Kalama Sutta is a key part of the Buddhist teaching that tells you to question everything, not to blindly follow any dogma or teacher. This is one of the features that make this religion/philosophy so special however this view seems to be contradictory in many Buddhist circles. Many monks and Buddhists shave their heads and wear mallahs to identify themselves more with the doctrine (ego and attachment) or perhaps to fit in better within the "Buddhist gang" as if this dogma was the ultimate truth and they may get offended when you "dare" to question their "faith" or their idolized masters.

They rarely question the Sangha with psychology, existential philosophy, other religions and they seem to fall in love with it following this process of dependency by illusionment/attachment/joy and ultimately doubt disillusionment/detachment/sadness which is clearly explained in the Buddhist sutra itself.

Osel Hita (a Spaniard who has appointed by the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of lama Yeshe) quit Buddhism and complained about how much suffering he had to endure during his childhood nevertheless this is rarely debated within Buddhist circles. In some Buddhist countries children are indoctrinated in the dogma therefore they see it as truth and don't question it therefore it is used as a political tool for the masses.

It is true that the Sangha may have saved some peoples lives and so has the army, Scientology and the Christian Church but this has to do with psychology, purpose in life and mental health and it doesn't make Buddhism any better.

Meditation has been proven by the World Health Organization to be beneficial for mental health nevertheless you don't hear much from monks that you don't really need to be a Buddhist to meditate.

Some features of the dogma such us Bardos, Rebirth or (reincarnation), Samsara or even Enlightenment have vague definitions or are impossible to double check because they are based of the subjective experiences of masters or monks and it's up to the practitioner to believe them or not and have the same credibility has "original sin, virgin birth, Heaven, etc." and even less than the Simulation Hypothesis. Some people left Buddhism because their views on the oneness of consciousness or karma were not compatible with the view shared by the particular sect (Zen, Chan, Tibetan, etc).

Siddhārtha Gautama was a dissident of believes the vedas to attain enlightenment and escape the wheel so Samsara so was Jesus Christ, and Lao Tse and the main spiritual figures in human history. Isn't Kalama Sutta encouraging you to do just that? Isn't Kalama Sutta telling you that it's better to be a free-thinker than a Buddhist, at least in some cases? Isn't it Buddhistic to go beyond Buddhism?

This question is an adaptation of the Reptilian Conspiracy vs Buddhism question which was not accepted in this forum and Criticism on the Buddhism from Wikipedia and both articles here and here.

“A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true.“ Demosthenes 384-322 BC

“Sometimes people don't want to hear the truth because they don't want their illusions destroyed.” Friedrich Nietzsche

“You can't convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it's based on a deep seated need to believe” Carl Sagan

“If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.” ― René Descartes

“My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God. Non-violence is the means of realising Him.“ Mahatma Gandhi

John 8:32 “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

“There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth: not going all the way, and not starting.” Buddha? (or not...doesn't matter)

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    – user2424
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 12:22

8 Answers 8


You are completely 100% right about this. Which is why in my Zen Master's (Seon Master Go Sung Shin) tradition, as well as in my Root Guru's (Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche) tradition, we are taught to abandon all attachments, including attachment to Dharma or to seeing oneself as a Buddhist. (Of course on this site I'm staying within the boundaries of the format, but not in a dogmatic way as you can hopefully see from my answers.)

Most Mahayana schools teach this very idea on the advanced levels. Specifically, such teachings as Zen and Mahamudra are exactly about taking this idea of going beyond Buddhism to its complete fruition. So it's a little funny that you are saying this as if you were the first to think about it, while it is in fact a big and famous part of the living tradition for about twenty six hundred years.

In fact, this topic of getting over one's attachment to Buddhism is so big, so important, and so popular, that Chogyam Trungpa wrote an entire book just about this, called "Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism" - you are welcome to check it out.

In my personal case, I was lucky enough to read this book in ~1995/6 - so getting over all attachments, including attachment to Buddhism, and even attachment to getting rid of attachments, has been my Main Practice for many years. Taken to its logical perfection, this is one of the most powerful liberating techniques I've known and I can't recommend it high enough. Your intuition is completely right on this.

I do recommend that you read everything by Trungpa you can lay your hands on, I bet you will find a lot to like.

