Author Topic: The Relevance of the Kalama Sutta for people in a modern society  (Read 516 times)

Offline VincentRJ

  • Member
  • Posts: 132
    • View Profile
I thought it would be better to start a new topic on this issue because it seems to be a bit contentious, depending on one's background and interest in both science and Buddhism.

This post is in response to comments from IdleChatter in another thread, whose opinion seems quite different to mine. I wonder what the interpretations from other readers are regarding this rather amazing sutta which must be quite unique for a religion to promote or include in its scriptures.

I'll begin with the quote from the other thread (if I can get the format right).  :wink1:

I was rather amazed at how close the KS is to a general description of the scientific method, even though in those times the scientific method had not been developed.

I'm kinda surprised at the level of ethnocentrism demonstrated here.
It makes it impossible to take your assertions seriously.
The KS doesn't even come close to a "scientific" method as it requires faith and makes no accomodation for reproducability.
When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them.

That's straight from the KS.  You see is has nothing to do with practical experimentation.  It's all about evaluation.
People get the KS wrong and it has led to a persistent corruption of the Dharma.
You wanna do science?  Do science.  Let those of us who what to practice what the Buddha taught, do so without corruption.


I think you've missed some significant points here, IdleChatter. I'll try to help you out, because of my great compassion, and will describe the major points in the Sutta which I think are relevant to the methodology of science and the predicament of modern humans in developed countries.

The Kalama villagers were skeptical about the truth of the religious teachings of the times  as a result of different Gurus or authorities passing through their village, delivering different advice on the same topic.

This type of issue has been a major problem throughout the history of mankind, and continues to the present day. Who does one believe? Which authority is reliable? Which explanation for some puzzling event, such as a devastating storm, should one accept as true?

Most explanations up until the time of the Buddha, explained such phenomena as originating from various types of Gods and Goddesses, such as the God of War, The God of Thunder, the Sun God, the Mother God, the Fertility Goddess, the Creator God, and so on.
The solution to life's problems was to appease such Gods through ritual sacrifices and prayers, but such a solution has had major problems because different cultures have different Gods, and people of those different cultures tend to believe that their explanations (their God or Gods) are correct and true, and that the Gods of other cultures are wrong, resulting in lots of conflicts, war and distress, and a situation which continues to this day.

So what was the Buddha's advice to the skeptical Kalamas? He basically advised them not to unquestioningly accept something as true merely because it was reported in the scriptures, or claimed to be true by some authority or by some teacher, or thought to be true because of hearsay and specious reasoning, but (as you've expressed it), "When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skilful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them."

This is the crucial and revolutionary advice which is the foundation of the scientific method. When there is doubt about some issue, as there always has been about scientific issues, don't assume that the greatest authority or teacher at the time, or the highly regarded ancient writings or scriptures must be correct. Try to evaluate the merits of the opposing views for yourself, one way or another.

Of course, the Buddha did not go into detail in the Kalama Sutta address, about the precise processes involved in such evaluation. How does one know for oneself that certain qualities are 'skilful'? I would suggest that the circumstances should determine the appropriate procedure.

If one is a technician working on a problem in the laboratory, one tries to skilfully arrange and conduct experiments, and observe the outcome. If the outcome results in a new and effective drug to treat disease, then such results can lead to welfare and happiness of yourself and others. The technician or scientist might get a Nobel Prize and thousands of peoples' lives might be saved.

Now, I understand the argument that Buddha in his address to the Kalamas was talking about religious matters and not scientific matters, because science as a discipline did not exist in those days. However, I find it very odd that anyone would think that the Buddha would have excluded such a procedure of 'evaluating issues for oneself' from other more practical and mundane issues.

Whatever the issue being addressed, when there is doubt, the advice of the Kalama Sutta applies. For example, if a Kalama villager were to attempt to build his own house and was given various conflicting advice from many so-called builders, about the best type of materials to use and the best way of assembling the materials, the villager could do no better than begin with the advice of the Buddha's address in the Kalama Sutta.

Instead of just accepting hearsay and gossip, 'My friend is a builder. He's very good and has built many houses', the villager could try to evaluate the issue for himself and take the trouble to visit houses that had been built by the 'wisest' of the builders (ie. the builders who appeared to be the most competent), and interview the inhabitants of the houses to get their experiences about the quality of the structures and the durability, and so on.

Scientist in the past, who have tended to just assume that the authorities from an earlier period must be correct, because there was a consensus of opinion on the issue and the earlier authority had the reputation of being a great teacher, have so often proved to be wrong.
I'll quote a few obvious examples.

(1) For many centuries, most of the best minds accepted the Geocentric view of the universe, that the Earth was at the centre and the sun and stars revolved around the earth. This view seemed to have been accepted by the greatest thinkers of the past, such as Plato and Socrates, and later accepted by the Catholic Church. Who dare question that?
Galileo did, and we all know what happened to him. He had to withdraw his claim in order to save his own life. It took over 350 years before the Catholic Church apologised for getting it so wrong.

