Encouragement as Election Day Nears

Bishop Eric Matsumoto
“Bishop’s Corner” message from the October 2020 HQ Update

Available in both video and text.

Are you confused? In doubt? Feeling uncertain? If you are, do not despair. You are not alone. Have you heard of the Kalama Sutta (translation from Pali by the Venerable Soma Thera)?

In Ancient India, during the time of Sakyamuni Buddha, there was a people known as the Kalamas. One day, they approached Sakyamuni Buddha and confessed they did not know what to do. They explained that they had listened to many teachers and sages, but confessed that they were uncertain about how to determine what is true and what they should embrace.

Kalama Sutta excerpt on Buddhist Stupa in Kesariya, Bihar, India. “Kalamas, when you yourselves know: 'These things are good; these thingsare not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed,these things lead to benefit and happiness,' enter on and abide in them.”

The underlying image is of the Kesariya Stupa in Bihar, India where the Buddha delivered the Kalama Sutta, and is via Wikimedia Commons. Used under CC BY-SA 2.5 license. (Does not appear in HQ Update version.)

The Buddha responded “It is proper for you, Kalamas, to doubt, to be uncertain; uncertainty has arisen in you about what is doubtful. Come, Kalamas. 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.’ 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.”

The Buddha is saying we should not simply decide on matters based on: what you are told by others, has been said from the past, hearsay, on something just because it is cited in a text, mere logic, mere inference, it is “common sense,” preconceived notions, because a speaker seems trustworthy, and “This is what our teacher says.” The depth and profundity of the Enlightened One’s advice is that he includes himself and the Buddhist teachings to this scrutiny or inquiry too! The Buddha saw the potential in people that people skillfully guided could understand higher truths and make positive wholesome decisions which benefit self and others. He encourages everyone to become critical thinkers or think for yourself. It is important to base matters on fact and that which can be confirmed by our experience(s). Buddha noted that anything that is based on greed, anger and ignorance will not be positive and will not lead to wholesome outcomes. The Buddha says if whatever you are contemplating leads “to harm and ill, abandon them.”

On the other hand, matters which are not connected to greed, anger and ignorance will lead to positive and wholesome outcomes should be embraced, but the Buddha emphasizes it should be based on sound reasoning and confirmed by experience and that “these things (should) lead to benefit and happiness” as he says “Come, Kalamas. 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.’ Kalamas, when you yourselves know: ‘These things are good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,’ enter on and abide in them.”

Also, mentioned in this Sutta is the importance of loving-kindness, compassion, empathetic joy and equanimity known as the “Four Immeasurables.” Loving-Kindness aspires for the happiness of others, Compassion aspires for all others to be free from suffering, Empathetic Joy rejoices at others’ happiness and successes, and Equanimity emphasizes equality for one and all!

Here in America, we, average citizens, have the privilege to elect our government leaders. In many parts of the world, people still do not have the option or opportunity. We should not take voting for granted. Thus, I would encourage everyone to vote! Some of you may have already voted, thank you. If you have not registered, there is still time to register and vote with same day registration and in-person voting at Voter Service Centers until November 3rd. As you decide on who to vote for, please keep in mind, the wise words of Sakyamuni Buddha to the Kalamas. “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.” And Kalamas, when you yourselves know: ‘These things are good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,’ enter on and abide in them.” May the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha guide us. Thank you.

Bishop Eric Matsumoto in ministerial vestments (small thumbnail image)Reverend Eric Matsumoto is the 16th bishop of the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii.