Monthly Archives: August 2012

Free Inquiry and Critical Analysis

The things that we believe

A few years back I visited thailand and stayed for a month. Inevitably the question of my experiences with prostitute would crop up when this was revealed. No one would believe it that I had not engaged in such carnal delights. Offers of carnal delights were very commonplace in the land of the smile – including an offer to be a wife for a month.

Buddha once said that the truth is the truth even if no one believe in it. A lie is a lie even if 10,000 people believe in it. In that simple aphorism Buddha made it clear that truth and what we believe to be true are 2 separate matter. What is even more important is that truth can never be established by the sheer number of people believing in it.

What then is our belief mechanism ? If we understand this we would then be less likely to be manipulated by others with their “truth” or lies conveyed as indisputable “truth” to serve some malicious agenda or Buddha forbid, some kindness agenda. We can be cruel without even knowing it when our indisputable belief is strong.

A good place to start in understanding how our belief system is formed is to look at kalama sutta. The free inquiry advocated there is actually a key to unlocking much of our false perception and subtle cruelty. Free inquiry is very different from critical analysis that many of us use. Critical analysis , as in all analysis and synthesis, fools us into a false sense of having attained or understand the truth of reality. Critical analysis is compelling mainly because it falsely believe that it had examined all angle critically.

How beliefs are formed….

The mental process of critical analysis often begin with what we thought to be the facts of a case or event. We then quickly construct through a series of premise of “if this then that” to try to piece together or make sense of the facts. Oftentimes if we are not too careful we subtly fill in the “missing facts” to make our theory more convincing. Con men and manipulators are very good at filling in “missing facts” and make it look real , authentic and hence convincing. Critical analysis dictates that we challenge the facts as well as the assumptions, sometimes hidden, in the conclusion we make. Such repeated challenges, supposedly we were told by objective and rational gurus , we will arrive at higher truths.

In truth ALL rationality begin from the known and finally arrive at the known. This knowledge that we seem to give so much respect and accorded a sacrosanct status are flawed and incomplete and hence the higher truth will always be missed. This higher truth is often a repackaging of the obvious.

In critical analysis we often come up with competing theories and understanding. In order to work ourselves out of analysis paralysis many highly intelligent people come up with principles to select what is most likely to be true. The best known of these is Occam’s razor which states that the theory with the least assumptions are often the most likely to be true.

Any honest person will acknowledge that the statement “MOST LIKELY to be true” meant that we really don’t know for certain.

Free inquiry….

In kalama sutta Buddha set forth a different approach to understanding our sensate world. This approach is given some fanciful name of “free inquiry” and this is often mistaken for critical analysis that all of us use as a matter of habit without even realising it. Therein lies the subtle self deception.

At the very beginning of this approach Buddha told us to abandon all that we hold valuable and sacred as the basis for our beliefs. If we are able to abandon such mental support, space is then created in our hearts and mind. Such abandonment is NOT CONDITIONAL. It is NECESSARY to free our mind. We have to understand another aspect of free inquiry is that the freedom created is not that our thoughts could wander from one notion to another. The moment thoughts invade our consciousness , freedom is lost. Mental freedom can still exist even when there is a lot of thoughts if these thoughts do not invade into our “consciousness without bound”

Free inquiry arose spontaneously when there is ample space for insights to arise. Clarity and understanding fills our being. Choiceless choice will then guide our inquiry. Only then can true compassion arise.


There is a legend of a woman who had a faithful dog. This dog was so faithful that the woman could leave her baby with it and go out to attend other matters. She always returned to find the child soundly asleep with the dog faithfully watching over him…

One day something tragic happened. The woman as usual, left the baby in the “hands” of this faithful dog and went out shopping. When she returned, she discovered rather a nasty scene. There was a total mess.The baby’s cot was dismantled and his nappies and clothes torn to shreds with bloodstains all over the bedroom where she had left the child and the dog.
Shocked, the woman wailed asshe began looking for the baby. Presently, she saw the faithful dog emerging from the under the bed. It was covered with blood and licking its mouth as it had just finished a delicious meal.

The woman went berserk and assumed that the dog had devoured her baby. Without much thought she clubbed the dog to death. But as she continued searching for the “remains” of her child, she beheld another scene. Close to the bed was the baby who, although lying on bare floor, was safe. And under the bed the carcass of a jackal torn to pieces in what must have been a fierce battle between it and the dog which was now dead.

Then the reality hit the woman who now began to understand what took place in her absence. The dog fought to protect the baby from the ravenous jackal. It was too late for her now to make amends because in her impatience and anger, she had killed the faithful dog. A dog deserving praise and adoration that fought to save the life of her dear beloved child received death in return.

How often have we misjudged people and torn them to shreds with harsh words and even with physical assault before we have had time to evaluate the situation? It is called the “Sin of Presumption”. Presuming things does seem the “easy way” of not taking the trouble to find out exactly what the situation really is. A little patience can drastically reduce major life long errors.