(2) When Einstein published his first version of General Relativity, he had unquestioningly assumed the truth of Sir Isaac Newton's theory that the Universe was static. The problem was, the mathematics of Einstein's equations, confirmed by other more brilliant mathematicians, implied the universe was expanding, so Einstein introduced a 'cosmological constant' in his equations in order to make the equations fit the erroneous theory of Newton's, that the universe is static.

When Edwin Hubble later confirmed through observation that the universe is in fact expanding, Einstein modified his equations, removing the cosmological constant. To quote: "Einstein later reputedly referred to his failure to accept the validation of his equations—when they had predicted the expansion of the universe in theory, before it was demonstrated in observation of the cosmological red shift—as the "biggest blunder" of his life."

(3) The human genome was cracked about 14 years ago. But was it? Only the protein-encoding genes were cracked, which represent only about 2% of our total genome. The non-coding genes were thought to be 'junk DNA' serving no purpose, and were just hangovers from our earlier evolutionary period.

Fortunately, a few Biologists, following the concepts of the Kalama Sutta (even though they might not have read them in that format), and refusing to blindly accept authority, began to question the consensus that 98% of our DNA which was non-coding, is junk.

It's now becoming clear that it's not junk and that it does serve a purpose in regulating our protein-encoding genes and might serve a role in epigenetic inheritance, (which one could associate with the process of Karma).
http://www.healthfreedoms.org/junk-dna-shown-to-actually-be-controlling-thousands-of-genes-and-even-disease/

I could go on with further examples, but I think that's enough for you to get the drift.

Offline Pixie

  • Member
  • Posts: 133
    • View Profile
    • Buddhism Without Boundaries
Re: The Relevance of the Kalama Sutta for people in a modern society
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2017, 10:32:58 pm »
There's an article written by Bhikkhu Bodhi (one of the main translators of the Pali Canon suttas)   about the Kalama Sutta.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/bps-essay_09.html


...and theres also one by the famous late Thai teacher Bhikku Buddhadasa, with the title "Kalama Sutta Help Us!" which concludes:


"More than ever the modern world needs the Kalama sutta as its basic operating principle. The world is spinning fast with the defilements of humanity. It is shrinking due to better transportation and communications. And it is about to self-destruct because proper awareness, intelligence, and wisdom are lacking. Under the power of defilement, the world is worshipping materialism, sex and luxury, because it lacks standards like that of the Kalama Sutta. No one knows how to make choices in line with its principle. Consequently, the world is wholly unfit for peace, while increasing in crime and other harmful evils every moment. Let's eliminate all these problems and evils by relying on the Kalama Sutta as our standard. So let's yell at the top of our lungs, "Help! Kalama Sutta, help us!"

In conclusion, the Kalama Sutta never forbids us to believe in anything; it merely implores us to believe with independent intelligence and wisdom. It never forbids us to listen to anything; it merely asks us to listen without letting our intelligence and wisdom become enslaved. Furthermore, it helps us to be able to think, consider, investigate, and decide with great subtlety and precision, so that we can find golden needles in haystacks as huge as mountains."


https://www.mahidol.ac.th/budsir/Truth/3_kalama_sutta_help_us.htm


_/|\_
« Last Edit: May 21, 2017, 01:18:00 am by Pixie »
May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May they all be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May they never be deprived of true happiness devoid of any suffering.
May they abide in great impartiality, free from attachment to loved ones and aversion to others.

Offline stillpointdancer

  • Enlightenment through insight
  • Member
  • Posts: 349
  • Dancing at the Still Point describes my meditation
    • View Profile
    • Enlightenment for Grown Ups
Re: The Relevance of the Kalama Sutta for people in a modern society
« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2017, 02:55:11 am »
The Kalama Sutta may be relevant, and is indeed useful. The problem is when people use it for purposes other than it was designed for. Many areas of human inquiry had not been developed at the time of the Buddha. The  nature of the kind of truth arising from them had not been considered, hence the Kalama Sutta not mentioning them. My problem is people deliberately misusing the authority of such a Sutta to attack the authority of, say, science.

The two things are different, the authority generated by each is different. Buddhism is not based on revealed knowledge of things, but on a way to see everything in a different way. There is no authority in it to question the findings of scientific method by saying stuff like, "Scientist in the past, who have tended to just assume that the authorities from an earlier period must be correct, because there was a consensus of opinion on the issue and the earlier authority had the reputation of being a great teacher, have so often proved to be wrong" or "refusing to blindly accept authority". A traditional saying sums up how I feel, "A truth told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent."

The Kalama Sutra advises you to think for yourself. This means that you can agree or disagree about scientific findings all you like, but not challenge the discipline, the method, that brought them about by reference to anything the Buddha said or was supposed to say. You may as well say that the Kalama Sutta can tell you which work of art is great or not. It is that illogical. There is no problem with attacking science as a discipline, pointing out its strengths and weaknesses. The danger is in people using Buddhism to bring beliefs from another area, to use it to give authority to their own particular ideas, however right or wrong they may be.

“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Offline VincentRJ

  • Member
  • Posts: 132
    • View Profile
Re: The Relevance of the Kalama Sutta for people in a modern society
« Reply #3 on: May 21, 2017, 03:00:26 am »
Quote
The discourse — found in translation in Wheel No. 8 — has been described as "the Buddha's Charter of Free Inquiry," and though the discourse certainly does counter the decrees of dogmatism and blind faith with a vigorous call for free investigation, it is problematic whether the sutta can support all the positions that have been ascribed to it. On the basis of a single passage, quoted out of context, the Buddha has been made out to be a pragmatic empiricist who dismisses all doctrine and faith, and whose Dhamma is simply a freethinker's kit to truth which invites each one to accept and reject whatever he likes.

Well, thanks for the references, Pixie. The sentences in bold tend to summarise a certain attitude to the Kalama Sutta which I agree cannot reasonably be justified. I'm sure it's true that the Sutta cannot support all the positions that have been attributed to it, and I don't think anyone should accept or reject something as true based merely upon personal likes or dislikes. Such a position could result in someone praising the benefits of ice cream, and claiming it's so good for you because it tastes so lovely.  :wink1:

Also, I do not get a sense that the Buddha was dismissing all doctrine and faith. Rather, he was advising the Kalamas not to accept doctrine and faith uncritically and blindly, without thinking about the issues.

But I think it's reasonable to suggest that all quotes attributed to the Buddha are unavoidably viewed out of context to some degree, because there is so little historical record of the conditions that prevailed during the life and times of the Buddha. There are no written records from those times which describe in any detail what the conditions of local villagers were, because writing had not been developed.

However, the main points relating to the context of the Kalama Sutta seem quite clear. The inhabitants of the village of Kesaputta were skeptical, as a result of being exposed to differing and contradictory points of view.

Modern Westerners should be able to empathise with that predicament very easily because I suspect we are much more exposed to differing and contradictory points of view than the Kalamas were, and exposed continually on a much larger range of issues, whether the issue is the healthiest diet, the best medicine to take for an ailment, the best product to buy for whatever purpose, the most appropriate subject to study and specialize in, the best religion or philosophy to follow, the most accurate translation of the Pali Canon, and so on.

The argument which I tend to disagree with is the proposition that such advice in the Kalama Sutta applies only to religious matters and has no bearing on other practical matters and scientific enquiry.

Offline Ron-the-Elder

  • Member
  • Posts: 4416
  • May all beings live rightly and harmoniously.
    • View Profile
Re: The Relevance of the Kalama Sutta for people in a modern society
« Reply #4 on: May 21, 2017, 03:34:45 am »
Quote
VincentRJ:  "The argument which I tend to disagree with is the proposition that such advice in the Kalama Sutta applies only to religious matters and has no bearing on other practical matters and scientific enquiry."


Following is my understanding and utilization of The KS:


According to Buddha's teaching:  Each practicing Buddhist is not only personally entitled, but obligated to test what is being postulated through personal validation and verification.  Any other approach would be nothing more than acting on blind faith, and or pure belief in accordance with the protocol of "sheeple".

Your disagreement is best limited to what Buddha advised his followers within the Simsapa Sutta:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn56/sn56.031.than.html

As a general concept, The KS would be perfectly applied to any scientific endeavor. :)

What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline VincentRJ

  • Member
  • Posts: 132
    • View Profile
Re: The Relevance of the Kalama Sutta for people in a modern society
« Reply #5 on: May 21, 2017, 03:37:51 am »
The Kalama Sutra advises you to think for yourself. This means that you can agree or disagree about scientific findings all you like, but not challenge the discipline, the method, that brought them about by reference to anything the Buddha said or was supposed to say. You may as well say that the Kalama Sutta can tell you which work of art is great or not. It is that illogical. There is no problem with attacking science as a discipline, pointing out its strengths and weaknesses. The danger is in people using Buddhism to bring beliefs from another area, to use it to give authority to their own particular ideas, however right or wrong they may be.

I'm finding it difficult to follow your logic in some of the above points, Stillpointdancer. Why is it wrong for someone to challenge a discipline or method by reference to anything the Buddha was supposed to have said?

If anything that anyone has said is relevant, meaningful and gets to the point of any particular issue, why should one not take it on board, and use the concept to solve a problem.

No-one knows precisely what the Buddha said on any issue. The best we can do is interpret, according to our own abilities, a translation of a translation of a translation, with all the inherent problems of the significantly different cultures that existed during the times of the Buddha, and the difficulty of finding precisely matching words in another language.

