Jun 05 2012

The Kalama Sutra

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…The Buddha once visited a small town called Kesaputta in the kingdom of Kosala. The inhabitants of this town were known by the common name Kalama. When they heard that the Buddha was in their town, the Kalamas paid him a visit, and told him:

“Sir, there are some recluses and brahmanas who visit Kesaputta. They explain and illumine only their own doctrines, and despise, condemn, and spurn others’ doctrines. Then come other recluses and brahmanas, and they, too, in their turn, explain and illumine only their own doctrines, and despise, condemn, and spurn others’ doctrines. But, for us, Sir, we have always doubt and perplexity as to who among these venerable recluses and brahmanas spoke the truth, and who spoke falsehood.”

The Buddha replied, “Yes, Kalamas, it is proper that you have doubt, that you have perplexity, for a doubt has arisen in a matter which is doubtful. Now, look you Kalamas, do not be led by what is simply repeated and reported, or tradition, or hearsay. Be not be led by the authority of religious texts, not by mere surmise of logic or inference, specious reasoning, nor by bias towards an idea, nor by considering appearances, nor by the delight in speculative opinions, nor by seeming possibilities, nor by the idea: ‘this is our teacher’.

“But O Kalamas, when you know for yourself that certain things are unwholesome (akusala), and wrong, and bad, and when undertaken lead to harm and ill, then give them up…And when you know for yourselves that certain things are wholesome (kusala) and good, and when undertaken and observed lead to benefit and happiness, then accept them and follow them.”

Which is all well and good (and I agree, this is how I try to define my own path). But if the Buddha says to not be led by others, should we listen to him?

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