A Rational Approach to Buddhism

by Dr Victor Gunasekara

[NOTE. The five major sections of this Essay are denoted by the section sign (§). Notes are indicated by numbers within square brackets [1], [2] etc. These are end-notes placed at the end of the text, but could be seen by clicking on the note number. Use the Browser controls to return to the original text after reading the Note.]

§1. Introduction

       Buddhism can be considered as the least irrational of the religious-philosophical systems in the world today. Yet it is clear that there are many entities in Buddhism as practiced in the major traditions, and also in their religious texts,  that contain supernatural elements which do not pass the modern scientific test of rationality. Even in the theoretical principles there are some metaphysical views even though the Buddha is considered to have eschewed metaphysics in favour of morality and (rational) philosophy.

       Most Asian Buddhists for centuries have accepted these supernatural elements and metaphysical views attributed to the Buddha in the existing Canons thinking that they were actually proclaimed by the Buddha himself. While these are certainly contained in many of the discourses attributed to the Buddha even in the Pali Canon there are discourses in which the Buddha had specifically said what should and what should be believed. The most prominent of these is the Kālāma sutta an analysis of which can be seen by clicking on this note: [1]. It will be seen that the Buddha cautions that something should not be believed simply because it is in a religious book, or because the person saying is considered holy. He states that things should be believed only if they can be established through rational considerations.[2]. What is attempted here is to apply the criteria of this sutta to the Buddha Dharma as it is given now in the various collections even in the Pali Canon.[3].

      In this essay §2 deals with the oppositions (called antitheses) of Buddhism to theistic religion. Christianity is used as an example of a theistic religion as it is the most widespread theistic religion in the world today. But they also apply to Islam which is the second most numerous religion and one that is expanding rapidly.

      In §3 we consider thre suprenatural elements in popular Buddhism for which no empirical evidence exiss. While these do not for the core of the Dhamma they are the aspects most common aspect if popular Bddhism.

      In §4 looks at the theory of rebirth which is held as an essential component of Buddhism and to which there are many references in the Pali Canon often tridectly atttributed to the Buddha. n Western Buddhism these aspects are often neglected and some have argued that they are incompatible to the cardinal doctrines of Buddhism.

      The last section § offers a summary and concousio of he argument.

§ 2. Buddhism as the Antithesis of Christianity and Theistic Religion

      Having outlined the rise, doctrines and spread of Christianity this section examines the fundamental differences between Buddhism and Christianity. These are presented as a series of oppositions. Although there are many such antitheses that can be identified some of the principal ones are as follows.
  1. God vs No God. God is central to Abrahamic religions (even though Christianity had three flavours of God – Father, Son and Ghost). Asian spirituality avoided this idea, except perhaps Hinduism which recognized a godhead in various incarnations like Vishnu, Shiva and the like. Buddhism explicitly rejected this notion. There are supernatural entities called devas, usually translated as 'gods', but they were quite different from the Christian God. They have no power over humans, are impermanent, nor are they givers of morality.

  2. Soul vs No Soul. Christians believe that God creates souls, initially with a human body but when that dies the soul exists eternally either in heaven (Kingdom of God) or hell. There is no escape from this eternity. In his very second discourse the Buddha enunciated the anatta (no-soul) doctrine. The human being consists of 5 entities (body, feeling, perception, action and consciousness) all of which are impermanent dissolving at death. (Although popular Buddhism admits of re-birth there is no entity that survives death to be reborn, see next section).

  3. Permanence vs Impermanence. A fundamental characteristic of the Buddhist world-view is impermanence: "All compounded things are impermanent (sabbe sankārā aniccā)". The Christian search (and promise) is eternal life. This is the destiny of the God-created soul, to spend an eternity in heaven (Kingdom of God) or in hell. Unlike Judaism and Islam the Christianity sees the Kingdom as being established on earth after the second coming of Jesus. This implies that the earth itself is eternal. Like Buddhism the modern scientific view of the cosmos is that nothing in it is permanent. Thus the earth too will come to an end from some cosmic cataclysm or other.

