Someone raised a question in a Buddhist group — why are there so many fake Buddha quotes here?

To be honest, the so-called “fake Buddha quotes” do not bother me. In fact, some of these fake quotes are better than the ones which are deemed “original.” They are expressed in modern language, thus we can relate to them better. The ones who worry about “fake Buddha quotes” seem to have the idea that only the historical Buddha spoke the truth. But even whether there is a historical Buddha is questionable. The search for the historical Buddha is just as elusive as the search for the historical Jesus. For example, what exactly is the relationship between Jainism and Buddhism. And what is the relationship between Mahavira and the Gotama Buddha? In addition, as I understand it, all the Mahayana Sutras are of dubious origin with dubious authorship. They are most likely not authentic. Does it mean that there is no wisdom in the Mahayana tradition?

To me, truth is truth. It does not matter who speaks it. A rose is a rose. What you call it does not matter. In the Mahayana tradition, there is this teaching: “Follow the Dharma(the Truth), don’t follow the speaker.” The speaker is unimportant. If the speaker happens to be a bum in the street, and he speaks the truth, then the fact that he is a bum should not matter. By the same token, if someone has an elevated social position but he speaks falsehood, then his elevated social status does not mean that we should listen to him. Both Jiddu Krishnamurti and Gotama Buddha have warned us about “appealing to authority.” We should heed it.

This may sound like just common sense. But people are blinded by dogmatism. You can find dogmatism in any religion. There is dogmatism in monotheist religions. There is also dogmatism in the Indian and Buddhist religions. Yes, Buddhism is a little more tolerant. If you have a dissenting opinion in the Buddhist world, you probably will not be burned at stake. But, make no mistake about it, there is certainly intolerance to differences in opinion. Why? It is because one’s religion has become one’s expanded ego, and the common sentiment is that the ego has to be protected. One feels the obligation to protect one’s turf!

So, there are rivalries between different schools of Buddhism. First, there is a big rift between Theravada and Mahayana, between Mahayana and Vajrayana, etc. Historically, Buddhists also call the non-Buddhist teachers, especially the Hindu ones, “heretical.” The prejudice against people not from one’s own camp is real. If the teacher is not from one’s own camp, s/he is automatically an enemy to battle with. Note that this goes against the teaching of “Follow the Dharma, not the speaker.”

To sum up, beware of egotism and prejudices in religion. As humans, we all have such sentiments and tendencies. Just be mindful of it. How do we handle differences in opinion? I suggest that we debate in a civil manner. Previously, I recommended Graham’s Hierarchy of Argument. It is a rational approach. Let us not resort to name-calling or “ad hominem” arguments. Let us debate in good faith and with a kind heart that seeks understanding.

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