Author Topic: Poor old Kalama Sutta!  (Read 3902 times)

Offline Dairy Lama

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Poor old Kalama Sutta!
« on: July 24, 2013, 05:20:47 am »
I feel that the poor old Kalama Sutta has been much abused by western Buddhists.

I think one of the important things this sutta is doing is asking "Does this approach to practice lead to the development of wholesome mental states?"  The modern equivalent might be asking if something is "fit for purpose".

What I don't think the sutta is doing is advocating skeptical disbelief, rather it's advocating a spirit of open-minded enquiry where both belief and disbelief can be set aside - or at least regarded as provisional.
And I don't think the sutta is saying that Right View consists merely of our current personal opinion about Right View, nor do I think the sutta is saying "Buddhism is anything you want it to be."

Your thoughts?

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an03/an03.065.than.html
"My religion is very simple - my religion is ice-cream"

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Poor old Kalama Sutta!
« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2013, 05:51:22 am »
I agree, but would like to add that the poor old Kalama Sutta has also been ignored by ethnic Buddhists.

Offline Dairy Lama

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Re: Poor old Kalama Sutta!
« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2013, 05:56:14 am »
I agree, but would like to add that the poor old Kalama Sutta has also been ignored by ethnic Buddhists.

I'm not sure about "ignored", I think it's more to do with the Kalama Sutta being approached differently by different cultures.
So if one grows up in a culture where everything is questioned, then the Kalama Sutta is likely to be viewed as confirmation of the "question everything" approach - though when misapplied this can lead to the kind of hyper-skepticism we see with some western Buddhists.
Whereas if one grows up in a culture where for example the idea of a cycle of birth and death is nothing extraordinary, then the Kalama Sutta is more likely to be viewed more pragmatically as saying "try this approach and see if it's of benefit".
"My religion is very simple - my religion is ice-cream"

Offline songhill

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Re: Poor old Kalama Sutta!
« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2013, 09:41:12 am »
The western Buddhist Kalama crowd doesn't wish you to see this:

According to the Canki Sutta “even although something be thoroughly believed in, it may be empty, void, false; on the other hand, something not thoroughly believed in may be fact, truth, not otherwise” (M. ii. 170, MN 95).


Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Poor old Kalama Sutta!
« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2013, 09:51:12 am »
And why wouldn't they want others to see this? It doesn't take anything away one way or another, but reinforces the correctness of the kalama sutta.

Offline songhill

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Re: Poor old Kalama Sutta!
« Reply #5 on: July 25, 2013, 11:01:02 am »
And why wouldn't they want others to see this? It doesn't take anything away one way or another, but reinforces the correctness of the kalama sutta.

The KS has been misinterpreted, to be sure. Yep, the CS does reinforce the correctness of the KS. I think sometimes the western Buddhist reading list mainly consists of two discourses they’ve actually read, the Kalama Sutta and the Heart Sutra.  Of course there are others.  But these two seem to be the main ones.

The first discourse, the Kalama Sutta, they interpret to mean, reject anything the Buddha said if you are uncomfortable with it, for example, rebirth and karma.  Turning to the Heart Sutra, it is interpreted to mean, in general, everything is basically nothing or the same, void.  This goes nicely with modernity’s long march towards nihilism.

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Poor old Kalama Sutta!
« Reply #6 on: July 25, 2013, 11:27:58 am »
The first discourse, the Kalama Sutta, they interpret to mean, reject anything the Buddha said if you are uncomfortable with it, for example, rebirth and karma.  Turning to the Heart Sutra, it is interpreted to mean, in general, everything is basically nothing or the same, void.  This goes nicely with modernity’s long march towards nihilism.

I know what you mean --- the KS is a charter of free inquiry, providing criteria for that inquiry, it's not a free pass to reject anything and everything someone is uncomfortable with.

Offline songhill

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Re: Poor old Kalama Sutta!
« Reply #7 on: July 25, 2013, 11:42:42 am »
The first discourse, the Kalama Sutta, they interpret to mean, reject anything the Buddha said if you are uncomfortable with it, for example, rebirth and karma.  Turning to the Heart Sutra, it is interpreted to mean, in general, everything is basically nothing or the same, void.  This goes nicely with modernity’s long march towards nihilism.

I know what you mean --- the KS is a charter of free inquiry, providing criteria for that inquiry, it's not a free pass to reject anything and everything someone is uncomfortable with.

When I read Batchelor's book, Buddhism Without Beliefs and saw, on page one, an excerpt form the KS, to use your words, I saw it as a "free pass" for Batchelor to revise Buddhism in the image of the nihilistic West (all is for naught). His whole take on Buddhism was monstrous. As I expected, he only mentioned nirvana in passing. It was not taken up as the crown jewel of Buddhism. It was all but ignored. Most western Buddhists are not that far away from Batchelor, sad to say.

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Poor old Kalama Sutta!
« Reply #8 on: July 25, 2013, 12:10:23 pm »
I know Batchelor and his wife. While I don't agree with nihilism, I also don't agree with some of criticism that Stephen has received in heated discussion, where we waste more time and energy than its worth --- as I've said more than once, no one can walk the Dharma Path for another and maybe the greatest threat to Buddhism is not realizing this.

Offline dhammaseeker51

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Re: Poor old Kalama Sutta!
« Reply #9 on: July 25, 2013, 01:35:30 pm »
I have to admit that I quote the kalama sutta when people ask me about Buddhism and why I consider it different to the other religions. Being free to choose what you believe and using logic and compassion instead of the threat of hellfire and eternal damnation is a big plus point in my view.

with Metta

Offline songhill

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Re: Poor old Kalama Sutta!
« Reply #10 on: July 25, 2013, 06:32:22 pm »
I know Batchelor and his wife. While I don't agree with nihilism, I also don't agree with some of criticism that Stephen has received in heated discussion, where we waste more time and energy than its worth --- as I've said more than once, no one can walk the Dharma Path for another and maybe the greatest threat to Buddhism is not realizing this.

