Kālāma Sutta – Part 9

Continuing from previously,

“Of course you are uncertain, Kalamas. Of course you are in doubt. When there are reasons for doubt, uncertainty is born.

So in this case, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering’ — then you should abandon them.

The first response from Buddha reflected a teacher who was full of empathy. Again, I hope to share and impress how this is very different from the concept of a “Commanding God/Goddess” in various religions. The Buddha educated people instead of commanding them to behave or think in certain ways. As mentioned previously, the Buddhist scriptures portrayed Buddha as approachable, and friendly too. There is an absence of a “Lording” persona or a “master/slave” interactions between Buddha and His disciples.

Once we appreciate and understand how Buddha interacted with people, we will be capable of examining the way Buddhist teachers, monks, and nuns interact with disciples. Concurrently, we can also examine how we interact with them. The importance of this lies in making sure that we do not place ourselves in a position of fear. When we interact with Buddhist teachers, masters, or monks & nuns, we should do so with respect. However, we should not fear incurring divine punishments for disobedience. In short, do not be afraid of saying no to illogical requests. Once we understand this, there is no room for abuse of trust. And later on, we will also study how we need to apply logical thinking when we hear something from people.

The Buddha then categorically listed down things that we shouldn’t believe blindly in. Let us examine them.

  1. by reports – spoken or written accounts of something that someone has observed, heard, verified, done, or investigated. As we probably know by now, many reports we see on the internet are fake. And of course, some reports are based on mistaken perceptions. In our Buddhist context, there are reports that claim the Pāli Canon as the oldest and therefore the original Buddhist teachings whereas the Mahayana Canon appears at a later time, and therefore not the original teachings of Buddha.
  2. by legends – stories passed down through the generations that claimed to be historical but never authenticated. For example, Buddha returned to Earth accompanied by various Gods; after visiting His deceased mother in heaven. Or various other stories of miracles etc.
  3. by traditions – practices, and beliefs that were passed down from generation to generation. For example, to shave our heads when we become Buddhist monks and nuns.
  4. by scripture – sacred writings claiming to contain information or words of the arcane or words of supernatural entities. For example, all our Buddhist scriptures.
  5. by logical conjecture – observations that certain patterns or sequences of events will produce certain resultants. For example. He left in the middle of the party without speaking a word. So he must be angry.
  6. by inference – a deduction or conclusion arrived from evidential data. For example, he seems to have no craving for anything, therefore he must be enlightened.
  7. by analogies – trying to understand something by referring to something else. For example, enlightenment is like a lotus that grows out of muddy water.
  8. by agreement through pondering views – reaching a consensus after considering various views and concepts.
  9. by probability – reaching a conclusion by determining its likelihood or chances of occurrence.s
  10. or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ – simply believing someone whom we decided is our teacher. For example, believing everything that our Buddhist teacher or “Sifu” taught.

According to the above, it seems like any information that we received through our senses is not to be believed blindly.

The next verse is important because it explains our inevitable response to the above, which is, “Then what should we do?”

When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering’ — then you should abandon them.

Basically, Buddha was telling us not to accept information at face value. Instead, we have to know for ourselves if that information is beneficial for our well-being, others’ well-being, society’s well-being, etc. If they are beneficial, then we can adopt them. Otherwise, we should abandon them.

May all be well and happy.

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