We finally, arrived at the last part of the sutta. Thinking back, it is indeed hard to come by teachers who bravely teach this sutta. The Buddha himself set a very good example when he taught it. Basically, Buddha set a standard and proclaimed it to all, so that we have the wisdom to differentiate right from wrong. In addition to that, Buddha was telling us that he, the Buddha, and his disciples are not exempted from meeting those criteria. For this reason, I hold great admiration for Buddha and his true disciples.
The last part of the sutta is also known as the 4 solaces or the 4 comfort. This is because it settles our concerns about how we should live our life so that it is worthwhile and fruitful.
Many people, like the Kalamas, are concerned about the purpose of life and how to live their life so that it brings them happiness. Some people believe there is an afterlife. That means, there is a continuation after death.
Some people do not believe in the afterlife.
The Kalamas were vexed because different teachers would teach different things. And we need to remember that at that time, the Kalamas were not Buddhist yet. They were just curious about what the Awakened One would teach. So the Buddha provided the 4 comforts here to anyone who are not yet convinced about the Buddhist way of life. It is important to note that it is never a conversion game. The motivation about spreading Dharma is to share a method for enlightened living. It is never about conquering people and “making” them Buddhists.
So in this sutta, we see this being presented in a logical manner by Buddha. He did not say that you will go to hell for turning your back on me. Buddha merely gave a rational analysis of the advantages in following his recommended lifestyle.
Now, Kalamas, one who is a disciple of the noble ones — his mind thus free from hostility, free from ill will, undefiled, & pure — acquires four assurances in the here-&-now:https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an03/an03.065.than.html
As mentioned previously, to be a disciple of Buddha meant living morally. Trying our best to be devoid of greed, hatred, and ignorance. Watchful of evil influences and try our best to be good. Determined on becoming enlightened. Constantly embracing loving-kindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity in our minds.
The above is summarised as “free from hostility, free from ill will, undefiled, & pure”
If we follow the above style of living, then we gain 4 types of assurance, comfort, or solace. The Buddha continued,
If there is a world after death, if there is the fruit of actions rightly & wrongly done, then this is the basis by which, with the break-up of the body, after death, I will reappear in a good destination, the heavenly world.’ This is the first assurance he acquires
If there is an afterlife, and one is judged according to one’s deeds after death, or there is such a thing as Karma, then living our life according to Buddha’s recommendation would mean that we qualify to be in heaven.
“‘But if there is no world after death, if there is no fruit of actions rightly & wrongly done, then here in the present life I look after myself with ease — free from hostility, free from ill will, free from trouble.’ This is the second assurance he acquires.
So the 2nd rationale is that if there is no such thing as an afterlife, or judgment, or karma; then at least we live our present life in a trouble-free manner. This is because we do not court hostility and we know how to live contentedly. By being an amiable and easygoing person, we free ourselves from unnecessary stress and unhealthy mental conditions. By living morally, we do not get into trouble with the law or create enmity with anyone. In short, we create the conditions for a happy life in the here and now!
“‘Suppose evil (results) befall an evil-doer. I, however, think of doing evil to no one. Then, how can ill (results) affect me who do no evil deed?’ This is the third solace found by him.
This concerns the belief that punishments or bad situations befall those who committed evil. Since we don’t do evil, evil consequences will not befall us.
“‘Suppose evil (results) do not befall an evil-doer. Then I see myself purified in any case.’ This is the fourth solace found by him.
This concerns the belief that evil actions do not necessarily result in punishments or bad situations. Since I am not involved in evil, this belief is of no concern to me and I need not be vexed by it.
The above exemplifies the attitude of a Buddhist. We posit that goodness leads to happiness. Since happiness is a state of mind, we can reap its immediate effect immediately when we train our minds according to Buddha’s recommendation, which is highlighted in point 2 above.
Beyond our own happiness, it is a common conviction that a society can become a paradise if everyone behaves responsibly and morally. In that manner, we do our part by being a good person. Being kind and compassionate, being joyful and appreciative of other people’s happiness. Treating everyone equally.
One who is a disciple of the noble ones — his mind thus free from hostility, free from ill will, undefiled, & pure — acquires these four assurances in the here-&-now.
If we think deeper, we realize that the message is also about how we should position our minds to embrace rationality. All the beliefs in the world are basically born from our minds. It is man-made. Since it is man-made, shouldn’t we have the free will to decide what we want to believe? And if we are responsible for what we want to believe; Then shouldn’t it be based on common sense and rationality?
For centuries, we know that good behaviours create a peaceful world and bad behaviours undo a society and cause chaos. Thus, it is good to believe that good begets good and evil results in badness. If that is a consensus, then shouldn’t we believe in it wholeheartedly?
If good begets good and vice versa, then we shouldn’t trouble our minds with exceptions to the belief. That will only create confusion. For example, training our minds into believing that we can get away with evil if we meet some mumbo-jumbo religious criteria! That becomes a confusion and that confusion will poison the world.
“Magnificent, lord! Magnificent! Just as if he were to place upright what was overturned, to reveal what was hidden, to show the way to one who was lost, or to carry a lamp into the dark so that those with eyes could see forms, in the same way has the Blessed One — through many lines of reasoning — made the Dhamma clear. We go to the Blessed One for refuge, to the Dhamma, and to the Sangha of monks. May the Blessed One remember us as lay followers who have gone to him for refuge, from this day forward, for life.”
This last verse recorded how the Kalamas were convinced by Buddha to live their life in an enlightened manner.
The crux of the Kalamas’ reply is as follows:” to carry a lamp into the dark so that those with eyes could see forms”
It is not meant to be derogatory against handicapped people. The eyes that are being mentioned here, is an analogy of a mental inclination towards logic and rationale. So while the teachings of Buddha already taught a simple approach to beliefs, some people are still inclined to irrational thinking. In that manner, they will still be blinded to wisdom. Although unfortunate, it can’t be helped.
Before I end this series, allow me to be naughty. If we apply the above logic to the beliefs of a God-like being, it also helps to undo many illogical exceptions that were created by humans. For example, if god represents goodness, then we just need to be good…… If God does not represent complete goodness, then why do we believe in such a god???….. Have fun meditating on that.
May all be well and happy.
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