“Do not learn how to react. Learn how to respond.”

do-not-learn-how-to-react-learn-how-to-respondI was rather astonished to see this one being presented as a quote from the Buddha, but hundreds of results come up on Google, many of them on Facebook and Twitter.

There’s no denying the usefulness of this as a teaching. It encapsulates a principle that’s been articulated in similar words by many modern teachers of Buddhism. But the language used is completely alien to the canonical scriptures.

Fortunately I haven’t seen this on any sites that are obviously run by Buddhists. You do get a lot of professed Buddhists who, it must be assumed, aren’t familiar with Buddhism’s scriptures and who are only familiar with the modern idiom of teachers like Jack Kornfield and Pema Chodron. And when they see Fake Buddha Quotes they don’t have the basis of knowledge to recognize that the quote couldn’t possibly be canonical. But perhaps this one is too obviously fake for most Buddhists to be fooled by. Or maybe it’s just too new. We’ll just have to wait and see!

Where does this come from? I don’t know for sure. I’ve found “Your job is to learn how to respond, not react” in Louie Andersen’s “The F Word: How to Survive Your Family.” And in “Faces of Compassion,” by Taigen Dan Leighton I found “…learn how to respond appropriately and helpfully, without feeling overwhelmed or compelled to react impulsively.” But these, I suspect are just reiterations of the same basic them rather than prototypes of our Fake Buddha Quote.

3 thoughts on ““Do not learn how to react. Learn how to respond.””

  1. in jack kornfield’s little buddhist handbook he presents both sayings of the buddha as well as by various teachers. this quote is included, and is probably the source. at the end of his book he gives credit to various teachers for their various words however he does not give another teacher credit for this quote, so based on how the book is presented, it would seemingly be something the buddha said. i personally doubt the buddha said that, and have not found any citation. in fact, the reason why i looked this up is bc a friend has the quote at the end of her email, of course attributing it to the buddha, and i offered her $100 if the buddha actually said it, so i have an interest in finding where it came from. the fact that jack kornfield included it in his book challenges my certainty that the buddha couldn’t have said it – but i’m still fairly confident.

  2. In Vipassana, we learned to be forgiving – to be patient – to still love all others for their own being – for their mistakes – even when they committed deeds which seemed to be unforgivable.
    So, still many may write incorrect quotes – say the wrong things – tell it was him or her who said that – so what?
    As long as no one gets killed/hurt.
    Why should we hurt others with something we cannot know?
    i cannot condemn them – not any of them – because of not being free of that, either. i. e. i err, too.
    Who is knowledgeable enough to tell the truth of it all?
    Therefore let us take the knowledge/wisdom of it. Sad that we cannot ask him what he really/truly said… God bless you – and our Brother Buddha, too ♥

    1. No one is being “condemned” here. I just point out quotes that can’t legitimately be ascribed to the Buddha. The Buddha himself often pointed out when others acted unskillfully, and if you believe that ignoring unskillfulness is part of Vipassana, I think you may be in the grip of a serious misunderstanding of the Dharma.

      I rather liked the Pope’s statement this week: “There is no such thing as harmless disinformation; trusting in falsehood can have dire consequences.”

      tweet from the pope

      I’m also partial to Einstein’s statement, “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted in important affairs.”

      And the Buddha’s view, as recorded in the scriptures, was “These two slander the Tathāgata. Which two? He who explains what was not said or spoken by the Tathagata as said or spoken by the Tathagata. And he who explains what was said or spoken by the Tathagata as not said or spoken by the Tathagata.”

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