Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Kalama Sutta

In the Kalama Sutta the Buddha taught us to not accept any teaching, including His, without testing and examining it for ourselves. While rejecting blind faith and dogmatism and encourages free and systematic personal inquiry, it does not dismiss the value of doctrines and of Master–Disciple teaching.

The sutta goes like that :

The Kalamas of the town of Kesaputta had been visited by teachers of divergent views. Each of them had exposed their own doctrines and had torn down the doctrines of their predecessors. So the Kalamas were confused. And when the Buddha arrived in their town, they asked his advice on this matter.

The Buddha first assured them that under such circumstances it was proper for them to doubt, encouraging them into doubt and free inquiry. He next advised them to abandon those things they knew for themselves - by experience - to be bad and to adopt those things they knew to be good. 

"Come, Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing, nor upon tradition, nor upon rumor, nor upon scripture, nor upon surmise, nor upon axiom, nor upon specious reasoning, nor upon bias towards a notion pondered over, nor upon another's seeming ability, nor upon the consideration 'This monk is our teacher.' When you yourselves know: 'These things are bad, blamable, censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill,' abandon them. When you yourselves know: 'These things are good, blameless, praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,' enter on and abide in them."

This advice not to rely upon established tradition, abstract reasoning, and charismatic gurus, can be dangerous if taken out of context by complete morons. So the Buddha further helped the Kalamas by questioning them, leading them to see for themselves that greed, hate and delusion, being detrimental to all, are to be abandoned, and their opposites, being beneficial to all, are to be sought.

Unfortunately, this Buddha's advise is sometimes interpreted by ego-inflated individuals as an encouragement to reject all doctrines and teachings and to do whatever they like.

This is as stupid as believing one could become a fighter without learning from a valid Master. The beauty of Martial Arts is that the delusion does not last very long. On their first incursion in a ring, a battlefield or any place loaded with alcohol and adrenaline, self taught fighters brutally get their asses back into reality.  (This also happens to people who trained under deluded self appointed Masters,  I have seen it...)

In spiritual matters, it can take much longer before one realizes one's own or one's teacher's arrogance and vanity.

Before He started his own quest, the Buddha himself spent years practising and perfecting his spiritual technique under 2 great Yoga Masters... He acquired with them those abilities and expertise that would allow him to reach awakening and teach.

So what the Buddha said was NOT to follow whatever we like as the path to liberation, but to carefully consider, examine, doubt and ponder all teachings of all Masters including His - for only us can see for ourselves and realize the Dharma - keeping faith in our ability to one day figure it out through diligent practice.