  4. Prayer and Thanks-giving vs Meditation. Prayer is the usual method by which the Christian devotee affirms his devotion to his God, usually Jesus. He is urged to thank his God for anything good that comes his way, whether prayed for or not. But curiously the God is not blamed when misfortune comes one's way. This anomaly has not sunk into the Christian devotee. Thus, for example, in an aircraft accident the few persons that survive are urged to thank God but what about the hundreds who perish ? Are they not the victims of the same God who has "saved" the few who survived ? Buddhism does away with this kind or humbug. It is replaces prayer by meditation (bhāvanā) on subjects advocated by the Buddha for those who put their refuge in him. But irrespective of belief right meditation can be of benefit to anyone, while prayers are invariably futile.

  5. Creation vs Causation. To the Christian the world and all in it are due to creation by God from nothing (ex nihilio). To the contrary the Buddha attributed all things either to the operation of natural laws or the activity of other beings including humans themselves. This is contained in the Buddhist doctrine of conditioned origination, (paṭicca samuppāda). This is not the place to go into this profound doctrine except to say that at no stage does it allow for creation by a God or any other being. In this sense it is similar to the modern scientific view which is based on the doctrine of evolution by natural selection as originally expounded by Darwin. However there are differences between the Buddhist and the scientific views because their objectives are different. Buddhism seeks to explain human suffering, while the scientific view seeks to explain the biological world. There is no fundamental conflict between these two views as they seek to explain different things.

  6. Faith vs Investigation. Christianity is a system of faith, of blind faith. Its fundamental beliefs in God and creation cannot be proven. There is no empirical evidence that a God exists. It is a myth that cannot be proven or for that matter disproved. But it is not real. Buddhists do not believe on things on the basis of faith alone. In the Kālāma sutta, when asked what one should believe the Buddha ruled out belief on the basis of blind faith. He went into great detail to explain the grounds on which things should not be believed. These views are stated in several other discourses of the Buddha as well. On the positive side he gave the grounds for rational belief after analysis (vicāra) and investigation (vīmaṃsā). This is not the place to develop this subject. The Buddhist notion of saddhā is sometimes translated as 'faith' but it means 'rational confidence'.
  7. Myth vs History. We have seen that there is no historical basis for the emergence of Christianity. The story is entirely based on views expressed in the gospels written long after the purported life of Jesus written by authors who had not met or heard Jesus. The application of such criteria are not applicable in the case of the Buddha. He lived centuries before Jesus in an age and place with no historical tradition. There was no Josephus to record contemporary happenings. Even though writing was known in the age of the Buddha there was no means by which books could be compiled as there was no suitable writing material. Birch bark and palm leaf ('Ola') material for writing had not yet been discovered. Stone inscriptions are not suitable for large books. In place of books large treatises were committed to memory by the followers of the various teachers. This was true of the Vedas. the Upanishads, the discourses of the Buddha and other teachers like Mahāvīra. In such a milieu the life and teachings the Buddha could be validated through oral tradition, Buddhist and non-Buddhist. This can be done so they can be considered historical in that sense.

  8. Intolerance vs Tolerance. As we have shown (Chapter 7) that Christianity was spread by state power, by inquisitorial methods, by religious war and by colonial conquest. The spread of Buddhism provides the contrast. The Buddha's instruction to the monks was to proclaim the message peacefully by teaching in the local language. They were able to convert most of India by this method. Even the most prominent Buddhist ruler in ancient India, the Emperor Asoka, was careful to allow all religions to flourish in his Empire. He sent missionaries to many countries to preach the Dhamma peacefully. In the West, which did not have a tradition of tolerance such methods would not succeed and did not succeed.  It was only in Sri Lanka that the missionary of Asoka, the monk Mahinda, was able to convert the King peacefully and most of his subjects followed suit. This country has been the one country with the longest presence of Buddhism.
      These eight antitheses between Buddhism and Christianity is sufficient to show that Buddhism is the polar opposite of Christianity. That is why there has been no synthesis between these two systems, nor can there be. Some writers have seen parallels but these are not on core issues.

