Kalama Sutta

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File:Kesariya.jpg
The Kesariya Stupa is believed to be at the place where the Buddha delivered the discourse

The Kalama Sutta (P. kālāmasutta; C. Qielan jing; J. Garankyō; K. Karam kyŏng 伽藍經) is a sutta of the Pali Canon that is popular in the West due to its emphasis on free enquiry and rational thought.[1][2]

A unique aspect of this sutta is that the Buddha addresses a general audience of spiritual seekers. Whereas in most suttas the Buddha speaks directly to his own followers, in this sutta the Buddha addresses a group of people--the Kalamas of Kesamutta--who are not his followers and are not familiar with his teachings. They have sought the Buddha's advice because they have heard that he is wise person.

As described in the sutta, after seeking out the Buddha, the Kalamas explained to him that they have been visited by many different spiritual teachers, each claiming to have the best teachings, and also disparaging the views of other teachers. The Kalamas have been left confused and uncertain. They ask the Buddha whom they should trust.

The Buddha advises these seekers not to follow a tradition simply because it is a tradition, or because the source seems reliable, or because it seems logical or resonates with one's feelings. Rather, the teachings should be tested and validated by one's own experience. If after careful examination, one determines that a teaching or practice is beneficial--if it results in a decrease in unwholesome states of mind such as greed, hatred and confusion, and an increasae in love and compassion and other wholesome states of mind--then it can be accepted as valid.[3]

Contemporary translator Soma Thera has refered to this sutta as the Buddha's "charter of free inquiry," stating that "the spirit of the sutta signifies a teaching that is exempt from fanaticism, bigotry, dogmatism, and intolerance."[2]

Title

In the West, this sutra is commonly known as the Kamala Sutta. In modern Southeast Asian additions of the Pali Canon, the sutra is more commonly titled Kesamutti Sutta or Kesaputti Sutta.

The full title has been translated into English as:

  • With the Kālāmas of Kesamutta (Sujato)
  • The Instructions to the Kalamas (Soma Thera)

Text

Pali Canon

In the Pali Canon this sutta is found in the Anguttara Nikaya (AN 3.56).

SuttaCentral identifies the Bhaddiya Sutta (AN 4.193) as a parallel text (meaning it contains overlapping content).

Chinese Canon

In the Chinese Canon, a Sarvastivada recension of this text is found in the Madhyama Agama (MA 16).

Translations

The following English-language translations from the Pali are available online:

Commentaries

The following texts include brief commentaries on the Kalama Sutta:

Translation from SuttaCentral

Template:SuttaCentral translation


With the Kālāmas of Kesamutta (AN 3.65)

SO I HAVE HEARD. At one time the Buddha was wandering in the land of the Kosalans together with a large Saṅgha of mendicants when he arrived at a town of the Kālāmas named Kesamutta. The Kālāmas of Kesamutta heard:

“It seems the ascetic Gotama—a Sakyan, gone forth from a Sakyan family—has arrived at Kesamutta. He has this good reputation: ‘That Blessed One is perfected, a fully awakened Buddha …’ It’s good to see such perfected ones.”

Then the Kālāmas went up to the Buddha. Before sitting down to one side, some bowed, some exchanged greetings and polite conversation, some held up their joined palms toward the Buddha, some announced their name and clan, while some kept silent. Seated to one side the Kālāmas said to the Buddha:

“There are, sir, some ascetics and brahmins who come to Kesamutta. They explain and promote only their own doctrine, while they attack, badmouth, disparage, and smear the doctrines of others. Then some other ascetics and brahmins come to Kesamutta. They too explain and promote only their own doctrine, while they attack, badmouth, disparage, and smear the doctrines of others. So, sir, we’re doubting and uncertain: ‘I wonder who of these respected ascetics and brahmins speaks the truth, and who speaks falsehood?’”

“It is enough, Kālāmas, for you to be doubting and uncertain. Doubt has come up in you about an uncertain matter.

Please, Kālāmas, don’t go by oral transmission, don’t go by lineage, don’t go by testament, don’t go by canonical authority, don’t rely on logic, don’t rely on inference, don’t go by reasoned contemplation, don’t go by the acceptance of a view after consideration, don’t go by the appearance of competence, and don’t think ‘The ascetic is our respected teacher.’ But when you know for yourselves: ‘These things are unskillful, blameworthy, criticized by sensible people, and when you undertake them, they lead to harm and suffering’, then you should give them up.

What do you think, Kālāmas? Does greed come up in a person for their welfare or harm?”

“Harm, sir.”

“A greedy individual, overcome by greed, kills living creatures, steals, commits adultery, lies, and encourages others to do the same. Is that for their lasting harm and suffering?”

“Yes, sir.”

“What do you think, Kālāmas? Does hate come up in a person for their welfare or harm?”

“Harm, sir.”

“A hateful individual, overcome by hate, kills living creatures, steals, commits adultery, lies, and encourages others to do the same. Is that for their lasting harm and suffering?”

“Yes, sir.”

“What do you think, Kālāmas? Does delusion come up in a person for their welfare or harm?”

“Harm, sir.”

“A deluded individual, overcome by delusion, kills living creatures, steals, commits adultery, lies, and encourages others to do the same. Is that for their lasting harm and suffering?”

“Yes, sir.”

“What do you think, Kālāmas, are these things skillful or unskillful?”

“Unskillful, sir.”

“Blameworthy or blameless?”

“Blameworthy, sir.”

“Criticized or praised by sensible people?”

“Criticized by sensible people, sir.”

“When you undertake them, do they lead to harm and suffering, or not? Or how do you see this?”

“When you undertake them, they lead to harm and suffering. That’s how we see it.”

“So, Kālāmas, when I said: ‘Please, don’t go by oral transmission, don’t go by lineage, don’t go by testament, don’t go by canonical authority, don’t rely on logic, don’t rely on inference, don’t go by reasoned contemplation, don’t go by the acceptance of a view after consideration, don’t go by the appearance of competence, and don’t think “The ascetic is our respected teacher.” But when you know for yourselves: “These things are unskillful, blameworthy, criticized by sensible people, and when you undertake them, they lead to harm and suffering”, then you should give them up.’ That’s what I said, and this is why I said it.

Please, Kālāmas, don’t go by oral transmission, don’t go by lineage, don’t go by testament, don’t go by canonical authority, don’t rely on logic, don’t rely on inference, don’t go by reasoned contemplation, don’t go by the acceptance of a view after consideration, don’t go by the appearance of competence, and don’t think ‘The ascetic is our respected teacher.’ But when you know for yourselves: ‘These things are skillful, blameless, praised by sensible people, and when you undertake them, they lead to welfare and happiness’, then you should acquire them and keep them.

What do you think, Kālāmas? Does contentment come up in a person for their welfare or harm?”

“Welfare, sir.”

“An individual who is content, not overcome by greed, doesn’t kill living creatures, steal, commit adultery, lie, or encourage others to do the same. Is that for their lasting welfare and happiness?”

“Yes, sir.”

“What do you think, Kālāmas? Does love come up in a person for their welfare or harm? … Does understanding come up in a person for their welfare or harm? … Is that for their lasting welfare and happiness?”

“Yes, sir.”

“What do you think, Kālāmas, are these things skillful or unskillful?”

“Skillful, sir.”

“Blameworthy or blameless?”

“Blameless, sir.”

“Criticized or praised by sensible people?”

“Praised by sensible people, sir.”

“When you undertake them, do they lead to welfare and happiness, or not? Or how do you see this?”

“When you undertake them, they lead to welfare and happiness. That’s how we see it.”

“So, Kālāmas, when I said: ‘Please, don’t go by oral transmission, don’t go by lineage, don’t go by testament, don’t go by canonical authority, don’t rely on logic, don’t rely on inference, don’t go by reasoned contemplation, don’t go by the acceptance of a view after consideration, don’t go by the appearance of competence, and don’t think “The ascetic is our respected teacher.” But when you know for yourselves:

“These things are skillful, blameless, praised by sensible people, and when you undertake them, they lead to welfare and happiness”, then you should acquire them and keep them.’ That’s what I said, and this is why I said it.

Then that noble disciple is rid of desire, rid of ill will, unconfused, aware, and mindful. They meditate spreading a heart full of love to one direction, and to the second, and to the third, and to the fourth. In the same way above, below, across, everywhere, all around, they spread a heart full of love to the whole world—abundant, expansive, limitless, free of enmity and ill will.

