kalama sutra – the buddha’s charter of free inquiry

Seeing that it was the Buddha’s birthday and all, I would like to share my favourite sutra, The Kalama Sutra. Since young I figured that if I needed faith, at least let it be something I have certain control over.

So the Buddha was tripping along the dusty roads of India with his disciples in tow when He reached Kesaputta. The people of Kesaputta were called the Kalamas, like how the people of San Francisco were called hippies and people of KL jakun.

Now the Kalamas were a confused bunch, not unlike drivers today who can’t make up their minds whether to turn left, turn right, go straight or not go at all. They asked the Buddha,

“Dude, you look so smart and enlightened and shiny and all. Maybe you could show us the light on an issue that has been bothering us?

You see, there have been many other teachers, monks and what-not here in our town before you. Each tells us that their teachings are the real Haagen Daaz and the others are plain Walls. If they were from Amway or Cosway selling detergent we could easily slam the door in their faces, for we know that Dynamo is the best. But we figured that since we take our lives quite seriously, maybe we should not dismiss all these preachers condemning other preachers.

So who among them are telling the truth? Who among them are lying? Is it true that the one that shouts the loudest screams no lies?”

To which the Buddha replied,

“Yo listen up! It is true that the powers of marketing and branding are strong. Yet thou shalt not unnecessarily waste your hard earned money on inferior products. Who said that Dynamo was the best? Did you? Did you? Have you tried all the other detergent available in the market?

Myself, I prefer Attack.

Likewise in life, it is easy to be misguided by the mindless dribble frothing at the crooked mouths of unscrupulous agents. All of them want a commission in some manner or the other. But what has it got to do with you, O Kalamas?

Here forth I shall spout a few chosen words, which after I die shall be known as the basis of the Kalama Sutra.

Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.
Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.
Do not believe anything because it is spoken and rumored by many.
Do not believe in anything because it is written in your religious books.
Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.
Rely not on the teacher or person, but on the teaching.
Rely not on the words of the teaching, but on the spirit of the words.
Rely not on theory, but on experience.

But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and the benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

So my young padawans, what think you?”

The only thought that was formed in the Kalamas’ minds was, “Damn Dynamo”.

.::. .::. .::. .::. .::. .::. .::. .::. .::. .::. .::. .::. .::. .::. .::.

What is the point of this story being told the way it was?

My point of view is that people being people will continuously hold on to something for the sole reason of it being baseless.

Emotions, facades and so on; you believe just because you want to believe.

Even in Malaysia, a lot of people still hate the Japanese for their past atrocities. Children are taught to hate with passion; your grandmother/father/mother was brutally raped/killed/humiliated, it robbed you of someone you could have known, never mind that s/he would probably die of diabetes/cancer/heart attack long before you were born.

Similarly on home ground, a lot of kids were not allowed to play outside their own races. “The Malays are perverts, the Chinese are uncouth, the Indians are dirty, and everyone else is a bad bad bad stranger who would do unspeakable things to do because you are a Malay/ Chinese/ Indian/ Lain-lain.”

And so the cycle continues.

Tolerance is a virtue, understanding is a necessity.

Feel free to expound on this.



  1. amitabha..

  2. Dabido (Teflon) says:

    Happy B’day Buddha! I thought it said Karma Sutra to begin with … darn dyslexia! I am so tempted to say something about being the bad bad bad stranger … but alas, it would fall into weird and perverted subject matter, which can’t be good! So I will refrain from speaking. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. viewtru says:

    Wow, this is an impressive post…..deep and insightful. Are you on drugs or something?

    “All philosophy is wrong understanding. Right understanding comes not from philosophy but from experiencing the truth.”

  4. I can feel…. that the force is strong with this one…

  5. aye!

  6. Dabido (Teflon) says:

    What you just said sounds like your philosophy. Try this one, “In theory, theory and practice are the same, but in practice they are not.” ๐Ÿ™‚ Of course, all philiosophy cannot be wrong, as some philosophies contradict each other, and if one is wrong, it proves the other one is correct. ๐Ÿ™‚ So some philosophy must be correct somewhere. It’s up there with Set A being the Set of all numbers which are not a member of any set. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. michaelooi says:

    insightful … this is like telling us not all the big racks we saw are real …

  8. viewtru says:

    Any right philosophy is still time or place dependent. Right in some time but wrong in another. Still leads to wrong understanding. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Not Karma Sutera? ish…

  10. Hmm very insightful and oh so true!

  11. Dabido (Teflon) says:

    If I may be serious for a second, can I have your definition of “philosophy”. Your original quote sounds like something Marx said in 1847. (When he announced the death of Philosophy). It will be interesting to hear your thoughts on Heraclitus’ beliefs.

  12. The big racks are real, I saw em too!

  13. ahhh… you is rocks.

    Don’t eat garlic cos you’ll stink of garlic… Don’t eat prok cos you’ll stink of pork… that bald man told me so…

    and I’m gonna have bak kut teh tonite!

  14. I am sooooo plugging you for this one!!! HEHEHE.

  15. amitabha….

    viewtru : i agree. all things come to a halt until man has taken the first step. so from another perspective all philosophy are fruitless in this age. socrates had it easy…
    Janus : ty :p hehe
    ahseng : go mix more with theravadians and vajrapanians… they the rockerz they eat everything :p
    minishorts : i saw heh ๐Ÿ˜›


  16. I ain’t gonna conciously mix with any “xxx-ians”. Just give me my bak kut teh and I’m a happy camper. BUT its goot to know that two sect eats everything…

    Is it me or does vajrapanians sounds like a female organ? I always thought so since the YBF days… ๐Ÿ˜›

  17. it’s you. anyway the concept of bikkhus’ meals is that they eat only twice a day – a rule set by the Buddha as not to burden the laymen who donate the food. Bhante Sumana (formerly known as Chen Zhong) told us that initially it was difficult but then he got used to it. if he gets a little hungry in the evenings, he just drinks milo. MILO ROCKS! ………

    And also by rule, bikkhus cannot be choosy over food. They consume whatever is given. If the person donating the food gives meat knowing fully well that the monk is a vegetarian, then the monk has to eat it anyway but the karma lies on the person who donates…. that is why awareness is very important at all levels.

  18. micketymoc says:

    Thanks for this wonderful entry! Have been sufficiently inspired by it to write my own take.

  19. Wow. Love your summary of the basis. Right to the point.

  20. banana : ty ๐Ÿ™‚
    micketymoc : i read it.. very nice strong post, makes me think of more things to input on the subject

  21. Dabido (Teflon) says:

    May I ask your definition of Philosophy too? Not trying to cause arguements with you and Viewtru, just curious and trying to understand where you are both coming from.

  22. Dabido (Teflon) says:

    As a vegetarian, I wouldn’t eat it, regardless of who gave it to me.

  23. thanks for enlightening me sister suanie… sadhu sadhu sadhu…


    can’t believe I just said that. ๐Ÿ˜›

  24. mine : talk kok
    viewtru’s probably talk kokker

  25. that’s why you can’t be a bikkhu ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. Dabido (Teflon) says:

    That is true.

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