Free Inquiry

Vajradhara

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Namaste all,

i'm curious to know if other, non-Christian tradition have a teaching like we have in Buddhism regarding how to tell which teachings one should reject and which teachings that one should uphold?

in our Suttas, it is called the Kalama Sutta and is frequently referred to, mostly by non-Buddhists, as the Buddhist Charter of Free Inquiry.

in this Sutta, the Kalamas express the query like this:

The Kalamas who were inhabitants of Kesaputta sitting on one side said to the Blessed One: "There are some monks and brahmans, venerable sir, who visit Kesaputta. They expound and explain only their own doctrines; the doctrines of others they despise, revile, and pull to pieces. Some other monks and brahmans too, venerable sir, come to Kesaputta. 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 brahmans spoke the truth and which falsehood?"

this is, in some respects, a question that most of us, especially on this part of the forum, have had to ask ourselves.

the Buddhas answer to this query first explains how one should go about determining what a teaching that should be rejected is, he explains it like this:

"It is proper for you, Kalamas, to doubt, to be uncertain; uncertainty has arisen in you about what is doubtful. Come, Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another's seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, 'The monk is our teacher.' Kalamas, when you yourselves know: 'These things are bad; these things are blamable; these things are censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill,' abandon them.

generally speaking, i think that we can all agree that if something leads to harm and ill, that we shouldn't practice it.

then, the Buddha then goes on to present the Kalamas with a rhetorical question so that they can understand they have the power to discern these things. he asks it like this:

"What do you think, Kalamas? Does greed appear in a man for his benefit or harm?" --
"For his harm, venerable sir." --

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

"What do you think, Kalamas? Does hate appear in a man for his benefit or harm?" -- "For his 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 his harm and ill?" -- "Yes, venerable sir."

"What do you think, Kalamas? Does delusion appear in a man for his benefit or harm?" -- "For his 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 long for his harm and ill?" -- "Yes, venerable sir."

here, the Buddha has demonstrated that if we apply reason and observation with our spiritual praxis, we can discern the unwholesome teachings from those that are condusive to our benefit. this ability of the Kalamas has not died in the history books. we, too, possess this same ability of discernment.

the Buddha, then proceeds to give the criterion for which teachings we should accept. he says it like this:

"Come, Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another's seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, 'The monk is our teacher.' Kalamas, when you yourselves know: 'These things are good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,' enter on and abide in them."

here, we are being extolled to uphold those teachings and practices that we have verified for ourselves lead to benefit and happiness. not to forego our rational thinking and discernment. far from it, in fact. we are told not to believe something which we cannot know for ourselves, which seems to be a good position to take in regards to deciding which teachings to uphold.

this is why Buddhism, as a whole, does not discriminate against other valid religious paths. if you are engaged in a moral and ethical praxis we would tend to encourage that praxis rather than advocate you abandon it to practice our teachings.

so... to recap, do any other non-Christian religions have a definitive statement in their scriptures that extols a free inquiry into the teachings themselves?
 
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Excellent thread, Vajradhara.

"Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil." (1 Thessalonians 5: 21) NIV

Pretty simple, and applicable to all religious paths. :)
 
Namaste Lunamoth,


thank you for the post.

oh, Christians can respond as well, i didn't mean to single out anyone.. this is actually a copy of a post that i made in another forum where such things must be indicated :)
 
Hello Vaj..

Interesting thing.. I see your post after posting in a thread that im involved in on this very same subject. For 9 years I was in a spiritual despair because someone told me that everything I have ever believed was wrong and I was naive to even think "what if they're right?" It took 9 years to get me back on a path that was in sync with God and my belief and my very faith.

Thank you for your post it gave me some much needed validation of my beliefs.
 
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