“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it…”

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it”: This is just the start of a calamitous misreading of a famous passage from the Kalama Sutta. I’ve dealt with a libertarian mistranslation of this verse elsewhere, but this version is different.

But here’s the full quote, lifted from one of the well-known quotes sites that litter the web:

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”
Buddha quotes (Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C.)

It’s ironic that this, one of the commonest Fake Buddha Quotes, is about not believing things just because you’ve read them somewhere, but for many people the assumption seems to be, “It must be true — I saw it on a website!”

So first let me state that the Buddha was not a “Hindu Prince.” He was not a “Hindu” and he was not a “prince.” We don’t know what, if any, religious tradition the Buddha-to-be followed in his youth, and the first mention that’s made of any religious endeavors is his encounters with the two teachers Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta. These two teachers followed meditative traditions, but it’s anachronistic to refer to them, or the Buddha, as Hindus. Certainly, by the time he was “Buddha” (The One Who Is Awakened) he’d rejected all of the major teachings derived from the Vedic tradition, including the caste system, the worship of the gods, the efficacy of sacrifice, the power of prayer, the notion that one can purify oneself through ritual, and so on. If we were to (anachronistically) describe those beliefs and practices as “Hindu” then the Buddha had thoroughly rejected Hinduism.

The Buddha himself came from a Republic in which there were, of course, no kings and no princes. In the early texts there is no mention of him being a prince or his father being a king. The Sakyan Republic from which he came was governed instead by a ruling council, probably comprising the heads of the most important families. His father may have been the elected head of this council. That’s very different from his father having been a king.

The Buddha lived at a time when the last republics (including the one in which he was born) were starting to be swallowed up by the newly-emergent monarchies. In his own lifetime his homeland was conquered by and absorbed into a neighboring kingdom. Several hundred years later, monarchies were well-established, the republics were largely forgotten and unimaginable, and so people imagined the Buddha as having been born in a kingdom. And because people like their heroes he was seen as an heir to that kindgom — an heir, no less, that rejected kingship for an even more noble spiritual “career.” This story, although powerful, if a myth.

But on to the quote. In the original Kalama Sutta, we have (in Thanissaro’s translation):

“Now, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ 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.”

I won’t go through a point-by-point comparison, but look at the two criteria for acceptance of teachings:

  • Fake Quote: But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.
  • Scriptural Quote: 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.

In the original scriptural  quote, accepting something merely because it “agrees with reason” would seem to be rejected, because “logical conjecture” and “inference” have been rejected, at least as sufficient bases for accepting a teaching as valid. It’s not that logic is rejected as such, just that it can’t be entirely relied on. What is needed is experience. We need to “know for ourselves.”

What we need to know for ourselves is not whether a teaching “agrees with reason” but whether when put into practice it is skillful, blameless, praised by the wise, and lead to welfare and to happiness.

This garbled version of the Kalama Sutta appeared in a 1956 book called “2500 Buddha Jayanti,” celebrating the 2500th anniversary of the Buddha’s parinirvana. I haven’t been able to get hold of this book, but I suspect that this recasting of the Buddha’s teaching may have been done to make Buddhism appear more “rational.”

The exact quote found in “2500 Buddha Jayanti” (page 39) is as follows (the typos and grammatical errors are in the original):

Do not believe in anything (simply) because you have heard it ; Do not believe in traditions, because they been handed down for many generations ; Do not believe in anything, because it is spoken and rumoured by many ; Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books ; But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

However, it goes back further. A commenter below pointed out that the same quote is found in the first of three lectures given in 1951 by Sayagyi U Ba Khin, who was S. N. Goenka’s teacher. These lectures are available online here and are also published in a book called “What Buddhism Is” (download for free here).

There the quote is:

Do not believe in what you have heard; do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations; do not believe in anything because it is rumoured and spoken by many; do not believe merely because a written statement of some old sage is produced; do not believe in conjectures; do not believe in that as truth to which you have become attached from habit; do not believe merely the authority of your teachers and elders. After observation and analysis, when it agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and gain of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

This is almost identical, the differences being mere changes in wording. This is no doubt the prototype of the “Buddha Jayanti” quote. Unfortunately my local library has been unable to get me a copy of “2500 Buddha Jayanti” through Inter-Library Loan, so I can’t tell if Sayagyi U Ba Khin was the speaker at the conference who used this quote. However, I have searched the Google Book version linked to above, and no results appear for his name.

In “What Buddhism Is” Sayagyi U Ba Khin gives a reference for his quote. In a footnote he says it’s from the Pali Text Society’s “Book of the Gradual Sayings Vol I” (Anguttara Nikaya), page 171 onward. But his version of the quote doesn’t at all resemble that found in the “Gradual Sayings.” That translation, by F. L. Woodward, has:

Now look you, Kalamas. Be ye not misled by report or tradition or hearsay. Be not misled by proficiency in the collections [pitakas], nor by mere logic or inference, nor after consider­ing reasons, nor after reflection on and approval of some theory, nor because it fits becoming, nor out of respect for a recluse (who holds it). But if at any time ye know of yourselves: These things are profit­able, they are blameless, they are praised by the intelligent: these things, when performed and undertaken, conduce to profit and happiness,—then, Kalamas, do ye, having under­ taken them, abide therein.

Although the language is archaic, it’s not hard to see that this closely resembles Thanissaro’s translation above, and that it disagrees with Sayagyi U Ba Khin’s fake quote because it too recognizes that reason is not a sufficient basis for accepting something as true. Here again the criteria for accepting or rejecting a truth are knowing for oneself that it is profitable (in terms of long-term human happiness), blameless, and praised by the wise.

So at the moment my hypothesis is that Sayagyi U Ba Khin changed the wording of the Kalama Sutta in order to make it appear more rationalistic, or that he use an altered version created by someone else.

And then subsequently,  a speaker at the 2500 Jayanti Conference (probably not Sayagyi U B Khin himself) tidied it up a little and presented it in the context of a talk, leading to it appearing in this book and thus gaining wider currency. Who the actual speaker is remains unknown to me, and will do until I can get hold of the 2500 Buddha Jayanti text.

139 thoughts on ““Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it…””

  1. Thanks for the clarification of the acceptance of information quote. I have long pondered this misquote Metta Barry

      1. “Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it…”

        the site and its zombie dog show there garbage brain ……that’s why Hindustan still hold the religious garbage books

        NOTE : The comment is on the dogs who said FAKE ….there is no option for reply .take care zombies dogs

          1. Brother I don’t know if you are stupid. But looks like you missed the whole point of the quote, “But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

            I hope you got the meaning, if not you can change ^_^

          2. I don’t know if you read the post, but the point is that this isn’t something the Buddha said, and in fact it’s in direct contradiction to it. The Buddha was quite clear that a spiritual teaching “agreeing with reason” isn’t a sufficient condition for accepting it as true.

          3. Bodhipaksa, can you please explain again the point of difference between the two again? The point about reason?
            This is of course from the Dhammapada, i am sick and it is the main text im studying during this time in bed. Thank you so much

          4. Hi, Lancelot.

            I’m sorry to hear you’re sick, and I hope you’re better soon. The genuine quote says that you can’t rely on logic to tell if a spiritual teaching is valid or not, and that you have to see both its effects when put into practice (by yourself or others), and whether it’s praised by the wise. The fake quote says that you can tell that a teaching is valid by whether or not it “agrees with reason” (i.e. it’s logical).

            Incidentally, the genuine teaching isn’t from the Dhammapada, which is a collection of brief aphorisms, but is instead from the Anguttara Nikaya, or Numerical Discourses.

          5. Bodhipaksa, thanks for the advice on the difference between the two translations/versions.

            And it was confusing but yes you are right, thanks again, the kalama sutta is not from the dhammapada, its just that the version i have seems to use it as a foreword. Then it starts ” chapter 1″

  2. I think that the most ironic thing about this article Bodhipaksa, is the speculation you supply us on a book (2500 Buddha Jayanti), a book in which you have never read.

    1. It would be ironic if I was making definitive statements about the book “2500 Buddha Jayanti” or claiming that a quote could be found in it when in fact it couldn’t, but since I make it clear that my speculation is in fact speculation and since the quote in question actually does come from that book, I fail to see the ironic angle. Perhaps you could elucidate, Shane?

      1. So we are then to AGREE that you are right with your, as you claim, “speculation”? That just because you speculated something to be “fake” that we should support your ideas? Isn’t this like a blind man leading other blind men?

        1. My speculation was about the aim of the fake quote, Ivan, and of course I don’t expect anyone to believe my speculation without question. What reasonable person would expect others to do that?

          What’s not in doubt is that this quote misrepresents what the Buddhist scriptures say that the Buddha actually taught to the Kalamas. And therefore it’s a fake quote. If anyone wants to prove it’s a genuine quotation they’ll have to find an instance of it in the Buddhist scriptures. And if they do that I’ll completely rewrite this article.

  3. I have made many experiences of this quote…basically use all bodily faculties to accept any mental ideas thoughts beliefs etc and play with this without getting personal with idea…eventually the body gives the result…. For example, recently I have been some so common sense quotes… Eg all is fair in love and war… What does these quotes really do our cultures and mind sets….

  4. You know, I’ve seen various iterations of both versions over the years and have never really considered the difference. My reading of both concurs with your reading of the original. Perhaps that’s because, as someone who has studied and practiced Buddhism for many years, I assume that the experiential must reign supreme.

    Once you understand that principle, the revised quote, in my opinion, actually conveys the Buddha’s concept in a way much more understandable to 21st century audiences.

    Perhaps, there’s value in both versions.

    1. Ray I agree with your statement of “perhaps there is value in both versions.” I didn’t really starting looking into the Buddha’s teachings until a few years ago when I read a version of this Kalama Sutta misquote. Back then after reading it I was frankly stunned for a moment that a prominent religious figure would instruct his followers in the ways of free inquiry and advocate for them not to accepting any religious teacher’s teachings as truth by default, including his own. Being raised as a Christian, it was really a moment of spiritual joy as I contemplated the quote. After doing some research on it I learned that it wasn’t a direct Buddha quote, but that misquote still led me to read about the Kalama Sutta and Buddha which has been a spiritually rewarding experience. These days I just look at the misquote as a modern derivation of the Kalama Sutta, which as you said can make it more accessible to the modern world and act as a signpost directing seekers of truth to the core Buddhist material.

