

      If you want another bubble burst, there was no “four sights.” That tale appears in the early scriptures, but it’s a story that Gotama recounts about an earlier Buddha. It’s not something he said was part of his own life.

      Just because you’ve read or heard something a lot doesn’t make it true.

      1. A kingdom can be a republic.

        Republic comes from Res-publica and was a widely used principle in the Frankish kingdom at year 900 AD. The French king is representing the population, it is a kingdom and a republic.

        1. Definition of a republic: “a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch.”

          1. In an Oligarchic Republic the power obviously doesn‘t lie with the people. It’s the rule of the few over the many. So either your definition of republic is correct and there is no such thing as an oligarchic republic or there are many different types of republic, but anyway most likely what you were referring to wasn‘t anything close to a Republic. Your definition is maybe valid for a democratic republic, though I would see a president as optional. The Roman republic had no president and I think also modern democratic republics could probably work without. To be a republic you need to be a state, you need to have a body that actually represents the people (e.g. the Senat) or represents whoever, without governmental bodies / institutions it’s hard to be a republic. 5 Oligarchs or heads of clans or family elders or the 10 richest guys in the Valley are not a republic. It’s simply an oligarchy, but even that’s unlikely for that time. Usually there was a big guy and smaller big guys and they paid and served to the big guy (so basically feudalism in an early form). Which is more a social system than a form of government, but again if you are not really a state you don’t need a form of government. And e.g. UK is also a monarchy where the supreme power is held by the people, because it is a democracy and not a dictatorship. Monarchy just means that the head of state is from the same family/dynasty until they die out, but which form of monarchy it is actually tells you who wields the power. Was „Buddha“ part of some dynasty that’s worth the name (from a monarchic family)? Maybe.

          2. I’m not a political scientist and it probably wasn’t a good idea for me to get into a debate about this. I guess the definition I offered was of what a modern republic involves, while ancient republics were less democratic. (Even ancient democracies were less democratic than our modern understanding of that term.) The context for my offering that definition was that Cedric had said that a republic could have a monarch, which I don’t think is the case. It certainly wasn’t in ancient India. “Republic” is the (contemporary) name given to the forms of oligarchic rule that some states in India adopted. Those contrasted with the larger and more powerful monarchies that absorbed them.

            But the point is that Gautama Buddha was from an territory ruled by a governing council of representatives from powerful families. They did not have a king and he was never a prince.

  33. India during Lord Buddha’s birth era were not Hindu’s, actually that word never existed, that point I will take back, the religion is actually known as Sanatana Dharma, the Ethernal Truth, Siddratha Gauthama was born as a Kshatriya the Princely or ruling class or caste if you will, his family were Vedic and believed in Sanatana Dharma or present day Hinduism, actually a Islamic derogatory name for Sanathan Dharma, so in an indirect way you are correct he was not Hindu for that name never existed.
    Out of Sanathan Dharma, many of the Buddha’s teaching came, such as Karma, rebirth, Dharma and so forth, but the Buddha being a wise soul didnt want all the ritualistic traditions of present day Hinduism, nor the caste system. The Buddha took other traditions of Hinduism in the form of not harming living creatures and the fact that many strict Buddhist are pure vegetarians a central feature for most caste Hindu’s and as time passed many Buddhist started to eat meat, the same applies to Hindu’s this tradition most likely was to mimic the Islamic invaders who occupied India for centuries, thats another story.

    1. Thanks for showing flexibility in your thinking. It’s not common to see that these days, Coodhi.

      We actually have no information on what, if any, religious tradition the Buddha’s family practiced or what they believed, or even if they all followed the same tradition. There’s just no information in the early texts about that. There’s no doubt that Vedic traditions were predominant and it’s likely that his family followed some form of Vedism. There were also non-Vedic religions around, or traditions that had their roots in the Vedas but had rejected Vedic authority, and it’s possible that the Sakyans followed one of those. Anyway, as we both acknowledge the term “Hindu” certainly isn’t appropriate even if his family did follow a Vedic tradition.

      Regarding vegetarianism, the Buddha often talked about butchers selling beef. He used this as an illustration of how we can mentally dissect our sense of self, and so it must have been a sight that was very common to his listeners. By way of an example, in the Satipatthana Sutta there’s:

      Furthermore…just as a skilled butcher or his apprentice, having killed a cow, would sit at a crossroads cutting it up into pieces, the monk contemplates this very body — however it stands, however it is disposed — in terms of properties.

      But there are many, many references to meat being commonly eaten, to the point that since the bhikkhus lived by begging door-to-door it was very hard for them to be vegetarian. It was regarded as a special ascetic practice to do so.

      The prevalent religious traditions at the time of the Buddha did not seem to be vegetarian and didn’t seem to have a problem eating beef. I think this points to the fact that assuming that the religious traditions of the past were more-or-less the same as today is frequently a mistake.

  34. I am the guy who send this picture on web, I know the original text. But seriously do you think only one translation exist, this is only a shortcut for the complete Sutta. Furthermore, I’m Buddhist. Someone did accuse me to be an Hindu Zombie. I’m an Hindu & Jewish sympathizer, does anyone have a problem with this fact ???

    1. It’s not just a “shortcut,” Jean-Luc. It’s a complete distortion of what the original text says.

      And the comment about zombies was directed at me, not you.

      1. We can further discuss on email.
        I have also some very good translations from the complete Sutta by Mohan Vijayaratna & an other by Ven. Walpola Rahula.
        I think it is, if not the original text, it still following the main lines.
        How would you explain it much shorter in a picture ? Thanks

        1. The equivalent passage from Sujato’s translation on Sutta Central is:

          Don’t go by oral transmission, don’t go by lineage, don’t go by testament, don’t go by canonical authority, don’t rely on logic, don’t rely on inference, don’t go by reasoned contemplation, don’t go by the acceptance of a view after consideration, don’t go by the appearance of competence, and don’t think ‘The ascetic is our respected teacher.’ But when you know for yourselves: ‘These things are unskillful, blameworthy, criticized by sensible people, and when you undertake them, they lead to harm and suffering’, then you should give them up.

          Thanissaro’s version is:

          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.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering’ — then you should abandon them.

          These are only a little longer than in the “meme” version, and I’m sure they could be condensed in a way that doesn’t distort the meaning. Or just the last sentence could be used.

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