Buddhism, dharma means "cosmic law and order", and is also applied to the teachings of Buddha.
The Sutta starts off by describing how the Buddha passes through the village of Kesaputta and is greeted by its inhabitants, the Kalamas of the title. They ask for his advice: they say that many wandering holy men and ascetics pass through, expounding their teachings and
criticizing that of others. So whose teachings should they follow? He delivers in response a sermon that serves as an entry point to the Buddhadhamma for those unconvinced by mere spectacular revelation. The Buddha proceeds to list the criteria by which any sensible person
can decide which teachings to accept as true. Do not believe religious teachings, he tells the Kalamas, just because they are claimed to be true, or even through the application of various methods or techniques. Direct knowledge grounded in one's own experience can be
called upon. He advises that the words of the wise should be heeded and taken into account. Not, in other words, passive acceptance but, rather, constant questioning and personal testing to identify those truths which you are able to demonstrate to yourself actually reduce
your own stress or misery:
* Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing, * nor
upon tradition, * nor upon rumor, * nor upon what is in a scripture, *
nor upon surmise, * nor 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."
Thus, the Buddha provides ten specific sources which should not be
used to accept a specific teaching as true, without further
1. Oral history 2. Traditional 3. News sources 4. Scriptures or other
official texts 5. Suppositional reasoning 6. Philosophical reasoning
7. Common sense 8. One's own opinions 9. Authorities or experts 10.
One's own teacher
Instead, he says, only when one personally knows that a certain teaching is skillful, blameless, praiseworthy, and conducive to happiness, and that it is praised by the wise, should one then accept
it as true and practice it. Thus, neither was this teaching intended
as an endorsement of radical skepticism:
On the basis of a single passage, quoted out of context, the Buddha has been made out to be a pragmatic empiricist who dismisses all doctrine and faith, and whose Dhamma is simply a freethinker's kit to truth which invites each one to accept and reject whatever he likes.