  5. I read this quote everyday, I’m glad to know that it is the real deal!! I saw the “fake” quote about a year ago and am glad to have found this site!!

  6. I am not someone who has practiced or studied Buddhism for many years, but nevertheless I have an interpretation that it similar to Ray’s.

    First, I fail to see how the ‘internet quote’ is more “fake”, since both are translated into English and interpreted by individuals living in different cultural and historical contexts. And therefor I do not understand -especially with what I perceive to be the essence of this quote in mind- why anyone would put more confidence in the ‘original’. It is a bit of a paradox.

    Second, I think the essence is not to be found in the difference between to know something from experience or to agree with reason (after observation and analysis).
    Actually, ‘reason’ could very much refer to ‘perception of what is just’, i.e. “is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all”.

    It basically very much seems exactly the same as what is meant with ‘knowing from experience’. Note that the internet version mentions analysis/reasoning from observation, not just merely reasoning. Is observation not experience? And is reasoning not an act based on experiencing the ‘social world’?

    PS Are you aware of the scientific debate on Buddhist critical thinking? I wonder what your opinion on this would be. See for example: https://www.academia.edu/7612709/Advanced_Analytical_Assessment_of_Buddhist_Critical_Thinking_Skills_and_Additional_Philosophical_Concerns_or_Perspectives_for_the_Field_of_Critical_Thinking

    1. Hi, Ala.

      I’m confused by your confusion. The fake quote is not a “translation,” in that it doesn’t reflect the content of the original source, and in fact seems to contradict it. In translation we have to take into account what was said and what we can validly assume was meant. Simply making something up and putting it in the mouth of the Buddha is not translation.

      As for your interpretations, to take one example, “reasoning” is clearly not the same as “knowing through experience.” We can certainly reason about our experience, but in this context to reason means to think about something in a theoretical way. Such reasoning can produce valid results, but I think we all recognize that people who try to reason about topics in which they have no personal experience tend to come to false conclusions: garbage in, garbage out.

      1. > I think we all recognize that people who try to reason about topics in which they have no personal experience tend to come to false conclusions

        It’s not accurate Ray. Logic and analysis can reach true conclusions regardless of experience.

        1. Who is Ray?

          Anyway, you neglected to copy and paste the first part of what I wrote, which I’ll put in bold here: “Such reasoning can produce valid results, but I think we all recognize that people who try to reason about topics in which they have no personal experience tend to come to false conclusions.”

          So what I’ve said is not different from your “Logic and analysis can reach true conclusions regardless of experience.”

          1. You can’t understand anything through experience if you don’t use reason. Conversely, you need physical evidence to substantiate any hypothesis you have, no matter how logical it may sound. Good arguments are always both logical and sound.

            The Buddha seems to apply the Pirahã tribe rationalization of knowledge, but it’s fallacious.

          2. Neither the Buddha nor I are suggesting that logic be rejected, just that (as I put it in the article) it’s not a “sufficient basis for accepting a teaching as valid.” The problem with logic is that if the premises are faulty, the conclusions are unlikely to be correct. So in order to have sound premises we need to look at what happens in our real world experience.

            Also, direct experience can reveal things that logic alone might not come up with. The Buddha’s exploration of his experience revealed that there was no separate and permanent self, for example. Most people, without having explored their experience in the same depth, would come to the opposite conclusion. So it’s not just that we look at our experience as it is right now, and take it at face value, but that we should explore our experience to see if it is as it appears.

          3. During the Indo-Tibetan shedra, or monastic studies curriculum, this whole topic of reasoning/logical inference through examination and thorough analysis is covered in Pramana/Valid Cognition as Foundational to the entire curriculum. Logic can reach what is referred to as Indirect Valid Cognition (IVC) using conceptualization which does not directly experience, not direct valid cognition (DVC), which is nonconceptual direct perception, free of superimposition and denials. In accordance with curriculum teachings, the actual Kalama Sutta translation is more true to the definitive teachings. This newer loose rendition seems to be trying to make it digestible in a provisional way while sacrificing the definitive meaning.

  7. I know you will defend your point of view till the end of days but… To begin with, this is not a “fake” quote. It is what it’s called an “interpreted” quote. Every time you translate something into a certain language the process implies an interpretation of what the original says. More often than not, more so when it comes to certain languages, it is impossible to translate word by word since it would not made sense in English, for example. As an old old Tuscan proverb goes, “Traduttore, Traditore!” Translator, traitor. In many instances, translating a certain text requires a complete rewriting of it. More than that, what those behind the so-called fake Buddha quote have done was to clarify the meaning of the original. The word by word original can get confusing, and your interpretation of it makes a perfect case for that:

    – “In the original quote, accepting something because it “agrees with reason” would seem to be rejected, because “logical conjecture” and “inference” have been rejected, at least as sufficient bases for accepting a teaching as valid. It’s not that logic is rejected as such, just that it can’t be relied on. What is needed is experience. We need to “know for ourselves.” –

    Not true that,”because it “agrees with reason” would seem to be rejected, because “logical conjecture” and “inference” have been rejected…” According to our dictionaries, inference is “a conclusion reached on the basis of evidence and reasoning.” You may want to rewrite and rethink that since there is some serious disagreement with reason and rational logic there.

    As for the “2500 Buddha Jayanti” that version of the quote has nothing to do with the “libertarians,” as you claim. This book was put together by a group of reputable Buddhist scholars, in 1956. The version of the Kalama Suta you refer to is a translation made by Thanissaro Bhikkhu in 1994. He is an American Buddhist who converted to a form of Buddhism practiced in a certain monastery in Tayland in the 1970s, when it was very trendy to do it. So, I am not sure I would put my money on the accuracy of his translation. Even so, as stated, there is no real difference in the message conveyed by both versions. More importantly, that message is much more clear in the 1956 version, the one most of us work with today, and for good reason. (Made a copy of this comment just in case it accidentally disappears from your blog.)

    1. Sorry for the delay, Paul, but I was on retreat for two weeks.

      You say “I know you will defend your point of view till the end of days…” but actually you don’t “know” this at all.

      “To begin with, this is not a ‘fake’ quote. It is what it’s called an ‘interpreted’ quote.”

      It’s called an “interpreted quote” by whom? I’m unfamiliar with this term, and looking it up on Google I found no evidence that this is a term that’s used at all widely. In fact, one of the few results that comes up is from Scott Adam’s blog:

      The cousin to the manufactured quote, and even more dangerous, is the interpreted quote. That’s when a person with low reading comprehension, or bad intentions, or both, misinterprets a quote, then replaces the actual quote with the misinterpretation. That path might look like this:

      Original quote: “Some men are rapists. Society needs to punish them.”

      Morph One: “He says men are rapists.”

      Morph Two: “He says all men are rapists by nature.”

      Morph Three: “He excuses rape because he says it’s natural.”

      “As for the ‘2500 Buddha Jayanti’ that version of the quote has nothing to do with the ‘libertarians,’ as you claim.”

      Please point out to me exactly where I made the claim that the “Jayanti” version of this quote had anything to do with libertarians. I did point out that I’ve dealt with a (separate) libertarian mistranslation of this verse elsewhere. The 2,500 Jayanti version predates the libertarian version by decades.

      1. Bodhi, defending something “to the end of days” is never to be taken literarily. We learn that in grammar school. It was obviously said in jest.

        Sorry you could not find “interpreted quote” in Google. I used that, and I am entitled to put words in a sequence that would convey a certain point. Just because you could not find it in Google it does not mean it has no meaning. I’ll make sure you’ll find in Google from now on.

        Am I misreading you when you state that “I’ve dealt with a libertarian mistranslation of this verse elsewhere, but this version is different?”

        You did not addressed the fact that the “fake Buddha quote,” as you call this wonderful authentic Buddha quote, was actually a translation buy a group genuine Buddhist scholars, as opposed to your version being the work of a 1970’s individual converted to a form of Buddhism which has nothing to do with the authentic, the original Buddha school of thought.

        At least please refrain from calling “fake” something you disagree with while having little supporting evidence for your version of the story. This quote is clearly something religious organizations hate because it annuls their otherwise illegitimate authority. For that reason alone it is certainly not fake, it makes sense and it is fully supported by rational logic. Once again, if you want to embrace a dope, love, peace converted Buddhist’s dubious interpretation of an ancient text, at least do not spread false rumors, and yet who could stop you from doing that. One must reach his own conclusions, though, and as an ancient Buddha saying goes, “Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in… a blog on the Internet.” I don’t think that’s fake.

        1. I’m afraid it’s never really “obvious” online, and often offline, when someone is joking or whether they intend their words to be taken literally. But it wasn’t the expression “to the end of days” that I was critiquing, it was your claim that you “know” whether or not I’m open to changing my mind. That is not something that can be known.

          Sorry you could not find “interpreted quote” in Google. I used that, and I am entitled to put words in a sequence that would convey a certain point.

          You’re entitled to write anything you want, but what you wrote was “It is what’s called an ‘interpreted’ quote.” If you’d said “It’s what I’d call an ‘interpreted’ quote,” that would be one thing. But to say it’s “called” an ‘interpreted’ quote indicates that this is some kind of widely known term, when in fact it isn’t.

          “You did not addressed the fact that the “fake Buddha quote,” as you call this wonderful authentic Buddha quote, was actually a translation buy a group genuine Buddhist scholars.”

          I didn’t address this because it’s a nonsensical position. You’re committing the fallacy of “appealing to authority.” Just because the translation was done by a “scholar” doesn’t mean it’s accurate. Lots of scholars produce inaccurate translations. Also, I very much doubt you could name the “scholar” (or “scholars,” as you insist) who concocted this quote. What was his//her/their track record in translation? Did he/she/they even know Pali? You’re simply creating a story in your mind in an attempt to validate this quote.

          In calling this a “wonderful authentic Buddha quote” you’re committing the logical fallacy of “proof by repeated assertion.” Doubling down and repeating that something is the case, regardless of contradiction, and without evidence (for which you’d have to refer to the original Pali or a valid translation) doesn’t make your case any stronger. This is simply a propaganda technique.

