About Alara Kalama

A forum for those wishing to discuss Buddhist history and teachings in the Western academic manner, referencing appropriate sources.
Post Reply
Fortyeightvows
Posts: 1523
Joined: Mon Oct 06, 2014 2:37 am

About Alara Kalama

Post by Fortyeightvows » Sat Oct 07, 2017 11:00 pm

What do we know about Alara Kalama and what he taught?
How long did the Buddha spend with him? (Source for this please!)
What became of him and his other students?

Thanks

crazy-man
Posts: 346
Joined: Wed Aug 26, 2015 2:22 pm

Re: About Alara Kalama

Post by crazy-man » Sun Oct 08, 2017 12:19 am

Alara Kalama (IAST Ārāḷa Kālāma) was a hermit Brahmin saint and a teacher of yogic meditation.He was the specialist of Samkhya philosophy. According to the Pāli Canon scriptures, he was the first teacher of Gautama Buddha.
After Gotama became an ascetic, he went to Alara Kalama, who was a teacher that taught a kind of early samkhya at Vessali.Alara taught Gautama Buddha meditation, especially a dhyānic state called the "sphere of nothingness" (Pali: ākiñcaññāyatana).
Gotama eventually equalled Alara, who could not teach him more, saying, "You are the same as I am now. There is no difference between us. Stay here and take my place and teach my students with me."Gautama was not interested in staying. After leaving, Buddha found a new teacher, Uddaka Ramaputta
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alara_Kalama
"Having thus gone forth in search of what might be skillful, seeking the unexcelled state of sublime peace, I went to Alara Kalama and, on arrival, said to him: 'Friend Kalama, I want to practice in this doctrine & discipline.'
"When this was said, he replied to me, 'You may stay here, my friend. This doctrine is such that a wise person can soon enter & dwell in his own teacher's knowledge, having realized it for himself through direct knowledge.'
"It was not long before I quickly learned the doctrine. As far as mere lip-reciting & repetition, I could speak the words of knowledge, the words of the elders, and I could affirm that I knew & saw — I, along with others.
"I thought: 'It isn't through mere conviction alone that Alara Kalama declares, "I have entered & dwell in this Dhamma, having realized it for myself through direct knowledge." Certainly he dwells knowing & seeing this Dhamma.' So I went to him and said, 'To what extent do you declare that you have entered & dwell in this Dhamma?' When this was said, he declared the dimension of nothingness.
"I thought: 'Not only does Alara Kalama have conviction, persistence, mindfulness, concentration, & discernment. I, too, have conviction, persistence, mindfulness, concentration, & discernment. What if I were to endeavor to realize for myself the Dhamma that Alara Kalama declares he has entered & dwells in, having realized it for himself through direct knowledge.' So it was not long before I quickly entered & dwelled in that Dhamma, having realized it for myself through direct knowledge. I went to him and said, 'Friend Kalama, is this the extent to which you have entered & dwell in this Dhamma, having realized it for yourself through direct knowledge?'
"'Yes, my friend...'
"'This, friend, is the extent to which I, too, have entered & dwell in this Dhamma, having realized it for myself through direct knowledge.'
"'It is a gain for us, my friend, a great gain for us, that we have such a companion in the holy life. So the Dhamma I declare I have entered & dwell in, having realized it for myself through direct knowledge, is the Dhamma you declare you have entered & dwell in, having realized it for yourself through direct knowledge. And the Dhamma you declare you have entered & dwell in, having realized it for yourself through direct knowledge, is the Dhamma I declare I have entered & dwell in, having realized it for myself through direct knowledge. The Dhamma I know is the Dhamma you know; the Dhamma you know is the Dhamma I know. As I am, so are you; as you are, so am I. Come friend, let us now lead this community together.'
"In this way did Alara Kalama, my teacher, place me, his pupil, on the same level with himself and pay me great honor. But the thought occurred to me, 'This Dhamma leads not to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to Awakening, nor to Unbinding, but only to reappearance in the dimension of nothingness.' So, dissatisfied with that Dhamma, I left.
"In search of what might be skillful, seeking the unexcelled state of sublime peace, I went to Uddaka Ramaputta and, on arrival, said to him: 'Friend Uddaka, I want to practice in this doctrine & discipline.'
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

http://www.palikanon.com/english/pali_n ... alaama.htm
http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/bud ... 13lbud.htm
https://dhammawiki.com/index.php?title=Alara_Kalama
http://www.westernbuddhistreview.com/vo ... ation.html
https://www.wisdomlib.org/definition/alara-kalama

