Theme for Contemplation: Shraddha -Faith and Trust

“When a person is profoundly affected by a preliminary vision of the quest for enlightenment, it is impossible to go back – the moment of choice has come.”

— Aquarian Almanac

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June 25, 2015 Theme for Contemplation: Shraddha – Faith and Trust

“If thy Faith is entire,

Press onward, for thine eye

Shall see thy heart’s desire.”

– Robert Bridges

“Back of all is the Great Lodge, ever watchful, ever working; never doubt that.”

– Robert Crosbie

June 26, 2016 Theme for Contemplation: Shradda – Faith and Trust

“Depend, with effort in thought and deed, on the holy spiritual friend, the Teacher of the Path .”

— Tsong-Kha-Pa

“A man must believe in his innate power of progress.”

— H.P. Blavatsky

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 directly know to 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 something else?

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 faith. 

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 be antithetical 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 knowledge.

Belief and Faith

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 the Christian Inquisition, or political extremism, like fascism). This is blind belief H.P.B. condemned.

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 a catalyst of our will and thoughts. Then, the act of Faith is the natural result of the personal experience of the Presence.

June 28, 2016 Theme for Contemplation: Shraddha -Faith and Trust

“The true power of faith overcomes all the spirits of Nature.”

— Paracelsus

“Rebuffed, but always perserving; self-reproached, but ever regaining faith; undaunted, tenacious, the heart of man labours toward immeasurably distant goals.”

— Helen Keller

June 28, 2016 Theme for Contemplation: Shraddha – Faith and Trust

“What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?”

— Jean Jacques Rousseau

“Trust begets truth.”

— W. G. Benham

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 for Will to engrave, more or less deeply, on the rocks of obstacles and opposition with which the path of life is strewn. Says Paracelsus: 'Faith must 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 methods per Se. They turn to harm only when belief in his power becomes too arrogant and marked in the faith-healer, and when he thinks he can will away 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

Lucifer, December, 1890
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.

(Matthew, XVII,20)

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?'

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by barbaram on Friday

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?     

Permalink Reply by Peter yesterday

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 spiritual.  

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’s Lam Rim faith 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.

Permalink Reply by Samantha Province yesterday

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 Daniel Caldwell's page).

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 Tsongkhapa's writings).

Permalink Reply by Peter on Thursday

Are students of theosophy immune from blind faith/belief, or is it something we are all prone to?

Permalink Reply by Odin Townley on Thursday

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 answer:

"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."

https://www.attitudeisaltitude.com/speakers/

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on Thursday

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.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on Thursday

June 29, 2016 Theme for Contemplation: Shraddha -Faith and Trust

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.“

— St. Paul

“Man cannot live without an enduring trust in something indestructible in himself. Yet while doing that he may all his life be unaware of that indestructible thing and of his trust in it.“

— Franz Kafka

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on Thursday

June 30, 2016 Theme for Contemplation: Shraddha – Faith and Trust

” Nonetheless, if one has no faith, he cannot be persuaded.”

— Treatise on the Resurrection

” Over the entrance to the gates of the temple of science are written the words: Ye must have faith.”

— Max Planck

Permalink Reply by barbaram yesterday

Thank you, your points are well taken.  

The word faith is a term I rarely use;  other words, like trust, accept, confidence, expect, conviction, sense, devote, and know, are more in my vocabulary.   Perhaps, they are all shades of faith.