          The thing is, what’s paramount in translation is representing accurately what the original says. If you change the message in a substantive way, then it’s a bad translation. It’s even a fake translation, if the inaccuracies are the result of intentional bias.

          As for your disparagement of Bhikkhu Thanissaro, I didn’t address that because it also didn’t really deserve to be addressed. It was in fact nothing more than an ad hominem attack, and thus another logical fallacy.

          You wrote: “He is an American Buddhist who converted to a form of Buddhism practiced in a certain monastery in Tayland (sic) in the 1970s, when it was very trendy to do it. So, I am not sure I would put my money on the accuracy of his translation.”

          The fact that Thanissaro is American is irrelevant. What possible bearing could his nationality have on his ability to translate Pali accurately? The fact that he “converted to a form of Buddhism practiced in a certain monastery” is also irrelevant. He became (and remains) a rather orthodox Theravadin Bhikkhu. Your attempt to make it sound like he joined some kind of weird and obscure branch of Buddhism is laughable, as is your rather sad insinuation that he became a monk because it was “trendy” to do so.

          Perhaps you’re also disparaging of Bhikkhu Bodhi (another American!) who became a bhikkhu in the 1970s (when, apparently, it was “trendy”) to do so. But here’s his translation:

          Come, Kalamas, do not go by oral tradition, by lineage of teaching, by hearsay, by a collection of scriptures, by logical reasoning, by inferential reasoning, by reasoned cogitation, by the acceptance of a view by pondering it, by the seeming competence [of a speaker], or because you think, “This ascetic is our guru.” But when you know for yourselves: “These things are wholesome; these things are blameless, these things are praised by the wise; these things, if accepted and undertaken, lead to welfare and happiness,” then you should live in accordance with them.

          You really think that “But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it” means the same as “But when you know for yourselves: ‘These things are wholesome; these things are blameless, these things are praised by the wise; these things, if accepted and undertaken, lead to welfare and happiness,’ then you should live in accordance with them”?

          You really think that the emphasis on accepting a teaching because it “agrees with reason” is the same as “do not go … by logical reasoning, by inferential reasoning, by reasoned cogitation”?

          Well, we have you arguing that something is “obvious” when in fact it cannot be obvious, implying that a term is in common use when in fact it’s not, using the fallacy of the appeal to authority, the fallacy of proof by repeated assertion, and the fallacy of argumentation ad hominem. All this suggests to me that you may have some fundamental difficulties in thinking logically about the differences between the fake and real versions of this passage.

  8. Retards.

    You think a buddha cannot see cause and effect in motion.
    Dont try to revide words or masters when you dont have the knowledge to see trough illusions yourself.

    What you know about the spiritual logic to revide hes words mentally retarded consumers.
    The hell with you planet destroyers mind and earth poiseners.


      1. ‘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.” –Too bad there is no mention of anything being true.

        1. You’re right, Joel. There is no mention of truth in that extract from the sutta. But the Kalamas were fundamentally asking about how to discern the truth of competing spiritual teachings. What the Buddha’s responding to is this question:

          “Lord, there are some brahmans & contemplatives who come to Kesaputta. They expound & glorify their own doctrines, but as for the doctrines of others, they deprecate them, revile them, show contempt for them, & disparage them. And then other brahmans & contemplatives come to Kesaputta. They expound & glorify their own doctrines, but as for the doctrines of others, they deprecate them, revile them, show contempt for them, & disparage them. They leave us absolutely uncertain & in doubt: Which of these venerable brahmans & contemplatives are speaking the truth, and which ones are lying?”

          It’s interesting that the Buddha’s reply doesn’t mention truth. In a way he may have been saying is “truth, spiritually speaking, is what works, in terms of liberating you from suffering.” He’s more interested in method than in confirming particular statements as factually correct. But he does engage in a Socratic dialog with the Kalamas, in which he leads them to see how his teachings are effective (and therefore, presumably, true).

      2. Mike did nothing but talk dog shit and he’s the smart commenter? Nevermind, Paul Greene at least questioned you and attempted to make a decent arguement.

        Mmm okay. ? “Smart people”

  9. Thanks for the information. I like the “fake” quote because it’s easier for us to read in modern times. It’s good to know where it was interpreted from and the original. If anything, I’ll be sure NOT to use it as a Buddha quote, but will still use it.

  10. The first of three lectures given by Sayagyi U Ba Khin 1951 already has this almost exact version of the quote, not 1956.

    1. Thank you. That’s very helpful. The lectures you’re referring to would be those published in the book, “What Buddhism Is” and also found here.

  11. .. so .. wait.. are we supposed to believe THIS because we read it on here? Your interpretation is exactly that: YOURS. We all choose to believe what we want, and that’s how it becomes our truth. If you insist on there being a universal truth, you’re delusional.

    1. I don’t expect you to believe anything I say, Tim. You’re welcome to examine the evidence I’ve laid out, to compare it with what expects have said, and to make up your own mind.

  12. Making a meme of the hardest quote ever and branding it fake (in red) is pretty harsh. Like it or not, you’re famous now! Inji’s…

    1. Oh, I don’t make the graphics. I just find them and add the stamp. Whether that’s harsh or not, I don’t know. I’m not sure whose feelings I’d be hurting…

    1. No one is asking you to automatically believe anything. If you have the inclination, check out any claims I make against whatever evidence there is, and make up your own mind.

  13. Ok, so I think what is important is naming our standpoint as part of our argument. As a white, male who has practiced Buddhist meditation primarily in the tradition of S.N. Goenka, but also inspired by the teachings of Thich Naht Hanh, I am familiar with this passage. Obviously, I am coming to it from a Western, contemporary, perspective. I believe it is an important text, as it describes the movement of the Dhamma/Dharma from culture to culture. So, I think this hairsplitting is actually great. What I would like to look at is this excerpt from the “fake” text: “after observation and analysis.” I am wondering if we can understand observation and analysis as experiential? I think so. I know that Buddhist texts, writers, scholars, practitioners, speak of “direct knowing.” However, I think there is a lot to question and think about. Is anything ever “direct?” Or, as symbol making beings are we always “interpreting” our experiences? I’m no expert, and I know there are whole bunch of experts out there in epistemology, ontology, hermeneutics, and the like. I do think it is too soon to say that this or that is “fake.” I think you need to go deeper. I know Thich Nhat Hanh somewhere argues that the historical Buddha didn’t actually speak Pali, or at least not as his first tongue. Pali was a kind of common, or commercial language. Who knows. But you will have those who will argue that everything outside of Pali is translation, therefore to understand the “true” dhamma one must read Pali, or get it from a Pali scholar. What I like about the above passage is that it draws a line in the sand. Buddha is saying that we are not going to keep doing things a certain way just because that’s the way we have always been doing it. As in Fiddler on the Roof: “Tradition.” He was breaking with the past in the pursuit, not of truth, but of freedom.



    1. “I am wondering if we can understand observation and analysis as experiential?”

      I think they are.

      “…as symbol making beings are we always “interpreting” our experiences?”

      I suspect that all experience is interpretation. My take is that we need to purify our interpretations of aversion, craving, and delusion, so that we can see more clearly. Awakening is supposed to be a state of “seeing things as they really are,” but to me that simply implies that we’ve let go of false and unhelpful interpretations.

      For example, a key delusion (which necessarily entails clinging and aversion) is the interpretation that we have a “self” that owns our experiences and actions. We can lose that delusion, and see more clearly that what we are is not unified and not “owned” by any central part of us. The “self” we used to believe in is as mythic as Santa Claus, Jehovah, or Brahma. We’re still interpreting our experience in many ways but we’re now doing so without the obstacle of a major delusion.

      The Buddha didn’t speak Pali, for sure, but he spoke one or more languages that would have been very similar to it, and that were really related dialects — quite easy to translate. I think more important is that what we’ve received as “the word of the Buddha” is really lecture notes that have been passed on, edited, and interpreted over centuries. Anyone who has lectured will know that even the best lecture notes are a hollow representation of the original presentation!

      In this particular case, though, we have a Pali original, which is as close as we’re going to get to what the Buddha originally said, and some fairly clear misrepresentations of those which can be shown to have originated very recently. We can also look at the cultural context of western individualism, and be fairly sure that these misrepresentations are an attempt to find “evidence” for something like western individualism in the Buddhist tradition, in order to make Buddhism seem more palatable.

  14. Wow. How funny! I cam late to the conversation but …
    I never fail to be amazed, astonished, and yes, at time, amused at the way present-day, europeans and euro-centric ‘would-be authorities and ‘intellectuals’ work back and forth on something as out-of-this [present-day] world as a Buddhist quote! Wow.
    Are any of you aware of elderly, women and children, veterans living homeless on the streets of the US? Have any one of you ever read anything by any African-American, Latino, Asian, Gay/Lesbian Writers? How DO you gain so much authority on something so totally unreal? Seriously. Yawl sound just like the defenders of the cross, none of whom has ever dared to love his neighbor as himself.

    Just so amazing. Thanks for sharing. sd

    1. I never fail to be amazed and astonished by the assumptions people make about others’ lives. What do you know of the lives of me and other people who have commented here?

  15. OH, I forgot to say thanks. That quote [a version of it, anyway], was on the front flap of a book I read while in pursuit of my Master’s Degree n Christian Education at the Premiere institution of Liberation Theology!
    I wanted to use it to open my local radio talk show this month, being it is African-American history month! You see the connection, right? I figured it!

  16. While there’s certainly nothing positive about misattributing a quote to someone, I find it almost irrelevant in this case. Whether Buddha said this or not, it’s still an incredibly powerful phrase and a great philosophy to live your life by.

    Plus the sheer amount of irony makes me giggle.

    1. Whether the Buddha said this or not is irrelevant to whether it’s true or not. But if we want to base a spiritual practice on what the Buddha taught, then knowing (to the extent that such a thing is possible) what the Buddha did and did not say makes the quote’s authenticity or otherwise very relevant. Also, if we’re interested in accuracy, then it’s relevant, too. As Einstein said, “Whoever is careless with truth in small matters cannot be trusted in important affairs.”

      1. This is pretty sad, Bodhipaksa.

        The quote says “do not appeal to authority”.