User avatar
smcj
Posts: 5304
Joined: Wed May 29, 2013 6:13 am

Re: About Alara Kalama

Post by smcj » Sun Oct 08, 2017 6:18 am

Come friend, let us now lead this community together.'
"In this way did Alara Kalama, my teacher, place me, his pupil, on the same level with himself and pay me great honor. But the thought occurred to me, 'This Dhamma leads not to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to Awakening, nor to Unbinding, but only to reappearance in the dimension of nothingness.' So, dissatisfied with that Dhamma, I left.
As I’ve said elsewhere, if you understand this episode to be the backstory to the famous “Kalama Sutta”, it changes the entire meaning of the KS.
In the Tantra of the Beautiful Auspiciousness (bKra shis mdzes ldan gyi rgyud), this "Great Primordial Purity" (spyi gzhi) is defined as follows:

What is known as "The Great Primordial Purity”
Is the state abiding before authentic Buddhas arose
And before impure sentient beings appeared;
It is called the great Primordial radiance of immutable awareness.

*****
Sometimes you can get shown the light
In the strangest of places
If you look at it right.
-Robert Hunter-

User avatar
Queequeg
Global Moderator
Posts: 3959
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: About Alara Kalama

Post by Queequeg » Tue Oct 10, 2017 7:40 pm

IIRC, after the Buddha's awakening, Alara Kalama was the first person the Buddha thought to go see, thinking that Alara Kalam would understand. Unfortunately, the Buddha saw that Alara Kalama had died a week before.

I find that initial impulse illuminating - the way the Buddha looked on Alara Kalama as a friend and spiritual peer, to the extent a Buddha could have a friend or spiritual peer.
“Once you have given up the ghost, everything follows with dead certainty, even in the midst of chaos.”
-Henry Miller

"Language is the liquid that we're all dissolved in.
Great for solving problems, after it creates the problems."
-Modest Mouse

User avatar
Queequeg
Global Moderator
Posts: 3959
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: About Alara Kalama

Post by Queequeg » Tue Oct 10, 2017 7:51 pm

smcj wrote:
Sun Oct 08, 2017 6:18 am
Come friend, let us now lead this community together.'
"In this way did Alara Kalama, my teacher, place me, his pupil, on the same level with himself and pay me great honor. But the thought occurred to me, 'This Dhamma leads not to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to Awakening, nor to Unbinding, but only to reappearance in the dimension of nothingness.' So, dissatisfied with that Dhamma, I left.
As I’ve said elsewhere, if you understand this episode to be the backstory to the famous “Kalama Sutta”, it changes the entire meaning of the KS.
How so?
“Once you have given up the ghost, everything follows with dead certainty, even in the midst of chaos.”
-Henry Miller

"Language is the liquid that we're all dissolved in.
Great for solving problems, after it creates the problems."
-Modest Mouse

User avatar
smcj
Posts: 5304
Joined: Wed May 29, 2013 6:13 am

Re: About Alara Kalama

Post by smcj » Tue Oct 10, 2017 8:30 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Tue Oct 10, 2017 7:51 pm
smcj wrote:
Sun Oct 08, 2017 6:18 am
As I’ve said elsewhere, if you understand this episode to be the backstory to the famous “Kalama Sutta”, it changes the entire meaning of the KS.
How so?
Gotama was recognized as Alara's equal and invited to lead the community. Instead he blew them off and left. So later, after his enlightenment, he shows up again. But since he had forsaken the Kalama people before they are more than a little suspicious. But in the Kalama Sutta, instead of calling him out modern style, they confront him in polite-speak:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el008.html
The Kalamas who were inhabitants of Kesaputta sitting on one side said to the Blessed One: "There are some monks and brahmans, venerable sir, who visit Kesaputta. They expound and explain only their own doctrines; the doctrines of others they despise, revile, and pull to pieces. Some other monks and brahmans too, venerable sir, come to Kesaputta. They also expound and explain only their own doctrines; the doctrines of others they despise, revile, and pull to pieces. Venerable sir, there is doubt, there is uncertainty in us concerning them. Which of these reverend monks and brahmans spoke the truth and which falsehood?"
My translation into modern crude-speak: Why should we listen to you after you blew us off before? There's plenty of other guys walking around giving teachings. Why should we trust you?

