The Kalama Sutta
Summarised, The Buddha said:
"Do not believe a spiritual teaching just because:
- it is repeatedly recited,
- it is written in a scripture,
- it was handed from guru to disciple,
- everyone around you believes it,
- it has supernatural qualities,
- it fits my beliefs anyway,
- it sounds rational to me,
- it is taught by a respectable person,
- it was said to be the truth by the teacher,
- one must defend it or fight for it.
However, only when it agrees with your experience
and reason, and when it is conducive to the good
and gain of oneself and all others, then one should
accept the teachings, and live up to them."
Or, as the Buddha taught:
"My teaching is not a philosophy. It is the result of direct
My teaching is a means of practice, not something to hold onto or
My teaching is like a raft used to cross the river.
Only a fool would carry the raft around after he had already reached
the other shore of liberation."
To his favourite disciple, Ananda, the Buddha once said:
"If you were to follow the Dharma purely out of love for me or
because you respect me, I would not accept you as a disciple. But if you
follow the Dharma because you have yourself experienced its truth,
because you understand and act accordingly - only under these conditions
have you the right to call yourself a disciple of the Exalted One."
The collected teachings of the Buddha are called "sutta" (Pali) or "sutra". (Sanskrit) The compilation was first committed to a written form around 100BCE, forming what is called the Tipitaka (Pali) or "Tripitaka" (Sanskrit), or "3 Baskets". It has also come to known as the Pali Canon
Put simply, these baskets consists of (1) The Vinaya Pitaka - instructions for the sangha; (2) The Sutta Pitaka - the collection of the Buddha's teachings, comprising five collections, or nikayas, and totalling some 5,505 suttas, plus further compilations of many of his other quotes, etc grouped as the "Collection of Small Texts" which includes amongst them, the more widely-known Dhammapada and Jataka Tales; and (3) the Abhidharma Pitaka - the collection of the more profound philosophical texts. Collectively, the Tipitaka is said to be about eleven times the size of the Christian Bible.
There are many valuable sites on the Internet that provide access to, and discuss these profound texts.
This Council recommends however, that to gain the maximum benefit from examining these texts, one should do so through, and with the support of recognised and qualified teaching centres, so that the correct interpretation of them can be achieved. Understanding that the words of more than 2,500 years ago may not mean quite the same today should be apparent, and then only those dedicated and learned people who have, themselves, received correct training should be consulted for guidance. This Council does not recommend studying sutta, or commentaries on them, from any centre without first being sure of their own credentials, and only then should private contemplation (meditation) be used to help guide you to full realisation.