It's the concept that's important, and the concepts in the Kalama Sutta seem very relevant to the fundamental methodology of science, which does not rely upon consensus of opinion, but on demonstrable evidence.

Quote
Buddhism is not based on revealed knowledge of things, but on a way to see everything in a different way.

Really! I've been under the impression that the Buddha became enlightened after years of asceticism and meditation.. The night under the Bodhi Tree was the final stage when a deep understanding of the true nature of things was revealed. Is this not true?

Offline VincentRJ

  • Member
  • Posts: 132
    • View Profile
Re: The Relevance of the Kalama Sutta for people in a modern society
« Reply #6 on: May 21, 2017, 03:56:51 am »

Your disagreement is best limited to what Buddha advised his followers within the Simsapa Sutta:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn56/sn56.031.than.html


Good point, Ron. I understand very well, if one attends a Physics class one doesn't expect the teacher to give piano lessons.  :wink1:

Offline stillpointdancer

  • Enlightenment through insight
  • Member
  • Posts: 349
  • Dancing at the Still Point describes my meditation
    • View Profile
    • Enlightenment for Grown Ups
Re: The Relevance of the Kalama Sutta for people in a modern society
« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2017, 08:44:59 am »
Hi Vincent RJ
1."I'm finding it difficult to follow your logic in some of the above points, Stillpointdancer. Why is it wrong for someone to challenge a discipline or method by reference to anything the Buddha was supposed to have said?"
Because the Buddha wasn't around when there was science, so it's just second-guessing. You can challenge what the discipline throws up, but not the discipline.
2."If anything that anyone has said is relevant, meaningful and gets to the point of any particular issue, why should one not take it on board, and use the concept to solve a problem."
because working within the discipline of science doesn't work like that, with the proviso of being able to challenge issues thrown up by the discipline, as above.
3."It's the concept that's important, and the concepts in the Kalama Sutta seem very relevant to the fundamental methodology of science, which does not rely upon consensus of opinion, but on demonstrable evidence."
Again, the Kalama Sutta is not within the discipline of science, so is not relevant to the fundamental methodology of science. As a scientist it does help to have an open mind, but you must work within the discipline.
4."Really! I've been under the impression that the Buddha became enlightened after years of asceticism and meditation.. The night under the Bodhi Tree was the final stage when a deep understanding of the true nature of things was revealed. Is this not true?"
No, not in the sense of revealed knowledge. Knowledge did not come from anywhere, was not revealed. The Buddha saw things as they really are, but they were the same things as before. To say they were revealed also implies that someone was doing the revealing, in the sense of some God revealing new knowledge.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Online IdleChater

  • Member
  • Posts: 390
    • View Profile
Re: The Relevance of the Kalama Sutta for people in a modern society
« Reply #8 on: May 21, 2017, 11:00:48 am »


I think you've missed some significant points here, IdleChatter. I'll try to help you out, because of my great compassion,


Compassion?  Really?  That's humbling!

Quote
The Kalama villagers were skeptical

No, they were confused. They had seen a number of teachers all extolling their teahings and the Kalamapas didn't know whose teaching were to be followed.  They didn't know what to believe because they had no tools to evaluate to the teachings.  Theyt asked the Buddha and the Buddha answred.

Quote
This type of issue has been a major problem throughout the history of mankind, and continues to the present day. Who does one believe? Which authority is reliable? Which explanation for some puzzling event, such as a devastating storm, should one accept as true?


You're reading more into it than is there.  The Kalamapas didn't ask the Buddha about devastating storms, even though I suspect such a thing would be important  to an agricultural society (presupposed by the mention of a "village).  They asked, simply how to wknow what to believe.

Quote
So what was the Buddha's advice to the skeptical Kalamas? He basically advised them not to unquestioningly accept something as true merely because it was reported in the scriptures, or claimed to be true by some authority or by some teacher, or thought to be true because of hearsay and specious reasoning, but (as you've expressed it), "When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skilful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them."

Yes, but this has nothing to do with fact.  The Buddha does not say top rely on anything else bu those 4 criteria.  None of that involves science.

And make no mistake, they did have science and they were able to reason.  They were agriculturists.  They were metalurgists.  They were engineers.  They understood genetics.  They may not have been as sophisticated as we are, at least in some respects, and were far from the ignorant savages you portray them as.

And it is in your dismissive ethocontrism that your entire position falls apart, completely.

Quote
This is the crucial and revolutionary advice which is the foundation of the scientific method.

I'm sorry, but it is not.  Hell, by ways of scientific method, you can't even prove that the episode actually happened or that Buddha was actually present.



Quote
Of course, the Buddha did not go into detail in the Kalama Sutta address, about the precise processes involved in such evaluation.

But he did and you quoted it. 



