The Kālāma Sutta (or Kālāma Sūtra) is often cited by those of the Theravada and Mahayana traditions alike as the Buddha’s “charter of free inquiry.”
It is also used for advocating prudence by the use of sound logical reasoning arguments and the dialectic principles for inquiries in the practice that relates to the discipline of seeking truth, wisdom and knowledge whether it is religious or not. In short, the Kālāma Sutta is opposed to blind faith, dogmatism and belief spawned from specious reasoning.
One day Buddha passes through the village of Kesaputta and is greeted by its inhabitants, a clan called the Kalamas. They ask for his advice: they say that many wandering holy men and ascetics pass through, expounding their teachings and criticizing the teachings of others. So whose teachings should they follow? They complained that they were confused by the many contradictions they discovered in what they heard. The Kalama Sutta is the Buddha’s reply…
- Do not believe anything on mere hearsay.
- Do not believe in traditions merely because they are old and have been handed down for many generations and in many places.
- Do not believe anything on account of rumors or because people talk a a great deal about it.
- Do not believe anything because you are shown the written testimony of some ancient sage.
- Do not believe in what you have fancied, thinking that, because it is extraordinary, it must have been inspired by a god or other wonderful being.
- Do not believe anything merely because presumption is in its favor, or because the custom of many years inclines you to take it as true.
- Do not believe anything merely on the authority of your teachers and priests.
- But, whatever, after thorough investigation and reflection, you find to agree with reason and experience, as conducive to the good and benefit of one and all and of the world at large, accept only that as true, and shape your life in accordance with it.
- The same text, said the Buddha, must be applied to his own teachings.
- Do not accept any doctrine from reverence, but first try it as gold is tried by fire.