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Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  2 Oct 2016 12:00 AM GMT

The people of Kalama once asked Gautama who to believe of all the ascetics, sages and holy men who, like himself, passed through their town. They complained they were confused by the many contradictions they discovered in what they heard. And the Buddha replied with what became known thereafter as the ‘Kalama Sutta’:

Do not believe anything on mere hearsay.

Do not believe anything on account of rumors or because people talk a great deal about it.

Do not believe in traditions merely because they are old and have been handed down for many generations and in many places.

Do not believe anything because you are shown the written testimony of some ancient sage.

Do not believe anything merely on the authority of your teachers and priests.

Do not believe in what you have fancied, thinking that, because it is extraordiry, it must have been inspired by a god or other wonderful being.

Do not believe anything merely because presumption is in its favor, or because the custom of many years inclines you to take it as true.

But whatever, after thorough investigation and reflection, you find to agree with reason and experience, as conducive to the good and benefit of one and all and of the world at large — accept only that as true, and shape your life in accordance with it.

The same test, said the Buddha, must be applied to his own teachings. “Do not accept any doctrine from reverence, but first try it as gold is tried by fire,” exhorted the Enlightened One.

Known as the Buddha’s ‘charter of free inquiry’, the Kalama Sutta is thus a set of instructions for a mode of investigation free from faticism, bigotry, dogmatism and intolerance.

It requires us to have wisdom before having faith. Even if faith has to come first, then let it be the faith which begins with wisdom, not faith which comes from ignorance. The seeker must not accept something just because he believes in the speaker — rather he believes in himself than in the speaker.

The seeker who follows this principle will have independent knowledge and reason with which to understand the meaning and realize the truth of ideas heard for the first time. Like when a seeker hears that greed, hatred and delusion are dangerous and evil, he understands this instantly and completely, because he already knows through persol experience what these things are like.

The Kalama Sutta does not forbid us to believe — it merely asks us to believe with independent intelligence and wisdom. It never forbids us to listen — it merely asks us to listen without letting our intelligence and wisdom become enslaved.

As with all great truths, the Kalama Sutta remains relevant to the present day. And the reasobleness of the Dhamma, the Buddha’s teaching, is evident in this careful examition, at all stages, of the path to enlightenment.

—the harbinger

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