Quote
Now, I understand the argument that Buddha in his address to the Kalamas was talking about religious matters and not scientific matters, because science as a discipline did not exist in those days.

Yes, it did, and again you're being ethnocentric.


Quote
However, I find it very odd that anyone would think that the Buddha would have excluded such a procedure of 'evaluating issues for oneself' from other more practical and mundane issues.

Because he wasn't speaking about matters in general.  He was speaking about how to judge the teachings of another.

Quote
Whatever the issue being addressed, when there is doubt, the advice of the Kalama Sutta applies.

I may, but I don't think it is aplied in the manner you suggest.  You don't talk to some clown in a bow tie.  The Buddha gave you the tools to evaluate his and others' teachings.

Quote
For example, if a Kalama villager were to attempt to build his own house and was given various conflicting advice from many so-called builders, about the best type of materials to use and the best way of assembling the materials, the villager could do no better than begin with the advice of the Buddha's address in the Kalama Sutta.

It would have never come up.  A community such as the Kalamas would have a tribal knowledge about how to build a house.  No confusion there. The villager would not have tried to build his own house.  It would have been a village project.

Offline VincentRJ

  • Member
  • Posts: 132
    • View Profile
Re: The Relevance of the Kalama Sutta for people in a modern society
« Reply #9 on: May 21, 2017, 04:47:31 pm »
Ah! Now I'm beginning to get a sense of the reason for the confusion on this topic, after reading Stillpointdancer's and IdleChatters latest posts.

It seems that I have a different understanding of what constitutes the scientific methodology. This problem can often occur in philosophical discussions when each party assumes that the other's understanding of certain key terms is the same as their own.
As a result, the discussion can go around in circles, so before I address any of the specific points raised by Stillpointdancer and IdleChatter, we need to come to an agreement about what constitutes the modern scientific methodology.

Those who have been exposed to basic science, physics and chemistry at school would probably be aware of some of the early scientific investigations that occurred in ancient societies, particularly ancient Greece. Names such as Archimedes, Democritus and Pythagoras come to mind.

However, whilst it's true there are many examples of brilliant minds in the past engaging in types of scientific enquiry which resulted in revolutionary discoveries, a clear formulation and description of a 'scientific methodology' did not come untill much later.

The distinction I'm making here is between activities in the ancient world, including India, which could be described as a form of scientific endeavour or scientific enquiry, and the modern formulation of the 'basis of the scientific methodolgy', which has allowed science to take off in recent times, like a rocket.

Without a formulation of a scientific methodology, that can be applied to all situations, erroneous myths and views can more easily persist, for centuries.

I'll give an interesting example, which quite surprised me when I first read about it. Apparently, many ancient Greeks, including Plato, Euclid and Ptolomy, believed that we are able to see because our eyes project a beam of light onto whatever we are gazing at. This was known as the 'emission theory' of sight. This view persisted for centuries, although not all great minds agreed. Aristotle, for example, didn't accept the emission theory.

Now for anyone who is familiar with the modern scientific methodology of devising experiments that will logically either confirm or falsify a particular theory, the fact that this 'emission theory' of sight could persist for so long seems very puzzling. Believers in such a theory must have been even more confused than the Kalamas.  :wink1:

My explanation for the persistence of such a theory is simply that an effective methodology of scientific inquiry had not been formulated. There was too much reliance upon authority, consensus, and the reputation of teachers from the past, whom it was assumed could not be wrong.

As I mentioned before, Ibn Al Haytham, who lived well before the Renaissance in Europe, is widely considered to be one of the first true scientists who had an understanding of the scientific methodology of devising experiments to confirm or falsify a particular theory.
This is how he falsified the emission theory of sight, that light originates from the eye, and demonstrated that light in fact originates from another source.

"He did this by carrying out a simple experiment in a dark room where light was sent through a hole by two lanterns held at different heights outside the room. He could then see two spots on the wall corresponding to the light rays that originated from each lantern passing through the hole onto the wall. When he covered one lantern, the bright spot corresponding to that lantern disappeared. He thus concluded that light does not emanate from the human eye, but is emitted by objects such as lanterns and travels from these objects in straight lines. Based on these experiments, he invented the first pinhole camera (that Kepler would use and call camera obscura in the seventeenth century) and explained why the image in a pinhole camera was upside down."

Now, contrary to what one of you has suggested, I'm not advocating that anyone should use the Buddha's advice in the Kalama Sutta to attack or debunk any modern scientific processes.

I'm merely expressing my admiration that the Buddha's advice in the KS seems to resonate with our modern attitude of scientific inquiry, and I suspect if people in the past had paid more attention to that advice and modified it in order to apply it to different or more practical situations, the benefits of science might have occurred earlier.

