Kālāma Sutta – Part 11

Continuing from previously,

“Now, what do you think, Kalamas? When aversion arises in a person, does it arise for welfare or for harm?”

“For harm, lord.”

“And this aversive person, overcome by aversion, his mind possessed by aversion, kills living beings, takes what is not given, goes after another person’s wife, tells lies, and induces others to do likewise, all of which is for long-term harm & suffering.”

“Yes, lord.”

We continue with the 2nd reasoning skill as taught by Buddha in the Kalama sutta. Aversion is definitely a very bad emotion in humanity. It produces hatred and causes violence. Naturally, violence is not limited to physically causing hurt. A good orator can stir the population to create a violent mob.

While it is easy to spot messages that are harsh and violent, it is difficult to identify a violent intent hidden behind beautifully crafted words. But if we read the verse above and the previous one, Buddha was teaching us to determine the intention behind a message. Was greed or aversion the motivation in a preacher?

In other words, is a preacher motivated by greed or aversion? Sometimes, a person may start his/her preaching career with pure motivation but that can be lost in the face of wealth, fame, and power. What this means is that we are responsible for being vigilant. In fact, we cannot let our guard down and ought to constantly review and assess the preacher.

Are you blown away yet? In the latter verses, we will see the high standards that were set by Buddha. Therefore, when we honour our teacher with respect, we (Buddhists) do not do so with blind faith. There is this healthy dose of check and balance. We only respect and listen to messages coming from people who are worthy of our respect.

To do that, we have to see clearly for ourselves. We associate with our teachers and we determine for ourselves if he/she is clouded by greed and aversion. Do their messages promote greed and aversion? Does their advice result in good or harm? Are they power-hungry? Are they living in luxuries out of donations from the faithful? Are they demanding servitude from disciples? Are they creating stress for their congregation by setting various mundane benchmarks? Do they lead a moral and exemplary lifestyle? etc.

Once we sit back and look at this Kalama Sutta from this perspective, we will realize that Buddhism is unlike a religion. The monks/nuns/Buddhist teachers are not supposed to be lofty “holy” beings that are faultless and cannot be judged. In fact, they have to constantly demonstrate through their action, speech, and mind that they are qualified to be honored, respected, and followed.

When we have a healthy dose of such sensibility, there is zero opportunity for unscrupulous men and women to abuse their religious position.

Having said all that, we must also self-reflect and make sure that our vigilance remains at a healthy level. Buddha was not teaching us to become judgemental Buddhist Karen nor are we supposed to become hostile towards everybody who teaches/shares dharma. Be balanced and sensible.

May all be well and happy.

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