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  • Writer's pictureUttamayanmuni

Reflections on The Kalama Sutta

Once the Buddha was staying in a town in northern India called Kesaputta where the Kalama clan lived.  The Kalamas visited the Buddha and asked him: “There are some holy men and priests, Venerable Sir, who come and claim that only their teaching is right and condemn the teachings of others. Then some other holy men and priests came to Kesaputta; and they, in turn, claim that their teaching is right and others wrong.  As a result, doubt has come to us.  Which of these holy men and priests spoke the truth?” The  Buddha replied: “It is proper to doubt in things that are doubtful.  Come, O Kalamas:”

1) Do not believe anything based on revelation

2) Do not believe anything through tradition handed down from the past

3) Do not believe anything through hearsay (gossip, rumour, etc.)

4) Do not believe anything because it accords with the holy scriptures

5) Do not believe anything through logic

6) Do not believe anything because it is a point of view.

7) Do not believe anything through having considered the reasons

8) Do not believe anything because one is convinced of some theory

9) Do not believe anything through the testimony of some reliable person

10) Do not believe in anything thinking, “This person is a great preacher”.

“Kalamas, when you yourselves know what is evil, blameworthy and censured by the enlightened wise, abandon those things.  When you yourselves know that these things are good, not blameworthy, but praised by the wise, accept and practise them” These famous words of the Buddha, often been called  the Charter of Free Inquiry (Kesaputtiya Sutta, A1:188 f, 2:91 f.), were given by the Buddha over 2,500 years ago and their openness and uniqueness are still unrivalled even today.  It reflects the Buddhist spirit of free thought and investigation leading to proper practice and self-realization of the true nature of our existence and so winning true self-liberation. Meaning of the Kalama Sutta

The Kalama Sutta has often been quoted but more often misquoted.  Some erroneously regard the discourse as a carte blanche for transcendental licence and religious anarchy.  It must be remembered here that spiritual doubt is a mental hindrance to spiritual development (A 3:62; Vbh 378). Most people seem to know only about the first portion of the discourse, that is, the ten points of criteria for the acceptance of a teaching or idea.  This interesting discourse has three other important sections of which we should be aware. After speaking on the tenfold criteria for accepting a teaching or idea,, the Buddha goes on to point out that when you have no greed, no hate and no delusion. You would enjoy benefit and happiness for a long time. The Buddha then speaks on the Four Divine Abodes (Brahma vihara) or Positive Emotions, that is, the cultivation of Loving kindness, of Compassion, of Altruistic Joy and of Spiritual Equanimity.  For the beginner, it is sufficient to keep to the first practice – the Cultivation of Loving kindness (metta bhavana), which, among other blessings, helps you to overcome fear, have courage to face people and generally keep a positive mind.

The Four Solaces

The closing section of the Kalama Sutta, which deals with the Four Solaces is, to me, is most interesting and important section.  As such, I shall quote it in full: The disciple of the Noble Ones, Kalamas, who has such a mind that is hate-free, malice-free, undefliled and purified, is one by whom four solaces are found here and now:

1) “Suppose there is an afterlife and there is the result of deeds, good or evil; then it is possible that after I die, I shall be born in heaven, endowed with bliss” This is the first solace found in him.

2) “Suppose there is no afterlife and there is no result of deeds, good or evil; yet in this world, here and now, free of hate, free of malice, safe and happy am I”.  This is the second solace found in him.

3) “Suppose  evil begets evil; then, how can evil come to me who has done no evil deed?” This is the third solace found in him.

4) “Suppose evil-doer does not beget evil; then I see myself purified both ways (i.e. Whether unintentionally or intentionally)”.  This is the fourth solace found in him.

At the end of the Buddha's discourse, the Kalamas were delighted and became Buddhists for the rest of their lives. This four solaces, incidentally, is the Buddha's answer to Pascal's Wager* even before it was formulated! *Piscal’s Wager:The Evangelists claim that if God does not actually exist, then it is all right for the Buddhists and nothing would happen to those who believe in him, too.  However, they claim suppose that God does exist after all – then believers would stand to benefit but what would happen to the Buddhists?

Buddha's Challenge Budhism is a religion for you to “come and see” for oneself.  One has only to give yourself a chance to have a taste of the Buddha's Teachings: that would be an unforgettable experience and a most worthwhile one.  Once the Buddha said in the Udumbarika Lion-roar Discourse: Let any intelligent man who is honest, not a deceiver, but an upright man come to me.  I will teach him the Truth.  And if he practices according to my instructions, he shall realize that supreme goal for the sake of which people renounce the world to lead the homeless religious life. He shall realize that supreme goal in seven years... even one month..nay, if he so practices for even seven days, such a man coming to me shall so realize that supreme state(D 3:56) Whether Buddhas arise or not, the Buddha declare

s, the Dharma is always there; but it is the Buddha who clearly shows us what this Truth is and from whose knowledge we benefit. However, we must exert ourselves:  Buddhas are showers of the way. We must walk the Path!!  

By ourselves is evil done, By ourselves we pain endure, By ourselves evil not done By ourselves become we pure One is pure or impure within: No one can purify another  

                                    (Dhammapada 165)

By you is the task to be done The Perfect Buddhas are showers of the Way Those who are practised in meditation Are released from the bonds of the Evil One

                                     (Dhammapada 276)

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