Okay? Everything clear now?  :wink1:



Offline stillpointdancer

  • Enlightenment through insight
  • Member
  • Posts: 349
  • Dancing at the Still Point describes my meditation
    • View Profile
    • Enlightenment for Grown Ups
Re: The Relevance of the Kalama Sutta for people in a modern society
« Reply #10 on: May 22, 2017, 02:56:43 am »
Hi VincentRJ
'We' don't need to come to some agreement about modern scientific methodology. There is nothing to agree on. It is there, and that is science. Some may need a better understanding, however, so let's have science 101. The scientific methodology is one of testing hypotheses. It does not confirm or falsify a particular theory. A theory must have testable hypotheses which either stand or fall by testing. As a form of inquiry, science can never prove anything, only disprove testable hypotheses. It is its strength and weakness; why the story of science is the story of confusion, argument and continual change. On the other hand, it comes up with the goods time and time again when it adheres to the methodology.

But it can't do everything. If you want to find out stuff about the universe it is the go-to discipline. On the other hand, if you want your own insight into what everything is about, if you want to experience enlightenment for yourself, then you follow the path of the Buddha and meditate. Horses for courses. The danger comes in trying to persuade those not conversant with the differences that there is overlap, that authority can be drawn from one area of human inquiry and used to modify, not the interpretation or application of outcomes of another, but the methodology of another.

Which is why statements such as "If anything that anyone has said is relevant, meaningful and gets to the point of any particular issue, why should one not take it on board, and use the concept to solve a problem" are so dangerous. It sounds reasonable to those not understanding the nature of different types of inquiry, but in fact undermines the authority of something like science, replacing it with that of another, one perhaps calling on 'revealed' knowledge. The thin end of the wedge leading to the subversion of science by those in power. Something happening right now, of course, with areas such as evolution being under constant attack.

“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Offline Ron-the-Elder

  • Member
  • Posts: 4416
  • May all beings live rightly and harmoniously.
    • View Profile
Re: The Relevance of the Kalama Sutta for people in a modern society
« Reply #11 on: May 22, 2017, 04:56:53 am »
Quote
VincentRJ:  "My explanation for the persistence of such a theory is simply that an effective methodology of scientific inquiry had not been formulated."


Most likely!  However, Gotama Buddha was a Buddha of highest attainment ( samma sambudha):

Quote
Sammā
Sammā2 (indecl.) [Vedic samyac (=samyak) & samīś "connected, in one"; see under saŋ˚] thoroughly, properly, rightly; in the right way, as it ought to be, best, perfectly (opp. micchā) D i.12; Vin i.12; Sn 359; 947; Dh 89, 373. Usually as ˚ -- , like sammā -- dhārā even or proper showers (i. e. at the right time) Pv ii.970; especially in connection with constituents of the eightfold Aryan Path, where it is contrasted with micchā; see magga 2 a. (e. g. VbhA 114 sq., 121, 320 sq.). <-> The form sammā is reduced to samma˚ before short vowels (with the insertion of a sandhi -- d -- , cp. puna -- deva), like samma -- d -- eva properly, in harmony or completeness D i.110; Vin i.9: PvA 139, 157; samma -- daññā & ˚akkhāta (see below); and before double consonants arisen from assimilation, like sammag -- gata (=samyak+gata). The cpds. we shall divide into two groups, viz. (A) cpds. with samma˚, (B) with sammā˚.
  A. -- akkhāta well preached Dh 86. -- aññā perfect knowledge Vin i.183; S i.4; iv.128; Dh 57 (˚vimutta, cp. DhA i.434); It 38, 79, 93, 95, 108. -- attha a proper or good thing or cause J vi.16. -- ddasa having right views A ii.18; S iv.205, 207; Sn 733; It 47, 61, 81; Kvu 339. -- ggata [cp. BSk. samyaggata Divy 399] who has wandered rightly, perfect M i.66; who has attained the highest point, an Arahant D i.55; S i.76; A i.269; iv.226; v.265; J iii.305; It 87; Ap 218. Also sammāgata Vin ii.20317. -- ppajāna having right knowledge Dh 20; It 115. -- ppaññā right knowledge, true wisdom Vin i.14; Dh 57, 190; Sn 143; It 17; Miln 39. -- ppadhāna [cp. BSk. samyakprahāna Divy 208] right exertion Vin i.22; Dhs 358; Dpvs 18, 5; they are four D ii.120; M iii.296; explained M ii.11 (anuppannānaŋ pāpakānaŋ akusalānaŋ dhammānaŋ anuppādāya; uppannānaŋ pahānāya; anuppannānaŋ kusalānaŋ dhammānaŋ uppādāya; uppannānaŋ ṭhitiyā).
  B. -- ājīva right living, right means of livelihood, right occupation Vin i.10; S v.421, etc.; formula D ii.312; (adj.) living in the right way M i.42; A ii.89. -- kammanta right conduct, right behaviour Vin i.10; S v.421 etc.; definition D ii.312; Dhs 300; adj. behaving in the right way M i.42; A ii.89. -- ñāṇa right knowledge,