        And it’s true, beneficial and useful. We don’t base our spiritual practice on what the Buddha said exactly but on the points he taught.

        As in the Einstein quote, it’s about truth. You make it feel as it’s about exact words.

        1. Since you posted seven comments on this post in the space of a few minutes I take it you’re emotionally triggered by this topic. I’d suggest that maybe you take some time to work through your feelings and perhaps come to a bit more clarity. Regardless of whether you think I “make it feel as (if) it’s about exact words,” that’s not what I’m saying. I’ve never said that and never will.

          However, words can mislead. In the case of this particular quote the “teaching” being offered is not only different from what the Buddha taught but contradicts it.

          The Einstein quote is offered because I was discussing the ethics of passing on inaccurate information, such as saying that the Buddha said something that he almost certainly never said. This is a form of false speech, and therefore an ethical issue. Einstein’s point is that if someone is not to be trusted with the smaller, easier ethical issues, it’s unwise to trust them with larger issues.

  17. I really like your juxtaposition between the two quotes, and the clarification of what the original meaning was. The main difference is that the original admonition is to base one’s views on personal experience and practical results. It is not enough, in other words, to think things through logically, one must test those theories in practice, and see which ones produce a happy life. Buddha was advocating a personalized scientific approach, based on empirical observation rather than deductive inference.

    However, your presentation is marred by the claim that Buddha was not born a Hindu. Of course he was. There wasn’t much else to be during that time. The whole of the culture was dominated by Brahmanism, by Vedic rituals and beliefs, and by the various forms of religion that all come under the broad umbrella of “Hinduism”. The teachers he had as a youth were clearly teaching various forms of Hindu asceticism and meditation practice. And when he began to teach, the Buddha was highly critical of these, and even of the political hold Brahmanism had over people through the caste system, which he also rejected.

    As to whether Buddha was actually a prince or not, we really don’t know. All the various traditional stories of his life say he was a prince, but those could be mythical, created to make a point about Buddha’s process of recognizing the impermanence of all things. We’ll never actually know. But throughout Buddhism, for at least the last 2,000 years, it’s been taught and accepted that he was born a Hindu Prince. So that’s not something made-up by the author of this quote. It’s simply a basic element of Buddhist tradition.

    1. I’ve already rebutted the claims you’ve made here, but you say “throughout Buddhism, for at least the last 2,000 years, it’s been taught and accepted that he was born a Hindu Prince.” I’m certainly not aware of anything in the Pali scriptures that would back you up. In any event, if Buddhists, hundreds of years after the Buddha’s death, assumed he had been “born a Hindu” (something, actually, that is an impossibility because it’s so anachronistic) this would only tell us what they, at a time when historical awareness was close to zero, assumed about the past — not what was actually the case. They made similar assumptions about the Buddha’s homeland having been a kingdom, and the Buddha, therefore, having been a prince—not realizing that the Shakyas lived in a republican oligarchy. It’s not at all true to say, as you do, that “we really don’t know” whether the Buddha was a prince or not. He could not have been a prince because the Shakyans did not have a monarchy, and therefore had no princes.

      You see how a religious tradition can make a complete dog’s breakfast of its own history?

      As for religious alternatives at that time, there were many. There was Jainism, which was a major religious force at the time the Buddha was teaching. It was, incidentally, a school focused on the kinds of ascetic practices you’re assuming must have been “forms of Hindu asceticism,” and it predates Buddhism, possibly by millennia. Some scholars think it has its roots in the Indus Valley civilization, which predates the arrival of the Vedas.

      If it’s true that the Buddha practiced asceticism for a while (and not in all of his autobiographical discourses is this part of the narrative) it may be that they were Jaina practices. In fact, I’m not aware of the Brahmins having practiced asceticism at all! (Was it, at that time, even partly an ascetic tradition? I think not, although many young Brahmins rejected the vedas and went off to join the shramanas.) Speaking of which, also older than Buddhism were the six shramana schools of philosophy, some of which were materialist/atheist and all of which rejected the vedas. The Buddha was well aware of these, knew the names of their founders, and critiqued their teachings.

      There’s no evidence whatsoever that the Buddha’s two named teachers, Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta, were followers of the Vedas. In fact they seem to have been Shramanas. For a start, they meditated. Do you see any evidence from the Pali canon that orthodox Brahmins meditated? I don’t recall any. I may have missed or forgotten it, of course. I’ll keep my eyes open.

      As far as I’m aware, we know nothing definite about the religious beliefs and practices of the Buddha’s family. However, their society does not seem to have been divided into four varnas (castes), suggesting that the Vedas had not influenced their social and religious practices. There are references to “Brahmin villages” in the Shakyan territory, suggesting that Brahmins were not well integrated into Shakyan society. The Shakyans considered themselves, as warriors, to be superior to the Brahmins, which is a profoundly non-Vedic position! And so the evidence is that the Buddha did not grow up in the caste-centric, Veda-ridden, Brahmin dominated society that you are (anachronistically) calling “Hindu.”

      Ironically, given the quote under discussion here, you’re basing your argument on the claim “people have said it for a long time,” which is one of the bases for belief that the Kalama Sutta specifically rejects. How ironic! 🙂

  18. Dumb… I haven’t met this kinda stupidity yet. You are so wrong on so many levels it’s not even worth proving it to you

  19. It’s interesting that you think it’s a fake when even the Buddists think it is a real quote. I just visited one of the very few Buddist Temples and they had the exact “fake” quote displayed at their temple. I am more inclined to believe monks ,who actually speak the language and are able to make comparisons, than you.

  20. I love people that can critizice something that they don’t know, first learn the language, second read the original text and then sumit your opinion. Remember the karma law.

  21. you wrote ” So at the moment my hypothesis is that in his 1951 lecture, Sayagyi U Ba Khin was loosely paraphrasing the Kalama Sutta from memory,”

    who told you that ? wow you really need some serious thinking to do , before you even write anything as this . esp. in context to a world famous Master Sayagyi U Ba Khin . And then adding ” Sayagyi U Ba Khin was loosely paraphrasing the Kalama Sutta from memory,”

    it seems you are the only wise man left on this planet dude !

    1. I described what I wrote as a “hypothesis” — which means that it’s an educated guess. No one “told” me it.

      Are you suggesting that respected teachers never paraphrase, speak from memory, or make errors?

  22. And for your information the book ” 2500 Buddha Jayanti” was written by Shri. Ananda W.P. Guruge . A very well known scholar and also if you have not read the book then how do you know the exact Page no. 39?

    1. “2500 Buddha Jayanti” was not written by Guruge. It was edited by him. As I can gather, the book is a compilation of talks, and thus the quality of the information therein depends on the individual speakers, not on the editor.

      One edition of the book is available on Google Books. It’s searchable, so you can find out whether it contains a particular phrase and what page it’s on, but you can’t see the complete contents. Unfortunately my local library has been unable to obtain a copy.

      [Update: it was searchable on Google Books. That particular edition seems to have been removed from the index.]

  23. Born and raised in a Buddhist family here, and practised for decades. Please give me the archaeological evidence where it mentioned Buddha was not born in one of the Hindu castes and not a prince. Then we can discuss further. Your information is contradicting with what I learnt, but I’d go with science. And, if you’re looking for more reliable source of Buddha script, you must go for the ones documented in Pali language and Theravada Buddhism.

    1. The evidence is not archaeological, but textual, and from the Pali scriptures. There’s plenty of good scholarship around, analyzing these texts, if you want to go look for it.

      Strangely, much of what we Buddhists “know” about the Buddha isn’t to be found in the Pali canon. For example, everyone “knows” his first name was Siddhattha. That’s not found anywhere in the scriptures. Everyone “knows” the Buddha left home after seeing the “four sights.” That’s not in the scriptures (or not applying to him — the Buddha does tell this story but it’s about someone else).

      What we, as Buddhists, “know” about the Buddha is often not from the scriptures, but from later commentaries. It actually takes a lot of effort to set aside that “knowledge” and look at what the scriptures actually say!

      1. Please give the website link or the exact page number of the Tripitaka so that I won’t have to spend much time on it. And, not sure whose or what commentaries you meant. Having language barrier.

        1. Why don’t you provide me with references to the Pali scriptures showing that the Buddha was born as a Hindu and was the son of a king?

          By commentaries I basically mean everything in the Buddhist tradition that isn’t the suttas or vinaya, right up to and including modern books about Buddhism. Such commentaries can be very useful in explaining the Buddhadharma, but they also at times depart from the suttas and even replace the information in them (I’ve given you two examples already).

          In the meantime, you’ll find some references here.

          1. You don’t have the link or exact reference, do you? And, when did I say I read those in the original Pali script? You’re the one kept claiming and pointing at the Original Pali Scripture as the source without actually leaving any link or so. However, I had read them in our school textbooks (apart from translated religious books from practising buddhist monks) which are more reliable than from a random blogger claiming something without any reference link, isn’t it?

            I’ve gone through your link quickly. Looked like you may have misunderstood several terms like- Caste system in Ancient India, Hinduism, Practitioner, non-practitioner etc. Wouldn’t really prefer wasting my time if it’s going nowhere, however, I’d love to unlearn and relearn without having to spend much time!

          2. Your question is faulty, which is why I haven’t answered it. You asked for “evidence where it mentioned Buddha was not born in one of the Hindu castes and not a prince.” You’re asking for the Pali texts to state a negative regarding the Buddha’s birth status and non-royalty, which is not something they do. What the Pali texts offer us is a portrait of a man who was born into a society which was an oligarchy, governed by a council, and not a kingdom. Therefore he was not a prince in the sense that we would understand that term. They offer no evidence that the family of the Buddha-to-be followed any sort of Brahminical tradition, or even that such a tradition was common in the Sakyan country.

            I of course have no idea what you read in your school textbooks, but generally most texts simply repeat the stories that the commentarial tradition developed. I’d imagine that your books gave the familiar account of the Four Sights too, didn’t they? And as I’ve explained, that’s not something that’s in the scriptures (or it is, but it’s a story about someone else).

