“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

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There are many variants of this quote. Sometimes they’re attributed to the Buddha, and sometimes to the Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron, or to Nelson Mandela. I haven’t found anything resembling this quote in the Buddhist scriptures.

Until a friendly reader helped me out, I had found the quote in books by Anne Lamotte, Alice May, and Malachy McCourt, but I suspected they were all quoting someone else. The earliest references I’d found were from Alcoholics Anonymous, and that organization seemed like it might have been the original source, although I wondered if the saying may have existed in an orally …

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“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.

This is a bad translation of the Kalama Sutta — so bad, in fact, that it contradicts the message of the sutta, which says that reason and common sense are not sufficient for ascertaining the truth.

And it’s very common as well.

Here’s the original version, from Access to Insight:

“Now, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by



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“I do not believe in a fate that falls on men however they act; but I do believe in a fate that falls on them unless they act.”

This one’s on Brainyquote.com. It’s also often quoted on Twitter:

That didn’t look at all like something the Buddha would have said, especially since fate is an alien concept to Buddhism. The Buddha taught the doctrine of karma, which people often think of as being a kind of fate-like external agency. But in Buddhist terms karma is not like that at all. …

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“Virtue is persecuted more by the wicked than it is loved by the good.”

Found on Twitter: “Virtue is persecuted more by the wicked than it is loved by the good. — Buddha”

From time to time I’m blown away by the strange things that get passed around as Buddha quotes. This particular one is a lovely bon mot of a style completely foreign to that found in the Buddhist scriptures. If I had to guess, I’d have thought this might be by Voltaire, or Rousseau, or perhaps Montaigne. I definitely had in mind French writers of a few hundred years ago.

But actually this isn’t by a French writer. It’s straight from Don …

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Not a bad first week

So the new Fake Buddha Quotes site has been up for a week and things seem to be going well. Yes, some of the posts date back several years, but that’s because when I launched this site I copied over Fake Buddha Quote posts from my personal blog, bodhipaksa.com.

In this first week we’ve had 1,000 visitors, which is not bad for a start.

Neville Evans asked on Facebook, “Why are you spending time with this work?” to which my reply was “Because it’s fun?” I don’t know if his question was meant to be a rebuke, although I suspect …

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“There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth: not going all the way, and not starting.”

Or as they say, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, misquote him.”

This one’s a puzzle. I’m 100% certain it’s not the Buddha. As usual, the language is all wrong. But I haven’t found a definitive source. I’m always more comfortable pronouncing Buddha quotes to be fake when I can find an original source, but in this case I’m stymied.

It appears in a magazine called Network World from January …

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“The instant we feel anger we have already ceased striving for the truth, and have begun striving for ourselves.”

This one struck me as being off. The language of “striving for ourselves” is too idiomatic and modern for the Buddha. Was it a rather too free translation, perhaps? Maybe another one of Jack Kornfield’s paraphrases of Buddhist teaching from his lovely little book, Buddha’s Little Instruction Book?

It was quite easy to track this quote to Thomas Carlyle’s 1829 essay “Voltaire,” and more fully it reads:

A wise man has



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“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”

There’s nothing at all unBuddhist about this quote, or the sentiment it expresses, but as far as I’m aware “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” isn’t found in the Buddhist scriptures.

It sounds like someone has tried to distill the Buddha’s teaching into a nice maxim, and hit on a saying that was already popular.

This probable Fake Buddha Quote seems to have been around for some time. According to Google Books, it’s found attributed to the Buddha in Distilled

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“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.

This one struck me as suspicious, mainly because of the “no one can and no one may,” which doesn’t strike me as the kind of language the Buddha used. Actually, this turns out to be an example of a translation that is so liberal that the resemblance to the original becomes tenuous.

It’s part of a slightly longer verse passage recorded in an 1894 book, Karma: A Story of Buddhist Ethics, …

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“When someone goes wrong, it is right for his real friends to move him, even by force, to do the right thing.”

Name: Michael Stacey

Email: y………@me.com

Subject: Fake Buddha quote?

Message: This was tweeted by @QuietMindSystem “When someone goes wrong, it is right for his real friends to move him, even by force, to do the right thing.” Buddha. The force word sort of makes it suspect, or am I mistaken? I would appreciate your feedback

*****

My reply:

You’re right to be suspicious.

As it happens I was just looking into that one the other day. It’s a particularly interesting example because it brings into question exactly what makes a Buddha quote fake. It’s a paraphrase, or alternative translation of …

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