We may appreciate (or not) that we need to have faith in
the Teacher, the Teachings and the Path, but how does
such faith come about?
Is Faith innate or something that needs to be
cultivated? If the former how to awaken it; if the
latter how to cultivate it?
What is Faith? Is it Intuition? Is it belief in
something we don't directlyknowto
be true but firmly believe in it anyway? Is it a
growing certainty that arises out of our own experience
of study, meditation and practice of the Path? Or
Excellent questions. I think we theosophists often
overlook the importance of faith because it is so abused
by organized religion which demand blind faith. When in
fact it is essential to walking any path or achieving
any goal. Faith is often engendered through taking the
plunge and trying something new, attempting something
difficult and through discovering that through effort
you can move closer to the goal. Those who want instant
results will lose faith because the desire mind wants
results without sacrifice, progress without effort. But
the voice of the soul within whispers, " Try every keep
trying". And with each step forward we gain a little bit
more faith in the process, in the teachings and
ultimately the Teachers. For me, faith is a form of
confidence born out of experience. My mother, brother,
friend etc. always comes through for me. They have won
our confidence. We have faith in them as a
result. Others thoughts?
In Buddhism, faith is not a requirement; in fact, the
students are told not to accept the teachings based on
Do not accept any of my words on faith,
Believing them just because I said them.
Be like an analyst buying gold, who cuts, burns,
And critically examines his product for authenticity.
Only accept what passes the test
By proving useful and beneficial in your life.
We often see the terms belief and faith used
interchangeably. The former seems to come first before
the latter. I am not sure faith is essential in
walking any path. It may be just different for
different types of personality.
The concept of faith seems to beantithetical
to knowledge. If we know something, we do not need
faith. However, there are countless things we will
never know due to our human limitations, such as the law
of karma, cycles, reincarnation, etc. We believe in
them, which means we temporarily accept these ideas till
we can verify them for ourselves in the future.
Because of the many facets of truths in the teachings
that we have been able to experience and ascertain for
ourselves, the belief placed in the unconfirmed ideas
are not unreasonable. Faith seems to take it one
step further, it has the connotation of an emotional
conviction; for some this could be based on a sense of
knowing and for others based on fancy.
If we can think away from the blind belief idea, which
is believing without questioning, evidence or testing, I
think we can find a role for belief to play in the
process of learning.
To fully know something often takes time and effort.
I may play tennis, practice tennis and know a lot about
tennis but I have not mastered it. If mastering is
the measure of knowledge in this endeavor then one would
assume there are many steps to take before mastery is
achieved. When you learn the strokes and principles of
the strokes you are convinced of the logic of them and
have a belief that they will work if performed
correctly. But you don't know for certain at
first. It is a theory in your mind. Your
instructor passes them onto you for you to try. So you
take these ideas out on the court and experiment.
And little by little what was once a 'theory' in
your mind is proven true by experience. But you
needed to have the starting point of a belief in order
to try out the theory, say of using topspin to get the
ball over the net but dropping into the other side of
the court. The instruction must rise to the level
of credibility in your mind in order for you to deem it
worthy of experimentation. You "believe" this
might be true, because it makes sense at some level.
Belief in this scenario is integral to the gaining of
knowledge. It is one of the steps you might say.
And it seems to me that as a belief is tested more and
more it rises out of that level and moves closer to
First of all, belief is a mindset with which the
personality wraps it into, in order to protect its
ego-sense. Before any Divine thought can emerge from the
heart, there is a sense of looseness, a sense of being
alone in this fiery world full of dangers and miseries,
a lack of understanding of our world and of our role in
it. This can lead to panic, and grasping and holding to
a belief is like a life vest. But it can be harmful, and
it has leaded to dreadful, disastrous consequences for
human communities (religious extremism, like theChristian
political extremism, like fascism). This is blind belief
There is yet another type of belief, which is a leading
path to faith. On the pathway to spirituality, there is
an initial phase, when the first call of the Divine is
triggering our mental being with a lot of questions,
interrogations, to which no “rational answer” can be
found. All our lower personality, including emotions,
reasoning, will, cannot know the transcendent, at least
at the beginning. Before we can experiment the first
glimpse of Divine Light shining in our heart, we need to
redirect our energies toward this still unknown. Here, a
belief in a set of hypothesis is useful, not as a blind
binding engagement, but as acatalystof
our will and thoughts. Then, the act of Faith is the
natural result of the personal experience of the
H.P. Blavatsky pointed out in “The Key to Theosophy”
that there are two kinds of faith: blind faith and
reasoned faith. Blind faith is based on ignorance and
unquestioning subservience to theological authority
whereas reasoned faith is based on solid spiritual
knowledge and full and open-minded research and
investigation into facts.
"Imagination is a potent help in every event of our
lives. Imagination acts on Faith, and both are the
draughtsmen who prepare the sketches forWillto
engrave, more or less deeply, on the rocks of obstacles
and opposition with which the path of life is strewn.
Says Paracelsus: 'Faithmust
confirm the imagination, for faith establishes thewill.
. . Determined will is the beginning of all magical
operations.... It is because men do not perfectly
imagine and believe the result, that the arts (of magic)
are uncertain, while they might be perfectly certain.'
This is all the secret. Half, if not two-thirds of our
ailings and diseases are the fruit of our imagination
and fears. Destroy the latter and give another bent to
the former, and nature will do the rest. There is
nothing sinful or injurious in the methodsper
turn to harm only when belief in his power becomes too
arrogant and marked in the faith-healer, and when he
thinks he canwillaway
such diseases as need, if they are not to be fatal, the
immediate help of expert surgeons and physicians."
Hypnotism, And Its Relations
To Other Modes Of Fascination
H. P. Blavatsky
For verily I say unto you, if ye have faith as a grain
of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain,
"Remove hence to yonder place," and it shall remove; and
nothing shall be impossible to you.
