REVIEW: I Can't Believe It's Not Buddha!: What Fake Buddha Quotes Can Teach Us About Buddhism, Bodhipaksa

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Quotes from the Buddha are everywhere: on Facebook, Instagram, coffee mugs, posters. There's only one problem: the Buddha didn't actually say most of them. This humorous and informative book takes these fake Buddha quotes as a launching point for a discussion on what the Buddha really did say, and is a great entry point for those interested in learning more about Buddhism--what it is, and what it isn't. Bodhipaksa, a well-known Buddhist teacher and the founder of, takes a look at some of the quotes that are erroneously attributed to the Buddha, explains the ways in which these disagree (or sometimes agree) with Buddhist teachings, and offers some genuine examples of the Buddha's words.

Wow. Can we just take a moment to fully appreciate the title of this book? "I Can’t Believe It's Not Buddha!"?? If I was scoring this book purely on the title, for that it would immediately get five stars. Bravo.
But that is not the case. Although, the inner pages of this slim book do a lot to reflect their outer cover. By steeping the book in a multitude of references to popular culture and social media, Bodhipaksa reflects on one of the oldest religions in the modern world, is interpreted by society of the twenty-first century.
It is a truly fascinating concept, and one that clearly shows Buddhism’s core principles and how its universality has managed the survive the tribulations of the changing centuries.
For a long time, despite living in England and not be much exposed to Buddhism outside of the occasional article online, I have been fascinated by the religion and have always stated that - when comparing all of the world’s major religions - Buddhism is the one that I would feel the most comfortable following if, at any point, I was to abandon the atheistic affect and surrender to a religion.
Therefore, I Can’t Believe It's Not Buddha! acted as an initial stepping-stone away from the vagaries and misconceptions that I had read up until this point, and introduced me instead to the formal teachings of the Buddha and the resulting interpreted philosophies. And, having been brought up in a country that pushes the Christianity-or-bust rhetoric, it was a perfect introduction to a set of beliefs that I had little to no framework for.
Which should have meant that the book would have been hard to get through; as I imagine any non-Christian person approaching the Bible or a related text would have found but, with Bodhipaksa’s inclusion of humour and wit and sense of modernity, it managed to be accessible and I flew through it over the course of a single afternoon.
And, I think that’s where most religions hit their speed-bumps - in this materialistic, consumer-driven, technology-enhanced world, for many of my own generation, they seem to be rendered out-dated and even obsolete.
Why should we care about what some old dude thinks about gay marriage?
I mean, unless he wants to engage in it, he really shouldn’t be saying anything.
They seem archaic, small-minded and stuffy, whereas Buddhism (probably the oldest of the lot) feels relevant and filled with light and new possibility. And I think, when others read I Can’t Believe It's Not Buddha!, that they will feel the same.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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