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Discourse to the Kalamas

by Jack Panyakone

Translated by Bhikkhu Khantipalo

Kalamas: “Lord, certain samanas and brahmins come to Kesaputta. As to their own doctrine, they illustrate and illuminate it in full, but as to the doctrine of others, they abuse it, revile it, deprecate it and pull it to pieces. Moreover, Lord, yet other samanas and brahmins on coming to Kesaputta do the same thing. When we listen to them, Lord, we have doubt and uncertainty as to which of these revered samanas is speaking truth and which speaks falsehood”

The Buddha: “Yes, Kalamas, you may well doubt, you may well be uncertain. In a doubtful matter, uncertainty does arise. Come, Kalamas, do not [make a basis for religious beliefs] an authoritative tradition maintained by oral repetition [having its origin in some revelation from succession of teaching [or of teachers]; do not [make the basis for religious beliefs] speculative metaphysical theories [or reasons and arguments inference]; do not [make the basis for religious beliefs] reflecting on reasons; do not [make the basis for religious beliefs] acceptance of a statement as true because it agrees with a theory of which one is already convinced;  do not [make the basis for religious beliefs] grounds for competence [or reliability] of a person; do not [make the basis for religious beliefs] respecting, thinking, ‘our teacher says thus and thus…’ But, Kalamas, when you know for yourselves, these dhammas are unskillful, these dhammas are blamable, these dhammas are censured by the intelligent, undertaken and observed they lead to harm and ill, you should abandon them.”

Now what do you think, Kalamas? When greed arises within a man, does it arise for his benefit or for his harm?"

Kalamas: "For his harm, Lord."

The Buddha: "Now, Kalamas, does not this man thus given to greed, being overcome by greed and losing control of his mind, does he not take the life of living beings, take what is not given, go after another's wife, speak false words, and lead another into a like state? Is that to his loss and sorrow for a long time?"

Kalamas: "Yes, Lord."

The Buddha: "Now, what do you think, Kalamas? When aversion arises within a man, does it arise for his benefit or harm?"

Kalamas: "For his harm. Lord."

The Buddha: "Now Kalamas, does not this man thus given to aversion, being overcome by aversion, and losing control of his mind, does he not take the life of living beings, take what is not given, go after another's wife, speak false words, and lead another into a like state" Is that to his loss and sorrow for a long time?"

Kalamas: "Yes, Lord."

The Buddha: "Now what do you think, Kalamas? When delusion arises within a man, does it arise or his benefit or harm?"

Kalamas: "For his harm, Lord."

The Buddha: "And does not this man, given to delusion, being overcome by delusion and losing control of his mind, does he not take the life of living beings, take what is not given, go after another's wife, speak false words, and lead another into a like state? Is that for his loss and sorrow or a long time?"

Kalamas: "Yes, Lord."

The Buddha: "Well then, Kalamas, what do you think? Are these dhammas skillful or unskillful?"

Kalamas: "Unskillful, Lord."

The Buddha: "Are they blamable or not blamable?"

Kalama: "Blamable, Lord."

The Buddha: "Are they censured or praised by the intelligent?"

Kalamas: "They are censured, Lord."

The Buddha: "If undertaken and observed, do they conduce to loss and sorrow or not?"

Kalamas: "They conduce to loss and sorrow, Lord. Thus it is in this case!"

The Buddha: "Therefore, Kalamas, did we say: 'Do not [make the basis for religious beliefs] any of the ten clauses].’ But, Kalamas, when you know for yourselves these dhammas are unskillful, these dhammas are blamable, these dhammas are censured by the intelligent, undertaken and observed they lead to harm and ill, then Kalamas, you should abandon them!

Come, Kalamas, do not [make the basis for religious beliefs any of the ten clauses]. But when, Kalamas, you know for yourselves these dhammas are praised by the intelligent, undertaken and observed they conduce to benefit and happiness, and then do you, Kalamas, having undertaken them, live by them. What do you think, Kalamas? When absence of greed arises in a man, does it arise for his benefit or for his harm?"

Kalamas: "For his benefit, Lord."

The Buddha: "Not being greedy, not overcome by greed, having his mind under control, this man does not take the life of a living being, does not take what is not given, does not go after another's wife, does not speak false words, and prompts another to follow his example. Is that for his benefit and happiness for a long time?"

Kalamas: “Yes, Lord.”

The Buddha: “Now what do you think, Kalamas? When absence of aversion arises within a man, does it arise for his benefit or harm?”

