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 not the teaching as the teaching, and what is the teaching as not the teaching.,” and when
  • “They explain what was not spoken and stated by the Realized One as spoken and stated by the Realized One, and what was spoken and stated by the Realized One as not spoken and stated by the Realized One,” and when
  • “They explain what was not prescribed by the Realized One as prescribed by the Realized One, and what was prescribed by the Realized One as not prescribed by the Realized One.”

The Buddha (the “Realized One,” or “Tathagata,” in this discourse) often pointed out that clinging to views leads to disputes. When we cling to views and opinions, we get upset when those are contradicted.

So you can imagine a practitioner believing that the Buddha taught, “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.” And then some other practitioner comes along and points out that this isn’t what the Buddha actually taught, and that in fact he’d pointed out that because both reason and common sense were fallible, you really need to rely on experience. And this is backed up with evidence, and supported by other practitioners who are known to be knowledgeable.

If the first practitioner is mindful, and has intellectual integrity, and isn’t clinging to that particular view, then they’ll accept that they were mistaken (hey, it happens to us all). And the community remains in harmony.

If the first practitioner is less mindful, doesn’t have intellectual integrity, and is clinging to that particular view, then they’re not going to be willing to admit that they’ve been mistaken. They might get angry and start accusing their critics of being “narrow-minded,” “egotistical,” of “not understanding the teachings,” that “the Buddha wouldn’t care about being misquoted,” and so on. And what results from this is disharmony.

One of the things that’s implicit here is that the Buddha advocated that the monks and nuns should be checking to see if what was being taught and relied upon was actually what he had taught. So he was, in effect, encouraging the community to weed out Fake Buddha Quotes — as well as encouraging people not to cause disharmony by clinging to those quotes.

One thought on “The Buddha on Fake Buddha Quotes (7)”

  1. Very “sensible” to use reasoning, common sense, and experience. But all 3 criteria are fallible and most people would still disagree; e.g., the arguments (disharmony?) between Theravadin and Mahayan teaching. I enjoyed your Book very much, thank you.

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