  • 2
    Sir, this idea is also presented in Theravada school. "Monks, I will teach you the Dhamma compared to a raft, for the purpose of crossing over, not for the purpose of holding onto. Listen & pay close attention. I will speak." ~ cited from Alagaddupama Sutta. Also one should not cling to Nibbana known as Vibhava tanhā which prevents himself/herself attaining Nibbana.
    – Damith
    Commented Feb 13, 2019 at 4:33
  • Yes, perfect, I almost forgot about that. Of course, the raft!
    – Andriy Volkov
    Commented Feb 13, 2019 at 4:35

Since the Kalamas were confused in what they should or not believe, The Buddha instructed that they should be pragmatic and adopt only views and conduct which would lead to their well-being and peace of mind insted of keep bothering themselves with unverifiable competing doctrines which would lead to nowhere but to stressful mind states.

This is unrelated to the examples you give regarding the traditional customs of the monks and the Sangha because the customs are not harmful per se, they may be actually a source of joy, which serves to propel the practice. It all comes to how you relate to it, as long as there is Right View, there is no harm.

The monks would be sabotaging themselves if they start raise against traditional customs just because their wrong personal view (disregarding the issue of dukkha) say so (which is conceit, ingratitude and cling to self-view). The practice delineated by the Buddha intend to end all stress building up the proper conditions, and to do so, is necessary to settle the attention to the proper frame of reference. Any other preoccupation is merely the mind being dragged by its passion over sensory phenomena.

This world is in bondage to attachments, clingings [sustenances], & biases. But one such as this does not get involved with or cling to these attachments, clingings, fixations of awareness, biases, or obsessions; nor is he resolved on ‘my self.’ He has no uncertainty or doubt that mere stress, when arising, is arising; stress, when passing away, is passing away. In this, his knowledge is independent of others. It’s to this extent, Kaccāna, that there is right view.

SN 12:15

For complementary explanantion of why clinging to personal views are nothing more than fuel to the fetters, See: AN 10:93 and MN 63

Regarding the rebirth doctrine as it is decribed, it's a attempt to explain a insight of the Buddha himself. So it's suppose, for those who follows the Buddha's footsteps, to have such experience (whatever it may be) as well at some point. No one is demanding you to believe in it. However, aside of the feeling of samvega (disenchantment due the briefness nature of the sensory phenomena), having conviction in rebirth, will turn the practioner much more eager to go forth.


A lot of the "question" sounds like a vector for anti-Buddhist propaganda or just trolling -- or just off-topic i.e. trying to introduce non-Buddhist theories, or to contrast or compare Buddhist doctrine with assertions made by non-Buddhists -- but anyway I'll try to answer the question as-asked.

Isn't Kalama Sutta encouraging you to do just that? Isn't Kalama Sutta telling you that it's better to be a free-thinker than a Buddhist, at least in some cases?

From memory the Kalama sutta says,

  • Don't believe a doctrine just because the teacher is famous
  • Believe what you "know for yourselves" to be true
  • Believe doctrines which are "praised by the wise"
  • These rhetorical or Socratic questions show that you agree with the doctrines of the noble truths, i.e. that craving leads to suffering

I think that's what the Kalama sutta says.

Terms like "free thinker" come with cultural/historical baggage. It refers to people who don't believe in the literal truths of doctrines taught by the Christian churches and/or don't believe they have a monopoly on the truth.

It may be a fallacy to assume that a "free thinking" attitude, which you decide is an appropriate reaction to Church doctrine, is also an appropriate lens through which to view Buddhist doctrine.

I usually try to concentrate on what Buddhist doctrine actually says.

On reviewing the kalama sutta now I see it's not exactly about the doctrine of the four noble truths, rather it's about the doctrine of the three poisons and the Four Brahmaviharas.

It ends with something analogous to Pascal's wager which I find odd or off-topic because I think of the Dhamma being, you know, immediate, visible here-and-now. To some extent there maybe a "hereafter" though, and I think that different bits of the doctrine appeal to different people with different concerns.

Isn't it Buddhistic to go beyond Buddhism?

Yes and no, I guess.

An answer like this one might imply something about not being too attached to specific Buddhist views or doctrines.

But, I don't know, maybe that's like anything else -- e.g. in my opinion the doctrines of Newtonian mechanics are more or less true, and useful if not invaluable for certain types of problem.

Anyone might "go beyond" Newtonian mechanics, e.g. because they're a layperson who doesn't address that type of problem at all, or because they're a physicist with a need for more-advanced (e.g. relativistic) theories. Even so you don't disparage Newton's theories, it wouldn't occur to me to try to claim that they're like flat-earther theories.

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    – ChrisW
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 17:00

It's true that when someone says vaccines are good, you should question it and find out whether vaccines are truly good.

However, it takes too much time to do double blind scientific studies yourself, to discover whether vaccines are truly good.

The best you can do is to read enough of other people's scientific studies to determine whether vaccines are good, then finally get yourself vaccinated.

