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Kesamutti Suttaṃ ¹

(Kālāma Sutta)

(A.i.188)

Summary ²

Download a PDF file“Etha tumhe, Kālāmā, mā anussavena, mā paramparāya, mā itikirāya, mā pitakasampadānena, mā takkahetu, mā nayahetu, mā ākāraparivitakkena, mā ditthinijjhānakkhantiyā, mā bhabbarūpatāya, mā samano no garū’ti. Yadā tumhe, Kālāmā, attanāva jāneyyātha: “Ime dhammā akusalā, ime dhammā sāvajjā, ime dhammā viññugarahitā, ime dhammā samattā samādinnā ahitāya dukkhāya samvattantī”ti, atha tumhe, Kālāmā, pajaheyyātha.” (A.i.188)

When you yourselves know, “This is unwholesome, this is blameworthy, this is censured by the wise, these things when accepted and practised lead to harm and suffering, then you should give them up.”

The Buddha’s Discourse to the Kālāmas

Thus have I heard — At one time the Blessed One was wandering among the Kosala district with a large following of monks and was staying at a market town of the Kālāmas named Kesamutta. The Kālāmas of Kesamutta heard: “The recluse Gotama, the son of the Sakyans, who went forth has arrived at Kesamutta. A good reputation regarding the Venerable Gotama has spread thus: ‘Indeed the Blessed One is a worthy one, a fully enlightened Buddha, endowed with vision and conduct, fortunate, a knower of the worlds, the incomparable charioteer of trainable persons, the teacher of gods and men, enlightened, and blessed. Having realised with direct knowledge this world with its deities, māras, and brahmas, this generation of recluses and priests, deities and human beings, he declares it. He teaches the Dhamma that is good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end, with meaning and phrasing, he declares a holy life that is perfect and pure.’ It is good to meet such worthy ones.”

Then the Kālāmas of Kesamutti approached the Blessed One; and having approached some of them paid homage and sat down at one side, some of them exchanged polite and friendly greetings and having engaged in friendly conversation sat down at one side, some of them have announced their name and clan, sat down at one side, and some remaining silent sat down at once side. Sitting there at one side those Kālāmas of Kesamutti said to the Blessed One:–

“There are, venerable sir, some recluses and priests who come to Kesamutti. They explain (dīpenti) and glorify (jotenti) their own doctrine, but disparage (khuṃsenti), denigrate (vambhenti), condemn (paribhavanti), and dismiss (omakkhiṃ karonti) ³ the doctrines of others. Other recluses and priests too, venerable sir, come to Kesamutta who explain and glorify their own doctrines, but disparage, denigrate, condemn, and dismiss the doctrines of others. We are undecided and doubtful, venerable sir, ‘Who among these venerable recluses and priests speaks truthfully, who speaks falsely?’”

“It is proper, Kālāmas, for you to be undecided and doubtful. Indecision has arisen regarding a matter that is doubtful.

“Herein, Kālāmas, do not believe something just because it has been passed along and retold for many generations (mā anussavena), do not believe something merely because it has become a traditional practice (mā paramparāya), do not believe something simply because it is well-known everywhere (mā itikirāya), do not believe something just because it is cited in a text (mā pitakasampadānena), do not believe something solely on the grounds of logical reasoning (mā takkahetu), do not believe something merely because it accords with your philosophy (mā nayahetu), do not believe something because it appeals to common sense (mā ākāraparivitakkena), do not believe something just because you like the idea (mā ditthinijjhanakkhantiya), do not believe something because the speaker seems trustworthy (mā bhabbarūpatāya), do not believe something thinking, “This is what our teacher says (mā samano no garūti).” When you yourselves know, ‘This is unwholesome, this is blameworthy, this is censured by the wise, these things when accepted and practised lead to harm and suffering, then you should give them up.’

“What do you think, Kālāmas? When greed arises in a person, is it for their benefit or their harm?”
“For their harm, venerable sir.”

“A greedy person, Kālāmas, overcome by greed with the mind overwhelmed, kills living beings, takes what is not given, commits adultery, tells lies, and urges others to do the same, will that leads to harm and suffering for a long time?”
“Indeed it will, venerable sir.”

“What do you think, Kālāmas? When anger (doso) arises in a person, is it for their benefit or their harm?”
“For their harm, venerable sir.”

“A malignant (duṭṭho) person, Kālāmas, overcome by anger with the mind overwhelmed, kills living beings, takes what is not given, commits adultery, tells lies, and urges others to do the same, will that leads to harm and suffering for a long time?”
“Indeed it will, venerable sir.”