I should mention that when Batchelor was a Zen monk studying under the Korean Zen master Kusan Sunim, like all good traditional Zen teachers, especially in China and Korea, he put all of his efforts into getting his students to obtain a glimpse into pure Mind because realizing Buddha or the awakened Mind is pivotal to Zen.  Without this awakening—no Zen, no Buddhism.  Period. 

Astonishingly, among the many things we learn about Mr. Batchelor from his new book, Confession of a Buddhist Atheist, is that he essentially said Zen is stupid.  In a nutshell, he refused to have anything to do with gaining an insight into Mind.  He writes:

Quote
“I had difficulties with much of the underlying philosophy of Kusan Sunim’s teaching.  I struggled with his view that the “this” of “What is this?” denoted a transcendent Mind, which he also called the “Master of the body.”  When I consulted the Chinese text where the question “What is this?” first appears, it made no mention of Mind or a Master of the body, but simply said:  “What is this thing, and how did it get here?”  I liked the blunt earthiness of “thing,” since it offered little scope for metaphysical elaboration.  But this is how Kusan Sunim explained what we were doing:  “The purpose of Zen meditation is to awaken to the Mind....There is a Master who rules this body who is neither the label ‘mind,’ the Buddha, a material thing, nor empty space.  Having negated these four possibilities, a question will arise as to what this Master really is.  If you continue inquiring in this way, the question will become more intense.  Finally, when the mass of questioning enlarges to a critical point, it will suddenly burst.  The entire universe will be shattered and only you original nature will appear before you.  In this way you will awaken” (pp. 67–68).

Despite all the Buddhist literature on Mind (and believe me there is a lot of it), Batchelor refused to accept Sunim’s teaching about Mind.  He said of it—in particular about Mind—, “Once again, I found myself confronted by the specter of a disembodied spirit” (p. 68). :eek:

Offline songhill

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Re: Poor old Kalama Sutta!
« Reply #11 on: July 25, 2013, 06:58:13 pm »
I have to admit that I quote the kalama sutta when people ask me about Buddhism and why I consider it different to the other religions. Being free to choose what you believe and using logic and compassion instead of the threat of hellfire and eternal damnation is a big plus point in my view.

with Metta

The purpose of the Kalama Sutta (A.i.188) is not meant to sanction discursive knowledge or knowlede unique to a person’s prejudices and fancies.  The standard it rests upon is "know for yourselves" (attanava janeyya/atma-jñâna) which is  a kind of independent knowledge, a knowledge that does not rely on the transitory—certainly not the ever changing world of one’s opinions.   

In the main, we have to be careful about our own considerations of self-knowledge (attanava janeyya).  We may lack it.  It could well be a form of self-delusion which is unable to take us to what is true/satya.  According to the Canki Sutta “even although something be thoroughly believed in, it may be empty, void, false; on the other hand, something not thoroughly believed in may be fact, truth, not otherwise” (M. ii. 170).

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Poor old Kalama Sutta!
« Reply #12 on: July 25, 2013, 07:05:22 pm »
Despite all the Buddhist literature on Mind (and believe me there is a lot of it), Batchelor refused to accept Sunim’s teaching about Mind.  He said of it—in particular about Mind—, “Once again, I found myself confronted by the specter of a disembodied spirit” (p. 68). :eek:

On the other hand, he's had much more experience than most of his distractors you'll encounter --- nobody's right if everybody else is wrong LOL

Maybe there's a lesson to be learned by examining the reaction to Batchelor's counterparts in Christianity, such as Bishop John Shelby Spong or Mathew Fox for that matter --- neither of these people would have made the impact they did if it hadn't been for their distractors.

In other words, the louder the conservatives screamed, the more popular their books became.

Offline namumahaparinirvanasvaha

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Re: Poor old Kalama Sutta!
« Reply #13 on: July 25, 2013, 07:35:34 pm »
Despite all the Buddhist literature on Mind (and believe me there is a lot of it), Batchelor refused to accept Sunim’s teaching about Mind.  He said of it—in particular about Mind—, “Once again, I found myself confronted by the specter of a disembodied spirit” (p. 68). :eek:

On the other hand, he's had much more experience than most of his distractors you'll encounter --- nobody's right if everybody else is wrong LOL

Maybe there's a lesson to be learned by examining the reaction to Batchelor's counterparts in Christianity, such as Bishop John Shelby Spong or Mathew Fox for that matter --- neither of these people would have made the impact they did if it hadn't been for their distractors.

In other words, the louder the conservatives screamed, the more popular their books became.

psychology is crazy isn't it.
people join and leave religions based on many different reasons.
Mr. Batchelor's views don't bother me as long as he is honest and upfront that the suttas/sutras teach this(rebirth/ transcendent mind)
he chooses to follow Buddhist "without beliefs" (implying that Buddhism does have beliefs but he took them out)
it seems he is upfront about his position(I may be wrong)
either way he brings people into Buddhism giving us all the chance to teach them the "correct" teachings of Buddhism :teehee:

the Kalama sutta however is used by many as an excuse to justify views that are different than the Dharma teachings and an excuse to replace them with their own. views.
 

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Poor old Kalama Sutta!
« Reply #14 on: July 25, 2013, 07:48:44 pm »
Crazy doesn't explain half of it  :teehee:

 


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