Kalama Sutta

The Instruction to the Kalamas

Excerpts from

The Buddha's Charter of Free Inquiry

(The Kalamas of Kesaputta go to see the Buddha)

Once the Blessed One, while wandering with a large group of devotees, entered a town of the Kalama. The Kalamas said "Reverend Gotama, the monk has [come to our region]. And of that Master Gotama this fine reputation has spread: 'He is indeed a Blessed One, worthy, & rightly self-awakened, consummate in knowledge & conduct, well-gone, a knower of the cosmos, an unexcelled trainer of those persons ready to be tamed, teacher of human & divine beings, awakened, blessed. He has expounded the holy life both in its particulars & in its essence, entirely perfect, surpassingly pure. It is good to see such a worthy one.”

(The Kalamas of Kesaputta ask for guidance from the Buddha)

The Kalamas said to the Blessed One: "There are some monks and brahmins, venerable sir, who visit [us]. They expound and explain only their own doctrines; the doctrines of others they despise, revile, and pull to pieces. Some other monks and brahmins too, venerable sir, come to [us]. They also expound and explain only their own doctrines; the doctrines of others they despise, revile, and pull to pieces. Venerable sir, there is doubt, there is uncertainty in us concerning them. Which of these reverend monks and brahmins spoke the truth and which falsehood?"

(The criterion for rejection)

“Of course you are uncertain, Kalamas. Of course you are in doubt. When there are reasons for doubt, uncertainty is born. So in this case, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by rumor, by traditions, by what is in scripture, by surmise, by specious reasoning, by analogies, by agreement with your views, by another's seeming ability, or by the thought, 'The monk is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These things are bad, these things are blameworthy; these things are criticized by the wise, when undertaken & carried out, these things lead to harm & to suffering' -- then you should abandon them.”

(Greed, hate, and delusion)

"What do you think, Kalamas? Does greed appear in a man for benefit or harm?"

"For harm, venerable sir."

"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 is for harm & suffering?"

"Yes, venerable sir."

"What do you think, Kalamas? Does hate appear in a man for benefit or harm?"

"For harm, venerable sir."

"Kalamas, being given to hate, and being overwhelmed and vanquished mentally by hate, this man takes life, steals, commits adultery, and tells lies; he prompts another too, to do likewise. Will that be for harm and ill?"

"Yes, venerable sir."

"What do you think, Kalamas? Does delusion appear in a man for benefit or harm?"

"For harm, venerable sir."

"Kalamas, being given to delusion, and being overwhelmed and vanquished mentally by delusion, this man takes life, steals, commits adultery, and tells lies; he prompts another too, to do likewise. Will that be for harm and ill?"

"Yes, venerable sir."

"What do you think, Kalamas? Are these things good or bad?"

"Bad, venerable sir"

"Blamable or not blamable?"

"Blamable, venerable sir."

"Censured or praised by the wise?"

"Censured, venerable sir."

"Undertaken and carried out, do these things lead to harm and ill, or not? Or how does it strike you?"

"Undertaken and carried out, these things lead to harm and ill. Thus it strikes us here."

"Therefore, did we say, Kalamas, what was said thus, 'Come Kalamas. Do not go by reports, by legends, by rumor, by traditions, by what is in scripture, by surmise, by specious reasoning, by analogies, by agreement with your views, by another's seeming ability, or by the thought, 'The monk is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These things are bad, these things are blameworthy; these things are criticized by the wise, when undertaken & carried out, these things lead to harm & to suffering' -- then you should abandon them.”

(The criterion for acceptance)

"Come, Kalamas. Do not go by reports, by legends, by rumor, by traditions, by what is in scripture, by surmise, by specious reasoning, by analogies, by agreement with your views, by another's seeming ability, or by the thought, 'The monk is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These things are good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and carried out, these things lead to benefit and happiness,' enter and remain in them.

(Absence of greed, hate, and delusion)

"What do you think, Kalamas? Does absence of greed appear in a man for benefit or harm?"

"For benefit, venerable sir."

"Kalamas, being not given to greed, and being not overwhelmed and not vanquished mentally by greed, this man does not take life, does not steal, does not commit adultery, and does not tell lies; he prompts another too, to do likewise. Will that be for benefit and happiness?"

"Yes, venerable sir."

"What do you think, Kalamas? Does absence of hate appear in a man for benefit or harm?"

"For benefit, venerable sir."

"Kalamas, being not given to hate, and being not overwhelmed and not vanquished mentally by hate, this man does not take life, does not steal, does not commit adultery, and does not tell lies; he prompts another too, to do likewise. Will that be for benefit and happiness?"

"Yes, venerable sir."

"What do you think, Kalamas? Does absence of delusion appear in a man for benefit or harm?"

"For benefit, venerable sir."

"Kalamas, being not given to delusion, and being not overwhelmed and not vanquished mentally by delusion, this man does not take life, does not steal, does not commit adultery, and does not tell lies; he prompts another too, to do likewise. Will that be for benefit and happiness?"

"Yes, venerable sir."

"What do you think, Kalamas? Are these things good or bad?"

"Good, venerable sir."

"Blamable or not blamable?"

"Not blamable, venerable sir."

"Censured or praised by the wise?"

"Praised, venerable sir."

"Undertaken and carried out, do these things lead to benefit and happiness, or not? Or how does it strike you?"

"Undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness. Thus it strikes us here."

"Therefore, did we say, Kalamas, what was said thus, 'Come Kalamas. Do not go by reports, by legends, by rumor, by traditions, by what is in scripture, by surmise, by specious reasoning, by analogies, by agreement with your views, by another's seeming ability, or by the thought, 'The monk is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These things are good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and carried out, these things lead to benefit and happiness,' enter and remain in them.”

(The Four Solaces)

"The disciple of the Noble Ones, Kalamas, who has such a hate-free mind, such a malice-free mind, such an undefiled mind, and such a purified mind, is one by whom four solaces are found here and now.

"'Suppose there is a hereafter and there is a fruit, result, of deeds done well or ill. Then it is possible that at the dissolution of the body after death, I shall arise in the heavenly world, which is possessed of the state of bliss.' This is the first solace found by him.

"'Suppose there is no hereafter and there is no fruit, no result, of deeds done well or ill. Yet in this world, here and now, free from hatred, free from malice, safe and sound, and happy, I keep myself.' This is the second solace found by him.

"'Suppose evil (results) befall evil-doers. I, however, think of doing evil to no one. Then, how can ill (results) affect me who do no evil deed?' This is the third solace found by him.

"'Suppose evil (results) do not befall evil-doers. Then I see myself purified in any case.' This is the fourth solace found by him.

"The disciple of the Noble Ones, Kalamas, who has such a hate-free mind, such a malice-free mind, such an undefiled mind, and such a purified mind, is one by whom, here and now, these four solaces are found."

"Marvelous, venerable sir! Marvelous, venerable sir! As if, venerable sir, a person were to turn face upwards what is upside down, or to uncover the concealed, or to point the way to one who is lost or to carry a lamp in the darkness, thinking, 'Those who have eyes will see visible objects,' so has the Dhamma been set forth in many ways by the Blessed One.”

Or as Saint John put it:
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