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Go Back   Spiritual Forums > Religions & Faiths > Buddhism

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Old 23-04-2020, 05:27 PM
jonesboy jonesboy is offline
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Faith In Buddhism

The Buddha never placed unconditional demands on anyone's faith. And for anyone from a culture where the dominant religions do place such demands on one's faith, this is one of Buddhism's most attractive features. We read his famous instructions to the Kalamas, in which he advises testing things for oneself, and we see it as an invitation to believe, or not, whatever we like. Some people go so far as to say that faith has no place in the Buddhist tradition, that the proper Buddhist attitude is one of skepticism.

But even though the Buddha recommends tolerance and a healthy skepticism toward matters of faith, he also makes a conditional request about faith: If you sincerely want to put an end to suffering — that's the condition — you should take certain things on faith, as working hypotheses, and then test them through following his path of practice.

There's a hint of this need for faith even in the discourse to the Kalamas:

"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, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These mental qualities are skillful; these mental qualities are blameless; these mental qualities are praised by the wise; these mental qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare and to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them."

— AN 3.65

The first few phrases in this passage, refuting the authority of scripture and tradition, are so strikingly empirical that it's easy to miss the phrase buried further on, asserting that you have to take into account what's praised by the wise. That phrase is important, for it helps to make sense of the Buddha's teachings as a whole. If he had simply wanted you to trust your own unaided sense of right and wrong, why would he have left so many other teachings?

So the Buddha's advice to the Kalamas is balanced: Just as you shouldn't give unreserved trust to outside authority, you can't give unreserved trust to your own logic and feelings if they go against the genuine wisdom of others. As other early discourses make clear, wise people can be recognized by their words and behavior, but the standards for wisdom are clearly measured against the Buddha and his noble disciples, people who've already touched awakening. And the proper attitude toward those who meet these standards is faith.

"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this: 'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I'... For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this: 'Gladly would I let the flesh & blood in my body dry up, leaving just the skin, tendons, & bones, but if I have not attained what can be reached through human firmness, human persistence, human striving, there will be no relaxing my persistence.'"

Repeatedly the Buddha stated that faith in a teacher is what leads you to learn from that teacher. Faith in the Buddha's own Awakening is a requisite strength for anyone else who wants to attain Awakening. As it fosters persistence, mindfulness, concentration, and discernment, this faith can take you all the way to the deathless.


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Old 23-04-2020, 05:39 PM
jonesboy jonesboy is offline
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This is a good one and very important.

The fourth simile stresses the importance of not settling for anything less than the genuine thing:

A man searching for heartwood goes into a forest and comes to a tree containing heartwood, but instead of taking the heartwood, he takes home some sapwood, branches, or bark.

Faith in the possibility of nirvana — the heartwood of the path — is what keeps you from getting waylaid by the pleasures of the sapwood and bark: the gratification that comes from being generous and virtuous, the sense of peace, interconnectedness, and oneness that comes with strong concentration. Yet, surprisingly, modern discussions of the role of faith in the Buddha's teachings rarely mention this point, and focus on faith in karma and rebirth instead. This is surprising because nirvana is much less related to our everyday experience than either karma or rebirth. We see the fruits of our actions all around us; we see people being born with distinct personalities and differing strengths, and it's only a short leap to the idea that there's some connection between these things. Nirvana, however, isn't connected to anything we've experienced at all. It's already there, but hidden by all our desires for physical and mental activity. To touch it, we have to abandon our habitual attachment to activity. To believe that such a thing is possible, and that it's the ultimate happiness, is to take a major leap.

Many in the Buddha's time were willing to take the leap, while many others were not, preferring to content themselves with the branches and sapwood, wanting simply to learn how to live happily with their families in this life and go to heaven in the next. Nirvana, they said, could wait. Faced with this honest and gentle resistance to his teaching on nirvana, the Buddha was happy to comply.

But he was less tolerant of the stronger resistance he received from brahmas, heavenly deities who complacently felt that their experience of limitless oneness and compassion in the midst of samsara — their sapwood — was superior to the heartwood of nirvana. In cases like this he used all the psychic and intellectual powers at his disposal to humble their pride, because he realized that their views totally closed the door to Awakening. If you think that your sapwood is actually heartwood, you won't look for anything better. When your sapwood breaks, you'll decide that heartwood is a lie. But if you realize that you're using bark and sapwood, you leave open the possibility that someday you'll go back and give the heartwood a try.

Of course, it's even better if you can take the Buddha's teachings on nirvana as a direct challenge in this lifetime — as if he were saying, "Here's your chance. Can you prove me wrong?"
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Old 03-08-2020, 05:52 PM
Skull Skull is offline
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Courageous Faith

Nyanaponika Thera emphasized another way to see faith, as courage & confidence:

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Old 22-09-2020, 04:50 PM
BigJohn BigJohn is offline
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your comment
"In cases like this he used all the psychic and intellectual powers at his disposal to humble their pride, because he realized that their views totally closed the door to Awakening."
resonates so much with how I look at parts of the Visuddhimagga.


      Happiness is the result of an enlightened mind
     whereas suffering is caused by a distorted mind.


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