The Buddha, Einstein and Fake News

The other day someone passed me a book called ‘Einstein and the Buddha: Parallel Sayings’ by Thomas J. Farlane. “Now that might be an interesting read” I thought to myself. If ever you need to be reminded of the truth of that old saying “You can’t judge a book by its cover” read this little publication. Out of 125 quotations only 18 are attributed to the Buddha and of these only one is from the Dhammapada while all the rest are from Dwight Goddard’s ‘A Buddhist Bible’. Now you may know that Goddard’s book, first published in 1932, would have to be the most unreliable rendering of Mahayana sutras ever to see the light of day. Goddard was a Christian missionary in China, he knew no Sanskrit and where there was something which didn’t fit into what he thought the Buddha should have taught he just changed it accordingly. Even poor old Einstein hardly gets a hearing in Farlane’s book, despite the title there are only 25 quotes from him. The rest are from Taoist texts, Vedantic scriptures, Sri Aurobindo and some people I have never heard of; Godjin M. Nagao, Jagadish Chandra Chatterji, Cheng Chien, etc. As is often the case nowadays with westerners who write about Buddhism, Farlane uses ‘Buddha’ as a general catch-all phrase for any vague, feel-good or ‘deep’ spirituality that the author happens to like.



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