§ 3. The Supernatural in Buddhism

      What we have of the original teaching of the Buddha is what has been remembered by his immediate followers. Shortly after his death these were compiled into two sections, the Vinaya dealing with monastic discipline, and the Sutra dealing with the doctrines. About 300 years later a third section called the Abhidhamma (higher Dhamma) was added as a systematisation of the doctrine contained in the Sutra. All these could be called Early Buddhism (or the Old Wisdom School). Its modern representation is Theravāda current in Sri Lanka and south-east Asia. Its authoritative texts are contained in the Pali Canon.
      Today Buddhism as practiced in many countries has acquired traits not found in early Buddhism. Some of these like worship of statues and relics, the reliance on chanting (like the paritta), the transference of merit to devas ('gods') and deceased relatives, the performance of Buddha pūja (offering of food to a Buddha statue), and so on, can be seen as popular concessions to Buddhism seen as a religion. But there have been more serious developments too leading to the rise of various schools and sects based on differences either in monastic discipline or in doctrine. These led to the rise of a new tradition in Buddhism which has been called the Mahāyāna (or New Wisdom School). While this development originated in India it flourished from the beginning of the Common Era outside India in China, Japan, Tibet and some other countries.
      When we speak of a need for a "re-definition" of Buddhism in this essay it does not mean the removal of these popular practices or the new schools. They are well established and those who prefer them may continue to do so. What is in question is the conformity of Theravāda, Mahāyāna and any other interpretation of Buddhism with modern scientific developments. There are many who are in agreement with the non-theistic nature of Buddhism but find it hard to accept its super natural and metaphysical aspects. So it is essential to show that Buddhism can be re-defined to exclude such unscientific elements.
      Both Buddhism and Christianity arose in the pre-scientific age and burrowed some mythical views current at the time, but with a difference. In Christianity they became a core element of the system. It is not possible to remove unscientific ideas like God and Soul from Christianity without destroying its essence. In Buddhism they were not made into essential parts of its message. In it the supernatural elements retained from the milieu in which it originated can be removed without destroying its essential message. It is this that is meant by a re-definition of Buddhism, and will be considered in this section. In this regard the following topics will be considered in this section:$

The Cosmos

      Most religions have entertained a view of the Universe and the the place of the earth as the habitat of humans within it. Christianity has held to the view of an earth-centred Universe as the special creation of God. It has had a long struggle with scientists who had advanced an alternative view of the Universe in which the earth is part of the solar system and is not the centre of the Universe. Such scientists have been considered heretics and punished in the Inquisition. In addition to this Christianity affirms the existence of Heaven (or 'Kingdom of God') and Hell. In fact the destiny of all of God's human creations is to spend an eternity after death in either of these two destinations. Once a person has been assigned to them there is no escape from it.
     Buddhism asserts the following planes of existence into which beings will be reborn:
  1. The Sensuous Heavens (Four Great Kings heaven, Tāvatimsa, Yāma, Tusita, and two others).
  2. The Fine Material Heavens (Brahma realm and three others depending on the stage of attainment of the four Jhānas of beings born in them.)
  3. The Immaterial Heavens (for beings with higher meditative attainments).
  4. The Earthly Realm (for humans, animals and ghostly beings).
  5. The Hellish Realms (Many kinds hell with various kinds of torture).
      The scientific position is that in the universe there is no evidence of either heaven or hell. So far no 'exoplanet' has been found where human-like beings could have evolved. It must be remembered that the beings in religious heavens and hells are similar to humans, only experiencing pleasure or torture. Christians claim that Jesus after his resurrection ascended to heaven through the clouds. But we know that if we go beyond the clouds we will soon experience empty space not heaven.  In Buddhism it has been said that Devadatta was dragged into hell with the earth opening up. But we know that beneath the crust of the earth there is simply molten lava. It is time these myths are abandoned. There is no place in the universe for these extra-terrestrial planes posited by religions, including Buddhism. So a re-definition of Buddhism must accept this fact.

The Constituents of Materiality

      This subject is of no concern to Christianity. Buddhism holds that all human material form (rūpa) is composed of four great elements (mahābhūta): earth, water, heat and air (paṭāvi, āpo, thejo, vāpo). The scientific position is that all matter is made of the elements listed in the Periodic Table, usually as different molecules made up of multiple elements held together by atomic bonds.. This is also true of the three elements of Earth, Water and Air in the Buddhist scheme. In fact most substances can take the physical form of a solid, liquid or gas depending on the physical forces it is subjected to. Heat in the Buddhist scheme is scientifically not an independent element but a physical characteristic that substances can acquire when subjected to appropriate physical forces.
       Buddhism regards the human being as composed of nāma-rūpa ("name-and-form"). The Mahābhūta is only used to explain the physical form (rūpa). For this the replacement of the Mahābhūta by their scientific components would be an improvement, not making much of a difference. So this particular re-definition is of minor significance.

