When Not to Quote It! 諸惡莫作,種善奉行,自凈其意,是諸佛教-幾時不該用!

To abstain from all evil, to do all good, to purify one’s mind,
this is the teaching of all Buddhas.

When not to quote it?  What can possibly go wrong?  Let me relate to you a funny incident.

Some years back when I was still training in a monastery in US, the Abbot, received a call from another venerable, an abbot of another monastery.

He called to express his displeasure with a Chinese New Year card he received from a person who trained in our monastery.  My abbot wondered what could possibly go wrong with a CNY greetings card.

This is what happened.

In the card, it reads (something that goes like this … )


祝你在這新春 『諸惡莫作,種善奉行,自凈其意,是諸佛教』

Translated, it means:

Dear Venerable,

This New Spring (Chinese New Year), wishing you

“To abstain from all evil, to do all good, to purify one’s mind, this is the teaching of all Buddhas.”

While it is a perfectly valid quote, it can be read as an exhortation or admonishment to the recipient “to abstain from all evil” and “to do all good”, possibly implying that the recipient is a doer of all evil and not a doer of good!

You can imagine the comedy that ensues!  Not so funny to the other abbot I tell you!

So when sending well wishes to others, one should be tactful on the possible misunderstanding if we are careless.

Also, between a junior to a senior, we usually send our regards and beseech the senior to have compassion to us and further teach and propagate the Dharma while a senior to a junior may exhort the junior to strive on, practise and progress towards enlightenment.  I always thought this is common knowledge, but it seem to escape some. :p

Lastly, a point to note about 『是諸佛教』.  There are a few ways to break this up and read it, and the two renderings below show how different it means:

是諸-佛教 – Is (as) all Buddhism.

是諸佛-教 – Is as taught by all Buddhas or Is the teachings of all Buddhas.

The second rendering is closer to what is meant.  『佛教』 or Buddhism as a term did not quite exist in Buddha’s time nor at the time of translation of the Dharmapada 《法句經》.  Comparing the Chinese translation with the Pali text and its translation reveals that the second rendering to be the right meaning.

So dear readers, wishing you “to abstain from … ” erm, nah, I’ll spare you the “well wishes” for now and stick to the usual

Suki hontu! May you be well and happy! ^_^