“What do you think, Kālāmas? When delusion (moho) arises in a person, is it for their benefit or their harm?”
“For their harm, venerable sir.”

“A deluded person, Kālāmas, overcome by delusion with the mind overwhelmed, kills living beings, takes what is not given, commits adultery, tells lies, and urges others to do the same, will that leads to harm and suffering for a long time?”
“Indeed it will, venerable sir.”

“What do you think, Kālāmas? Are these states wholesome or unwholesome?”
“Unwholesome, venerable sir.”

“Are the blameworthy or blameless?”
“They are blameworthy, venerable sir.”

“Are they censured by the wise or are they praised?”
“They are censured by the wise, venerable sir.”

“If accepted and undertaken do they lead to harm and suffering, or not? How is it here?”
“If accepted and practised, venerable sir, they lead to harm and suffering. Thus it is for us.”

“Therefore, Kālāmas, when I said: ‘Herein, Kālāmas, do not believe something just because it has been passed along and retold for many generations,  do not believe something merely because it has become a traditional practice, do not believe something simply because it is well-known everywhere, do not believe something just because it is cited in a text, do not believe something solely on the grounds of logical reasoning, do not believe something merely because it accords with your philosophy, do not believe something because it appeals to common sense, do not believe something just because you like the idea, do not believe something because the speaker seems trustworthy, do not believe something thinking, “This is what our teacher says.” When you yourselves know, ‘This is unwholesome, this is blameworthy, this is censured by the wise, these things when accepted and practised lead to harm and suffering, then you should give them up,’ when this was said, it was said because of this.

“Herein, Kālāmas, do not believe something just because it has been passed along and retold for many generations,  do not believe something merely because it has become a traditional practice, do not believe something simply because it is well-known everywhere, do not believe something just because it is cited in a text, do not believe something solely on the grounds of logical reasoning, do not believe something merely because it accords with your philosophy, do not believe something because it appeals to common sense, do not believe something just because you like the idea, do not believe something because the speaker seems trustworthy, do not believe something thinking, “This is what our teacher says.” When you yourselves know, ‘This is wholesome, this is blameless, this is praised by the wise, these things when accepted and practised lead to benefit and happiness,’ then you should undertake them and abide by them.”

“What do you think, Kālāmas, when generosity (alobho) arises in a person, is it for their benefit or their harm?”
“It is for their benefit, venerable sir.”

“A generous (aluddho) person, Kālāmas, not overcome by greed, with the mind not overwhelmed, neither kills living beings, nor takes what is not given, nor commits adultery, nor tells lies, nor urges others to do the same, will that lead to their benefit and happiness for a long time?”
“Indeed it will, venerable sir.”

“A kind (adoso) person, Kālāmas, not overcome by anger, with the mind not overwhelmed, neither kills living beings, nor takes what is not given, nor commits adultery, nor tells lies, nor urges others to do the same, will that lead to their benefit and happiness for a long time?”
“Indeed it will, venerable sir.”

“An undeluded (amoho) person, Kālāmas, not overcome by delusion, with the mind not overwhelmed, neither kills living beings, nor takes what is not given, nor commits adultery, nor tells lies, nor urges others to do the same, will that lead to their benefit and happiness for a long time?”
“Indeed it will, venerable sir.”

“What do you think, Kālāmas, are these things wholesome or unwholesome?”
“Wholesome, venerable sir.”

“Are they blameworthy or blameless?”
“They are blameless, venerable sir.”

“Are they censured by the wise or are they praised by the wise?”
“They are praised by the wise, venerable sir.”

“If accepted and undertaken do they lead to harm and suffering, or not? How is it here?”
“If accepted and practised, venerable sir, they lead to benefit and happiness. Thus it is for us.”

“Therefore, Kālāmas, when I said: ‘Herein, Kālāmas, do not believe something just because it has been passed along and retold for many generations, do not believe something merely because it has become a traditional practice, do not believe something simply because it is well-known everywhere, do not believe something just because it is cited in a text, do not believe something solely on the grounds of logical reasoning, do not believe something merely because it accords with your philosophy, do not believe something because it appeals to common sense, do not believe something just because you like the idea, do not believe something because the speaker seems trustworthy, do not believe something thinking, “This is what our teacher says.” When you yourselves know, ‘This is wholesome, this is blameless, this is praised by the wise, these things when accepted and practised lead to benefit and happiness, then you should undertake them and abide by them,’ when this was said, it was said because of this.

