Sunday, August 16, 2009

Buddhism On Wikipedia Again

I return to the subject of Dhamma on Wikipedia. Yesterday I looked up ‘Compassion’ to see what it would say about this supreme Buddhist virtue. What a letdown! The short section on compassion in Buddhism starts off with a mistake. The author has used an online version of my Buddha Vacana where the quote he or she gives is clearly marked as NOT being from the Buddha but from the Dhammapada Atthakatha. It then gives a garbled and inaccurate version of Samyutta Nikaya V,2, mistakenly replacing ‘compassion’ with the original ‘spiritual friendship’ (kalyana mittata). No citation is given either, showing, if it were needed, that the author has simply copied someone else’s confused second or third-hand version of the sutta rather than checking the original, which he or she could have easily done. Next we have a quote from the Dalai Lama worthy of a cheap greeting card (I’m sorry to say that some of the Dalai Lama’s pronouncements are getting more and more trite, and this one certainly is). After this comes a quotation from Bhikkhu Bodhi which saves the Buddhist part of the article from being completely worthless. And finally, there is a loose paraphrase of Samyutta Nikaya I, 75, ‘It is possible to travel the whole world in search of one who is more worthy of compassion than oneself. No such person can be found.’ The problem is that the original does not mention compassion but piya, which is never, to the best of my knowledge, translated as compassion. And again, being unfamiliar with the original, no citation is given. It is a great pity that such an important, positive and attractive aspect of the Buddha’s teaching is dealt with so briefly and so clumsily.
Next I turned to ‘Karuna’ to see what is said there. This article is a little better than ‘Compassion’ but it is again very short and gives only one quote from the many it could have used from the Pali Tipitaka and gives only two from the vast store of inspiring and beautiful references to karuna in the Mahayana sutras and sastras. Then, with increasing trepidation, I looked up ‘Brahma Vihara’. This article starts by incorrectly saying that ‘brahma’ means ‘abiding’ and goes on to state that the Tevijja Sutta is from the Majjhima Nikaya. Groan! Perhaps worst of all, it presents the Brahma Viharas only as a way you can get to heaven and counter your negative mental states. Not a single mention of altruism, benevolent helping or caring about others. This is all very disappointing. Again I ask, ‘What can be done to give a more accurate and extensive presence of Buddhism on Wikipedia?’

6 comments:

Branko said...

Bhante, the first answer to your question at the end of the post that comes to my mind is simply to replace Wikipedia "Compassion" article with the corresponding article from your "Buddhism from A to Z". Just as a first step...

yuri said...

Dear S.Dhammika, I think Wikipedia has some mechanism for correcting mistakes and getting new articles published. So probably you could do something about it. But the problem with scriptures — Buddhist and Christians — is so complicated. Neither Jesus not the Buddha left a single line of their teachings in their own hand. So what we have in the New Testament or Tipitaka is totally dependent on human memory, the level of understanding and the play of imagination. Modern scholars found so many problems of authenticity in the New Testament. I am sure Tipitaka has the same problems. For example, the Sakkapanha Sutta, you wrote about in April is an obvious myth. I found that «Buddha's» reply to the first question was too simplistic and Sakka's exclamations of praise were rather theatrical. We have much better exposition of the Buddha's views on the matter elsewhere. What made the reading useful was the second question and the answer to it — on various teachings...
I very much hope that if Metteya ever comes to this world or The Second Coming of Jesus takes place, they will give at least the gist of their teachings in a written form. Judging by the gospel of Thomas I strongly feel that if Jesus had written down the main points of his Teaching we wouldn't have had Christianity at all. But something very similar to Buddhism of Theravada or even more probably of Mahayana :))).

Perry said...

Bhante, most subjects on Wikipedia have a specific "WikiProject" which is a group of members who work together to improve the subjects articles on Wikipedia.

Buddhism appears to be no different (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Buddhism). Perhaps somebody with both a lot of spare time (which I'm sure would rule out Bhante Dhammika), as well as a lot of Buddhist knowledge (rules me out for the most part, unfortunately!) could join the project and help improvements.

David (TheDhamma.com) said...

Once I corrected an article by placing your (Bhante Dhammika's) information from your sites to the wikipedia article and I sourced it to you.
And then somebody just deleted my whole edit. That is the problem over there at Wikipedia. Even when something is corrected or improved, there is likely to be someone else to revert it back.
You can always get in long discussions on the discussion pages to justify your edits, but sometimes it just feels like it is not worth it.

no said...

I think users know that the Wikipedia is not to be taken as authoritative. First, what are the credentials of the editors… and as the saying goes, "too many cooks spoil the broth". Having said that, it is a quick and easy way to get a general idea on a subject from various sources and schools of thought, and the links provide very useful leads to “authoritative” materials and for further research. For these, I am grateful, despite the weaknesses. And if someone who read the article were stirred to look further into compassion and recognise its importance, then I think much good is done.

bhavana said...

Dhamma Greetings Bhante Dhammika,

what I think is, that you are the right one to care for these articles.

I don't no for shure, but some articles are restricted in the editability, so you would be the right one to rule over this.

May All Beings Be Happy