The terms belief and faith are similar and very often
are used with an identical meaning, such as confidence
or trust in a person, thing, idea or set of ideas.
The word faith can stand for a religious belief e.g. the
Christian, Jewish or Hindu Faith. Is there any
difference between blind faith and blind belief?
Faith can also be used in relation to loyalty e.g. being
faithful, keeping a promise & so on.
Belief and faith are part of the fabric of our everyday
lives, not just religion or spirituality. Mostly
we believe the world, people and events around us are
fairly constant and we expect them to carry on that way
even though there is no certainty (i.e proof) that they
will. We believe that our home will still be
standing when get back from work, that our loved ones,
friends and enemies will be just the same tomorrow as
they are today, that the sun will rise in the morning
because it has every day up to now etc etc.
Perhaps the question is, ‘Does faith have a special
relevance to our spiritual beliefs, one that is more
significant than in our daily lives? If so, what makes
it more significant?'
In this discussion, I was thinking mostly of faith in relation to
spirituality and religion and not in our mundane life. One notable
difference between faith in spirituality and in our everyday lives
is that most people have not yet experienced the former, like few
people have seen God. With the latter, we have past experiences to
draw upon, like we have gone home many times and the house was still
there. Thus, there is no reason to believe it is not the same today.
I wonder why there is less emphasis on faith in the Eastern
religions than in the Western ones?
Understood, Barbara. The reason I mentioned everyday life was
just a reminder of how pervasive faith and belief along with blind
faith and blind belief are in all aspects of our lives, not just the
Do you not think that faith plays a very large role in eastern
religions? If we consider bhakti yoga or devotional spiritual
practices, for example, all these are based on faith and trust in
the Self, or God, Krishna, Siva, or a divine being or some kind.
In Buddhism taking Refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha is an
aspect of faith.
I’m not sure about the accuracy of the buddhist verse you quoted.
The Buddha does say in the Kalama Sutta not to accept something as
true merely because some authority says so, and this verse has been
recast many times often adding things that are not in the original.
Here it is as translated on the Access to Insight website, which has
a good reputation trying to keep to accurate translations:
‘Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon
tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon
surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a
bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon
another's seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, "The monk is
our teacher." Kalamas, when you yourselves know: "These things are
good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the
wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and
happiness," enter on and abide in them.'
The notion and application of faith varies across different schools
of Buddhism. In Tsongkapa’sLam
Rimfaith in the guru
and faith in the dharma is seen as something essential to develop if
the aspirant would follow the path to Buddhahood. More often
than not such faith or conviction is shown as developed out of the
regular and sustained process of reasoning and contemplation
(Analytical Meditation) in the Lam Rim. The reason given for
this is that only such a process will bring forth the powerful
awareness and conviction needed (i.e. faith) that will help us
change and sustain the change. Otherwise we are left with good ideas
and aspirations but lack the faith and determination in teachings to
follow them through for the long term.
Perhaps our usual notions of belief and faith as they affect us in
our daily lives help us to learn the ways of world and how to thrive
or just survive in it. From the perspective of Eastern religions
(particularly Buddhism) we’ve been doing that kind of thriving and
surviving for lifetime after lifetime. The kind of faith,
belief or conviction we need to develop as part of the spiritual
path needs to be the kind that will help us radically change our
ways, to get off the wheel of samsara that we are so familiar with
and cling on to. Hence the development of such transforming faith is
often raised at the very beginning of the path.
T.R.V. Murti has an illuminating passage on this theme of faith in
the guru in hisThe
Central Philosophy of Buddhism, pg. 266:
Salutation to and worship of the Buddhas and their sons
(the Bodhisattvas) is an integral part of the bodhicarya.
Offerings are made to them, and an elaborate ritual in the best
Brahmanical style is undergone. An unreserved confession of
one's sins (papa-desana) is made before them, and the devotee
asks for their active help in his path. It would be wrong to
understand this as theistic worship of an other. The Buddhas are
but the realised ideal of the devotee, his higher self. It is as
it were the actual becomes the ideal, which it really is, by
constantly having it before the mind's eye and venerating it.
True worship is self-worship; the lower is completely transmuted
into the higher which it is in fact; the lower surrenders
itself, and the higher attracts and raises the lower. Buddhist
religion can only be a species of Absolutist Pantheism.
Mahatma Koot Hoomi likewise advises us: "Every
one of you create for yourself a Master. Give him birth and
objective being before you in the Astral Light. If he is a real
Master he will send his Voice. If he is not a real Master, then the
Voice will be that of the Higher Self." This Higher Self is spoken
of as the "ONE Master" inThe
Voice of the Silence(see
When speaking of faith, I think we out to distinguish between blind
faith, which is what the Buddha speaks of in the quote above and
which we see in the exhortations of Abrahamic religions to have
faith in this or that book because of its great authority, and faith
in the guru and dharma which is developed by and worked through our
reasoning and rational minds (this is a very strong theme in
Ya see what you mean. I've been working on a new blog along this
line, just checking out Nick Vujicic "Attitude is Altitude" site.
Quite a wonderful and inspiring team. This route may afford an
"Born without limbs for no medical reason, Nick Vujicic knew
from an early age that he was different. But it wasn’t until
much later, after overcoming ignorance and discrimination to
build what he calls a 'ridiculously good' life, that he
realized his mission: to use his 'disability' to start
conversations that change lives."
Not immune. We all must be on guard against it. Our
willingness to entertain alternative ideas and opinions is one
measure of our openness to altering our own opinions and beliefs.
A good philosopher will know the alternative argument of a point
better than the one making it dogmatically. They have already
done their homework and thought that point through to its logical
conclusion, found the problems or issues and risen above.