December 13, 2010

Why the Buddha Smiled

A Tricycle community member forwarded me a link to Why the Buddha Smiled by Marianne Marquez this morning, which I was very happy to learn is now available for free on the web here.  It is a complilation of quotes from and about the Buddha, each paired with a photograph or work of art.  Here are some examples:



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Monty McKeever's picture

Hi everybody,

Thanks for commenting.

Indeed, those Buddha quotes from the Marquez book do seem questionable. In retrospect, I should have mentioned that I wasn't sure how legitimate they all are.

That said, I am not quite sure I would call them all fake.

For example, as Bodhipaksha points out in his blog, the quote "“The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart.”"

seems to be an adaptation of:

“There is no track in the sky;
There is no ascetic outside [of this teaching].”

This is clearly a VERY bold adaptation.

On the other hand, Bodhipaksha also says "Every single one of the quotes on that Tricycle page tht are attributed to the Buddha are in fact fake Buddha Quotes."

Here is the translation of the second Buddha quote from, which I recognized as being from the Kalama Sutra (

"So, as I said, 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.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said."

In this case, I don't agree that the quote from the Marquez book is "fake." A less accurate translation? Most definitely.

arminn's picture

Thank you. Since I'm not a Pali or Sanskrit scholar, I can't verify that what this link reports is valid. Even if he is correct about the mistranslations or mis-attributions, I wonder about the vehemence and the anger that accompanies the presentation. It smacks of something rotten and essentially non-Buddhist. These are the ravings of the self-righteousness and the narcissistic self-congratulation that one observes in fundamentalists. These may not be direct quotes of the historical Buddha, and may indeed be mis-attributions, but they convey the essence of his Dharma. It would have sufficed to state that these are attributions and not true quotes from the Pali Cannon. After all, the Pali Cannon itself was compiled and written down years after the death of the Buddha.

NellaLou's picture

I don't find Bodhipaksa's discussion of these misattributions or mistranslations either vehement or angry and pretty far from ravings. Your over-reaction to these corrections is far closer to that vein it seems to me.

If the statements are not in accord with Buddhist teachings and are rather a "gloss" of what we would like to believe about Buddhism they do no service to anyone and only further our delusions. That is not the purpose of the Buddhadharma. To make mention of this is quite the opposite of "narcissistic self-congratulation" and is more of a service to the practitioner than promoting some self-created and "comfortable" McBuddhism.

arminn's picture

My comments were not an over-reaction to the corrections. In fact I do care about accuracy and so appreciate them.

What my comments may have been an 'over-reaction' to was the emotional intent of the presentation. I admit that it would have probably been much better for me not to have gotten into this. But I did, so here comes a clarification.

Words such as "fake," in this context, connote disdain. You can't in all honesty deny that. The provokative manner in which Bodhipaksa calls out Tricycle, the open disdain that he declares in connection with some contemporary Buddhist teachers are aggressive and Sangha-divisive, not to mention blatantly attention- seeking. That's what I reacted to. I'm calling him out on it. And I mean no harm by it.
Is it unkind to call him out?

Like you, I also have a strong feeling about McDonaldization of the Bodhidharma but I still don't see a validity that this slide show of pictures paired with words of Buddhist wisdom (regardless of whether they were or not actually uttered by the historical Buddha) is something that would "further our illusion." Far from it. Do you really think that the ideas expressed in this slide are 'self-created and comfortable McBuddhism?' This is neither a kind nor accurate thing to say.

Bodhipaksa is also implying that Buddhism is only the pure utterances of the historical Buddha. But you see, Buddhism didn't stop there. Buddhism is an ever evolving religion that finds ever fresh ways to express the Truth of Awakening in different contexts and cultures. This slide show is anything but traditional and may even include some misattributions. But still, can you go through the slides and argue with the Dharmic meaning of any of the statements? I invite you to do that and you'll see.

Anyways, in the end, It would have sufficed for Bodhipaksa to say that some of these quotes are misattributions or mistranslations. That would have been enough to know and also quite important and helpful in its own way. No excessive expressed emotion was really needed. Peace.

NellaLou's picture

Perhaps the authors will find this of interest regarding the veracity of those quotes:

arminn's picture

How beautiful and straight to the heart. Thank you.