  24. Summary of our conversation:

    You claimed Buddha was not a hindu prince >> then I asked for the archaeological evidence of your claim>> then you said it’s just textual, from pali scriptures>> then I asked for it (web link/ exact page number of the book), yet you avoided, and instead asked me to give those links/references which I never claimed to have in original Pali script>> Then I questioned if you truly have the references I asked for>> then you blamed me of asking a faulty, illogical question, thereby avoided to provide the reference links again…….

    However, I’m truly glad that I now know of peoples with entirely contradicting information that I’ve known. Someday if I have enough time and interest, I’d check them myself from the original scriptures. And, it’d save both of our time and energy if we end it right here. It’s very hard for me to resist curiosity upon receiving the email notification of your comment, so I’d appreciate if I stop receiving the notification. Peace.

    1. I’ve said that your question is malformed in two ways: 1) You asked for archeological evidence that the Buddha was not a Hindu prince. What conceivable archeological evidence could there be for such a thing? The main evidence (and most specific) we have for the Buddha is textual, so we have to look at the scriptures. 2) You’re the one who is defending the claim that the Buddha was a) Hindu and b) a prince. It’s really beholden to you to support (from the scriptures) your claim for those things. A school textbook doesn’t really work!

      As for my evidence, I’ve pointed you to a number of sources that support the conclusion that the Buddha was not a prince. If you’d like to follow those up and check the original sources, feel free. There’s plenty of evidence in the original scriptures, some of which is cited in the link I provided. This includes the facts that the Buddha didn’t live in a monarchy, and that (as you’d therefore expect) no royal palaces have been found in any of the archeological sites that are contenders for the Buddha’s home town. The word that’s sometimes translated as “palace” in reference to the Buddha’s childhood dwellings isn’t even the same word used for a royal palace — it’s more likely a term for a “mansion,” or a large and impressive house, not the dwelling of royalty.

      I’m sure there’s a way of unsubscribing you from comment notifications. I’ll look and see what I can do!

  25. Ahhh…how fascinating it is to see the Buddha’s magnificent teaching lives on! It is fulfilling exactly what it meant for all of us to do and almost everyone here is in participation of. That is, to question everything!

    Namo Amituofo

  26. The suttas were written after The Buddha passed away. It’s weird if the Buddha said “Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books”.

    1. Indeed. There were religious “books” around at that time, but they were preserved orally, and so nothing in them was “written.” That’s an anachronism that I’d overlooked! Thanks for pointing it out.

  27. The Sad thing for people who believe in this philosopher, is the fake comment is a better well rounded statement and serves people better. The fact that it has been improved upon by someone unenlightened suggests People should just do as best as they can to avoid deity superstition paranormal nonsense. Reality is the nature that surrounds you.

    1. Actually I find it sad that the “dumbed down” version of the quote is more generally appealing than the original, which is much more sophisticated.

      The Buddha was, to my mind, the most profound thinker and practical philosopher that the world has ever seen. Very little of the body of teachings ascribed to him have to do with “paranormal nonsense,” and none of that is central. The core of his teaching is about advanced psychology, the nature of perception, and how to live well. The “superstitious” stuff is, in many people’s opinion, including my own, more likely to be a later addition by well-meaning scribes.

      The Buddha’s teachings are taken very seriously by neuroscientists and philosophers investigating the nature of the self. Buddhist meditation techniques are being investigated and found useful in literally hundreds of universities across the world.

  28. Being a person that believes all religions are stories written by humans, I think the rewrite is better. My 10 year old daughter can understand it. A wheel on a modern car is more advanced then the first wheel someone created.

    1. I’d disagree that the rewrite is better, and question your assumption that a sign philosophical statements are improved is that they can be understood by children. But that’s not really my point here. The quote has been altered to the point where it doesn’t reflect what the Buddha taught, and so it shouldn’t be ascribed to him.

  29. The rewrite is better for my use, and that is to print it out and hang over my daughters bed, as words of wisdom, and want to pass on. If I printed out the original version she would not understand it. So my point is that adaptations or rewrites are totally ok. I might even sign it: Based on Buddha:)

    1. Wow. Thanks for that. It’s most interesting that the quote is in an essay by Anagarika Dharmapala. As a revivalist and modernist Buddhist he was very much concerned to promote the image of Buddhism as rational, so it makes sense that he would use this quote. I wonder if he was quoting from an old translation of the sutta, or whether this was his own rendering?

    2. I was interested in the slight shift from “good and gain” to “good and benefit.” It seems our version of the quote is from a slightly altered version created by the scholar Max Müller, who attributed the quote to the World Parliament of Religions book you linked to. Müller was an important scholar, but also a western rationalist who wanted to believe that eastern religions were at their core rational systems, albeit corrupted. Read just a little further than the extract below and you’ll see that in operation.


      1. It’s interesting to read how the approach to Vedic/Buddhist writings is to separate the “wheat from the chaff”. In my research of some of the Christian apologists of that era, they try to do the same. They reject biblical literalism. They accept Darwin’s insight as fact, even while polemicizing against Huxley’s Agnosticism, which they regard as a species of atheism. Now modern progressive Christians are involved in “deconstruction”, whereby they are striping their theology down to a humanist core and further adopting naturalism.

  30. “These qualities are skilful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted and carried out, lead to welfare and to happiness – then you should enter and remain in them”. These words. (sorry).

  31. You still can’t prove it’s fake and we can’t prove he really said it. But the main message is still in line with Buddhism. Things weren’t written down back then but it’s safe to assume that the Buddha did say something like this. And you not having proof of the first quote being take from somewhere else, shows that you can’t say it’s fake… I also should realize this myself and not listen to you.

    1. If a teaching purports to be from the Buddha but isn’t in the scriptures, then we should regard it as fake — it’s either misattributed or invented. (This is not just my position, but is what the Buddha’s recorded as saying.) In this particular case the quote is partly invented. It’s based on the Kalama Sutta but has been altered to fit someone’s agenda.

      Contrary to what you say, this quote isn’t in line with the Buddha’s teaching. It in fact directly contradicts the Kalama sutta’s insistence that common sense and reason are not sufficient for determining the truth of a teaching.

      1. >If a teaching purports to be from the Buddha but isn’t in the scriptures, then we should regard it as fake — it’s either misattributed or invented. (This is not just my position, but is what the Buddha’s recorded as saying.)

        This is getting very disingenuous, you’re saying that you can check what the Buddha was recorded as saying.

        1. I’m really not sure what point you’re trying to make. Yes, I am saying that we can check what the Buddha was recorded as saying having said. The scriptures are what the Buddha is recorded as saying having said. We can read those and check whether a purported quote is to be found there. This one isn’t. Or are you trying to argue that it is?

  32. Tomato, toh-mah-toh…. I’m sorry but in my never ending thoughts and understanding, as I read these they seem to speak the same to me… I’m not misinterpreting either one to be saying something different than the other except that the words being used are different. But, some people I suppose, are die hard literature radicals. Which is what makes this a great article for those who too share the same requirements for literally absolute definition I would think. At first it frustrated me, to see the lengths one dissects a carried over quote to make it resonate to their liking. However, I see there are people who need absolute specifically precise words for their vocabulary to properly define what they are reading. So, with that this is appreciable and without such explanation some would still be lost and reading into the wrong definitions of this quote. I’m not sure how much it may matter to one or the other of who precisely made this statement …. Nevertheless, it’s a wonderful quote that I truly feel is what our unity could phenomenally progress and make us want to be more understanding and live in “good light” as opposed to being reduced to politics, religions, and monetary status quos… Well that’s just an opinion so I suppose it wanted to be heard. Thanks for your dedication on something you truly emit passion for. It is absolutely appreciated.

    1. So you’re saying that “rely on reason and common sense” and “don’t rely on reason and common sense,” are just different ways of saying the same thing?

  33. First off, Siddartha Gauthama, the real name of The Buddha was a Hindu Prince, his father was the King of the land where he lived. So to say he was neither Hindu nor Prince is false, so I have to wonder about the rest of your site, need to take it with a grain of salt.
    Please do your own research on the matter.

    1. I’ve done lots of research, including reading the early Buddhist texts in the original Pali, and completing a Master’s degree that was 50% Buddhist studies. It’s natural that you would simply pass on information you’ve read in books about Buddhism or that you have been taught, but rest assured that Gotama did not grow up in a kingdom, but in an oligarchic republic. This is quite clear from the early texts, Again, later sources “upgraded” his status to one of prince, partly no doubt to make his renunciation even more impressive and partly because by that time India had become a monarchy or collection of monarchies (depending on which period we’re talking about) and people had forgotten that there could be any other way of governing.

      (Another point is that there is no evidence in the earlier texts that the Buddha’s first name was Siddhartha; this name was only attributed to him centuries after his death).

      And the “Hindu” thing is a complete anachronism, as I’ve pointed out in the text.

      If you want another bubble burst, there was no “four sights.” That tale appears in the early scriptures, but it’s a story that Gotama recounts about an earlier Buddha. It’s not something he said was part of his own life.

      Just because you’ve read or heard something a lot doesn’t make it true.

      1. A kingdom can be a republic.

        Republic comes from Res-publica and was a widely used principle in the Frankish kingdom at year 900 AD. The French king is representing the population, it is a kingdom and a republic.

        1. Definition of a republic: “a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch.”

          1. In an Oligarchic Republic the power obviously doesn‘t lie with the people. It’s the rule of the few over the many. So either your definition of republic is correct and there is no such thing as an oligarchic republic or there are many different types of republic, but anyway most likely what you were referring to wasn‘t anything close to a Republic. Your definition is maybe valid for a democratic republic, though I would see a president as optional. The Roman republic had no president and I think also modern democratic republics could probably work without. To be a republic you need to be a state, you need to have a body that actually represents the people (e.g. the Senat) or represents whoever, without governmental bodies / institutions it’s hard to be a republic. 5 Oligarchs or heads of clans or family elders or the 10 richest guys in the Valley are not a republic. It’s simply an oligarchy, but even that’s unlikely for that time. Usually there was a big guy and smaller big guys and they paid and served to the big guy (so basically feudalism in an early form). Which is more a social system than a form of government, but again if you are not really a state you don’t need a form of government. And e.g. UK is also a monarchy where the supreme power is held by the people, because it is a democracy and not a dictatorship. Monarchy just means that the head of state is from the same family/dynasty until they die out, but which form of monarchy it is actually tells you who wields the power. Was „Buddha“ part of some dynasty that’s worth the name (from a monarchic family)? Maybe.

