Letters - 20 October 2023

From Heeding authenticity to Hardship within Meetings

Heeding authenticity

It is without much surprise that I saw a fake Buddha quote in ‘The Secret’s Out’ by Tony D’Souza (15 September): ‘The Buddha rightly observed, “We are not punished for our anger, we are punished by it”.’

This is one of hundreds of utterances falsely attributed to the Buddha that will pop up if you type ‘Buddha quotes’ into an internet search engine.

The Pali cannon is four times the volume of the King James’ Bible, and, just like when the Bible or Quran are referred to, each Buddhist quote should ideally have diacritic marks or some other verifiable reference.

A website solely dedicated to fake Buddha quotes, https://fakebuddhaquotes.com, has a page on the above quote with a detailed investigation as to how it came to be. So far it has been traced down to the saying ‘We are punished by our sins, not for them’ found on page twelve of The Note Book of Elbert Hubbard (1927). It then went through several permutations arriving at its current variation. The website features at least 350 fake Buddha quotes proliferating on the internet and the number is growing.

What makes this particular quote an immediate suspect is the word ‘punished’, so ubiquitous in Abrahamic religions, yet hardly ever mentioned in Buddhist teachings. Even though the law of karma, that is, the process of cause and effect, is spoken of in the discourses – all it ultimately means is that actions, words and thoughts have consequences. It’s nothing to do with punishment or reward for anyone.

One may argue that this is unimportant as long as the quote sounds nice and may be in line with the teachings.

The Pali canon scriptures disagree, however, and show that the Buddha expressed concern, on several occasions, about misrepresentation, in future times, of his teachings which may be substituted by ‘discourses composed by poets – poetry, with fancy words and phrases, composed by outsiders’ (2.47 in the Anguttara Nikāya, a selection of the Buddha’s sayings). He also warned that when ‘the words and phrases [of the teaching] are misplaced’ and ‘the meaning is misinterpreted’, ‘the decline and disappearance of the true teaching’ will follow (2.20 in the Anguttara Nikāya).

And what can be a more poignant reference to the importance of heeding authenticity of sacred texts than this pithy exaltation of indisputable provenance: ‘Blessed are the cheesemakers!’ (Monty Python’s Life of Brian, 1979).

Vitaly Yerenkov
Relationships manager,

the Friend

Editor’s note: Apologies, Friends, Vitaly spotted this error too late for correction. We’ll be sure to check all quotes at a more reputable source in future.


Peace, as Quakers know well, is a process not a destination. It is well served as we also know, by quiet voices, in small circles, lovingly seeking the other’s view and understanding.

Oh please, when reading Ol Rappaport’s interesting book review (6 October), can we all remember that in 1948 some eighty per cent of the population of the Palestine lands which the Israeli army took, were driven out to be refugees?

About 700,000 people of all ages. They and their descendants have lived in refugee camps in Gaza, Lebanon, the West Bank (occupied by Israel in 1967) and have lived elsewhere in the Palestine diaspora ever since.

Peace can come when they are granted the right to return to their land and homes.

Not until then, it seems reasonable to foresee.

Let us hold them in the Light.

Timothy Phillips

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