Friday, May 18, 2012

Beware: Fake Buddha Quotations

It has recently come to my attention that a number of widely-used Buddha quotes circulating around the internet are fake. Most of the quotations are things that have actually been said by someone, but have somehow been falsely attributed to the Buddha. Some are modern paraphrases of things the Buddha said as others explain the context of particular Buddhist scriptures. Others have just simply been made up.

Of course, I cannot take credit for this discovery. Since his first post about fake Buddha quotes in 2009, Bodhipaksa at Bodhi Tree Swaying has become (perhaps an unintended) authority on quotations falsely attributed to the Buddha. So far, he has written almost 30 posts about erroneous Buddha quotations from around the internet, discovered by himself, close friends, and his blog followers. Usually, he explains why the quotation is false, and cites where it actually came (or may have come) from. However, some 'fake' quotations he leaves unexplained, and are therefore not mentioned in this post.

The following are examples of fake Buddha quotations pointed out by Bodhipaksa, which I have linked to appropriate posts on his blog. I think you will find that these are prominent quotations, and like me, may have even considered them your favorite 'Buddha quotations'! Here they are: 

"You cannot travel the Path until you become the Path itself." The original source of this quotation is listed in the comments of this linked post

finally (and ironically):

As I mentioned before, there are quite a few more, which you should feel free to look up.

Of course, it doesn't help that these false quotations are constantly perpetuated on the internet, especially through facebook and twitter. Bodhipaksa also states that many of these false Buddha quotations have even made it into published books. How could this happen? Why are writers not doing their research? 

The prevalence of fake Buddha quotations was initially quite shocking to me, as I am sure it is embarrassing to authors who have used these quotations in their writings. As for (inadvertently) perpetuating the fake Buddha quotes on twitter, I am among the guilty. Although I avoided 'Buddha' quotes that seemed too 'touchy-feel-y' or 'new age-y', I did so because I felt that the language didn't sound right, not because I thought the quotations were complete forgeries. My mistake!  

Although discovering these fake Buddha quotes was initially disturbing to me, I would like to emphasize that I think Bodhipaksa is doing a great service. His blog posts have brought this issue to light, and because of that we can all be more aware and questioning of the origins of Buddha quotations, and be careful in how we attribute them. I for one was humbled by this revelation, and have resolved to be more discerning in the future, just as I would be while reading a peer-reviewed scientific paper in Plant Biology. I have therefore done my best to remove false quotations from ByChanceBuddhism, but if you see one, please let me know!      

Finally, I want to mention that although being discovered as fakes can cause them to lose their luster, there is nothing intrinsically bad about the above quotations. I for one believe that if they give peace to someone and help them in their spiritual journey, they still have merit. It is just important that they be properly attributed, so that in the future sayings categorized as 'Buddha quotes' remain true to and do not distort the core teachings of Buddhism.

What did you think about this post? Did its contents surprise you? Please share with me your reaction, as I am anxious to discuss this issue. In the very least, I hope this discussion will help others avoid the mistakes I have made! Also, if you would like to discuss how to avoid fake Buddha quotations, please see my next post

May all beings be happy!


  1. Hello Renata,
    This has been a very HELPFUL POST!!!

    I've figured this all along, that's the reason I didn't want to place quotes on my blog.

    I hope many others will visit this post you posted on your blog so they'll become AWARE if they weren't already AWARE of this GREAT INFORMATION you've shared!!!

    1. Hello Lon,

      Thank you so very much for your kind comment- I am glad this post was helpful to you, and hope that it will help others. But I certainly cannot take most of the credit, as I mention above. I just thought it was important to compile some of the false quotations mentioned by Bodhipasksa, so that people can discuss them here in the comments. Kudos to you for being so aware and not placing quotations on your blog. Your instincts were much better than mine! :)

      I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

  2. Thanks for sharing all this great information Renata. I've put many quotes on my blog and I see that there are probably many that might not have been truly quotes from Buddha. BUT, they are still very good and inspirational, so in meaning, they are still very meaningful.

    1. Thanks so much, quietmind279, for commenting!

      Don't worry about the Buddha quotes on your blog- you are not the only one! I am right there with you! :)

      This post was more of a 'food for thought' type thing, and a compilation of my thoughts on a discovery that, to me, was mind-blowing (how could people misattribute SO MANY quotes, especially AUTHORS of BOOKS?!)

      Anyway, you are totally right, it is the meaning that counts. Awareness of origin is good, but living the words that resonate within oneself is also good!

      May you be well- have a great weekend!

  3. Thank you for this post. It touches a nerve (but in a good way!) as I realise that I may well be guilty of both misquoting the Buddha (one of the quotes I recently cited on my blog was very similar to the one Bodhipaksa says isn't really a quote - but I found it it in a book about Buddhism so assumed it was!)and also reading books about Buddhism rather than the scriptures themselves.

    Your post is a prompt to be more mindful of this, and for that I thank you sincerely.

    1. Dear livegrownourishcreate,
      Welcome to ByChanceBuddhism! Thank you so much for your kind comment. I must admit, I was annoyed when I learned of all these fake quotes, especially with myself. This is because as someone who studies science, from day one it was cite, cite, cite! I don't know why I saw 'Buddha quotes' strewn around the internet as an exception!

      But anyway, I am glad I know so I can be more careful in the future. As I state above, I think Bohdipaksa is doing a great service. I wanted to write this post to emphasize that, and also share my new awareness with others. I am so glad this post helped you become more mindful too!

      Thanks again, have a wonderful weekend!

      May you be well!

  4. Thank you for posting this!I've been impressed by this post.
    My favourite quotes
    A jug fills drop by drop.
    – Buddha
    i like quotes because So much wisdom in such a few words.Buddha’s words are wise so i like it...
    get more quotes please refer this page
    Good work.

    1. Thanks, quality point, for your kind comment. Have a great day!

  5. In the Kalama Sutta of the Tipitaka the Buddha does say something similar to the last quote, although he does NOT say to believe something merely because it agrees with your reasoning or common sense.

    "Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them."

    1. Thanks so much, RyoGTO, for your input, and the passage from the Tipitaka. It is important to know the true quote and where it came from in the scriptures, even if it possesses a superficial similarity to the 'popular' quotation.


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