A R T  A N D  C U L T U R E  ии  W O R S H I P

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Faith

Buddha Mind - get one, be one.

INTRO | FAITH | SHRINES | TEMPLES | PRAYER | MERIT | PILGRIMAGE



I am 100% sure
faith in my doubt
of my
uncertainty.
Religion is full of paradoxes and the matter of faith is no exception. An integral and seemingly contradictory part of faith is doubt. The nature of faith is such that I trust in something that I don't actually know. In my not knowing there is (allowed) uncertainty, otherwise it wouldn't be faith, it would be knowing. Unshakeable faith is tantamount to fundamentalism [which takes the fun out of da mental ism]. Until I truely know something I can only guess at its true nature. I have no doubt that there are those in this world who truely know but I am highly suspicious of those who claim that they know (modesty is a common trait of the wise).

Mention the word faith to Buddhists and many will too quickly create an association with the word 'blind'. Those who profess to practice faith are often felt to be a bit wooly or soft-headed by the reasonable, rational Buddhists who will be quick to quote the Kalama Sutta: Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, etc. The thrust of this particular teaching is indeed an encouragement to test theories in the light of direct experience.

Consider how much of our everyday life functions on faith. When you switch on the light you do so in the belief that the bulb will enlighten the moment. When you drive on the road you do so in good faith, trusting that all the other motorists will stay on the correct side. You sit here reading this, relaxed, in the faith that no-one is stealing stuff from the other room. We can not know what we can not directly confirm but without basic faith we live in constant fear and how easy it can be to create (or allow) faith in an all powerful protector - out there (somewhere).
    Our bodies and minds are time-bound. We have memories of the past and recollection of memories of considering a future, and memories of those considerations appearing (more or less) as immediate experiences. And so we create faith in a future - it was OK then so I can trust it will be OK later - when in fact all we can truely know is present-time, present-place. So, we have our theories, our opinions, our beliefs about a great many things - both mundane and spiritual.



TEST RESULT...

yoniso manisikara - oh Dear!
Oh No !
I have to change.
The encouragement in the Kalama sutta (and in Buddhism generally) is to test our theories in the light of direct experience. It is not saying "don't have theories, don't speculate", it is much more rigorous than that. Until we know, we can only guess. Our (spiritual) guesses become our views and beliefs, our faith. This faith must be tested against the results it yields when put into practice. We must allow the obvious existence of bias and limitations in our understanding - both of our faith and the results of our tests. These should be checked against traditional teachings and the experience of people who are wise. We then evaluate our faith anew considering:
  • our original assumptions and the premise on which we structured our 'test'
  • the process of testing and the results
  • the reflection from traditional presentations and wise friends
  • the conclusions WE make on the basis of all this new information

  •       It is important that the final choice be mine. This is my life afterall.

    The ability to investigate and test one's beliefs in an appropriate way is called appropriate attention (yoniso manisikara). The ability to recognize and chose wise people as mentors is called having admirable friends (kalyanamitta) [§].

    So, where does faith come into Buddhist practice?
    The primary focus of faith is on the enlightenment of Siddhattha Gotama, the belief in the principle of Buddha, trust in his realisation and confidence in the possibility of my own potential to realise this same freedom. To have faith that the goal of practice is in fact real, and not a mirage of self-delusion. Until I am enlightened, until I know for sure, my faith is an amorphous mix of intelligence, wisdom, and intuition.
        Another level of faith is in the law of kamma. I have faith that if I live a good life then the results will be good. Directly linked to this principle is the concept of rebirth, so the arrival of (good) results can not be predicted in time.
    So, we have faith in...
    some thing...
    How we conceptualise or encapsulate the 'object' of our faith can be a very personal process. We can use images, words, physical objects, sounds or other elements of the senses to help define the (shifting) boundaries of our unfolding investigation. There is a delicate balance point in practice. When we approach a particular teaching that requires no faith, we tend to retain our existing beliefs. When we encounter a teaching that does require faith we resist revising our views when they are different to those presented by the teaching being studied. Humility is useful. Also having the wisdom to recognise a teaching or teacher wiser than our own understanding.

    INTRO | FAITH | SHRINES | TEMPLES | PRAYER | MERIT | PILGRIMAGE