However, in your question, you are proposing that you should spend your whole life questioning vaccines without getting vaccinated. If you do that, you will probably die early from the disease that could have been prevented using the vaccine, and you would get no benefit from the vaccine.

What's even worse is if you convince other people to perpetually question and avoid the vaccine.

  • I'm asking about the nature of the vaccine. What's it made of? Is it made of truth or is a placebo and I don't need the vaccine at all because the vaccine is inside of you? Perhaps that vaccine could be taken as a candy instead of a shot? What's makes the vaccine work? Perhaps I could take a Christian, a Jewish or even a Lizard vaccine. Isn't that how Buddha attained enlightenment or discovered the "vaccine"? Buddha most likely would say "there is no vaccine"
    – user2428
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 16:32
  • 1
    Christian / Jew / with or without religion, one can discover the Dhamma if his/her wisdom was on point. And once that happens, they will be able to see through the conflicting doctrines and pick out the true essence instead of Blind Faith. Commented Feb 13, 2019 at 2:11
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    "It's just as if a man were wounded with an arrow thickly smeared with poison. His friends & companions, kinsmen & relatives would provide him with a surgeon, and the man would say, 'I won't have this arrow removed until I know whether the man who wounded me was a noble warrior, a brahman, a merchant, or a worker.' He would say, 'I won't have this arrow removed until I know the given name & clan name of the man who wounded me... ... ..." - You just need little faith to start. Walk through the path and experience the results. Then you by your own decide what is the truth.
    – Damith
    Commented Feb 13, 2019 at 4:24
  • @PbxMan Actually, your view of "Buddha most likely would say 'there is no vaccine'" may be very much in sync with Mahayana Buddhism. According to the Heart Sutra, "Also, There is No Truth of Suffering, Of the Cause of Suffering, Of the Cessation of Suffering, Nor of the Path. There is No Wisdom, and There is No Attainment Whatsoever."
    – ruben2020
    Commented Feb 13, 2019 at 15:30
  • suffering is a mark of existence, so is impermanence and ego. the Buddha is just selling you a treasure that is already yours but you don't know where it is. Buddhism is not the only way to find the treasure.
    – user2428
    Commented Feb 13, 2019 at 17:00

Siddhārtha Gautama was a dissident of believes the vedas to attain enlightenment...

  • During the time of the Buddha, the Hindu Vedas and the Trimurthis (as we know it today) - do not yet exist.

  • The Jesus of the New Testament may had many run-ins with the rabbis
    of his time, but he never preached of abandoning God. And, the Testaments certainly do not mention any concept similar to Samsara.

  • Very little is known of Lao Tse except of his work the Tao Te Ching, and nothing in there mentioned anything similar to Samsara, or any divinities, or "soul", and etc. And no - Lao Tse is not the founder/originator of Taoism (the religion).

Isn't Kalama Sutta telling you that it's better to be a free-thinker than a Buddhist, at least in some cases? Isn't it Buddhistic to go beyond Buddhism?

The Sutta did not say that at all.

During the time of the Kalamas (in the sutta), they wanted very much to believe every gurus that passed through their village. The problem was that the gurus contradicted each other and caused confusions. And so one day the Kalamas asked the Buddha for input, and he gave them a set of "test kits". And then - the Buddha said "Yeah, you can also use those test kits on my teachings too. No problem. Please do it. Please test.".

"Free-Thinker" is a modern connotation, created by and used by people from a culture and society with entrenched beliefs in the concept of One-True-God, ie you are labeled as "religious" or a "free-thinker".

  • Motivated reasoning again. Kalama Sutta is telling you to have critical thinking skills not to follow any dogma because of years and years of indoctrination. If you make your critical thinking and search for truth "your religion" perhaps its' better not to follow any dogma. As said before "Buddhism is not the ultimate truth" unless you take it as a religion.
    – user2428
    Commented Feb 13, 2019 at 7:42
  • I'm afraid I had lost you there. The first part of my answer gave universally-accepted historical facts. And, no where did my answer claim or imply that "Buddhism is the ultimate truth". What are your motivation in asking the question and engaging in such debate? What do you actually hope to achieve? Whatever the answer - I hope they are all skillful and sincere.
    – Ralph Tee
    Commented Feb 13, 2019 at 7:54
  • You are not interpreting the point of the question and that's clearly motivated reasoning. 1) One those spiritual masters were indeed dissidents. 2) Kalama Sutta does indeed say that but implicitly because it advocates for intellectualism and critical thinking then again you won't see it.
    – user2428
    Commented Feb 13, 2019 at 7:58
  • @PbxMan Peace be with you.
    – Ralph Tee
    Commented Feb 13, 2019 at 7:58
  • "During the time of the Buddha, the Hindu Vedas and the Trimurthis (as we know it today) - do not yet exist" - the Vedas existed in Buddha's time, but not the trimurthis. The Buddha referred to the three Vedas (and not four like it is today) in the Canki Sutta. He also mentioned the Pali-fied names of the Vedic sages - Atthaka, Vamaka, Vamadeva, Vessamitta, Yamataggi, Angirasa, Bharadvaja, Vasettha, Kassapa & Bhagu. Also see this answer for timeline of Hinduism vs Buddhism.
    – ruben2020
    Commented Feb 16, 2019 at 8:35