Kalamas: “For his benefit, Lord.”

The Buddha: “Not being filled with aversion, not being overcome by aversion, but having his mind under control, this man does not take the life of a living being, does not take what is not given, does not go after another’s wife, does not speak false words, and prompts another to follow his example. Is that for his benefit and happiness for a long time?”

Kalamas: “Yes, Lord.”

The Buddha: “Now what do you think, Kalamas? When absence of delusion arises within a man, does it arise for his benefit or for his harm?”

Kalamas: “For his benefit, Lord.”

The Buddha: “Not being deluded, not being overcome by delusion, but having his mind under control, this man does not take the life of a living being, does not take what is not given, does not go after another’s wife, does not speak false words, and prompts another to follow his example,. Is that for his benefit and happiness for a long time?”

Kalamas: “Yes, Lord.”

The Buddha: “Then, Kalamas, what do you think? Are these dhammas skillful or unskillful?”

Kalamas: “Skillful, Lord.”

The Buddha: “Are they blamable or unblamable?”

Kalamas: “Unblamable, Lord.”

The Buddha: “Are they censured or praised by the intelligent?”

Kalamas: “The are praised, Lord.”

The Buddha: “When undertaken and observed, do they conduce to happiness or not?”

Kalamas:  “They conduce to happiness,  Lord. Thus it is in this case!”

The Buddha: “Therefore, Kalamas, did we say: Do not [make the basis for religious beliefs] an authoritative tradition maintained by oral repetition [having its origin in some revelation from a God]; do not [make the basis for religious beliefs] an unbroken succession of teaching [or of teacher]; do not [make the basis for religious beliefs] conformity with the scriptures; do not [make the basis for religious beliefs] speculative metaphysical theories [or reasons and arguments]; do not [make the basis for religious beliefs] a point view [perhaps inference]; do not [make the basis for religious beliefs] the reflection on reasons; do not [make the basis for religious beliefs] acceptance of a statement as true because it agrees with a theory of which one is already convinced; do not [make the basis for religious beliefs] grounds for the competence [or reliability] of a person; do not [make the basis for religious beliefs] respect, thinking, ‘our teacher says thus and thus…’ But when you know for yourselves these dhammas are skillful, these dhammas are blameless, these dhammas are praised by the intelligent, undertaken, and observed, they lead to beneefit and happiness, then do you, Kalamas, having undertaken them, live by them”

The Buddha: “Now, Kalamas, he who is an Noble Hearkened freed from coveting and malevolence, who is not bewildered, but is self-controlled and mindful, with a heart possessed of friendliness, possessed of compassion, possessed of gladness with others, possessed of equanimity, dwelling intent upon one direction with his heart endowed with friendliness, compassion, gladness with others, and equanimity likewise in the second direction, likewise the third direction, likewise in the fourth direction, and so above, below, and around; everywhere and equally he dwells pervading the entire world with friendliness, compassion, gladness with others, and equanimity, abundant, exalted and measureless, free from affliction, untainted and purified, by such a one in this very life, four assurances are attained:

If there is a world beyond, and there is the fruit and result of kamma well-done or ill, then when the body breaks up after death, I shall arise in a happy bourn, in a heaven world. This is the first assurance attained by him.

If, however, there is no world beyond, no fruit and result of kamma well-done or ill, yet in this very life I dwell free from hostility and affliction, sorrow less and happy. This is the second assurance attained by him.

Again, even if having done evil and it is effective. Nevertheless I do not think to do evil towards anyone, so how can ill touch me? This is the third assurance attained by him.

Again, if not having done evil and it is not effective. Then in both ways I hold myself utterly pure. This is the fourth assurance attained by him.

Thus, Kalamas, that Noble Hearkener whose heart is free from hostility, free from affliction, untainted and purified, in this very life he attains these four assurances.”

Kalamas: “Thus indeed it is, Lord! Thus indeed it is, Well-farer! That Noble Hearkener whose heart is free from hostility, free from affliction, untainted and purified, in this very life he attains these four assurances. Most excellent, Lord, most excellent. Just as if a man was to setup what was thrown down, or were to reveal that which was hidden away, or were to point out the right road to him who had gone astray, or were to bring a lamp into the darkness so that they who have eyes could see external forms, even so has Dhamma been illumined in many a figure by the Bhagavan.

We go for Refuge to the Bhagavan, to Dhamma, and to the Bhikkhu-Sangha. May the Bhagavan accept us as upasakas from this day forth so long as life shall last, as those who have gone for Refuge.”

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