“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 a passage from the Jatakamala, or birth-stories of the Buddha. Here’s another version: “If a person acts inconsiderately, it is the duty of those who claim to be his friends to care for the good of their friend, be it even in a rough manner.” This is from Fausböll’s translation. I haven’t consulted the original Sanskrit to see exactly what it says.

If you’re not familiar with the Jatakas, they’re supposedly stories of the Buddha’s previous lives, illustrating his virtues as a bodhisatta. Many of these birth stories are regarded as being part of the Theravadin canon, and therefore a “genuine” part of the Buddha’s teaching. At the same time these were almost certainly pre-Buddhistic folk tales that became attached to the Buddhist tradition. So in a sense these are the Original Fake Buddha Quotes, which have been around so long that they are an accepted part of the Buddhist canon.

The Jatakamala is not a canonical work. It was composed in Sanskrit, probably around the first century several centuries after the Buddha) by Aryaśura. It seems that “new” Jataka stories continued to appear up until the 19th century, but the canon having been closed these aren’t accepted as official Buddhist teachings.

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