The Buddha’s advise to the people of Kalama in the Kalama Sutta, is to see whether whatever that is understood, and is practised, helps one to remove greed, hate, and ignorance (greed and hate arise due to ignorance). This basis of seeing gives a filtering mechanism to weed out the doctrines that are clearly not worth pursuing. Thus the scientific method shown in the Kalama Sutta can be used as “pre-screening” to get rid of obviously unsuitable paths or “theories”.

Buddha Dhamma is not a religion in the normally accepted sense of the word “religion”. One attains Nibbana by purifying ONE’S OWN mind. The Buddha just showed WHY one should strive for Nibbana and HOW to purify one’s mind by following the Noble Eightfold Path.


Many monks and Buddhists shave their heads and wear mallahs...

Unfortunately, this is a universal human problems regardless of religion. There are good and lousy monks, priest, rabbis, preachers, imams, and etc.

Osel Hita (a Spaniard who has appointed by the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation...

Reincarnation is a Hindu concept. The Buddha taught of rebirth, and rejected reincarnation.

The practise of identifying a born-again person is uniquely attributed to Tibetan Buddhism. And the Tibetan Buddhists rinpoches/rishe/lamas/monks already knew that not all born-again persons are able to retain the qualities and attributes of their former selves. They took a bet with Osel Hita and they lost.

Some features of the dogma such us Bardos, Rebirth or (reincarnation), Samsara or even Enlightenment have vague definitions or are impossible to double check...

And hence, this is where the Kalama Sutta speaks volume. Yes, that Sutta can't prove or disprove the Bardos, Rebirth, One-True-God, and etc. But you can use the guidelines and "test kits" in there on your spiritual journey. As a matter of fact, you can also apply it in a scientific study.

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    – user2424
    Commented Feb 13, 2019 at 12:40

Yes humanist intellectuals love their fantasy of being a free thinker. According to them, being a free thinker is the pinnacle of humanity and not being a free thinker is horrible... As usual from secular rationalist puthujjanas, what they claim has nothing to do with the dhamma.

The point given to the Kalamas is that it is normal to be confused by philosophers, by people who create worldviews and philosophies. Then the buddha says that for the confused people who know they are confused, they can only rely on what they know is bad and what is claimed bad by the wise, on what they know as good and what is claimed good by the wise.

THe problem is that most puthujjanas, especially the intellectual ones who hype what they call "rationality", clinging to their fantasy of reason, logic, philosophy, are just too weak to progress alone, let alone to stop being a puthujjana alone, because they refuse to see they do not know what is good and bad. THey are walled-in in their views and they either say the dhamma is wrong, or they try to mix their views with the dhamma in order to pass for good people with respect to their views and to the dhamma.

  • If we are not freethinkers or we don't have fee-will at all. Why should we spend though sends of hours meditating for remote shot at liberation? So in the end Buddhism is just a religion that cannot be put to test and we should that just good "faith" on the enlightened one. I think I have heard that one before.
    – user2428
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 14:37
  • @PbxMan Can I give you a personal recommendation? If I were you, I'd ask more direct, short, and specific question about each topic that sounds like blind faith to you. For instance, you could do a individual question asking "What does Samsara mean in the different Buddhist traditions?", or "Should we take all aspects of Buddhist doctrine literally?", or "What happens when buddhism contradicts scientific knowledge?". Maybe that would get you some straight answers. Kind regards! Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 20:13
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    @PbxMan I don't know if you've checked the channel I shared a while ago. If you haven't, here are two pretty insightful videos about the Kalama Sutta from a secular perspective, and about Buddhism for this modern and skeptical times. I hope you can take something useful for you out of them: youtu.be/Aa5cyQBBy-g youtu.be/lI83n5gE7yw Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 20:20
  • @BrianDíazFlores Thanks the first video gives more light into it
    – user2428
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 20:45

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