mikenz66 wrote: binocular wrote:
In a recent
thread, several posters argued quite convincingly that all one has to go by is one's experience, which makes the misquote in the OP not look like such a misquote after all.
I think that's a rather different issue. That thread was about whether or not there was a real world "out there". My comment was that "all we have to work
with is our experience", by which I meant that I think that Dhamma practice is about understanding and working with our experiences. It wasn't intended to be a dismissal of the importance of clearly understanding what the Buddha taught in order to do that work.
I didn't write the above with you in mind. Some do argue that since experience is all we have to work with, experience is all there is, and can even provide canonical sources to support this.
Anyway, I think a key problem here is that we, as Westerners, may be operating with some specifically Western terms, or specifically Western understanding of terms, without even noticing this, and then reading Eastern sources using those terms can become really tricky.
Usually, as Westerners, we operate out of (a version of) the Correspondence Theory of Truth. But there are many theories of truth
. Which one did the Buddha operate out of? Or does the question not apply to begin with?
The Buddha said: "Do not believe in anyone just because he is a teacher, he speaks eloquently or is otherwise impressive. Do not even believe in my words - just because I said them, but try to experience everything by yourself. Only if you experience the Dhamma by yourself does it become your wisdom. Belief is only belief, not knowing, not wisdom. If you experience things yourself then no-one can tell you that it is not like that, because you know it from your own experience."
"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 unwholesome; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said."
"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 wholesome; 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."
It seems to me that the underlined portion is key, and missing from the misquote.
Not unless by "experience" we understand 'When you know for yourselves that
, 'These qualities are wholesome; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness /etc./'.
The term "experience" can be used to have a wide range of meanings - anything from simply 'experincing a sensation in the body' to 'lessons learned from life'. Which is why it's a delicate term to use.
Experience being all we have to go on is a trenchant observation, but there are ways to attend appropriately and ways to not so attend as a result of this. The original sutta contains the relevant frame of reference - wholesomeness - while the misquote does not.
There's another issue with analyzing misquotes: Are we trying to establish whether a particular statement is line with the Dhamma, or are we trying to establish whether it is in line with the truth, with "how things really are"?
Note that this very dichotomy may be seen as false by some people, but perfectly justified by others.
So some people may say that a particular statement is in line with the Buddhist teachings, but that it is not true or wholesome. Typically, that stance can be expected from someone who seems knowledgeable of Buddhism, but himself is not a Buddhist, or is a Buddhist "with reservations." For these, the dichotomy is justified.
For some devoted Buddhists, the dichotomy is a false one, because they believe that the Dhamma is the way things really are.
Often, misquotes come from non-Buddhists. Their intention probably wasn't to wrongly represent the Buddha. It seems like they wanted to state how "things really are" as such and adapted or interpreted a scriptural source to help them a bit with the phrasing.