His answer is his explanation for why he left, and why his own realization is authentic. But if you look at the very end of the Kalama Sutta it says:
We, venerable sir, go to the Blessed One for refuge, to the Dhamma for refuge, and to the Community of Bhikkhus for refuge. Venerable sir, may the Blessed One regard us as lay followers who have gone for refuge for life, from today."
So either they did not understand at all what he just said to them about not accepting things on authority, or they were satisfied with his answer and, as the Sutta says, they take Refuge in him, his teachings, and his congregation.
In the Tantra of the Beautiful Auspiciousness (bKra shis mdzes ldan gyi rgyud), this "Great Primordial Purity" (spyi gzhi) is defined as follows:

What is known as "The Great Primordial Purity”
Is the state abiding before authentic Buddhas arose
And before impure sentient beings appeared;
It is called the great Primordial radiance of immutable awareness.

*****
Sometimes you can get shown the light
In the strangest of places
If you look at it right.
-Robert Hunter-

User avatar
Queequeg
Global Moderator
Posts: 3959
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: About Alara Kalama

Post by Queequeg » Tue Oct 10, 2017 9:39 pm

smcj wrote:
Tue Oct 10, 2017 8:30 pm
Queequeg wrote:
Tue Oct 10, 2017 7:51 pm
How so?
Gotama was recognized as Alara's equal and invited to lead the community. Instead he blew them off and left. So later, after his enlightenment, he shows up again. But since he had forsaken the Kalama people before they are more than a little suspicious...
I dig. Not to dispute what you say, because it sounds reasonable...

Presumably this is Alara Kalama's community? Do we know this? Or is this a matter of connecting dots?

A quick search suggests Alara Kalama taught in Vaisali - but that Kesaputta, where the Kalamas lived is about 50km away.

Not that you suggest it, I don't think there would have been animosity between Kalama's community and the Buddha, though distrust is not out of the question. Gotama was worthy enough for Alara Kalama to invite him to lead the community. If Alara Kalama's teaching was "nothingness", then it would follow that his community would be dispassionate and immune to animosity over Gotama leaving to continue his search. This fact might also, however, make them inclined to give ear to a teacher who was so highly regarded by their own teacher. Also as I mentioned above - Alara Kalama was the first person Buddha wanted to share his enlightenment with, suggesting that they were friendly and the Buddha respected his former teacher, enough to believe that he would understand his doctrines.
“Once you have given up the ghost, everything follows with dead certainty, even in the midst of chaos.”
-Henry Miller

"Language is the liquid that we're all dissolved in.
Great for solving problems, after it creates the problems."
-Modest Mouse

User avatar
smcj
Posts: 5304
Joined: Wed May 29, 2013 6:13 am

Re: About Alara Kalama

Post by smcj » Tue Oct 10, 2017 9:52 pm

Presumably this is Alara Kalama's community? Do we know this? Or is this a matter of connecting dots?

A quick search suggests Alara Kalama taught in Vaisali - but that Kesaputta, where the Kalamas lived is about 50km away.
Connecting dots.
This fact might also, however, make them inclined to give ear to a teacher who was so highly regarded by their own teacher. Also as I mentioned above - Alara Kalama was the first person Buddha wanted to share his enlightenment with, suggesting that they were friendly and the Buddha respected his former teacher, enough to believe that he would understand his doctrines.
Which is a good reason to not dismiss out of hand non-Buddhist traditions.

It would be interesting to see all the Suttas that mention the Kalama people generally and Alara Kalama specifically in one place.
In the Tantra of the Beautiful Auspiciousness (bKra shis mdzes ldan gyi rgyud), this "Great Primordial Purity" (spyi gzhi) is defined as follows:

What is known as "The Great Primordial Purity”
Is the state abiding before authentic Buddhas arose
And before impure sentient beings appeared;
It is called the great Primordial radiance of immutable awareness.

