Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Begging Dalai's Pardon (not Dolly Parton)
About once every two or three months, a list starts circulating around the internet, via email chains or links to blogs, new age-ish websites, etc. The list is a wise, if not trite, collection of "Life Lessons from the Dalai Lama". Thoughts like, "Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly", "Once a year, go somewhere you've never been before", and "Great achievements involve great risk."
My problem with the list? The Dalai Lama hasn't ever gone on record saying these things. His last 'lesson', in particular, reeks of suspect dogma: "Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon." I'll buy that Rachel Ray might've said this, but not His Holiness.
Most of the quotes attributed to the 14th Dalai Lama actually come from a book you may have bought for one of your grandparents: "Life's Little Instruction Book" by H. Jackson Brown (who, incidentally, did not pen "Lawyers in Love").
Why am I so defensive about this? Well, certainly it bothers me that one of the spiritual figures I most admire is being misrepresented, but that kind of thing has happened to everyone from Jesus to Mohammed, and they are considered a deity and a prophet respectively, not just 'a simple monk'.
I think it's that we've come to accept a lot of our spiritual guidance as nothing more than a series of cliched self-help axioms, so naturally, when a man who has made some of the most profound statements about human suffering and existence is misquoted offering travel and culinary advice...well, I get a little twitchy.
We now live in a day and age where anyone can go online, attribute something, and it could very well go unchallenged until, just like in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance", legend becomes accepted as fact.
Intentional or not, it feels like a slippery slope.
To my Christian friends, I ask, how would you feel if someone claimed it was the Apostle Paul who famously said, "Life is like a box of chocolates...you never know what you're gonna get."
Besides, being raised Southern Baptist, I have a hard enough time defending my Eastern Philosophy leanings. Don't make it harder for me by turning the Dalai Lama into Erma Bombeck.