- The instruction to the Kalamas is justly well-known for its encouragement of free inquiry; a teaching that discourage dogmatism, fanaticism, intolerance and bigotry
- The Dhamma requires each individual to work out his/her own emancipation from misery through insightful understanding of the true nature of things
It happened in 1948— Darley Road then was not infested with vehicle accessory trade: it was famous for British Sterling Companies presence and the location for one of leading Catholic School, St Joseph’s College.
A student in the Junior School Certificate class was leaving after school, as part of his daily routine back home, a walk to Maradana railway station; he stops near the second-hand bookman on the pavement.
“KKS, I always read with great interest your poya column, you know its uncommon common sense”, he was at his office as the Chairman of NATA [National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol, where he performed a splendid job] then he went on to relate how he accidentally came across Kalama Sutta as a 15-year old student. “I picked up a copy of Martin Wickramasinghe’s 1914 novel Leela from vendor’s mound of old books. The first thing that my eyes banged, when I opened it, was the Kalama Sutta. It mesmerized me.
It was years later that I realized the Kalama Sutta had changed the course of my life.” Five decades later, as a respected public figure and a retired teacher to thousands of physicians, he enrolls in a Buddhist faculty of a state university for reading for a master’s in Buddhist philosophy, he wrote for his dissertation on ‘The Contemporary Relevance of the Kalama Sutta’. Kalama Sutta is the Sutta No. 65 of Anguttara Nikaya, Mahavagga.
“The Blessed One is thus skillful, enlightened, endowed with knowledge, peerless, sublime, knower of the world, teacher of divine and humans; by himself he has clearly understood through direct knowledge”
The Dhamma requires each individual to work out his/her own emancipation from misery through insightful understanding of the true nature of things. Critical examination of everything before accepting them is a must in it. Buddha’s advice to the young Kalamas is well known: “Yes, Kalamas, it is natural that you have doubt, that you have bafflement, for an uncertainty has arisen in something which is doubtful. Kalamas, do not go by tradition or reports, or hearsay. Be not led by the authority of scriptures, nor by the amusement in speculative views, nor by apparent possibilities, nor by the thought or design: ‘our teacher said so’.
But, Kalamas, when you know for yourselves that certain things are harmful or unpleasant, and wrong or bad, then give them ‘…But when you know for yourselves, “These things are wholesome, these things are blameless; these things are praised by the wise, these things, if undertaken and practiced, lead to welfare and happiness,” then you should engage in them’ Prof. Carlo writing under ‘The Kalama Sutta and freedom of thought’ – in The Island, July 8, 2014, says, “Thus, there is no doubt that in the Kalama Sutta the Buddha enjoined us to take account of what is ‘praised by the wise’ when making up our minds about matters of life, death and truth.
The question is: Who are ‘the wise’? Such wise men as existed in the days of the Buddha are no longer available to us. In this context I am inclined to take the view that the wise men and women of our time are the natural scientists endeavoring to figure out how the world works and have been remarkably successful in the enterprise. In other words, for me what modern science has to say about the natural world that has greater credibility than what is taught in religion or philosophy. That is why I turn to science for knowledge, to philosophy for epistemology and to religion for ethics.”
Jawaharlal Nehru was imprisoned under Colonial rulers’ political repression. He used his jail term effectively to pen, ‘The Discovery of India’. Here he explains philosophy in Kalama Sutta. He wrote. “One must not accept my law from reverence, but first try it as gold is tried by fire”. Buddha preached without any religious sanction or any reference to God or another world. He relies on reason and logic and experience and asks people to seek the Truth in their own Minds. This is what the Kalama Sutta say”.
The instruction to the Kalamas is justly well-known for its encouragement of free inquiry; a teaching that discourage dogmatism, fanaticism, intolerance and bigotry. The Buddha, while traveling in the Kosala State with a community of monks, reached a town called Kesaputta where the inhabitants were Kalama people. The Kalamas addressed themselves: “Reverend Gautama, son of the Sakyans, has entered Kesaputta. The Blessed One is thus skillful, enlightened, endowed with knowledge, peerless, sublime, knower of the world, teacher of divine and humans; by himself he has clearly understood through direct knowledge. Seeing such consummate ones is excellent indeed.” Then the Kalamas went to where the Buddha was. On arriving there they exchanged pleasantries with him and sat down on one side; some saluted him raising their joined palms and sat down on one side. The Kalamas ask for direction from the Buddha
“What modern science has to say about the natural world that has greater credibility than what is taught in religion or philosophy. That is why I turn to science for knowledge, to philosophy for epistemology and to religion for ethics”
“Venerable sir, there are some monks and Brahmans, who visit us in Kesaputta. They talk about and explain their own doctrines; the beliefs of others they revile, despise, and tear to pieces. There are other monks and Brahmans too, that come to Kesaputta. They also expound and explicate only their own doctrines. Venerable sir, there is doubt and hesitation; there is uncertainty and vagueness in us concerning them. Which of the Brahmans and monks spoke the truth, and which deceives?”
Buddha advised the Kalamas, saying, “It is proper for you to doubt and to have confusion and bafflement when doubt has arisen in a doubtful topic.” He instructed them that it is wiser to make a proper assessment before committing. He said this was applicable to his own teachings too.
Ma anussavena– Do not believe something just because it has been accepted along and repeated for many generations. Ma paramparaya— Do not believe something merely because it has developed into a traditional observe. [not be led by whatever handed down from generations.]Ma itikiraya.Do not believe something simply because it is well-known universally. [not to be led by hearsay or common opinion.] Ma Pitakasampadanena— Do not believe something just because it is quoted in a manuscript. [not to be led by what the scriptures say] Ma takkahetu– Do not believe something exclusively on the grounds of rational reasoning. [not to be led by mere logic.] Ma nayahetu– Do not believe something purely because it accords with your viewpoint. [not to be led by mere inference or conclusion.] Ma akaraparivitakkena– Do not believe something because it appeals to common sense. [not to be led by considering only superficial appearance.]Ma ditthinijjhanakkhantiya– Do not believe something just because you are akin to the idea. [not to be led by preconceived notions] Ma bhabbarupataya– Do not believe something because the narrator seems reliable. [not to be led by what seems acceptable or believable] Ma samano no garu ti– Do not believe something thinking, “This is what our instructor says”. [not to be led by what your teacher tells you is so.]
“Prof. Carlo Fonseka was courageous, witty, and never shied away from expressing himself on any subject”
We lost an exceptional politician and iconic public figure who made valuable contributions both in the Buddhist philosophy and literature. Prof. Carlo Fonseka was courageous, witty, and never shied away from expressing himself on any subject. Such an inspirational expedition of his life will always be an encouragement to all of us. When he spoke, everybody listened, because they wanted to, not they had to. In Carlo, we saw a legend. He will be remembered by generations to come.
May Dhamma arise among the rulers, uprooting any corruption. Whether of water, earth or sky, may beings be happy without fear or enmity; may all be freed of ills. — S. N. Goenka
Binara full moon is the day we commemorate the establishment of the Bhikkhuni Sangha [ or Order of the Female Buddhist Monastic]. The very first bhikkuni ordained by the Buddha was his stepmother, Mahapajapathi Gothami.