Faith vs. Belief

The buddhist world often values skepticism, but just as often points to faith as a fundamental part of practice. How do skepticism and faith define each other? How can they both have a role in strengthening our practice? Michael offered reflections on these questions as we met this past Sunday.

Buddhism encourage faith in the sense of confidence in the practice, which implies that we experiment with elements of the dharma (meditation, ethical behavior, reflections) and, in time, as a result of our experience, come to have a confidence in the solid workability of the path.

In the rich and vibrant philosophical scene of the Buddha’s day, the question of who or what to believe arose often. Two approaches to this question are illustrated in the Suttas. First, is the Buddha’s reflection on “questions that do not tend to edification,” i.e. points of philosophical speculation which can absorb our attention without really leading anywhere near the end of suffering., see

As for which teachers/teachings to listen to, and which to pass by, the Buddha offered instructive words to the Kalamas, See the Kalama Sutta
Thanissaro Bikkhu says . . .Although this discourse is often cited as the Buddha’s carte blanche for following one’s own sense of right and wrong, it actually says something much more rigorous than that. Traditions are not to be followed simply because they are traditions. Reports (such as historical accounts or news) are not to be followed simply because the source seems reliable. One’s own preferences are not to be followed simply because they seem logical or resonate with one’s feelings. Instead, any view or belief must be tested by the results it yields when put into practice; and — to guard against the possibility of any bias or limitations in one’s understanding of those results — they must further be checked against the experience of people who are wise

Sharon Salzberg’s book on wise faith can help us reflect on the deep questions of faith and the variety of its meanings. Examples from life stories as well as careful reflections abound in her book, titled “Faith”.