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Really? The Buddha encouraging questioning? - Dhamma Wheel

Really? The Buddha encouraging questioning?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
Jhana4
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Really? The Buddha encouraging questioning?

Postby Jhana4 » Sun Oct 09, 2011 1:46 am

A lot of people post saying they think the Buddha encouraged people to question authority, even his own and decide what they think for themselves.

Is this really true?

The sutta that comes to my mind as encouraging this view is . I've read commentaries by both Bhikkhu Bodhi and Thanisarro Bhikku who are of the opinion that this sutta does not say that the Buddha encouraged people to think for themselves. They both state that is a mistaken impression encouraged by people quoting one paragraph in that sutta out of context. A few months back I read that sutta again and I agree with their view.

The Buddha didn't preach a doctrine of free inquiry. In that sutta he came across non-Buddhists and approached them on the issue of their religion in a respectful way. He basically told the Kalamas to look at the results other people got in their lives from following other philosophies, look at Buddhists and then decide which path they wanted to follow.

Both of the western born scholar monks mentioned that they thought that is where the freedom of thought ends. Once someone signs onboard as a Buddhist, they take the dhamma on faith until they can progress to a point to see the alleged truth behind it for themselves.

So, are there reasons elsewhere to support the notion that the Buddha encouraged people to think for themselves about the dhamma or is that another positive mistaken impression westerners have of Buddhism? Like the Buddha had knowledge of modern physics or that Buddhism is a logical philosophy rather than a religion complete with its own superstitions?
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

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Ben
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Re: Really? The Buddha encouraging questioning?

Postby Ben » Sun Oct 09, 2011 1:56 am

Greetings J4
Something else to complement your existing readings is an excellent essay by Stephen Evans.
If I find it online, I'll post the link here. In the interim, here are the bibliographic details:
Stephen Evans, 'Doubting the Kalama-Sutta: Epistemology, Ethics, and the "Sacred"', Buddhist Studies Review, vol. 24, no. 1, 2007, pp. 91-107
kind regards

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Really? The Buddha encouraging questioning?

Postby Viscid » Sun Oct 09, 2011 2:26 am

"What holds attention determines action." - William James

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Ben
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Re: Really? The Buddha encouraging questioning?

Postby Ben » Sun Oct 09, 2011 2:35 am

“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

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David N. Snyder
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Re: Really? The Buddha encouraging questioning?

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Oct 09, 2011 3:35 am

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chownah
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Re: Really? The Buddha encouraging questioning?

Postby chownah » Sun Oct 09, 2011 3:50 am

I think that there are a few different but related ideas in the OP which perhaps should be seperated:
1. Questioning in a general sense directed towards aspects of what has been taught.
2. Asking questions.
3. Questioning the Buddha's authority.
4. Fredom of inquiry.
5. Freedom of thought.
6. Taking the dhamma on faith.

I don't think Jhana4 necessarily means to say that we should not ask questions but I included it on the list as something that some people might infer.

It might be good to think about this in terms of faith vs. doubt......questioning is sometimes meant to include the idea of doubting but I think that sometimes questioning is used not to doubt something but to clarify something. My view on the proper relationship between faith and doubt is that the MINIMUM amount of faith neededed is that amount which provides for the non-arising of the fetter of doubt....is doubt a fetter?...I think so...any faith above and beyond this minimum amount may or may not be beneficial depending on what types of intention gives rise to it and how we respond to it.

As to other evidence that the Buddha encouraged questioning or freedom of thought I think I have some:
1. The Buddha often taught in a way that made people think.....he did not try to just tell them what to think....he would ask a question and then wait for a reply sometimes. When he asked "is that which is inconstant fit to be called self?" (this is a paraphrase and I'm not sure if it's exactly correct) and then the monk would respond "no Lord".....do you think that the Buddha expected a rote reply?...or did the Buddha expect that the monk would at least give some thought before replying?
2. I think that in a few places the Buddha talked about the faith followers and the bookworms or "intellectuals"...or something like that...I forget the exact terms used.....this seems to point to the fact that there are different approaches possible to understanding the workings of experience....some people do tend to think for themselves and some people do tend to defer to authority.....the Buddha sees this and has taught in a way so that both groups can see a path to the goal.
3. It may have been very fine when being face to face with the serenity of the Buddha and hearing the words from his mouth to forget doubt and rely on faith....but here we are 2500 years later with only words whose tortured path to the present is our guide...interpreted differently by everyone....how can we know which interpretation to have faith in?.....ultimately we are putting our faith in a translator and interpretor and consensus and I'm wondering if it is even appropriate to think that we are placing our faith in the Buddha.....my view is just enough faith to dispel the fetter of doubt....some people put their faith in their ability to find a good teacher....I try to have faith in what I experience and use other's opinions to guide my search....
chownah

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ground
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Re: Really? The Buddha encouraging questioning?