          2. I’m not a political scientist and it probably wasn’t a good idea for me to get into a debate about this. I guess the definition I offered was of what a modern republic involves, while ancient republics were less democratic. (Even ancient democracies were less democratic than our modern understanding of that term.) The context for my offering that definition was that Cedric had said that a republic could have a monarch, which I don’t think is the case. It certainly wasn’t in ancient India. “Republic” is the (contemporary) name given to the forms of oligarchic rule that some states in India adopted. Those contrasted with the larger and more powerful monarchies that absorbed them.

            But the point is that Gautama Buddha was from an territory ruled by a governing council of representatives from powerful families. They did not have a king and he was never a prince.

  34. India during Lord Buddha’s birth era were not Hindu’s, actually that word never existed, that point I will take back, the religion is actually known as Sanatana Dharma, the Ethernal Truth, Siddratha Gauthama was born as a Kshatriya the Princely or ruling class or caste if you will, his family were Vedic and believed in Sanatana Dharma or present day Hinduism, actually a Islamic derogatory name for Sanathan Dharma, so in an indirect way you are correct he was not Hindu for that name never existed.
    Out of Sanathan Dharma, many of the Buddha’s teaching came, such as Karma, rebirth, Dharma and so forth, but the Buddha being a wise soul didnt want all the ritualistic traditions of present day Hinduism, nor the caste system. The Buddha took other traditions of Hinduism in the form of not harming living creatures and the fact that many strict Buddhist are pure vegetarians a central feature for most caste Hindu’s and as time passed many Buddhist started to eat meat, the same applies to Hindu’s this tradition most likely was to mimic the Islamic invaders who occupied India for centuries, thats another story.

    1. Thanks for showing flexibility in your thinking. It’s not common to see that these days, Coodhi.

      We actually have no information on what, if any, religious tradition the Buddha’s family practiced or what they believed, or even if they all followed the same tradition. There’s just no information in the early texts about that. There’s no doubt that Vedic traditions were predominant and it’s likely that his family followed some form of Vedism. There were also non-Vedic religions around, or traditions that had their roots in the Vedas but had rejected Vedic authority, and it’s possible that the Sakyans followed one of those. Anyway, as we both acknowledge the term “Hindu” certainly isn’t appropriate even if his family did follow a Vedic tradition.

      Regarding vegetarianism, the Buddha often talked about butchers selling beef. He used this as an illustration of how we can mentally dissect our sense of self, and so it must have been a sight that was very common to his listeners. By way of an example, in the Satipatthana Sutta there’s:

      Furthermore…just as a skilled butcher or his apprentice, having killed a cow, would sit at a crossroads cutting it up into pieces, the monk contemplates this very body — however it stands, however it is disposed — in terms of properties.

      But there are many, many references to meat being commonly eaten, to the point that since the bhikkhus lived by begging door-to-door it was very hard for them to be vegetarian. It was regarded as a special ascetic practice to do so.

      The prevalent religious traditions at the time of the Buddha did not seem to be vegetarian and didn’t seem to have a problem eating beef. I think this points to the fact that assuming that the religious traditions of the past were more-or-less the same as today is frequently a mistake.

  35. I am the guy who send this picture on web, I know the original text. But seriously do you think only one translation exist, this is only a shortcut for the complete Sutta. Furthermore, I’m Buddhist. Someone did accuse me to be an Hindu Zombie. I’m an Hindu & Jewish sympathizer, does anyone have a problem with this fact ???

    1. It’s not just a “shortcut,” Jean-Luc. It’s a complete distortion of what the original text says.

      And the comment about zombies was directed at me, not you.

      1. We can further discuss on email.
        I have also some very good translations from the complete Sutta by Mohan Vijayaratna & an other by Ven. Walpola Rahula.
        I think it is, if not the original text, it still following the main lines.
        How would you explain it much shorter in a picture ? Thanks

        1. The equivalent passage from Sujato’s translation on Sutta Central is:

          Don’t go by oral transmission, don’t go by lineage, don’t go by testament, don’t go by canonical authority, don’t rely on logic, don’t rely on inference, don’t go by reasoned contemplation, don’t go by the acceptance of a view after consideration, don’t go by the appearance of competence, and don’t think ‘The ascetic is our respected teacher.’ But when you know for yourselves: ‘These things are unskillful, blameworthy, criticized by sensible people, and when you undertake them, they lead to harm and suffering’, then you should give them up.

          Thanissaro’s version is:

          Don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering’ — then you should abandon them.

          These are only a little longer than in the “meme” version, and I’m sure they could be condensed in a way that doesn’t distort the meaning. Or just the last sentence could be used.

  36. There’s nothing more annoying than westerners pretending to know Buddha. Well, I come from India, the land where Buddha was born. I can understand exactly what Buddha meant. Buddha wasn’t a Hindu? He was practicing vedic religion which obviously is based on Hinduism and practices.

    1. Hi, Janasevana. The Buddha was born in Lumbini, which is in Nepal. There’s also no evidence that he ever practiced any form of Vedic religion. In fact there are reports in the scriptures of Brahmins visiting the land of the Sakyas and being displeased that they weren’t treated with respect.

      Also, the fact that you were born in India doesn’t make you an expert on Buddhist doctrine or history, any more than my being born in Scotland makes me an expert on the Gaelic language, or Scottish literature or history.

      1. Look, Nepal had been Culturally part of Bharata and it was founded by people migrating from Gangetic plain and twice it was conquered by Bharata, first by Karna, when he was the king of Anga ( Bhaglpur/Bihar) which he was appointed by Duryodhna as a king of Anga, second time Nepal/ kapilvastu got conquered by Vidudhbha the king of kosala, (modern Awadh, Uttarpradesh) than kapilvastu became the part of Kosala. Now coming to your propoganda of Bhartiye people eating beef, since you said The people used to eat beef so does the monk, cuz monk had to survive on bhiksha, than I think you are forgetting about the core philosophy of Buddhism, which is Non voilence and it is applicable for every living being, Buddha had only gave wavers to the people living in mountain to have meat due to climate condition of those region, but he never said to have meat of particular Animal. Bharata had two more important belive prior to Buddhism, which was Jainism and Vedic faith, Wherein Jainism the killing of any living being whether it’s Ant or elephant is totally ban due to it’s core Belief on Non-voilence philosophy. And no Hindu of any Varna used to consume beef in those period, Apart from Adivasis/ who used to live in forest, if Buddha advocated beef eating than, king Ashoka the great+who was Buddhist king and helped Buddhism to make world Religion) would have never banned cow slaughtering and Animal sacrifices, which was being performed during Vedic rituals by Brahmin, but not for the purpose of consumption. Ashoka used to punish those people who was involved in Animal killing and sacrifices. So there’s no question of Indian eating beef during Vedic and post Vedic period.

        1. Here are some quotes from the Buddhist scriptures:

          Puna caparaṃ, bhikkhave, bhikkhu imameva kāyaṃ yathāṭhitaṃ yathāpaṇihitaṃ dhātuso paccavekkhati:
          ‘atthi imasmiṃ kāye pathavīdhātu āpodhātu tejodhātu vāyodhātū’ti.
          Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, dakkho goghātako vā goghātakantevāsī vā gāviṃ vadhitvā catumahāpathe bilaso vibhajitvā nisinno assa.

          Furthermore, a mendicant examines their own body, whatever its placement or posture, according to the elements:
          ‘In this body there is the earth element, the water element, the fire element, and the air element.’
          It’s as if a deft butcher or butcher’s apprentice were to kill a cow and sit down at the crossroads with the meat cut into portions.(MN 10)

          That particular simile appears several times in various teachings. Apparently the sight of a butcher’s stall was a common one:

          Seyyathāpi, bhaginiyo, dakkho goghātako vā goghātakantevāsī vā gāviṃ vadhitvā tiṇhena govikantanena gāviṃ saṅkanteyya anupahacca antaraṃ maṃsakāyaṃ anupahacca bāhiraṃ cammakāyaṃ. Yaṃ yadeva tattha antarā vilimaṃsaṃ antarā nhāru antarā bandhanaṃ taṃ tadeva tiṇhena govikantanena sañchindeyya saṅkanteyya sampakanteyya samparikanteyya. Sañchinditvā saṅkantitvā sampakantitvā samparikantitvā vidhunitvā bāhiraṃ cammakāyaṃ teneva cammena taṃ gāviṃ paṭicchādetvā evaṃ vadeyya: ‘tathevāyaṃ gāvī saṃyuttā imināva cammenā’ti; sammā nu kho so, bhaginiyo, vadamāno vadeyyā”ti?

          “No hetaṃ, bhante”.

          Suppose a deft butcher or their apprentice was to kill a cow and carve it with a sharp meat cleaver. Without damaging the flesh inside or the hide outside, they’d cut, carve, sever, and slice through the connecting tendons, sinews, and ligaments, and then peel off the outer hide. Then they’d wrap that cow up in that very same hide and say: ‘This cow is joined to its hide just like before.’ Would they be speaking rightly?”

          “No, sir. (MN 146)

          The Buddha of course condemned butchers:

          Taṃ kiṃ maññatha, bhikkhave, api nu tumhehi diṭṭhaṃ vā sutaṃ vā: ‘goghātako gāvo vadhitvā
          vadhitvā vikkiṇamāno tena kammena tena ājīvena hatthiyāyī vā assayāyī vā rathayāyī vā yānayāyī vā bhogabhogī vā mahantaṃ vā bhogakkhandhaṃ ajjhāvasanto’”ti?

          What do you think, mendicants? Have you ever seen or heard of a butcher of cattle selling cattle that he killed himself who, by means of that work and livelihood, got to travel by elephant, horse, chariot, or vehicle, or to enjoy wealth, or to live off a large fortune?” (AN 6.18)

          He condemned butchers because they were involved in a harmful trade:

          Kathañca, bhikkhave, puggalo parantapo hoti paraparitāpanānuyogamanuyutto? Idha, bhikkhave, ekacco puggalo orabbhiko hoti sūkariko sākuṇiko māgaviko luddo macchaghātako coro coraghātako goghātako bandhanāgāriko, ye vā panaññepi keci kurūrakammantā.