The Location of the Mind

      This too is not a matter of concern to Christianity. But in Buddhism the mind (manas) and consciousness (citta, viññāṇa) are concepts of fundamental importance. In Buddhism certain characteristics like seeing, hearing, and so on are associated with specific organs like the eye and the ear. But no organ is specifically associated with consciousness. In the re-definition of Buddhism this deficiency has to be repaired. In science the organ most associated with mental processes is the brain,
      In the pre-scientific world the role of the brain was not properly understood. In Buddhism the brain (mattaluṅga) was considered one of the 32 bodily impurities. But scientifically it is central to the functioning of the body. Even sight is generated in the visual cortex of the brain, not in the eye (as Buddhism affirms), which merely transfers the visual data to the brain via the optic nerve. Buddhism at least did not make the error of other religions like Christianity and Hinduism that the heart is the organ of emotions and the mind. Buddhism leaves the physical seat of consciousness and emotions undefined. In the Abhidhamma there is a place given to the heart (hadayavattu), but the Abhidhamma is a later addition to the Dhamma.

§ 4. The Doctrine of Rebirth

      This is the most important and at the same time the most difficult element in any re-definition of Buddhism to make it conformable with science. What the hypothesis of rebirth states is that any being who is not liberated is destined to be reborn over and over again in one or other of the planes of existence recognized by Buddhism. This cycle of births is called saṃsāra. This hypothesis also involves two other key doctrines of Buddhism which either support it or are supported by it. These are the doctrines of Karma-and-Effect (kammaphala) and Dependent Origination (paṭicca samuppāda). This is what makes re-birth the most difficult doctrine to re-define. Eliminating the rebirth hypothesis could be called the the Final Re-definition of Buddhism .

      There are various ways in which the Rebirth Hypothesis has been treated by Buddhists. These are considered first. Then a possible way in which this topic could be dealt with within a scientific approach to Buddhism is given. There are two issues here. One is whether the hypothesis of a vast sequence of rebirths until Nirvana is accepted as a genuine part of the Dhamma. The second is how the karmic information is carried from one birth to the succeeding one. On these the  following views can be identified:
  1. Unqualified acceptance. The majority of Buddhists have accepted rebirth as a fact without any qualifications. They do so because they think that it is a doctrine preached by the Buddha and referred to in many suttas in the Pali canon. But in the famous Kālāma sutta Buddha says that something should not be believed simply because it is in a sacred text (piṭaka sampadāya) or because the teacher is holy (sattā no garu). Something should be believed only if it found to be true after investigation.

  2. Rebirth not a genuine doctrine of the Buddha. This is the opposite of the previous view. This states that rebirth is not a doctrine of the Buddha but has been incorporated into the Dhamma in various contexts during the long period that the Dhamma was handed down in an oral tradition. This view is strongly articulated by J. S. Jennings in his The Vedāntic Buddhism of the Buddha. His main arguments are: (1) There is no mention of re-birth in the First Discourse where the Buddha laid out his discovery; (2) It is not in the instruction given by the Buddha to the monks when he told them what to preach; (3) It is not in any discourse the Buddha gave to the many whom he converted; (4) It is not in the summary of his doctrine which he repeatedly preached in his last journey from Rajagaha to Kusinara where he died; (5) It contradicts the Anatta doctrine which he proclaimed in his second sermon.
            The classic rebirth hypothesis was not known to the original Vedas. It was a contribution to Indian thought by the Upanishad thinkers. Subsequent teachers, including the Buddha may have adopted it.

  3. Proof of Rebirth. There is no credible proof that rebirth actually takes place. There are persons who claim that they are the reincarnation of a person who had died previously, and is able to give details of that person that he would not directly have known. This is often adduced as a proof of rebirth. According to Buddhism only Arhats have to the power to recall past lives, and persons making this claim are not Arhats, and are usually small children. Thus some other reason may be at work.

  4. Consciousness as the rebirth carrier.  One of major problems with the rebirth theory is the identity of what carries karmic information from one birth to another. In Hinduism it is the soul (atta) but Buddhism denies such a soul. Some argue that it is the consciousness that carries this information. In the Buddha's time a bhikkhu named Sati advanced this view and was severely criticised by the Buddha for this. The Buddhist position is that on death all the components including consciousness disappear, so that there is nothing that can be carried to a succeeding births.