Postby ground » Sun Oct 09, 2011 4:03 am


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David N. Snyder
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Re: Really? The Buddha encouraging questioning?

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Oct 09, 2011 4:15 am

Not in the Kalama Sutta, but related to this subject:

Upali lived during the time of Buddha and was the follower of another religion and went to the
Buddha in order to argue with him and try to convert him. But after talking to the Buddha, he
was so impressed that he decided to become a follower of the Buddha. But the Buddha said:

"Make a proper investigation first. Proper investigation is good for a well-known person like
yourself
."

"Now I am even more pleased and satisfied when the Lord says to me: 'Make a proper
investigation first.' For if members of another religion had secured me as a discipline they would
have paraded a banner all around the town saying: 'Upali has joined our religion.' But the Lord
says to me: Make a proper investigation first. Proper investigation is good for a well-known
person like yourself
."
Majjhima Nikaya 56.16
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DarwidHalim
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Re: Really? The Buddha encouraging questioning?

Postby DarwidHalim » Sun Oct 09, 2011 6:27 am

I think there is a Sutta talk about it, where Siddharta Gautama asked Sariputta whether he agree or understand with what he said. Sariputta said he will checked it based on his own intelligent before he can fully accept it. The Buddha praised this approach.

Throughout the history of Buddhism, debate is the key to penetrate Buddhist wisdom. So, a question regarding authority is also a great source of learning.

I personally have doubts with some Sutta in the sense that it may not record a complete story or event. It is also impossible for Pali Sutta to have recorded all of Buddhist teachings. Buddha has taught for about 40 years, not only in human realm, but also in any other realms. There must be missing records somewhere out there or appear in other languages for example Sanskrit text.
I am not here nor there.
I am not right nor wrong.
I do not exist neither non-exist.
I am not I nor non-I.
I am not in samsara nor nirvana.
To All Buddhas, I bow down for the teaching of emptiness. Thank You!

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Ben
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Re: Really? The Buddha encouraging questioning?

Postby Ben » Sun Oct 09, 2011 6:32 am

Or recorded and kept under the custodianship of the wise mythical sea serpents??
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

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robertk
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Re: Really? The Buddha encouraging questioning?

Postby robertk » Sun Oct 09, 2011 6:58 am


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DarwidHalim
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Re: Really? The Buddha encouraging questioning?

Postby DarwidHalim » Sun Oct 09, 2011 7:08 am

I personally do not close that possibility because I am lacking of my own Buddha's eyes.

I normally checked personally through the content of that Sutra.

In our history, some of the sutra are hidden under the lake or big stone or some secret places, where the teachings are available at the appropriate time. When new teaching was discovered, based on what I know buddhist scholars normally will not simply accept it, but will check its content and decide whether that Sutta is fake or not.

I am quite surprise when I have a chance to read this hidden text, which discovered hundreds years after it was written. The content is so deep and the instruction practise is so real in the sense that we can prove it straight away through our personal experience.

Through the content, I normally see whether that particular Sutta is real or not.

Regarding, whether it is stored in the Naga realm or in the lake or in Tushita Heaven, it becomes secondary. Good to know, but not important. The content is the gold.
I am not here nor there.
I am not right nor wrong.
I do not exist neither non-exist.
I am not I nor non-I.
I am not in samsara nor nirvana.
To All Buddhas, I bow down for the teaching of emptiness. Thank You!

Nori
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Re: Really? The Buddha encouraging questioning?

Postby Nori » Sun Oct 09, 2011 8:42 am

Some things cannot be proven to yourself as being true until you actually try it for yourself. Nor can anyone else's testimony prove it for you.

I think this is where faith comes in. It's through faith in that person (with good reason) that you actually try it.

Nicro
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Re: Really? The Buddha encouraging questioning?

Postby Nicro » Sun Oct 09, 2011 12:28 pm


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daverupa
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Re: Really? The Buddha encouraging questioning?

Postby daverupa » Sun Oct 09, 2011 1:53 pm



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