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?’