Kalama Sutta: The Buddha’s Charter of Free Inquiry The Kalamas who were inhabitants of Kesaputta: “Reverend Gotama, the monk, the son of the Sakiyans, . A Look at the Kalama Sutta by Bhikkhu Bodhi. The discourse has been described as “the Buddha’s Charter of Free Inquiry,” and though the discourse certainly. Kalama Sutta. The people of Kalama asked the Buddha who to believe out of all the ascetics, sages, venerables, and holy ones who, like himself, passed.

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They expound, explain and glorify their own doctrines; the doctrines of others they deprecate, revile, show contempt for, and disparage. As a result we are in doubt about the teachings of all of them. Which spoke the truth and which falsehood? When there are reasons for doubt, uncertainty is born. This is how to live:. Are these things skilful or unskilful good or bad? Criticized or praised by the wise? And if undertaken and observed, do these things lead to suffering, harm and ill or not?

Even in this world, here and now, you should keep yourself free from hatred, free from malice, safe, sound, and happy.

He advocates a questioning, inquiring spirit, refusing to accept anything simply based on invoking an authority. While not giving the details of Suta traditional beliefs, Buddhist exponents, such as Anagarika Dharmapala of Ceylon presently Sri Lankapromoted the harmony of Buddhism sutra science in contrast to Christianity which conflicted with science, particularly on the theory of evolution.

Dharmapala, Suzuki, and Vivekananda clearly ascertained that Americans measured truth in science, and science posed little theological threat to a Buddhist and Hindu worldview. After all, Buddhism had unique advantages for someone who sytta their faith Christian due to its authoritarianism and unscientific outlook.

It analyses every phase of cosmic phenomenon, the constituents that go to make up a human being, and the differentiating states of mentality; it categorizes the differentiation of Good, Evil and Neutral; it rejects every phase of superstitious belief that is based on mere tradition, speculation, revelations, magic, analogy, logic, authority, and collected discourses, and appeals to the purified heart to distinguish the good from the bad, and to avoid doing anything that is correlated with covetousness, anger and lust.

All that is pure and free from covetousness, anger and lust are productive of good, and therefore to be acted upon. During his quest, Gotama did not inquire with religious authorities, but, rather, studied with several teacher-philosophers, similar to Socrates in the West.

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Kalama Sutta

However, dissatisfied with their teachings, he left them. Eventually he even departed from his five companions who focused on asceticism, which placed severe restraints on the body, in order to pursue an independent path to enlightenment. Modern teachers of Buddhism often cite the Kalama Sutta to show that Buddhism is a rational and critical teaching for understanding the nature of life and spiritual liberation from the bondage of ego and suffering in its many forms.

It aims at seeing things as they truly are which is a basic principle of Buddhism and its goal.

BELIEVE NOTHING: 10 teachings from the Kalama Sutta to defend against intellectual dependence

Also it is also fundamental not to be attached to views. His method is sometimes compared with medical diagnosis and treatment. What, however, began as a philosophical-life discipline approach, common in ancient times, East or West, was transformed over time to suttaa religion replete with myths, legends, a complex symbol system and monastic discipline. Its monastic character, where followers revered monks, and rituals encouraged popular devotion.

For many, Buddhism suttta a belief system rather than a way to understand and deal with life issues. Running through these ways of acquiring information and achieving spiritual understanding and faith is the issue of authority. There is a contemporary motto: As the Buddha charged his disciples at his death to be a refuge to themselves, a light for themselves, so here also the responsibility for determining the truth of your life is within yourself. Thus the Buddha concluded: Skip to primary content.

Skip to secondary content. This is how to live: Gotama lists the various forms of information that should be questioned: Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing.

Critical Thinking in Buddhism: The Kalama Sutta | Shin Dharma Net

False or incorrect information does not become true because it is repeated over and over. People often defend a point of view by repeatedly asserting it, usually with rising voices and tempers.


He cautions against legends which are stories based on unproven facts. A legend or tradition appears factual but cannot be fully verified.

Buddhist Scriptures: Kalama Sutta

Religion and history are full of legends and traditions which are suggestive stories aimed at exalting famous leaders or teachers, or to highlight the truth of a teaching.

He questions rumor, that is, information from unknown and unverified sources usually circulated from one person to another. We also call it hearsay. Through modern media urban legends and rumors spread rapidly.


Even scriptures are to be questioned. Scriptures gain their authority through belief in their divine origin or that they record the words of a sage.

In tradition they become unquestioned. In our day, the Bible is regarded by most Christians as the Word of God, though conceptions vary. The belief in the divine inspiration of the Bible is the basis for some of our highly polarized social issues, where people invoke the Bible as the authority for political or social views.

However, the Jewish Rabbis teachers relied on reason to interpret the meaning and application of those laws. A story is told that once in a dispute one rabbi insisted on his opinion as the truth in the dispute, and threatened to call down the voice of God back him up. However, the other rabbis replied that the voice of God is no substitute for a good reason and argument and they would not accept the decision even if the voice of God supported it.

Revelation cannot replace reason. We are not to simply accept a surmise, something accepted as true while as yet unproven.

We make sitta frequently, concluding that something is true, though we may not have all the facts or information. Such conclusions are easily shaped by prejudices and are to be questioned, even when recognized authorities assert them.

We are not to accept something because it is an axiom, axiomatic, that is, an unquestioned, apparently self evident, or assumed truth. To question an axiom seems to go against reason, but may be the highest reason. Many things once accepted in society as axioms, givens, such as the separation of races, male superiority, that the earth is flat, etc.

Specious reasoning asserts ideas which are plausible, seemingly correct or logical but with investigation are found to be erroneous or false. They can be what we regard as half truths.

Political campaigns and religious debate often employ such assertions. We are to check our biases or prejudices that arise from long study of a teaching or subject matter. We should not be swayed to accept ideas simply because of the ability or expertise of the exponent. In all traditions this is the most difficult.

Lecterns and pulpits are the strongest barriers to questioning.