“Thus, Kālāmas, that noble disciple who is thus free from enmity and ill-will, and unconfused (asammūḷho), clearly comprehending, and mindful, dwells pervading one direction with a mind endowed with loving-kindness (mettāsahagatena), likewise a second, a third, and a fourth direction. Thus above, below, and everywhere, to the entire world with an expansive (vipulena) mind, lofty (mahaggata), and illimitable (appamāṇena), without enmity and ill-will … with a mind endowed with compassion (karuṇāsahagatena) … with a mind endowed with sympathetic-joy (muditāsahagatena) … dwells pervading one direction with a mind endowed with equanimity (upekkhāsahagatena), likewise a second, a third, and a fourth direction. Thus above, below, and everywhere to the entire world with an expansive mind, lofty, and illimitable, without enmity, without ill-will.

“Thus, Kālāmas, that noble disciple with a mind thus free from enmity and ill-will, undefiled and purified, gains four assurances (assāsā).⁴ ‘If there is another world, if there is a result and fruit of good and evil deeds, on the break-up of the body after death I will arise in a fortunate realm, in heaven.’ This is the first assurance that he or she gains. ‘If there is no other world, no result and fruit of good and evil deeds, in this very life I keep myself happy with a mind free from enmity (averaṃ) and ill-will (abyāpajjhaṃ), not oppressed by difficulties (anīghaṃ). This is the second assurance that he or she gains. ‘If evil befalls one who does evil,⁵ no evil will befall me because I have no thoughts of doing evil.’ This is the third assurance that he or she gains. ‘If evil does not befall one who does evil, I am purified in both ways, and keep myself happy.’ This is the fourth assurance that he or she gains.

“Herein, Kālāmas, the noble disciple is thus free from enmity and ill-will, with a mind that is undefiled and purified, gains these four assurances in this very life.”

“Thus it is, Blessed One! Thus it is, Fortunate One! The noble disciple, venerable sir, is thus free from enmity and ill-will, with a mind that is undefiled and purified. In this very life he or she gains four assurances. ‘If there is another world, if there is a result and fruit of good and evil deeds, on the break-up of the body after death I will arise in a fortunate destination, in a heavenly realm. This is the first assurance that he or she gains. ‘If there is not another world, if there is no result and fruit of good and evil deeds, in this very life I abide free from enmity and ill-will, not oppressed by difficulties. This is the second assuranced that he or she gains. ‘If evil befalls one who does evil, no evil will befall me because I have no thoughts of doing evil.’ This is the third assurance that he or she gains. ‘If evil does not befall one who does evil, I am purified in both ways, and keep myself happy.’ This is the fourth assurance that he or she gains.

“Herein, venerable sir, the noble disciple is thus free from enmity and ill-will, with a mind that is undefiled and purified. In this very life he or she gains these four assurances.

“It is It is wonderful, venerable sir, it is marvellous! It is as if, venerable sir, what was overturned was set upright, what was hidden was revealed, the right way was pointed out to someone who was lost, or a light was lit in the darkness so that those with eyes could see. Thus, the truth has been explained in various ways by the Blessed One. We go for refuge to the Blessed One, to the Dhamma, and to the Saṅgha of monks. From today onwards, venerable sir, may the Blessed One regard us as lay disciples gone for refuge.”

Notes:

1. This famous discourse is not, in fact, called the Kālāma Sutta, but the Kesamutti Sutta, and is found in the Book of Threes of the Gradual Sayings. Kesamutta was a market town of the Kālāmas.

2. This is a key section of the discourse that is often selectively quoted as the Buddha’s Charter for Freedom of Inquiry. It begins with the Kālāmas expressing their doubts about the doctrines they have heard from various teachers, who praise their own doctrines and disparage those of others, so it is hard to know who is speaking the truth. The Buddha advises them that it is wise to make a proper examination before accepting any religious teaching. It should not be taken to mean that one should reject all religious teachings and be a cynical materialist, as some try to imply. That would mean holding fast to one’s own opinions and failing to investigate any further.

3. Omaka (inferior, low in rank, insignificant). The variant reading is opapakiṃ, which in the phrase opapakiṃ karoti means to deprive of one’s wings, to render powerless, hence I translate it as to dismiss the doctrines of others.

4. Lit. breathing out. Figuratively, breathing easily, feeling relief, confident and assured.

5. Those who do evil deeds fear repercussions in this very life such as being killed or injured by the victim that they are attacking, robbing, or raping, being hated and harmed by the spouse of the person with whom they commit adultery, being exposed as a liar, or losing wealth and health in manifold ways due to taking intoxicants. The evil-doer may also be charged with a crime, and fined, flogged, imprisoned, or executed as a result. One who does no evil deeds does not have these fears.

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