Fundamentalism (idaüsaccàbhinivesa) is the belief that the sacred scriptures should be interpreted literally. Fundamentalists tend to be dogmatic in the practice of their religion and intolerant towards other religions. If anything, they are often even more intolerant of their fellow-religionists who interpret the scriptures differently from how they themselves do. The Buddha characterised the fundamentalist as the person who keeps angrily proclaiming, ‘This alone is true, all else is false’ (M.II,171). Because of Buddhism’s generally open and explorative nature it has only rarely produced fundamentalists or fundamentalist movements. The Buddha said that while examining his teachings one has to take into account the letter (vya¤jana) but also the spirit (attha), implying that there are dimensions and nuances of the Dhamma beyond the mere words and that knowing just the words is not enough (D.III,127; Vin.I,20). Elsewhere, he said that some of his discourses have a direct or explicit meaning (nãtattha) while others have an indirect or implicit meaning (neyyattha) again implying the same thing (A.I,59). In the famous Kalama Sutta he said that in our efforts to assess religious claims we should rely more on our experience more than religious scriptures (A.I,187).
See also: Modern Theravada