The importance of discernment

In 2012, when I was in the midst of traveling through India to study meditative and contemplative traditions, I was struck by the diversity of opinions and perspectives within one school of thought and between traditions.  Even within Buddhism, there were three major branches, Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana, and each consisted of myriad sects and approaches.  Then as I came to look more broadly at yoga traditions, there were even more schools and approaches. The various teachers I encountered inevitably contradicted each other and themselves from day-to-day.

When I learned of the Kalama Sutra, I realized 2500 years ago, a tribe of people called the Kalamas were perplexed by similar observations.  There were many gurus (contemplatives) that visit them with teachings but each seemed to disparage other teachers and traditions. When the Buddha Siddartha Gautama came to visit their town, they asked him for advice how to distinguish for truthfulness and reliability among the gurus. This is an extract of how he responded:

“‘Don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, “This contemplative is our teacher.” When you know for yourselves that, “These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering” — then you should abandon them.'”
“‘Don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them.”

Thanks to scientific knowledge, it is much easier today than ever before to follow his advice. Over the last 50 years, researchers have collected substantial evidence on the qualities and practices (such as gratitude, compassion, altruism) that when adopted and carried out, lead to well-being and happiness and on which qualities and practices lead to ill-health and suffering (such as worry, anger, unforgiveness).

The aim of the Calm Clarity program is to provide a synthesis of scientific discoveries in order to support people to cultivate habits and qualities that lead to well-being and happiness.

Written by duecalmclarity

Due Quach (pronounced “Zway Kwok”) is the founder of Calm Clarity, a social enterprise that uses science to help people across the socioeconomic spectrum master their minds and be their best self. Calm Clarity creates social impact by using revenues from corporate training services to deliver the same high quality training to disadvantaged groups such as low-income first-generation college students and inner city teenagers. A refugee from Vietnam and graduate of Harvard College and the Wharton MBA Program, Due overcame the long-term effects of poverty and trauma by turning to neuroscience and meditation. After building a successful career in management consulting and private equity investments, she created Calm Clarity to help more people overcome adversity and unlock their potential.

3 comments

  1. I agree. I’ve been using a “parking lot” approach: if anything cannot be validated by logic or proven to “true”, I set it aside in the parking lot, because usually it cannot be proven false either. The parking lot is rather huge at this point. I also do my best to filter such that I only pass on what I have been able to validate. Having the blind lead the blind is rather futile.

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