Monday, January 7, 2013

Not again! The Dalai Lama's 18 Rules for Living: Another fake

Okay, let's cut right to the chase: You know the "Dalai Lama's 18 Rules for Living"? FAKE with a capital F. But I promise, I really don't mean to be a kill-joy or know-it-all. Being the inquisitive person I am, I try to get to the bottom of things . . .

A while ago, I viewed this YouTube video featuring "the Dalai Lama's 18 Rules for Living". They really resonated with me, and so being a fan of H.H., I wanted to share them with others here at BCB. 


However, given the epidemic of fake Buddha quotes on the internet, I erred on the side of caution and decided to first check the source of these great sayings. And BAM! to my dismay one of the first hits from googling "The Dalai Lama's 18 Rules for Living" is an article from Snopes.com, an internet urban legend and fact-check website. As it turns out, the Dalai Lama is not the source of these quotations. They are from a book written by H. Jackson Brown, Jr., called Life's Little Instruction Book: 511 Suggestions, Observations, and Reminders on How to Live a Happy and Rewarding Life.

The Snopes.com article reveals that a list of 45 of the 511 tips from the Life's Little Instruction Book was first portrayed as 'modern Japanese good luck tantra' or a 'Nepalese tantra totem' in a 1999 email chain letter. I gather that apparently since then someone cherry-picked the ones that 'sounded' like the Dalai Lama, making up a concise list to "oooo" and "ahhh" about- and share with others in emails and blog posts. Moving to the YouTube age, someone synchronized these tips with soothing music and photos of mountain scenes, smiling Tibetan children, and of course the ever-benevolent-looking Dalai Lama.  

I have found this video posted on several blogs (some of them Buddhist blogs) where the author gushes about how much each point resonated with them (like I almost did!). While it is good that some people (not me, by the way) have taken the time to post in the comments that the Dalai Lama didn't write these sayings, often all the author says is 'oh no!' - but does not update the post to inform readers of their error- and the true source of the quotations. 

I know that misattribution has always been a problem in literate societies, but things like this are starting to annoy me. In this age of the internet we do get bombarded by too much information, and we can't possibly keep track of it all. But we also know that it is SO EASY to check the accuracy of quotes like these. Not to mention, the Dalai Lama has actually said a lot of great things that could have been put into a nice little list of 'Rules for Living', but for some reason the misattributed ones were perpetuated instead. 

And then there's the hand-waving, "but it doesn't really matter who said them, as long as they help people" excuse. I agree with this in some situations, but certainly not in this one. The source of these quotations was a book, written by an author who no doubt put time and effort into writing it. In this instance misattribution is actually hurting someone, because not only is their work is being misrepresented, but they are not being given any credit for it. 

So did the person or people who took those tips from Life's Little Instruction Book mean to hurt the author? In a way, they must have known they were doing some harm, because rather than giving the author his due credit, they attributed the list of life lessons to a nebulous, 'exotic' source. However, as I'm sure the 'creators' of the chain email delighted in seeing it go to recipients around the world, the real driving force here is probably what it usually is- human ego. 

With that, I will leave you with some very wise words from Howard Wolowitz, M.Eng, the nerdy engineer character on the 'geekarific' hit show "The Big Bang Theory". Enjoy!    



*****
May all beings be happy (and at least look for truth on the internet)! :)

For a list of quotations and writings from H.H. The Dalai Lama, please check out these, from Bamboo in the Wind.

8 comments:

  1. I'd never come across this before, but since discovering Fake Buddha Quotes (via you) I am much more careful about citing quotations - and cringe a lot more when I see others doing so.

    As you say, it doesn't take long to check.

    Thanks for your conscientiousness in bringing this to people's attention.

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    1. Hello VivJM!

      Thanks so much for your kind and supportive comment. I actually came across the truth about the 18 Rules because one of my tips to avoid fake Buddha quotes was to quote people who are now living. It does appear to be safer in general, but as we can see from this example, every quote must be checked.

      I am glad that this post helped you in some way, because that is all I want to do here at BCB. But of course I cannot take full credit- it is because of Bodhipaksa at Bodhi tree swaying that I have become aware of fake (Buddha) quotes in the first place. I don't know if you saw the recent update here at BCB to all the fake Buddha stuff, but now Bodhipaksa has established a 'Fake Buddha Quotes' blog that stands on its own. It is a good resource to check what is not real, and Bodhipaksa does a great job explaining why. Not only that, but he also has a separate page on the site that lists genuine Buddha quotations, which is also very helpful.

      Again, I am glad that this article has helped you in some way, and thank you very much for your praise of what I am doing here. It means a lot!

      With Metta,
      Renata

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  2. Hi Renata,

    thank you for having an inquisitive mind. I came upon your blog through google after searching for the original source for these 18 "rules". While not being a budhist (at least not yet :) but merely a searching soul, some of them did not resonate very well with my understanding of some of Dalai Lama's thoughts as presented in Cutler's interview style book with him.

    Best wishes,
    NorthernGuy

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    1. Dear NorthernGuy,

      Thanks so much for your kind comment. I rejoice in YOUR inquisitive mind as well. It's funny how sometimes when we read or perceive something, we feel like something is just not right. Thanks so much for taking the time to follow your intuition, and of course for visiting BCB!

      With Metta,

      Renata

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  3. I thought it didn't sound like HH.
    Thanks for looking into it~!
    :)

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    1. You're very welcome! Thanks for stopping by!

      - With Metta,

      Renata

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  4. Thank you. I got these 18 rules twice in the last week and I doubted it immediately. Today even my Buddhist teacher sent it via a Losar New Years Greeting and I questioned its origin also immediately to him.

    Thank you for your checking and clarification.

    In the past I stumbled upon "a recording of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his entourage chanting prayers at the sickbed of his dear friend Vaclav Havel" – you find this also on YouTube. But this mantra is also a fake:

    http://spatula.net/blog/2007/03/not-dalai-lama.html

    It is simply a Hindu Mantra called the Gayatri Mantra. You can learn more about it at the link below.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gayatri_Mantra

    In Germany the Dalai Lama was even nastily attacked by a newspaper article for his "naive sayings" but when I checked what they claimed the Dalai Lama said, I found out, that it was not from the Dalai Lama but an anonymous website full of such sayings. The Dalai Lama has a special way of expressing himself and how he renders things, with some carefulness one can prevent to spread things the Dalai Lama never said.

    Nowadays even Buddhist centres, like the Centre I studied in Italy, Istituto Lama Tsong Khapa, sell "sayings by the Dalai Lama" like the "Paradox of our Age" printed on nice cloth with colorful designed. However, also this "Paradox of our Age" is not by the Dalai Lama but Jeff Dickson. Details see here.

    http://www.snopes.com/politics/soapbox/paradox.asp

    I think this is not a good development and I wish people are more careful. In the long run it distorts the real message of His Holiness which is by far profounder than many of those superficial sayings that sound nice but don’t have much of a substance.

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    1. Dear Tenzin Peljor,

      Thank you so much for your kind compliment, and for your insightful and informative comment. It seems that there is so much misinformation out there, not just about Buddhism, but about everything. In our consumer culture, one thing we consume the most nowadays is information. It is becoming more and more clear that in our consumption - and passing on - of information, we must also be responsible for making an honest effort in determining that what we learn and pass to others is actually true. I know mistakes happen, and I know I have made them myself, but it is a time to be vigilant.

      With Metta,

      Renata

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Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and leave a comment! If you enjoyed this post, please share with others. -With Metta, Renata