interpreting the Kalama Sutta

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interpreting the Kalama Sutta

Postby Luke » Sun Jul 31, 2011 6:57 pm

Here's a good article by Bhikkhu Bodhi titled "A Look at the Kalama Sutta" which talks about common misinterpretations of this sutta.

"...Partly in reaction to dogmatic religion, partly in subservience to the reigning paradigm of objective scientific knowledge, it has become fashionable to hold, by appeal to the Kalama Sutta, that the Buddha's teaching dispenses with faith and formulated doctrine and asks us to accept only what we can personally verify. This interpretation of the sutta, however, forgets that the advice the Buddha gave the Kalamas was contingent upon the understanding that they were not yet prepared to place faith in him and his doctrine; it also forgets that the sutta omits, for that very reason, all mention of right view and of the entire perspective that opens up when right view is acquired. It offers instead the most reasonable counsel on wholesome living possible when the issue of ultimate beliefs has been put into brackets..."


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ay_09.html
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Re: interpreting the Kalama Sutta

Postby Tenzin1 » Sun Jul 31, 2011 9:15 pm

The common interpretations of this sutra also fail to take into account the context of the teaching. The Buddha was answering the Kalamas' question about how to discern a true teacher from a false one, among the many wandering visionaries, ascetics and holy people of the time. He was not speaking of himself. He was simply providing criteria to the Kalamas to apply to the would-be teachers who came their way. It is in other teachings of the Buddha that he recommends to test his own teachings to see if they are helpful, not in the Kalama Sutra.
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Re: interpreting the Kalama Sutta

Postby LastLegend » Sun Jul 31, 2011 11:22 pm

We have to remember that Buddha's teachings from his enlightened mind, yet he was humble by not saying that his teachings are truth. By following Buddha's teachings, we will experience for ourselves if we follow the teachings correctly.

And again with regard to personal experience there is a standard in my opinion. It has be through rational observation and logical reasoning. In other words, it should not be dependent on emotion reactions and biases. This is a way of knowledge inquiry.
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Re: interpreting the Kalama Sutta

Postby mudra » Mon Aug 01, 2011 3:35 am

Tenzin1 wrote:The common interpretations of this sutra also fail to take into account the context of the teaching. The Buddha was answering the Kalamas' question about how to discern a true teacher from a false one, among the many wandering visionaries, ascetics and holy people of the time. He was not speaking of himself. He was simply providing criteria to the Kalamas to apply to the would-be teachers who came their way. It is in other teachings of the Buddha that he recommends to test his own teachings to see if they are helpful, not in the Kalama Sutra.


Agreed that the context is very important, but also the fact that when one reflects deeply on dharma one gets a clearer 'wisdom' which is what one eventually meditates on. This is another example of the Buddha's skillful means. Without this reflection and analysis it is difficult to integrate the Buddha's teachings into one's life, they simply remain on a superficial level of blind faith and are flimsy at best.

The current fad referred to in the OP goes to the other extreme of assuming that everything needs to be empirically proven before it can even be entertained as guideline - a kind of hopeless, time consuming, and possibly fruitless reinventing of the wheel.
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Re: interpreting the Kalama Sutta

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Mon Aug 01, 2011 4:17 am

Those pesky Kalamas and all the trouble they caused.
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Re: interpreting the Kalama Sutta

Postby Luke » Mon Aug 01, 2011 9:02 am

Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:Those pesky Kalamas and all the trouble they caused.

I don't have any problem with the Kalamas or with any other people who take their time to examine different spiritual traditions.

What I have a problem with is when people label their process of skeptical inquiry as "Buddhism" before they have any faith or confidence in the Buddha's teachings.
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Re: interpreting the Kalama Sutta

Postby mudra » Mon Aug 01, 2011 10:22 am

Luke wrote:I don't have any problem with the Kalamas or with any other people who take their time to examine different spiritual traditions.

What I have a problem with is when people label their process of skeptical inquiry as "Buddhism" before they have any faith or confidence in the Buddha's teachings.


With you on that.
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