2.1.1 Don‘t Believe in Tradition, in Hearsay, in Teachers but your own Experience, understanding what is unwholesome

Thus have I heard. At one time the Bhagavā, while going his rounds among the Kosalans with a great company of monks, came to Kesamutta, a market-town of the Kālāmas.

The Kālāmas of Kesamutta heard that Gotama the recluse, the Sākyans’ son who had gone forth as a homeless wanderer from the Sākyan clan, had reached Kesamutta. And the following good report was spread around about Gotama:

He is the Fully Enlightened One, a Bhagavā, an Arahant, fully enlightened by his own efforts, perfect in theory and in practice, having reached the final goal, knowing the entire universe, incomparable trainer of men, teacher of deities and humans, the Enlightened, the Exalted One.’ It would be a good idea to see such arahants!”

So the Kālāmas of Kesamutta went to the Bhagavā. On reaching him, some saluted the Bhagavā and sat down at one side; some greeted the Bhagavā courteously, and after the exchange of pleasant greetings and courtesies sat down at one side; some raising their joined palms to the Bhagavā sat down at one side; some announced their name and clan and sat down at one side; some simply sat down at one side in silence. Then as they thus sat at one side, the Kālāmas of Kesamutta adressed the Bhagavā thus:

“Bhante! There are certain recluses and brāhmins that come to Kesamutta. As to their own view, they proclaim and expound it in full; but as to others‘ view, they curse, despise, revile and depreciate it. Bhante! Now some of the other recluses and brāhmins also come to Kesamutta. They likewise as to their own view, they proclaim and expound it in full; but as to others‘ view, they curse, despise, revile and depreciate it.

Listening to them, Bhante, doubt and confusion arises within us as to which of these honourable recluses and brāhmins are telling the truth and which the untruth.”

“Truly so, Kālāmas, you may well doubt, you may well be perplexed. When there are reasons for doubt confusion does arise.

Now come, Kālāmas, do not simply believe whatever you are told, or whatever has been handed down from tradition, or what is common opinion, or whatever the scriptures say. Do not accept something as true merely by deduction or inference, or by logical examinations of reasons, or by preconception for certain beliefs, or because of its plausibility, or because a certain recluse or your teacher tells you it is so. But when you yourselves directly know: ‘These principles are unwholesome, blameworthy, condemned by the wise; when adopted and carried out they lead to harm and suffering,’ then you should abandon them.”

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

“For harm, Bhante!”

“And this greedy person, overcome by greed, his mind possessed by greed, 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 produces harm and suffering for long.”

“Yes, Bhante!”

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

“For harm, Bhante!”

“And this aversive person, overcome by ill will, his mind possessed by ill will, 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 produces harm and suffering for long.”

“Yes, Bhante!”

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

“For harm, Bhante!”

“And this deluded person, overcome by delusion, his mind possessed by delusion, 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 produces harm and suffering for long.”

“Yes, Bhante!”

“So what do you think, Kālāmas: Are these states wholesome or unwholesome?”

“Unwholesome, Bhante!”

“Blameworthy or blameless?”

“Blameworthy, Bhante!”

“Criticized by the wise or praised by the wise?”

“Criticized by the wise, Bhante!”

“When undertaken and performed, do they lead to harm and to suffering, or not? How does this matter stand here?”

“When undertaken and performed, they lead to harm and to suffering. That is how we understand this matter.”

“So, as I said, Kālāmas, do not simply believe whatever you are told, or whatever has been handed down from tradition, or what is common opinion, or whatever the scriptures say. Do not accept something as true merely by deduction or inference, or by logical examinations of reasons, or by preconception for certain beliefs, or because of its plausibility, or because a certain recluse or your teacher tells you it is so. But when you yourselves directly know: ‘These principles are unwholesome, blameworthy, condemned by the wise; when adopted and carried out they lead to harm and suffering,’ then you should abandon them.”

Last modified: Monday, 14 December 2015, 8:31 AM