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Kālāma Sutta

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The Kālāma Sutta, more properly called the Kesaputtiya Sutta, is one of the Buddha’s most famous and interesting discourses (A.I,187). Numerous wandering teachers used to come to the town of Kesaputta promoting their own religion and disparaging other religions. The townspeople eagerly listened to these teachers but all the conflicting opinions and claims left them completely confused. When the Buddha came to Kesaputta the people said to him: ‘We have doubt, we are confused as to which of these teachers are speaking truth and which falsehood.’ The Buddha replied to them saying: ‘Do not rely on revelation, tradition, hearsay, the sacred scriptures, logical reasoning, inferential reasoning, reflection, pondering, on the apparent competence of the speaker, or just because you think “He is our teacher.” But when you know for yourself: “These things are good, laudable, praised by the wise and when practised lead to your welfare and happiness” then you should follow them.’ Thus, rather than take this opportunity to promote his own teaching, the Buddha encouraged the Kālāmas to think in ways that would help them see what is and is not a valid means of knowledge. And for the Buddha, personal experience is a better guide to truth than these ten other means. Kesaputta, where the Buddha delivered the Kālāma Sutta, is now identified with the village of Kesariya about 50 kilometres northwest of Vesāli in the modern Indian state of Bihar. A large stūpa marks the place.

Kalama Sutta, The Buddha’s Charter of Free Inquiry, trans. by Soma Thera, 1981.

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