Guy E. Dubois

Free Inquiry

Free Inquiry

Regardless of his past, the dhammanuvatti remains personally responsible for his liberation. The Buddha encourages each practitioner to examine the object of his faith (saddhā)the three jewels (tiratna) – and test it for truth. Saddhā can never conflict with the spirit of free inquiry.

Free research from a Buddhist perspective is the personal, experiential, penetrating investigation into the impermanent, unsatisfactory and selfless (unstable) nature of all phenomena (primarily of the khandhas: our body, our consciousness, our perception, our sensations and our conditioned reactions). The Kalama Sutta is an ode to this free research. Nothing sounds more convincing than this. 

In the Cula Saccaka Sutta, Majjhima Nikaya 35, the Buddha says:

Rupam aniccam; vedana anicca; sanna anicca; sankhara anicca; vinnanam aniccam – The body is impermanent; sensations are impermanent; perceptions are impermanent; sakhāra’s are impermanent; consciousness is impermanent.”

Only forensically free research can substantiate the thesis. As a result, this free research finally bases the faith (saddhā) of the dhammanuvatti in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha.

Faith can only arise when all doubt is gone. When the follower has thoroughly examined and practiced the teaching. And the correctness of the teaching has been experienced and realized in oneself. Forensic examination of all phenomena (dhammas) is strongly encouraged by the Buddha. The faculty of faith (saddhā-indriya) must always be in harmony with the faculty of wisdom (paññā-indriya).

Where doubt is a mortal sin in all religions, doubt is the starting point for the Buddha to come to insight. Only when the doubt is removed can the practitioner awaken. Wake up.

It is not correct to translate saddhā as ‘belief’. Saddhā is not a synonym for ‘belief. There is a world of difference between ‘belief’ and ‘faith’.

Dogmatic belief is not a synonym for reality. Belief arises when man cannot/will/dares not reconcile himself with reality as it presents itself. When man cannot/will/dares not accept that ‘all that arises also perishes”, he starts making up stories that are not based on facts. And he is going to humbly adhere to and support religious and philosophical systems that propagate these fabrications. With which there is nothing wrong – die Gedanken sind frei – as long as we agree that these chimeras do not correspond to reality.

In the suttas, the Buddha always emphasizes ‘seeing’, ‘knowing’, ‘experiencing the experiëntally’ and not ‘belief’.  Belief arises when there is no ‘seeing’. When ‘seeing’ arises, belief’ disappears. And faith arises.  Saddhā.

Saddhā is an important aspect on the road to self-realization. Without saddhā, the dhammanuvatti will never reach the deeper layers of Dhamma. It is the experience, the intuitive feeling that what the Buddha preached is ‘right’, ‘pure’, ‘true’. Samma.

The Buddhadhamma is always about ‘seeing’ and ‘knowing’. About ‘experiencing’. Never about ‘belief’. The suttas repeat over and over again that the follower of the Buddha who lives according to the Dhamma – the dhammanuvatti – must see the truth; experience the truth; must satiate himself with truth; immerse himself with truth until he is thoroughly convinced and finally becomes truth himself. And this transformation happens by “seeing” things as they are. Yathā-bhūta. This is seeing with eyes steeped in wisdom (ñāṇa dassana). Buddha-eyes (Buddha-cakkhu). Not through wishful eyes full of belief.

The Buddha defined free inquiry in the Vimamsaka Sutta, Majjhima Nikaya 47, as follows:

Akaravati saddha dassanamulika – well thought out and rooted in clear understanding.”

And in the Pubbarama Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya 48:45, the Buddha says:

“A monk with clear understanding establishes his trust in accordance with that clear understanding.”

After which in the Agganna Sutta, Digha Nikaya # 27, the apotheosis follows:

“Whoever has established his faith in the Tathāgata, firmly grounded, unwavering, unshakable to ideas proclaimed by a monk or Brahmin, by a god, by Mara, Brahma or by anyone else in the world, can proclaim to me with full conviction: ‘I am a true disciple of the Buddha, born of Dhamma, created by Dhamma, an heir of Dhamma, a dhammanuvatti’.

In no uncertain terms, the Buddha emphasizes to his followers the importance of devoting oneself to one’s own liberation. For everyman possesses the ability to free himself from all bonding through personal effort and wisdom.

This illustrates the huge discrepancy that exists between Dhamma and organized religions. Buddha only teaches Dhamma, the law of nature, the cosmic law, the so-ness of things. Tathatā

He teaches what dukkha is; the cause of dukkha; the cessation of dukkha and the path leading to the cessation of dukkha.

This is the path – the middel path – that gives the dhammanuvatti harmony, liberation and inner peace. In this life. Not in the mists of a distant, mystical future.

Wisdom is a personal achievement. Wisdom cannot be imparted. Not by a teacher. Not by a prophet. Not by a creator. Not by a maker. Not by a chief architect.

The penetrating question the Buddha asks us in Gatha #160 of the Dhammapada is to answer it:

Atta hi attano natho; ko hi natho paro siya – Everyone is his own protector. After all, what other protector could there be?

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About Guy E. Dubois

Guy E. Dubois (1947) has translated various parts of the early Buddhist texts into Dutch, provided them with commentary and makes them available for free on SuttaCentral. He is also the author of several works on the teachings of the Buddha. These can be read online, for those who prefer to hold a real book in their hands, they can be ordered at

The author himself wants to remain true to his initial objective: he does not wish to earn anything from Dhamma. Guy: "Whenever any 'profit' is generated it will go to dana." As a yogi, he is completely unbound with respect to any Buddhist tradition. Thus, he interprets the Dhamma in a free-spirited manner. As such, he is - in the literal sense of the word - a "homeless person," a bhikkhu, a mendicant, who gives his dhutanga (practice) substance in a very personal way. In his books he combines a virulently liberal attitude to life with a great affection for the deep insights of the Buddha.

You yourselves must strive, the Buddhas only point the way

Buddha, Dhp 276