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“The First Free Women” as literary fraud

I recently posted the message below (which I’ve edited lightly) on a forum for members of the Triratna Buddhist Order, which I’m a part of. It offers more thoughts on a literary fraud that’s being perpetrated by Shambhala Publications, the largest publisher of Buddhist books in the west, and suggests a few courses of action.


A lot of people in Triratna — especially women — are very excited by Matty Weingast’s book, “The First Free Women: Poems of the Early Buddhist Nuns,” which was published early last year by Shambhala Publications, and now seems to be gaining great popularity.…

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An open letter to Nikko Odiseos, president of Shambhala Publications

IMPORTANT NOTE: The following letter was written to protest the way in which the book, “The First Free Women,” was inaccurately presented by Shambhala Publications as a translation of a Buddhist scripture (the Therigatha), when in fact it was a book of original poetry, loosely inspired by the early Buddhist nuns whose poems are collected in that work.

As as result of this protest (not just the letter here, but the work of many individuals, Shambhala has agreed to withdraw the book from sale and to republish it in a firm that makes it clear the book is an

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“A Buddhist literary scandal…”

Venerable Akaliko has written a brilliant exposé of the travesty that is “The First Free Women: Poems of the Early Buddhist Nuns.” This purports to be a translation, by Matty Weingast, of poems originally written, as you’d expect, by early Buddhist nuns who lived up to 2,500 years ago.

Actually it’s a book of poems Matty made up and is passing off as the words of those nuns.

This affair gives every appearance of being a deeply deceptive and cynical exercise by both Matty and Shambhala, the book’s publisher. Much of the deception being practiced by Matty is self-deception. He …

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“The world is a looking glass. It gives back to every man a true reflection of his own thoughts.”

A kind reader of this blog alerted me to this one yesterday: “The world is a looking glass. It gives back to every man a true reflection of his own thoughts. Rule your mind or it will rule you.”

This is a composite fake quote. The final sentence, “Rule your mind or it will rule you,” is one I’ve dealt with elsewhere. It’s a paraphrase of a quote by the Roman lyric poet, Horace (65–27 BCE).

The first two sentences were correctly identified by my correspondent as being from the work of the Indian-born English novelist, William Makepeace Thackeray. …

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Translations that annihilate

In the Sutta Central discussion forum, Ayya Sudhamma (who goes by the handle “@Charlotteannun” there), posted an interesting analysis of a supposed translation of the Therigatha. The title literally means “Poems of the elder nuns,” and it’s an ancient Buddhist compilation of poems or songs composed by enlightened female disciples of the Buddha. It, and its counterpart the Theragatha (“Poems of the elder monks”), are among my favorite texts, since they directly and vividly present the voices of practitioners two and a half millennia ago, giving insight into their outer and inner lives.

I’ll quote, with Ayya Suddhamma’s permission, …

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The Buddha on Fake Buddha Quotes (7)

I just stumbled across another reference to the Buddha talking about the practice of pointing out when something attributed to him is not actually something he said.

It’s in a discourse where the Buddha is asked, “How is harmony in the sangha (monastic community) defined?”

The Buddha lists ten activities that go on in the monastic community. These are all potential flash-points because they can create bad feeling and lead to splits in the community.

The ten things are actually five pairs, of which the first, third, and fifth are particularly relevant. These are:

  • “When a mendicant explains what is


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“Rule your mind or it will rule you”

I recently found this quote, “Rule your mind or it will rule you,” in a note I’d made to myself over five years ago. (How time flies!) It was posted by a woman I used to follow on the now-defunct (and for me, much-lamented) social media site Google+.

The quote isn’t at all in the style of the Buddhist scriptures, which made me suspicious. Actually I was more than suspicious; I was certain it wasn’t from the Buddha. The style is far too polished and literary, while the Buddhist scriptures tend to be rather clunky.

It only took a few …

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“Judge nothing, you will be happy. Forgive everything, you will be happier. Love everything, you will be happiest.”

I found this quote in an article on Medium.com  with the title “6 Quotes By Buddha That Will Change How You See The World And Yourself.” The piece was written by Sinem Günel.

Amazingly, not one of the six quotes is by the Buddha, suggesting once again that some people have a positive attraction toward bogus quotes — a kind of “bullshit detector” in reverse.

Here are the six quotes Günel offers us as the supposed teachings of the Buddha.

  1. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”


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“Never respond to rudeness. When people are rude to you, they reveal who they are, not who you are.”

I found this quote in an article on Medium.com, written by Sinem Günel and titled “6 Quotes By Buddha That Will Change How You See The World And Yourself.”

Needless to say, not one of the quotes is by the Buddha, suggesting once again that some people have a positive attraction toward bogus quotes — a kind of “bullshit detector” in reverse.

Here’s what Günel offers us as the supposed teachings of the Buddha.

  1. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
  2. “Don’t respond to rudeness. When people are


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“A Tale of Two Bodhis”: Real Buddha Quotes in a novel

I seem to have made an entry into the world of fiction. A book I read recently — “Dark Path,” by Melissa F. Miller — happens to have a Buddhist protagonist called “Bodhi.”

I, of course, am a Buddhist called Bodhi.

This fictional Bodhi is Dr. Bodhi King, who is a forensic examiner. He’s a lanky, long-haired fellow who meditates and occasionally dispenses advice about mindfulness. The physical description is reminiscent of me twenty years ago.

Please note, in the photograph below, the shoulder-length hair I sported back in 1999. And although there’s no way to assess my height from …

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