They meditate spreading a heart full of compassion to one direction, and to the second, and to the third, and to the fourth. In the same way above, below, across, everywhere, all around, they spread a heart full of compassion to the whole world—abundant, expansive, limitless, free of enmity and ill will.

They meditate spreading a heart full of rejoicing to one direction, and to the second, and to the third, and to the fourth. In the same way above, below, across, everywhere, all around, they spread a heart full of rejoicing to the whole world—abundant, expansive, limitless, free of enmity and ill will.

They meditate spreading a heart full of equanimity to one direction, and to the second, and to the third, and to the fourth. In the same way above, below, across, everywhere, all around, they spread a heart full of equanimity to the whole world—abundant, expansive, limitless, free of enmity and ill will.

When that noble disciple has a mind that’s free of enmity and ill will, uncorrupted and purified, they’ve won four consolations in the present life. ‘If it turns out there is another world, and good and bad deeds have a result, then—when the body breaks up, after death—I’ll be reborn in a good place, a heavenly realm.’ This is the first consolation they’ve won.

‘If it turns out there is no other world, and good and bad deeds don’t have a result, then in the present life I’ll keep myself free of enmity and ill will, untroubled and happy.’ This is the second consolation they’ve won.

‘If it turns out that bad things happen to people who do bad things, then since I have no bad intentions, and since I’m not doing anything bad, how can suffering touch me?’ This is the third consolation they’ve won.

‘If it turns out that bad things don’t happen to people who do bad things, then I still see myself pure on both sides.’ This is the fourth consolation they’ve won.

When that noble disciple has a mind that’s free of enmity and ill will, undefiled and purified, they’ve won these four consolations in the present life.”

“That’s so true, Blessed One! That’s so true, Holy One! When that noble disciple has a mind that’s free of enmity and ill will, undefiled and purified, they’ve won these four consolations in the present life. …


Excellent, sir! Excellent! … We go for refuge to Master Gotama, to the teaching, and to the mendicant Saṅgha. From this day forth, may the Buddha remember us as lay followers who have gone for refuge for life.”

  - Translated by Bhikkhu Sujato, SuttaCentral

Analysis

Identifying genuine spiritual teachings

Within the sutta, the Buddha named ten specific sources whose knowledge should not be immediately viewed as truthful without further investigation to avoid fallacies:

  1. Oral transmission (anussava)
  2. Lineage (paramparā)
  3. Testament (itikirā)
  4. Canonical authority (scriptures or other official texts) (piṭaka-sampadāna)
  5. Logic (suppositional reasoning; because something is seeming logical to oneself) (takka-hetu)
  6. Inference (philosophical dogmatism) (naya-hetu)
  7. Reasoned contemplation (ākāra-parivitakka)
  8. Acceptance of a view after consideration (one's own opinion) (diṭṭhi-nijjhān-akkh-antiyā)
  9. Appearance of competence (experts) (bhabba-rūpatāya)
  10. Thinking “The ascetic is our respected teacher." (Authorities or one's own teacher.) (samaṇo no garū)

Instead, the Buddha says, only when one personally knows that a certain teaching is skillful, blameless, praiseworthy, and conducive to happiness, and that it is praised by the wise, should one then accept it as true and practice it.

Knowing for yourself (testing your beliefs)

Thannisarro Bhikkhu emphasizes the significance of the Buddha's instruction to test one's beliefs:

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The four assurances

In this sutta, the Buddha identifies four assurances, or solaces. The Buddha asserts that a happy and moral life would be correct even if there is no karma and reincarnation. Template:Quote

On these four solaces, Soma Thera wrote: Template:Quote

The unique context of a teaching for non-followers of the Buddha

Bhikkhu Bodhi suggests that the Kalama sutra does not deny the value of faith, for instance in teachings on the Four Noble Truths as a path to liberation. He talks about the context, that the Kalamas were not Buddha's disciples. They approached him, confused by the many conflicting instructions they had had from teachers that disputed each others teachings. He was advising them how to deal with this situation.

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See also

References

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Page is sourced from

www.encyclopediaofbuddhism.org Kalama Sutta