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.