  5. The Gandhabba as the rebirth carrier It is sometimes claimed that even if the physical conditions for a conception are present no conception will take place unless an entity called a Gandabba is present as the carrier of rebirth information. Sometimes it is called sambhavesi (being to be born).  It is similar to the bardo in Tibetan Buddhism. But whatever the name this is open to the same objections are the previous view. 

  6. The Dependent Origination view. In the classic formula of Dependent Origination (paṭiccca samuppāda) 12 links are given covering three lifetimes (past, present, and future) with two rebirth transitions. (As this cycle repeats there is a further such transition in each repetition). Thus links 1 and 2 give karma formations in the past life causing birth (consciousness and nāma-rūpa) in the present life. But how this transition takes place is not explained, There is another rebirth jump between the present and the future life (links 10 and 11)  again with no explanation how the transition takes place.  However there is also a shorter version of this theory dealing with only lifetime. This does not involve the rebirth problem and internal transitions can be rationalised.,

  7. The Abhidhamma approach. The Abhidhamma takes the story of death-and-rebirth a step further than in the suttas. It argues that at the moment of death the dying person experiences the following three thought processes: (1) a recollection of a kamma he had done (good or bad) that will be most influential for the coming rebirth; (2) the instrument associated with that kamma; (3) a sign of the place where the next birth will occur. It is then that the rebirth consciousness (cutipaṭissandhibhavaṅga) arises and soon the person dies to be reborn according to the premonitions in his death consciousness. This seems to assume that it is a grave karma (garukamma) that has a decisive influence on the rebirth, not the aggregate of karma. It is on this belief that in Sri Lanka when person lies on his death bed the most meritorious things he had done are recited by his relatives in his hearing!
          Two questions can be raised to this Abhidhamma view of the death-and-rebirth process: (1) How does the Abhidhammist know what goes on in the mind of the dying person? The dying person is not in a position to relate it to any one and there is no authority of the Buddha for it (i.e. if we disregard the story that the Buddha preached the Abhidhamma to his long dead mother in the Tusita heaven). (2) More importantly how is the karmic and rebirth information actually passed on ? The dying person may be in one continent and the baby who is his successor in another continent several thousand miles away. This is the fundamental dilemma of all rebirth theory.
      It will be seen that all the above approaches to the rebirth theory (except the second view given) fail on the ground that there is no mechanism to transfer the karmic record of the deceased person to the new infant that is his saṃsāric successor. There is if fact no way that this can be done.
      But something of the karmic hypothesis can be salvaged if we interpret it not as a strict "rebirth" (punaruppatthi) but as a re-becoming (punabbhava). This is in fact the term that is used in the original Sutra texts. Re-becoming does not require a physical death for the karmic result (vipāka) can occur in the same lifetime (diṭṭhadhamma vedanīya kamma). In one sutta the Buddha is asked to give an instance of karmic result. The Buddha answered by giving the case of a murderer who is seized by the King and executed. This was the result of his karma receiving its consequence in the same lifetime. I propose to call the re-defined theory the punnabbhava (re-becoming) theory as as against the old rebirth theory.
      If the results of karma are to appear in one's own lifetime then the most appropriate time would be in old age or towards the close of life. It is well known that individuals spend the last days of their lives in widely different circumstances. Some die relatively healthy and peacefully having lived a normal life span. Others die in great privation and and agony often prematurely. It may be that these are the consequences of karma done in this very life, not something due to karma done in a past life. As we have seen according to the Abhidhamma it is not the totality of karma that is effective but only the gravest of karma (garukamma). The various acts of karma done by a person are not equal, some are minor, others more serious. It may that in receiving the consequences of karma the serious karma override the lesser karma, If this is true for the rebirth theory then it could also apply to the re-becoming theory.
      A final question remains for the re-becoming theory: What happens to the ordinary person upon physical death? To answer this we have to see how the rebirth theory deals with it. There the ordinary person continues with his saṃsāric journey. But the fate of the liberated person, who has already reached Nirvana (nibbāṇa) while alive upon Enlightenment is an unresolved (avyākata) matter. So too the fate of the individual in the re-becoming theory will also remain unresolved. Buddhism does not deal with such unresolved questions. So according to the re-becoming theory the liberated person has no Kamma to experience and after death is in the unresolved state. The unliberated will sufffer the consequences of the karma done in his life time  and after death is also in an unresolved state.