Sambuddha
Sambuddha [saŋ+buddha] 1. well understood Sn 765 (various reading, sambuddhuŋ=to know); J v.77 (sam˚ & a˚, taken by C. as ppr. "jānanto" & "ajānanto"); susambuddha easily understood Sn 764. -- 2. one who has thoroughly understood, being enlightened, a Buddha Sn 178 etc., 559; A ii.4; Dh 181; S i.4; It 35 etc.
Quote




Quote
VincentRJ:  "There was too much reliance upon authority, consensus, and the reputation of teachers from the past, whom it was assumed could not be wrong."


This is most likely true also.  However, probably due to this reliance, Gotama was the authority of all authorities by reputation and bonafides.  That is why The Elders of The Kalamas went to him for advice.

As you say, Buddha did not invent the scientific method, but he was familiar with experimentation as a bodhisatta having gone through several phases of ascetic practice and many thousand lifetimes, experiencing many, many rebirths accordint to the mythology found in the Jataka Tales, The Dhamma Pada and the storied process of his enlightenment.  Even if he was not a true scientist in modern terms and definitions, he was certainly very experienced and therefore more than qualified to address the concerns of The Kalamas,  not to mention that he was "samma sambudha". :D

The real beauty of his Doctrine of Free Inquiry is that we are "free" to test even what a samma sambuddha has to say.  As I have stated repeatedly, it is my conclusion that if you wish to be a true Buddhist, and also a true scientist, then we have a personal obligation to personally test, try, and validate what we have learned to see not only if it "is" true, but if it is "still true".  Things can change, and what was once true, can evolve to not being true.   For example bacteria once killed by certain antibiotics today no longer work, as bacteria have evolved into super-bacteria resistent to many antibiotics. 

Another example:  Buddhists Monks no longer wander alone in the wildernous as does The Rhinoceros.  They choose to live in herds within a sangha.  They accept "cash" rather than alms, shared by generous villagers....abandoning the Buddha's advice given in The Vinaya Rules for Monks.:


Quote
§ 11.

Renouncing violence
for all living beings,
harming not even a one,
you would not wish for offspring,
   so how a companion?
Wander alone, like a rhinoceros.

For a sociable person
there are allurements;
on the heels of allurement, this pain.
Seeing allurement's drawback,
wander alone, like a rhinoceros.

One whose mind
is enmeshed in sympathy
for friends & companions,
neglects the true goal.
Seeing this danger in intimacy,
wander alone, like a rhinoceros...

   If you gain a mature companion,
   a fellow traveler, right-living & wise,
   overcoming all dangers
      go with him, gratified,
      mindful.

   If you don't gain a mature companion,
   a fellow traveler, right-living & wise,
      go alone
   like a king renouncing his kingdom,
   like the elephant in the Matanga wilds,
      his herd.

We praise companionship
   — yes!
Those on a par, or better,
should be chosen as friends.
If they're not to be found,
   living faultlessly,
wander alone, like a rhinoceros.

Seeing radiant bracelets of gold,
well-made by a smith,
   clinking, clashing,
   two on an arm,
wander alone, like a rhinoceros,

[Thinking:] "In the same way,
if I were to live with another,
there would be careless talk or abusive."
Seeing this future danger,
wander alone, like a rhinoceros.

Because sensual pleasures,
elegant, honeyed, & charming,
bewitch the mind with their manifold forms —
seeing this drawback in sensual strands —
wander alone, like a rhinoceros.

"Calamity, tumor, misfortune,
disease, an arrow, a danger for me."
Seeing this danger in sensual strands,
   wander alone, like a rhinoceros...

Avoid the evil companion
   disregarding the goal,
   intent on the out-of-tune way.
Don't take as a friend
someone heedless & hankering.
Wander alone, like a rhinoceros.

Consort with one who is learned,
   who maintains the Dhamma,
   a great & quick-witted friend.
Knowing the meanings,
subdue your perplexity,
[then] wander alone, like a rhinoceros...

Unstartled,   like a lion at sounds.
Unsnared,   like the wind in a net.
Unsmeared,  like a lotus in water:
wander alone, like a rhinoceros...

At the right time consorting
with the release through good will,
         compassion,
         appreciation,
         equanimity,
unobstructed by all the world,
      any world,
wander alone, like a rhinoceros.

Having let go of passion,
         aversion,
         delusion;
having shattered   the fetters;
undisturbed    at the ending of life,
wander alone, like a rhinoceros.

