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Lions Roar : September 2017
heedfulness. Guard your mind.” Note that there is no sugges- tion of our “being the witness.” The final sentence—“You are what observes, not what you observe”—comes not from Byrom, but from the writings of Robert Earl Burton, founder of the California-based Fellowship of Friends, which describes itself as a “fourth way” spiritual tra- dition along the lines of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. The concept of a “witness consciousness” is drawn not from Buddhism but from the Advaita Vedanta tradition. Hinduism is concerned with identifying the “real self ” (atman in Sanskrit, atta in Pali), which in this case is taken to be the mind’s obser- vational activity. The Buddha’s position regarding views of the self was utterly different. He pointed out that anything you might take to be the essence of who you are—your physical form or your conscious- ness—is in fact anatta (not self ). On the way to awakening, all self-identification is to be abandoned, and you certainly cannot take the part of yourself that observes experience—or any part of yourself—to be the essential “you.” So this quote, which pur- ports to be the Buddha’s teaching—and is often cited by Bud- dhists—directly contradicts the dharma. Did the Buddha say something even vaguely like this? No, the Buddha never told us to “go with the flow.” He did not use metaphors like “the flow of the universe.” He did, however, talk about streams and rivers in a metaphorical way. Here’s a lovely, actual example from the Nalaka Sutta: Know from the rivers in clefts and in crevices: those in small channels flow noisily, the great flow silent. Whatever’s not full makes noise. Whatever is full is quiet. Did the Buddha say something even vaguely like this? Yes... and no! Many fake Buddha quotes are of course dharmic in spirit, sometimes even being paraphrases of scriptural text. But a number of them misrepresent the Buddha’s teachings. One kind of distortion we see in these fake quotes is the impor- tation of concepts from other spiritual traditions. The first two sentences of this quote are from Thomas Byrom’s rendering of the Dhammapada, an early Buddhist text. The original Pali literally translates as, “Be devoted to Did the Buddha say something even vaguely like this? Actually, yes! This one is more or less legitimate. It’s from a well-known passage in the Vinaya (the book of monastic con- duct) about a monk who was sick. One translation renders it as, “If you don’t tend to one another, who then will tend to you?” In our version here, it’s been changed from second person to first, but otherwise it’s accurate, and it would seem excessively nit-picking to call it fake. LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2017 68