The Buddha’s Discourse to the Kālāmas
“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.”
This famous discourse to the Kālāmas is often quoted as the Buddha’s Charter for Freedom of Inquiry. It is not, in fact, called the Kālāma Sutta, but the Kesamutti Sutta, and is found in the Book of Threes in the Gradual Sayings. Kesamutta was a market town of the Kālāmas.
This is not the entire discourse, but just the key section of it, which is often quoted. 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.
It concludes by saying how a noble disciple abides free from covetousness, ill-will, and confusion, with a mind made expansive with loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic-joy, and equanimity. Thus he enjoys bliss here and now and is assured of going to heaven after death if there is a heaven. Either way he is self assured and content.