People follow & associate
   for a motive.
Friends without a motive these days
   are rare.
They're shrewd for their own ends, & impure.
   Wander alone, like a rhinoceros.
— Sn 1.3


source:  http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/study/conversation.html




« Last Edit: May 22, 2017, 05:23:14 am by Ron-the-Elder »
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline VincentRJ

  • Member
  • Posts: 132
    • View Profile
Re: The Relevance of the Kalama Sutta for people in a modern society
« Reply #12 on: May 22, 2017, 05:50:49 am »
Hi VincentRJ
'We' don't need to come to some agreement about modern scientific methodology. There is nothing to agree on. It is there, and that is science.

Hi Stillpointdancer,
You seem to have fallen into the common trap of describing things in terms of a duality. That is, something is either science or it's not science, it's either hot or it's cold, it's either good or it's bad, and so on.

The reality is, and I think Buddhist principles are in agreement with this, there's always a continuum of slightly different states. The terms 'hard science' and 'soft science' are a duality like 'hot' and 'cold'. The reality is, there a spectrum of many different scientific disciplines, the theories of which range from a state of high confidence and certainty, to a state of low confidence and certainty, depending on whether the circumstances allow for the rigorous application of the scientific methodology, and to what degree of success the scientific methodology can be applied, considering all the factors of the circumstances, the many variables, the over all complexity of the issue, and the time scales involved for the results of testing procedures to be observed.

For example, disciplines in Physics and Chemistry tend to be towards the 'hard' end of the spectrum because it's easier to conduct experiments under controlled conditions, examine specific phenomena in an environment such as a laboratory which is relatively uncontaminated by other influences, and repeat experiments under similar conditions to observe a consistency or inconsistency of results, as the case might be.

Disciplines such as Biology and Medicine tend to lean towards the 'soft' end of the spectrum, perhaps about half way. The complexity and individual variation of organisms, animals, and humans, the relatively long time scales involved for results to be observed, plus ethical restrictions on experimenting with humans, often impede the rigorous application of the scientific methodology so that there is less certainty about the results and theories.

Disciplines such as Psychology, Social Sciences, Political Science, Economics, Climate Change, and so on, are much further towards the 'soft' end of the spectrum, which is why there's always so much disagreement on issues related to these disciplines, because of the lack of scientific certainty, due to the difficulty of applying the scientific methodology.


Offline VincentRJ

  • Member
  • Posts: 132
    • View Profile
Re: The Relevance of the Kalama Sutta for people in a modern society
« Reply #13 on: May 22, 2017, 07:54:28 am »

The real beauty of his Doctrine of Free Inquiry is that we are "free" to test even what a samma sambuddha has to say.  As I have stated repeatedly, it is my conclusion that if you wish to be a true Buddhist, and also a true scientist, then we have a personal obligation to personally test, try, and validate what we have learned to see not only if it "is" true, but if it is "still true".  Things can change, and what was once true, can evolve to not being true.   For example bacteria once killed by certain antibiotics today no longer work, as bacteria have evolved into super-bacteria resistent to many antibiotics. 



Hi Ron,
I agree, and good examples. Of course, it's often not possible for an individual to personally test many types of scientific theories, because of the expensive equipment and well-developed skill and knowledge required, sometimes in many different but related disciplines.

However, what one can do, if one is clear about the significance and importance of a well-defined scientific methodology, is evaluate for oneself the likely degree of certainty about scientific claims from others, in relation to a particular subject, on the basis and understanding that the nature of the subject does not lend itself particularly well to the rigorous processes of experimental validation and/or falsification.

Quote
   http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/study/conversation.html   


Wow! Thanks for the link. That's a long read. I've saved it.  :wink1:

Online IdleChater

  • Member
  • Posts: 390
    • View Profile
Re: The Relevance of the Kalama Sutta for people in a modern society
« Reply #14 on: May 22, 2017, 11:01:17 am »
Hi VincentRJ
'We' don't need to come to some agreement about modern scientific methodology. There is nothing to agree on. It is there, and that is science.

Hi Stillpointdancer,
You seem to have fallen into the common trap of describing things in terms of a duality. That is, something is either science or it's not science, it's either hot or it's cold, it's either good or it's bad, and so on.

Might I suggest that you mind your own dualistic thinking and leave others to theirs?  You're really not in a position to be making such characterizations.

Actually, it's an ad hominem and doesn't move the discussion forward.




Quote
The reality is,

The "reality" is that your argument seems to be more of an apology for scientific method than a comparison of the KS.

My thing is people think the KS gives them license to apply whatever criteria they desire to the evaluation of Dharma.  You can, of course, use any criteria you wish, but unless it involves the 4 metrics the Buddha taught, and that alone, then it is not in keeping with what the Budda taught the Kalamapas.  If you want to take refuge in whatever it is you think science teaches, fine,  but don't try to tell me this is in keeping with refuge in the three jewels.

If you want a fact-based religion, fine, go for it.  You don't need to spin the Buddha's teaching to justify your approach.

 


SimplePortal 2.3.3 © 2008-2010, SimplePortal