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 Kyonkai, 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.