          And how does one person mortify others, pursuing the practice of mortifying others? It’s when a person is a slaughterer of sheep, pigs, poultry, or deer, a hunter or fisher, a bandit, an executioner, a butcher of cattle, a jailer, or has some other cruel livelihood. (AN 4.198)

          He highlighted the suffering that animals experienced as a result of the meat trade:

          Seyyathāpi, brāhmaṇa, gāvī vajjhā āghātanaṃ nīyamānā yaṃ yadeva pādaṃ uddharati, santikeva hoti vadhassa santikeva maraṇassa; evamevaṃ kho, brāhmaṇa, govajjhūpamaṃ jīvitaṃ manussānaṃ parittaṃ lahukaṃ bahudukkhaṃ bahupāyāsaṃ mantāyaṃ boddhabbaṃ, kattabbaṃ kusalaṃ, caritabbaṃ brahmacariyaṃ, natthi jātassa amaraṇan’ti.

          It’s like a cow being led to the slaughter. With every step she comes closer to the slaughter, closer to death. In the same way, life as a human is like a cow being slaughtered. It’s brief and fleeting, full of pain and misery. Think about this and wake up! Do what’s good and live the spiritual life, for no-one born can escape death.’ (AN 7.74)

          As you might gather, references to meat-eating, and to eating cows, are common in the Buddhist scriptures. The idea that people in India at that time didn’t eat beef is not historically accurate.

          I stress that I’m a vegetarian (actually a vegan) myself. I’ve been vegetarian for almost 40 years, although vegan for less. But it’s clear that the Buddha ate meat (I’d suggest consulting my book on vegetarianism for references), and that this was because meat-eating (including eating cows) was so common in his day that it would have been difficult for those who lived by begging from door to door to avoid meat.

          His teachings to householders (who could of course control what they ate), which encouraged them not to kill, or to cause others to kill, and which told them that butchery was a wrong livelihood, would have encouraged them to become vegetarian.

          We have to be careful not to project present-day practices into the past and assume that the past was just like the present or perhaps even better.

          Now you may wish that people in India at the time of the Buddha were vegetarian and didn’t eat cows, but a wish is all it is. The evidence suggests that meat-eating (including cow-eating) was common at that time.

  37. “Yes, I am saying that we can check what the Buddha was recorded as saying. The scriptures are what the Buddha is recorded as saying. We can read those and check whether a purported quote is to be found there. ”

    But the quote you have said is: “Now, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture…”

    You have admitted that the scripture was transmitted orally (“Indeed. There were religious “books” around at that time, but they were preserved orally, and so nothing in them was “written.”) which makes it originally an oral transmission of reports and legends.

    Unbelievably, you take the scripture as 100% accurate presentation of what Buddha said. You don’t take into account psychopaths (2-4% of humans) with their own agendas involved back then, you don’t account for failures of memory, nor do you account for creative people who embellished nor do you account for early mistranslations to another language.

    Somehow, violating the very quote you argue for, we are to believe the scriptures are indeed 100% accurate representation of what Buddha says or that he even existed instead of just an embellished legend or aggregate of several people that was modified through many years of oral transmission.

    I can conclude that we will never know exactly what was said or that the hypothetical Buddha actually said those words.

    1. “Yes, I am saying that we can check what the Buddha was recorded as saying. The scriptures are what the Buddha is recorded as saying. We can read those and check whether a purported quote is to be found there. ”

      But the quote you have said is: “Now, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture…”

      Hi, Steven.

      I can see how you might think this is contradictory, but when the Buddha (in the Kalama Sutta) is answering the question of what is true, it doesn’t seem that he’s talking in terms of factual statements like “the Buddha taught x.”

      He seems to have been talking in terms of teachings about how best to live one’s life, as evidenced by another discourse in which he uses the same “don’t go by oral transmission, don’t go by lineage… etc” formula.

      Teachers have been making claims, and the Kalamas are confused. What are those claims about? Presumably, given the context of the Bhaddiya Sutta, they are either ethical teachings or views that have implications for your long-term happiness and wellbeing.

      The Buddha’s response is that if you want to live a life that will promote your welfare — for example one that’s fulfilling and that brings contentment and a sense of meaning — then you can’t rely purely on scriptures, following a lineage of teachers, logic, and so on. Those things can be misleading. Instead you can find out what creates such a life through experience — by putting ethical principles into practice. In that other sutta I’ve referred to, the Bhaddiya sutta, those principles can be boiled down to “don’t cause harm” (i.e. observe the precepts) and “be kind” (practice the four brahmaviharas). Those are things you can put into practice, and that will promote your welfare.

      I actually used the wrong tense in the first sentence you quoted above. I should have said, “I am saying that we can check what the Buddha was recorded as having said. The scriptures are what the Buddha is recorded as having said.” That has probably caused confusion.

      I don’t of course mean to imply that the scriptures are 100% accurate. I’ve made the point roughly a gazillion times on this site that the scriptures were passed on orally, in a simplified, repetitive form for at least a couple of hundred years before being written down. Some portion is probably verbatim what he said. Much of it is probably the equivalent of half-decent lecture notes. Some of it is probably like very bad lecture notes. Some of it may be made up. No one is every going to agree which teachings should be regarded as belonging to which category. Generally the convention is to assume that the scriptures represent what the Buddha taught unless there’s a really good reason for thinking otherwise.

      The point I was making in taking to Cedric was that is something isn’t in the body of scriptural work that’s traditionally ascribed to the Buddha, then there’s no legitimate case for saying that it’s something the Buddha said. We can argue that something that’s in the scriptures might not have been said by the Buddha, but we can’t argue that something that isn’t in the scriptures is something the Buddha said.

      In this particular case, there’s no good reason to assume that the Buddha did not teach the approach that’s in the Kalama and Bhaddiya Suttas. It fits with what we know of his teaching. We can’t know for certain, but it’s probably what he taught. On the other hand, the “suspect” version of the quote purports to represent what’s in the Kalama Sutta, but doesn’t. It in fact not only doesn’t fit with his general approach but directly contradicts the teachings in the Kalama and Bhaddiya Suttas, and isn’t found in any other scripture. So it’s reasonable to assume that it’s fake.

      “Unbelievably, you take the scripture as 100% accurate presentation of what Buddha said.”

      I’m glad you find that unbelievable since, as I hope is clear, that’s absolutely not the case.

  38. Well that was a nice read. I’d love the untrue to be true, but the truth of the matter is the heart of this conversation. If the attribution cannot be verified, or worse can be disproved, then it must not stand. However once the genie is out of the bottle, attempting to retract the ‘known’ veracity of the quote is a herculean task, although I’m glad you are trying and persevere in sharing and justifying your position.
    What you’ve provided appears to be a sound, reasoned attempt at getting an understanding of the past, and you can’t ask much more than that. It makes a lot of sense, despite the many attempts to derail your conclusions.
    In short, thanks, its good to have a reasoned argument to back up the discussion, even if I do like the new quote, I’d rather know its true heritage than to believe and attribute it incorrectly.
    P.s. since it seems mandatory for commentators to state how definitely Buddhist and relevantly ethnic they are to validate their post, I’m neither, in fact I think religion is a daft idea, but there you are.

  39. As a person who is coming from a buddhist country and have read the scriptures from pali and english I do agree with bodhipaksa.
    The thing is buddhism has a fine line between being intellectual and being logical.
    Being logical doesent always get you to the truth.
    Eye for an eye is the logical answer yet buddhism teaches to spread compassion even to your enemies.
    Death penalty is the logical answer but buddhism says to change the person. (Angulimala)
    Buddha was never interested in what was in space or whether earth is flat or round.
    He left it to the people. One time he advised his monks not to search what was in the universe because it has zero benefits for their purpose of enlightenment.
    His teachings was to help people to be better, to attain bliss.

    That is why buddha said to believe or practice something that was praised by the wise. Believe or practise something that is for the benefit of all.

  40. Excellent piece! The original article and all the dialogue it has generated. Learned a lot.

    From my own meditation practice, I come down on the “experiential” over “logical.” “Experiential” is the real thing, as it is happening in the present moment. So often, we attempt what seems to us would be the “logical” choice, only to find out it doesn’t actually work in our present real life situation, and then, we have to go back and have some more work to do.

    All good stuff!

    1. Thanks. I guess what the Buddha is warning about is relying on what appears to be logical, since logic can be deceptive. The Buddha was in fact very logical, but he worked out his system of spiritual practice based on experiential observation and not as some kind of logical speculation.

      1. Exactly. The “false” quote for this Sutta states that the Buddha said that the truth can be arrived at through “anything that agrees with reason.” The Buddha never said this. The Buddha said that truth is obtained through “knowing for oneself.” A BIG difference. My impression is that the Buddha knew from his own consciousness practice that the truth to any ultimate system underlying existence can only be really known and understood through our own direct-experience and self-knowledge of it, not through some artificial mental construct or external authority.

      2. Well said, as always. I was re-reading some of the commentary here. I laughed and laughed at some of it. I wonder where some of these people coming up with their ideas and subsequent comments. I saw one where “libertarians” was mentioned. HAHAHA what the heck?
        Some angry, fear fueled person chose a buddhist quote site to voice political affiliations. That made me smile remembering my own ignorance about that at one time.

        Anyhoo, blessings to you all.

  41. I have sympathy for the ‘2500 Buddha Jayanti’ version, (what was being called the fake quote) for this reason:

    It’s true that in the Thanissaro version, (called the scriptural quote in the original post), the listeners are asked not to rely on logical conjecture, inference, analogy or agreement through pondering views.

    But then the Buddha immediately asks “What do you think, Kamalas?” and proceeds with a series of questions that establish agreement on certain propositions. For example, that an absence of greed, aversion and delusion lead to welfare and to happiness “That is how it appears to us,” the Kamalas agree.

    What follows are further reasons and assurances that this approach makes sense, whether there is a ‘world after death’ or not, and the advice is to be disciples of noble ones who display these virtues. The Kamalas exclaim this advice as magnificent, thanking the Blessed one for revealing what was hidden “through many lines of reasoning” and thereby making the Dhamma clear.

