"The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered, ‘Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.’"It's a great quotation but according to the Damien Zone, it is a hoax,
"This quote, printed over a photograph of the Dalai Lama, is floating around on Facebook. It is inspiring millions of simple-minded Facebookers — but there’s a problem. HE NEVER SAID IT! There is no record of the Dalai Lama ever saying this and on his website there is no mention of it. Devout followers of the Dalai Lama say it is not true, but we live in the day where all one needs to do is put something up on Facebook and it becomes the law of the land — at least where idiots are concerned."I am no expert on the Dalai Lama but the case presented by the Damien Zone sounds plausible, and certainly a good deal more plausible than the simple pasting of a quotation next to the picture of the Dalai Lama.
Now of course if the Dalai Lama did not say that, how might the analogy help us with historical Jesus research? Or any research into great figures of the past? Misattributions of quotations to Winston Churchill are famous and even in our own area, there is a great misattribution of a saying to Schweitzer (about looking into the well) that was actually said by George Tyrrell.
I must admit that the ease with which misattribution like this can happen within someone's lifetime, as well as not long after their death, reminds us of just how perilous it is to build a picture of the historical Jesus that crudely assumes historicity for sayings material, screening the Gospel sayings and parsing them down to the nth degree to find nuances in what he said.
Imagine the historical Dalai Lama scholar in two thousand years with this multiply attested saying that emerges during the great man's own life time. What if the dissenting voices like the Damien Zone's get lost but the apparent witnesses to the saying remain? Every now and then a helpful analogy comes along to remind us how precarious the task of historical Jesus research can be.