Some Truths Revealed On Revealed ‘Truths’


‘Come Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by 

[1] repeated hearing; nor 
[2] upon tradition; nor 
[3] upon rumor; nor 
[4] upon what is in a scripture; nor 
[5] upon surmise; nor 
[6] upon an axiom; nor 
[7] upon specious reasoning; nor 
[8] upon a bias toward a notion that has been pondered over; nor 
[9] upon another’s seeming ability; nor 
[10] upon the consideration, “The monk is our teacher.” 

Kalamas, when you yourselves know: “These things are bad; these things are blamable; these things are censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill,” abandon them.

– Sakyamuni Buddha
(Kalama Sutta)

Excerpt: ‘[T]here is not one [“sacred text”] that most people believe to be a genuine divine revelation. So the majority opinion about any given so-called revealed text is that it is not revealed at all. At the same time, many believe that one such text or set of texts is revealed. There is a wonderful “paradox” here: the majority does not accept majority opinion. In other words, a majority believes in at least one revelation that the majority judges to be false. This is a salutary lesson for anyone who trusts the wisdom of the crowds…

Comments: In Buddhism, there are not so much of ‘revealed’ texts, but with thousands of texts acknowledged to be recorded and translated in writing after the Buddha’s era, that corroborate with one another. (Buddhism is ‘revelatory’ in the sense that its truths are ultimately meant to be increasingly ‘revealed’ via personal practice, for realisation.) Although truth is not by default won by a popularity vote, it is not surely won by a minority vote either.

If most believe in at least one text, even if doubted by others, there should be strong basis for such faith. For example, are these ‘truths’ unquestionably ‘true’ or questionably true? The first refers to what cannot be questioned even if dubious, while the latter promotes questioning while being able to be validated. As in the opening quote, the Buddha himself allows and even promotes questioning of scriptures, for reflection and fact-checking. These scriptures would include those on his teachings that arose later – including the above, where this teaching was recorded. 

Excerpt: The atheist position, which rejects all revelations, avoids the embarrassment of having to insist its holy book is different from all the others but at the price of insisting that the vast majority are wrong to think there is anything to this holiness game at all. Ultimately, it is just another minority view competing with all the rest…

Comments: In a sense, atheists have their ‘holy book’ subscribed to, with one paradoxical line – ‘There are no holy truths.’ That said, Buddhism is not a typical ‘atheist’ religion, as although it does not subscribe to faith in an almighty creator deity, it explains how this belief arose, while also explaining the nature of other gods’ existence, with no need for refuge in any god for the ultimate salvation of Buddhahood.

Excerpt: Competing eternal truths underpin many conflicts and divisions. After all, these supposedly revealed texts often contradict each other, meaning they are mutually incompatible. They can also get in the way of beliefs with a much greater claim to truth, such as when creationism leads to a rejection of evolution, one of the most established theories in science.’

Comments: That there are contradicting views does not mean all in question are completely wrong, or that one of them is completely right, while there might be other views not adequately considered as being able to offer the whole truth, and even transcendental truths. Interestingly, scriptural teachings of the Buddha offer room for the truthfulness of evolution. The Buddhist teachings in practice have continually proven to be more scientifically-minded than expected – especially by atheists, free-thinkers and non-Buddhists.

A Short History of Truth: Consolations for a Post-Truth World
Julian Baggini [excl. comments]

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How Does Buddhism See ‘Evolution’?
The Buddha’s Victory Over A God & Demon
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Please Be Mindful Of Your Speech, Namo Amituofo!

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