*****
Sometimes you can get shown the light
In the strangest of places
If you look at it right.
-Robert Hunter-

User avatar
Malcolm
Posts: 24473
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:19 am

Re: About Alara Kalama

Post by Malcolm » Tue Oct 10, 2017 9:56 pm

smcj wrote:
Tue Oct 10, 2017 9:52 pm

Which is a good reason to not dismiss out of hand non-Buddhist traditions.
We do not in fact know that Alara was a Samkhya teacher. The only source that mentions this is the Buddhacarita, written more than half a millenia after he passed away.
Atikosha
Tibetan Medicine Blog
Sudarsana Mandala, Tibetan Medicine and Herbs
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


Free of hope and fear, relax.
Human life spent in
a state of great spaciousness is enjoyable.


— Kunzang Dechen Lingpa

User avatar
smcj
Posts: 5304
Joined: Wed May 29, 2013 6:13 am

Re: About Alara Kalama

Post by smcj » Tue Oct 10, 2017 10:19 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Tue Oct 10, 2017 9:56 pm
smcj wrote:
Tue Oct 10, 2017 9:52 pm
Which is a good reason to not dismiss out of hand non-Buddhist traditions.
We do not in fact know that Alara was a Samkhya teacher. The only source that mentions this is the Buddhacarita, written more than half a millenia after he passed away.
Whatever he was, w do know that Alara wasn’t a Buddhist. Gotama did not have his final realization until after Alara died.
In the Tantra of the Beautiful Auspiciousness (bKra shis mdzes ldan gyi rgyud), this "Great Primordial Purity" (spyi gzhi) is defined as follows:

What is known as "The Great Primordial Purity”
Is the state abiding before authentic Buddhas arose
And before impure sentient beings appeared;
It is called the great Primordial radiance of immutable awareness.

*****
Sometimes you can get shown the light
In the strangest of places
If you look at it right.
-Robert Hunter-

Fortyeightvows
Posts: 1523
Joined: Mon Oct 06, 2014 2:37 am

Re: About Alara Kalama

Post by Fortyeightvows » Tue Oct 10, 2017 10:37 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Tue Oct 10, 2017 9:56 pm

We do not in fact know that Alara was a Samkhya teacher. The only source that mentions this is the Buddhacarita, written more than half a millenia after he passed away.
I think it is generally accepted that he was...even
mircea eliade calls him a teacher of "pre-classic” samkhya.
Also I take asvasagosa as a good source

Fortyeightvows
Posts: 1523
Joined: Mon Oct 06, 2014 2:37 am

Re: About Alara Kalama

Post by Fortyeightvows » Tue Oct 10, 2017 10:40 pm

smcj wrote:
Tue Oct 10, 2017 10:19 pm
Gotama did not have his final realization until after Alara died.
Seven days after...
Does anyone know where he went in his afterlife?

User avatar
Queequeg
Global Moderator
Posts: 3959
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: About Alara Kalama

Post by Queequeg » Tue Oct 10, 2017 10:51 pm

Fortyeightvows wrote:
Tue Oct 10, 2017 10:40 pm
Does anyone know where he went in his afterlife?
The Third Formless Heaven?
“Once you have given up the ghost, everything follows with dead certainty, even in the midst of chaos.”
-Henry Miller

"Language is the liquid that we're all dissolved in.
Great for solving problems, after it creates the problems."
-Modest Mouse

User avatar
Malcolm
Posts: 24473
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:19 am

Re: About Alara Kalama

Post by Malcolm » Tue Oct 10, 2017 10:53 pm

Fortyeightvows wrote:
Tue Oct 10, 2017 10:37 pm
Malcolm wrote:
Tue Oct 10, 2017 9:56 pm

We do not in fact know that Alara was a Samkhya teacher. The only source that mentions this is the Buddhacarita, written more than half a millenia after he passed away.
I think it is generally accepted that he was...even
mircea eliade calls him a teacher of "pre-classic” samkhya.
Also I take asvasagosa as a good source
There is no confirmation of this in any source that predates the Buddhacarita.
Atikosha
Tibetan Medicine Blog
Sudarsana Mandala, Tibetan Medicine and Herbs
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


Free of hope and fear, relax.
Human life spent in
a state of great spaciousness is enjoyable.


