“In the sky there is no distinction of east and west; people create the distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.”

This is another of the Fake Buddha Quotes that appeared in Tricycle’s blog yesterday. Tricycle managed to pull off the feat of having every single one of the Buddha quotes in an article be fake (some I’ve already covered, and the others I’ll tackle later), although Tricycle was in turn citing the work of an artist who combines quotations with images.

“In the sky there is no distinction of east and west; people create the distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.”

To be honest, this only barely registered on my inner Fake-osity Meter. The Buddha did use sky metaphors, but the second part, about creating distinctions in the mind and then believing in them, didn’t seem typical of the way the Buddha’s recorded as speaking.

Sure enough, the original source appears to be a book called “The Teachings of Buddha,” which is a Gideon Bible-type publication by a non-profit organization called Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai, which puts copies in every hotel room in Japan.

Now the problem with citing a quote from “The Teachings of Buddha” is that people are inclined to think that the quote is literally one of the teachings of the Buddha (i.e. something the Buddha said) rather than an explanation of the kinds of things that Buddhism teaches.

If I quote a bit more of the passage, you’ll recognize that on the whole it’s absolutely contemporary and not the kind of thing we find in Buddhist scriptures:

In the sky there is no distinction of east and west; people create the distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.

Mathematical numbers from one to infinity are each complete numbers, and each in itself carries no distinction of quantity; but people make the discrimination for their own convenience, so as to able to indicate varying amounts.

Only a mention of quantum physics could render it more obvious that this isn’t a genuine Buddha quote.

7 thoughts on ““In the sky there is no distinction of east and west; people create the distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.””

  1. and you are?? Mr ???? don’t giva a toss how quotes is this mate! It’s a nice quote! Buddha, would be pleased if people follow this quote just because it’s his name attached … you sir, you missed the point

    1. Yes, it’s a nice quote. The only point I’m making is that the Buddha didn’t say it. I’m sorry that you’re upset by that.

  2. This is actually a a quote from Padmasambhava or as he is known throughout the himalayan region as Guru Rinpoche. He was foretold by Shakyamuni Buddha as his tantric embodiment, who would arrive in this world to spread the tantric teachings far and wide. These teaching were primarily spread and retained inside Tibet up to the present day.

    1. And where in the works of Padmasambhava can this quotation be found? Making a claim about a quote’s provenance is meaningless without evidence.

  3. This one is disappointing because it is the type of thing that does occur in sutras attributed to the Buddha, but the wording is all wrong.

    For example, one of the Heap of Jewels sutras says: “People speak of the eastern space, the southern space, the western space, the northern space, the four intermediate spaces, the space above, the space below, and so forth. Such distinctions are spoken of, although the empty space itself is devoid of distinctions. In like manner, virtuous one, the various stages are established in the ultimate emptiness of all things, although the emptiness itself is devoid of distinctions.”

    But even in the sutra this isn’t the Buddha saying it, it’s Manjushri!

    In the 10,000 line Prajnaparamita sutra it also says: ” For example, Su­bhūti, in space the eastern direction is not discernible. The southern direction, the western direction, and the northern direction are not discernible.”

    But again, wording is totally different.

    1. That’s very interesting, thanks. Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai is a Mahayana organization (or at least an ecumenical one) and it’s quite possible that they were referencing the Heap of Jewels. I’ve found a couple of books containing the quote you so kindly supplied, and I’ll update the article when I have a minute.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.