§ 5. Conclusion

      This article is part of a project by the Author to examine all the main religions in the world from the perspective of Buddhism. Already articles have been written and placed on the Internet on (1) Islam (Buddhism and the Critique of Islam and Some Aspect of Islam), and (2) Hinduism (Hinduism in a Buddhist Perspective). (These articles can be seen by clicking on the links given.) This article adds Christianity (with some comments on Judaism) to the above. Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam today account for 4 billion of the 7 billion people in the world. The rest either subscribe to minor religions or do not profess a religion at all.
      Some comments of the four religions involved may be in order. Hinduism is the only tradition that is not associated with a single teacher. It originated as the Vedas which were the traditional beliefs and practices of the original 'Aryan' invaders to India (about 1500 BCE). It was radically changed by the writers of the Upanishads (called the Vedanta). After that came Buddhism and Jainism. Still later Hinduism emerged, based on the Bhagavad-Gīta, but still in the ancient Vedic tradition. Christianity and Islam came from a different (Semitic) tradition (later called Judaism), ascribed originally to the Prophet Abraham. These three religions have been called Abrahamic religions. This article deals with Christianity which is traditionally attributed to a Jew named Jesus who introduced some changes to his Hebrew religion but not radically departing from it. It is now commonly designated as Judeo-Christianity.
      While a great deal has been written on these major religions much of it has not been critical enough. The followers of the various religions have uncritically accepted the claims of their religion as inerrant truth. In the Abrahamic tradition criticism of religion has been made into a punishable offence, sometimes with death. Blasphemy is still considered a punishable. The Indian tradition has been more tolerant (with few exceptions). Buddhism has been the earliest to condemn blasphemy-type censorship. Once when the monks complained to the Buddha that others were critical of him, his doctrine and the Sangha he advised them thus: "If others should speak against me or the Dhamma or the Sangha you should not on that account either bear malice or suffer heart-bearing or feel ill-will. If you do so would you then be able to judge how far that speech of theirs is well said or ill. (Dīgha Nikāya)." This advice applies to criticism of any religious proposition. It is in that sprit that the various religions in the world have been considered by me. Always what is important is whether what is professed is correct or not, not any other consideration.
     One of the tests that has been applied when testing the correctness of a religious claim is whether they are conformable to what science has discovered. Science has given us a great deal of information on the universe, the earth and the evolution of living beings on it. Religions also makes claims on these subjects. Where they contradict the scientific finding new evidence should be produced in support or the claim abandoned. Thus if a claim is made that an extra-terrestrial heaven or hell exists, and science does the find any, evidence should be produced to support the claim. Science is the appropriate tool to test the truth of many (but not of all) religious claims.
      This test has been applied to  to Buddhism also as shown in the previous chapter. There it was shown that no evidence has been produced to show that humans have a saṃsāric trajectory that includes not only re-birth in the human plane and also heaven, hell, animal and ghostly realms.
      This article contains no references, footnotes, bibliography and other requirements of scholarly work. It should in fact be considered as an extended abstract of the argument. It is hoped that in due course an expanded version containing all scholarly requirements will be issued.


[1] This sutta also known as the Kesaputtiyasutta is in the Aṅguttara Nikāta (3-65). See my article The Significance of the Kalama Sutta by clicking in the link given. It gives the 8 grounds on which statements should not be believed. Some tradiontal Buddhistw try to deny the revolutiosry implications of this sutta, Thus Bhikkhu Bodhi has said "On the basis of a single passage, quoted out of context, the Buddha has been made out to be a pragmatic empiricist..." Actually there are severaol suttas in which the substace of this sutta is repeated and its context is quite clear.,

[2] The discourses that we have were originally based on the recollection of monks who had heard them and were maintained orally for many centuries until they were writen down in the first century BCE. Then they were subsequently recopied several times. Thus it is possible that they were corrupted during this long period. Thus the tests given in the Kālāma sutta have to be applied to get the approximate original version of these suttas. This is what is now attempted.

[3] Many modern expositors of the Buddha Dhamma rarely mention the Kālāma sutta let alone undersand its significance. They do this because much of their beliefs and practices cannot pass the tests proposed in this sutta. Thus they sijply ignoe this sutta. A few like Bhikkhu Bodhi who has witten an essay on this sutta tend ot denay that this sutta sutta constitutes a charter of free enquiry into any teaching even the Dhamma.

[4] The