Buddha’s discourses have been named the Suttas. Normally, the word accompanying Sutta refers to the people to whom he was speaking to. The speech he made for the Kalamas is very well known, because it’s the text that emphasizes Buddha’s appreciation for inquiry. This is why this Sutta is also named The Inquiry Sutta.
When Buddha reached the Kalamas they were all very excited to be face to face with the Enlightened one. They had questions, and were also eager to learn from the Buddha himself.
They all gathered around the Buddha, along with his disciples. That’s when a Kalama man approached Buddha, in the most respectful way, and asked him about the wise men that would come and go to their village.
He explained that these men would usually exalt their faith and criticize other beliefs. They would all have great reasons to justify their own faith over other faiths. So, all of these men were considered very wise, and this is why the townspeople didn’t know who to believe, or who to follow.
The Way of Inquiry
Buddha accepted and understood this confusion, because of all the conflicting information. That’s when he taught them the way of inquiry. He told them not to believe or accept anything based on who says it, or because it’s in the scriptures, or because of the nature of the ones practicing it. Not even his teachings were to be accepted without questioning.
He asked them to experience, to seek their own truths, not to conform to what they heard, but rather to observe. And to build their own conclusions on gathered and observed evidence. He explained that there was no other way of determining if something was good or not, except by living it.
The Kalamas had doubts about their capacity of judgment about what was good and what was not. That’s when Buddha mentioned a line of reflective questions, numbering behaviors and consequences, and asking the Kalamas to judge them as good or bad.
The Kalamas did a great job and Buddha made them realize that they already had what was necessary to decide on their own.
The origins of suffering
What catches our attention is that the reflective questions the Buddha asks the Kalamas are all based on the three origins of suffering. He asks about someone who is attached to things, and about someone who’s full of rage and another living in delusion. The Kalamas recognized that these were going to lead to negative consequences and therefore should not serve as examples.
Buddha believed that men’s suffering had three basic origins or attachments – The first, is the fact that man was deeply connected to impermanent beings or things, which didn’t belong to anyone. The second origin of suffering is hatred – the rage one could experience was enough to blind him to what was good and right. And the final and third is delusion – the habit of living as if there was no suffering, as if there was no ending, as if there was no constant transformation. Believing in a constant reality that does not exist.
Buddha, as it was common at that time as a good teaching practice, would then ask about antagonist situations. He would ask about someone with no attachments, no hatred and no delusions. He would ask about the product that would come from these men and the consequences of their acts.
Explaining the origins of suffering in that way was a great tool that Buddha used to show us how we can manage our own karma. Normally when we hear the word Karma we think about the negative consequences.
However, Karma is about good things too. All the good you do, also comes back to you. Doing things for this exclusive purpose is not right, but becomes natural. Actually, I would dare say it is already, at least to some degree, natural to you.
You help someone carry a bag upstairs, or to the car, and a few blocks ahead you encounter someone you really liked to see again, but you lost his/her phone number. These things can be seen as coincidence, but often are not. We don’t realize this, because the good you did before was so natural, you didn’t wait for any sort of reward.
The Sutta gives you the keys along the path, these are the philosophical tools necessary for your own growth. They act as the basic building blocks for your own personal development. The rest is up to you, for you have to be your own teacher, you have to awaken your own soul.