— Kunzang Dechen Lingpa

Fortyeightvows
Posts: 1523
Joined: Mon Oct 06, 2014 2:37 am

Re: About Alara Kalama

Post by Fortyeightvows » Tue Oct 10, 2017 11:32 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Tue Oct 10, 2017 10:51 pm
Fortyeightvows wrote:
Tue Oct 10, 2017 10:40 pm
Does anyone know where he went in his afterlife?
The Third Formless Heaven?
I would think so.
But having taught the buddha, that's some pretty good merit.
His practice would have put in him in the third formless heaven, but his merit may have taken him higher.
:thinking:

User avatar
Queequeg
Global Moderator
Posts: 3959
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: About Alara Kalama

Post by Queequeg » Wed Oct 11, 2017 5:06 pm

Fortyeightvows wrote:
Tue Oct 10, 2017 11:32 pm
Queequeg wrote:
Tue Oct 10, 2017 10:51 pm
Fortyeightvows wrote:
Tue Oct 10, 2017 10:40 pm
Does anyone know where he went in his afterlife?
The Third Formless Heaven?
I would think so.
But having taught the buddha, that's some pretty good merit.
His practice would have put in him in the third formless heaven, but his merit may have taken him higher.
:thinking:
The only higher could be the 4th formless heaven. That is presumably where Gautama's second teacher, Udakka Ramaputa, was reborn.

These heavens are not desirable destinations - I believe because the beings there are basically in meditatively induced comas. Their being is so refined, they are incapable of interacting with others, let alone hearing dharma, they have no discernible volition. Their life spans are so long, as well. They merely abide until their fortune is exhausted and they pass away from those heavens. Then they fall down to lower heavens where they might have the coarseness necessary to hear the dharma, but they are still in high heavens where the suffering is so subtle it will still be difficult to arouse bodhicitta or even resolve to put dharma into practice. It will be a very very long time before they fall far enough that conditions will be conducive to hearing the dharma and putting it into practice.

However, maybe having made the connection to Gautama, some memory of that connection will cause them to be attracted to Dharma despite the ease and bliss of their immediate conditions...
“Once you have given up the ghost, everything follows with dead certainty, even in the midst of chaos.”
-Henry Miller

"Language is the liquid that we're all dissolved in.
Great for solving problems, after it creates the problems."
-Modest Mouse

jmlee369
Posts: 298
Joined: Tue Aug 09, 2011 1:22 am

Re: About Alara Kalama

Post by jmlee369 » Tue Oct 17, 2017 11:24 am

Fortyeightvows wrote:
Sat Oct 07, 2017 11:00 pm
What do we know about Alara Kalama and what he taught?
How long did the Buddha spend with him? (Source for this please!)
What became of him and his other students?

Thanks
I vaguely recall reading something like an academic book or article that tried to identify records of Alara Kalama's students and their interactions with the Buddhist community in the Vinaya.

MiphamFan
Posts: 705
Joined: Thu Jun 18, 2015 5:46 am

Re: About Alara Kalama

Post by MiphamFan » Tue Oct 17, 2017 1:12 pm

Is there even evidence of a codified Samkhya school pre-Buddha?

User avatar
Tongnyid Dorje
Posts: 86
Joined: Thu Aug 29, 2013 9:16 pm

Re: About Alara Kalama

Post by Tongnyid Dorje » Wed Oct 18, 2017 4:10 pm

smcj wrote:
Sun Oct 08, 2017 6:18 am
Come friend, let us now lead this community together.'
"In this way did Alara Kalama, my teacher, place me, his pupil, on the same level with himself and pay me great honor. But the thought occurred to me, 'This Dhamma leads not to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to Awakening, nor to Unbinding, but only to reappearance in the dimension of nothingness.' So, dissatisfied with that Dhamma, I left.
As I’ve said elsewhere, if you understand this episode to be the backstory to the famous “Kalama Sutta”, it changes the entire meaning of the KS.
I dont think that Kalama people in sutta has anything to do with former students of Alara Kalama. May be Alara Kalama was born in this Kalama tribe, but thats all. This is nice article about the sutta:

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/aut ... ay_09.html

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 8 guests