    What strikes me is that the Kamalas acknowledge the Buddhas teachings ‘appear’ to be true through ‘many lines of reasoning’ even in the Thanissaro translation which earlier advised against agreement through pondering views.

    For me, there must have been some distinction for the Kamalas between logical conjecture, inference, analogy and pondering views, and arriving at a conclusion through ‘many lines of reasoning’ since even they acknowledge this is the method the Buddha was using to help them decide which teachers to follow.

    This seems very close in practise to what is summarised in the Jayanti quote as “observation and analysis,” and that “when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

    Whilst I agree it initially seems weird to miss out any mentions of not relying on logic or inference in the Jayanti version, I also get that in some cases it’s better to leave some words out if they make the translation confusing, or if the audience in question is unlikely to engage in this kind of nuanced discussion. This is often the case when there are no direct equivalents for ancient words, or how people at the time would have understood them given their cultural context. I personally find the Thanissaro confusing given the fact that the Buddha asks not to rely on inference or agreement through pondering views, but then proceeds to do exactly that. I assume this is because the meaning is very nuanced, or my interpretation of those words is significantly different from the translator.

    I also feel that quoting either translation is potentially misleading when taken out of context, since the Buddha qualifies his advice as being specific to this particular question. “So in this case,” he says, not, “in all cases.”

    He doesn’t seem to say never to listen to reports, legends and scriptures. His answer is to a very specific case, which is how to figure out which teachers are speaking the truth, when they all disagree and even disparage each other.

    The Buddha acknowledges there is good reason for their doubt in this circumstance. “Of course you are uncertain” he says. “When there are reasons for doubt, uncertainty is born.”

    It’s confusing when teachers and people with status disagree and even disparage each other.

    The advice seems to be, look at what qualities and virtues these teachers have, and to be disciples of the ‘noble ones’ – (those who are free of greed, and ill-will, are un-deluded, alert and resolute’) and then to pervade awareness in every direction with good will, compassion, appreciation, and equanimity.

    I read the unspoken implication to be, teachers who exert a lot of energy in disparaging each other, at some level are displaying ‘greed, aversion and delusion.’ I find it interesting that the Buddha manages to communicate this without simply being another teacher who disparages other teachers, even if it is only for their tendency to disparage other teachers.

    Instead he guides the listener to observe and analyze what is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, and choose teachers and behaviour accordingly.

    I imagine all the various translators had the ‘good and benefit’ of all in mind when translating, but as other comments have pointed out, it’s an almost impossible task.

    It does create interesting conversations though, and is fun to think and talk about, so, thanks Bodhipaksa and all other contributors.

    1. “I personally find the Thanissaro confusing given the fact that the Buddha asks not to rely on inference or agreement through pondering views, but then proceeds to do exactly that.”

      Well, I think what he’s doing is asking them to reflect on their experience in order to see that greed, hatred and delusion are unskillful, blameworthy, criticized by the wise, and when adopted and carried out, lead to harm and suffering. So I don’t think there’s any contradiction. The Buddha isn’t saying that logic and analysis are useless; he’s pointing out that you have to relate them to your actual lived experience. With perfect logic, but invalid premises, you’ll end up with a nonsensical conclusion. Checking your premises against the reality of what you see in the world, plus the sound use of logic, gives you conclusions that are valid. Both logic and observation are necessary, of course. Good observation plus faulty logic will also give you nonsense, unless you’re correct by pure luck.

      “He doesn’t seem to say never to listen to reports, legends and scriptures. His answer is to a very specific case…”

      It’s the same thing here. He doesn’t say “don’t listen to these things.” He’s saying don’t rely purely on them. Compare them with what you actually see taking place in reality. He’s articulating a general principle, not just talking about one particular circumstance.

      “I read the unspoken implication to be, teachers who exert a lot of energy in disparaging each other, at some level are displaying ‘greed, aversion and delusion.’”

      This is something that comes across very strongly in the Attakavagga (see Gil Frondal’s translation of this, “The Buddha Before Buddhism”). There we have a Buddha who is strongly against disputation, disparagement, and the clinging to views that give rise to those things. When I’ve seen the Buddha being harsh to someone (for example calling them “foolish man”), it’s usually when they’ve misrepresented his views — so he’s criticizing their conduct. When he’s talking about other teachers he mostly seems to find fault in the logic of their teachings. That’s what I found, for example, by doing a search for “nigantha” on accesstoinsight.org. I’d be interested to see any examples of him disparaging other teachers personally.

      1. Thanks for your reply. I’m a fan of this site.

        You wrote:

        “He doesn’t say “don’t listen to these things.” He’s saying don’t rely purely on them.”

        I agree that might be what is meant, but in the translation you provide it says “don’t go by”
        not “don’t only go by” or “don’t purely go by”

        I feel like adding that word ‘purely’ potentially changes the meaning, which in the context of this site I feel ok with splitting hairs about!

        Likewise when you say;

        “He’s articulating a general principle, not just talking about one particular circumstance.”

        when the original translation you provide it says;

        “So in this case, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture,”

        “In this case” surely means, in this case, as opposed to all cases.

        If he meant to say in all cases, don’t only go by reports, why not say that, instead of “In this case, don’t go by reports”

        You mentioned having studied Pali – I would be curious if the original sheds light on this, and if you would modify the translation.

        Certainly other translations I have seen don’t create this confusion, for example from here: http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/kalama1.htm

        “Come, Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture;”

        This translation avoids this confusion, (although I still think the context of the answer is important, as a response to a specific question, which he acknowledges as being worthy of doubt and uncertainty. For me its still not clear this is given as general advice.)

        The Ven. Soma Thera translation also avoids the confusion I mentioned about asking not to rely on logic, inference or pondering views when the rest of the text seems to do exactly that, by the following choice of words, which seem better to me:

        “Don’t go… upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another’s seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, ‘The monk is our teacher.’

        This is much clearer, at all those categories are very distinct from reasoning and logic.
        An axiom is something regarded as established or self evident, but without actual evidence, its a starting point that allows logic to follow. It is categorically different from observing one’s experience later in the text.
        Bias is obviously not the same as logic or inference.
        “Specious reasoning” is clearly not the same as “careful reasoning”
        nor ‘Seeming ability’
        and “nor upon the consideration, ‘The monk is our teacher.’ ” is also straightforwardly logical – to not accept something just because of the status or position a person has.

        I would be curious your opinion on that translation:

        To me it seems to convey the points I think you’re making but with less confusion.

        1. I’m delighted by all the interest in this sutta!

          I only studied Pali at university for two years, which isn’t enough to qualify me as an expert. (And that was a long time ago now.)

          Thanissaro’s translations can be very quirky — for example he translates “nibbana” as “unbinding” and “dukkha” as “stress” — but at the time I wrote this article his translations on Access to Insight were the most accessible on the web. And it was important to me that people could actually follow a link and read the sutta. Bhikkhu Bodhi is a far better translator, but at that time his version of the sutta was only available as a very expensive book. Now we have Sutta Central, which is a fantastic resource, and they’ve posted a lot of Bodhi’s translations. For example here’s his version of the Kalama Sutta, in which you’ll find there is no “in this case.”

          There’s an alternative translation on SC, by Bhikkhu Sujato — the guy behind the website. His translation also has no “in this case.” And nothing corresponding to that is found in the Pali. That passage in the Pali starts with three words, “Etha tumhe, kālāmā…” Tumhe is simply “you” and the final word is “kalamas.” Etha is the plural of ehi, which is an imperative meaning “come!” So the Buddha is saying, “Come, you Kalamas…” and then tells them what not to rely on. Bhikku Bodhi is very literal: “Come, Kālāmas, do not go by…” Sujato renders this as a more polite “Please, Kālāmas, don’t go by…” “Come” is an invitation, not a command. When the Buddha invited someone to join his monastic sangha he would say “Ehi, bhikkhu.” Presumably Sujato, who I have great respect for as a translator, thought that “please” did the trick of conveying that the Kalamas were being invited to accompany the Buddha on a train of thought.

          As for the verb “go by” or “don’t go by” — there is none! What Bodhi and Sujato render as “don’t go by oral tradition/transmission” is simply “mā anussavena.” Mā is a “prohibition particle.” It’s not a verb, and in translating it you could just have no verb at all: “Not by means of oral teachings…” But it’s natural in English to want to have a verb, and “Don’t go by oral teachings” works fine.

          Lastly, you can’t take any teaching of the Buddha in isolation. He was a ruthlessly logical guy and a master debater. He didn’t disparage logic. So it’s really not possible that he was saying “don’t rely on logic, period.” In the context of ascertaining what spiritual teachings are true and which aren’t, logic has to play a role, but it can’t be the thing you rely on. As they say in computing, GIGO (garbage in, garbage out). Your data has to be sound before you process it through logic. And that data is lived experience and observation. When the Buddha is inviting the Kalamas to reflect on their experience he’s asking them to do so logically.

        2. Sorry, I haven’t replied to your question about Soma Thera’s translation. I have writing to do at the moment, but I’ll get back to that when I can.

          1. Thanks, for your reply, I was thrilled to read your detailed look at that passage, and the links to those translations.

            I wish every translation had notes with such a word for word explanation for the reasoning for the translators choices. It feels like getting much closer to the original that way.

            No rush about the other translation, but still curious what you think of it when you end up having time.

            Many thanks!

          2. Hi, Amir. I still haven’t found the time to do an analysis of the Soma Thera translation of the “criteria” but I happened to remember that my friend Jayarava did a translation and commentary on the sutta [PDF], which you might find helpful, because he explains his reasoning for having chosen certain translations. I’d probably have chosen different terms myself, but he shows his workings, which makes it easier to get a sense of what the original Pali might be saying. Inevitably there’s interpretation involved, though.

      2. http://bschawaii.org/shindharmanet/critical/

        Interestingly, this one translates ‘In this case’ with ‘This is how to live’

        These are opposite meanings!

        Unless ‘In this case’ refers to any time there is uncertainty.

        Which, to be fair, is most of life!

        I’ve checked 4 other translations online, there seems to be little consistently in these details, which makes a close reading of the text meaningless.

        I guess I’ll have to fall back on what I can know for myself, seems reasonable and appears to lead to wellfare and happiness 🙂

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