Kālāma Sutta – Part 3

Continuing from previously,

And of that Master Gotama this fine reputation has spread: ‘He is indeed a Blessed One, worthy, & rightly self-awakened, consummate in knowledge & conduct, well-gone, a knower of the cosmos, an unexcelled trainer of those persons ready to be tamed, teacher of human & divine beings, awakened, blessed.

Continuing from previous. Let’s cover the next word in this verse:

Rightly self-awakened – This refers to Buddha attaining enlightenment through his own effort and method. Nirvana (Buddhist enlightenment) is not something that can be bestowed upon us. Prior to his enlightenment, Buddha had already received the traditional education of his time. Naturally, he would have studied the ancient religion and customs that was mainstream and orthodox. For example, the doctrine behind the caste system. Creation of man, The divine creator, etc.

Like many of his contemporaries, he found those doctrines unsatisfying and embarked on a personal quest to discover the secret of the universe. In Eastern mysticism, one believes that the physical body is like a container and sometimes similar to a prison. If one can break free from that prison, the spirit will become unhindered and thus, free to visit other realms to acquire unearthly knowledge. That is why, many eastern mystics had been trying to achieve that through meditation, trance, dreams, etc. Similarly, Buddha started his spiritual career by studying under renowned masters of his time. When that did not yield satisfactory results, He undertook stringent self-torture to force his “spirit” out! And he nearly died from that endeavor.

But after enlightenment, what did Buddha teach? Anatta (no spirit) and Shunyata; Which is the complete opposite of the spiritual practices that many people are still enamoured with. Buddha did not deny the existence of the spiritual realms. In fact, the Dharma is full of stories about Buddha encountering spiritual beings.

In Buddhism, the spiritual realms are also part of Samsara. In short, when our “spirit” leaves the body, we are still not free yet. We are still in Samsara. Therefore, when we grasp a spirit, we create a spirit. SO we are still in Samsara. (don’t grasp onto this idea too.)

Once we can appreciate this unique characteristic of Buddhism, we will understand that Buddha Dharma is vastly different from the “traditional” religions.

On the other hand, the Buddhist doctrine of Anatta (no-self) and Shunyata is not a nihilistic belief. Buddha did not teach that we only live once or that, our current existence occurs by chance and that we are simply extinguished at death. Other “holy men” during Buddha’s time had come to that conclusion and they preached that kind of doctrine. (known as nihilism)

As long as we are unenlightened, it is inevitable that we position our understanding based on these two posits; an eternally existing spirit or non-existence of spirits, or a combination of both. In this manner, we will see how Buddha advised against logical conjectures later on in this sutta.

Until here, we can appreciate how some men were unsatisfied with traditional religion during Buddha’s time, and they practiced Eastern mysticism to seek “higher” knowledge. Everybody was trying to uncover the Ultimate Truth. Then they went around preaching their discoveries. In that manner, we have traditional preachers who teach about the divine creator, preachers who taught nihilism, preachers who taught meditative trance as ultimate freedom and beyond the divine, etc.

Faced with these conflicting messages, the Kalamas were vexed, confused, and troubled. This is because each preacher would claim that his message was the Truth and other preachers are fake. In fact, these holy men would seek each other out to debate their doctrinal views.

If we examine our society now, it is still the same. Now we have people preaching about Flat Earth and others preaching about Alien creators, etc. That is on top of our “traditional” religions, including all the various schools of Buddhism! So we are actually, still pretty much like the Kalamas, aren’t we?

To be continued.

May all be well and happy.

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