Kalama Sutta in German and Dutch causes confusion, doubt

It is about this passage:

“Suppose evil (results) befall an evil-doer. I, however, think of doing evil to none. Then, how can ill (results) affect me who do no evil deed?’ This is the third solace found by him.

In French they use “fruit” instead of results, and in the Italian text it is the same.

What is wrong in the German and Dutch translations?
They leave out results/fruit.
People with no knowledge about Buddhism taking this at face value might not accept Buddhism or leave it.
Why? Because taken at face value, the passage seems to state that if, in this life, you do no evil deeds, no eveil wil befall you in this life.
And of course, that is untrue and not what is meant.
So the words “result” or “fruit” should have been included.

Can anyone tell me how exactly it is said in Pali?

The syntax is a little obscure, and Ven Bodhi notes that the sense is somewhat unexpected. Here is the Pali, with my translation. The sense is the same as Ven Bodhi’s, just phrased a little differently:

Sace kho pana karoto karīyati pāpaṃ, na kho panāhaṃ kassaci pāpaṃ cetemi.
‘If it turns out that bad things happen to people who do bad things, then since I have no bad intentions,
Akarontaṃ kho pana maṃ pāpakammaṃ kuto dukkhaṃ phusissatī’ti, ayamassa tatiyo assāso adhigato hoti.
and since I’m not doing anything bad, how can suffering touch me?’ This is the third consolation they’ve won.

Presumably it refers to consequences in a future life, but this is not said in the text. It’s possible the text is corrupt. I guess this is where the variations in the translations that you see come from.

Also, just as a tip, when referring to a specific sutta, always include the exact SuttCentral ID, thus AN 3.65. This creates an automatic link to the text and helps people to find their way back and forth.

1 Like

Not necessarily in a future life: If I do no evil, have no bad intentions in this life, results of bad things (I don’t do) can’t befall me. That goes for both this and future lifes.

Your translation shows that the original Pali version doesn’t speak of “results” or “fruits” and without that addition, the text makes no sense.

Though the German and Dutch translations might be a closer, more literal translation of the original Pali text, they don’t convey the meaning within the bigger framework of the Teachings.

Thank you for you help and the good tip, bhante Sujato!

Just as an addition ( off-topic): For those who are interested, here is a comprehensive explanation of the whole sutta:


Perhaps, comparing with the parallel from MA 16 will help. Luckily, we have English translation of MA from Ven. Analayo and his team (which I heard it will be available on SC soon).

For this part, MA 16 says:

Whatever I have done, I have certainly done no evil, and I recollect no evil. Why? Since I have done no evil, whence could suffering arise?

Thus, Kālāmas, this is the third assurance obtained by a learned noble disciple whose mind is free from fetters and resentment, without ill will or quarrel.

Thank you, but it does not make it much clearer - even if in this life you collect no ill will, you could have collected it in past lifes, couldn’t you?

The assurances are for “a learned noble disciple whose mind is free from fetters and resentment, without ill will or quarrel” which indicate at least he/she is a stream-enterer (Sotapanna), who will be not reborn in to lower realms of suffering or a non-returner (Anagami), who has cut off fetter of ill will.

Besides that, according to MA 16 the noble disciple “achieves purity of bodily actions, achieves purity of verbal and mental actions. He abandons ill will and quarrel, discards sloth and torpor, is without restlessness or conceit, and cuts off doubt; he transcends arrogance, has right mind- fulness and right attentiveness, and is without confusion.” And he cultivates the mind of loving kindness, compassion, empathic joy, and equanimity (4 appamanas/brahmaviharas) so that he can achieve the four assurances.

1 Like

Thank you very much Seniya, for sharing your deep understanding of the Dhamma. That makes the text completely understandable for me, now.

1 Like