Some thoughts on Faith


I briefly looked at Christianity in my younger days but I never embraced it fully. However, being brought up in a Christian society I have some idea of what faith means in that belief system. Perhaps my understanding is incomplete and I stand to be corrected. Within the theistic religions it seems to be a strong belief in something that cannot be tested or verified in a logical, rational way. For many believers it is a prerequisite of following their path, although perhaps not all modern Christians would hold to such blind faith.

With this understanding (possibly incomplete) I have sometimes found it hard to grasp what people mean when talking about faith in a Buddhist context. Is there something, a greater power in which a Buddhist has faith? The Buddha taught that there is no creator/God/higher power and yet at the same time many scriptures seem to imply that there is something beyond our ‘small mind’, although this is not a creator figure. I think Reverend Master Jiyu implied this but perhaps I misunderstand her teaching.

Recently I listened to a Dharma talk by Reverend Master Shiko Rom, a monk at Shasta. She quoted from a booklet put together by Reverend Master Koten in which he says that “Faith is not the belief in particular things, it is rather active willingness and the activity of continuing on.”  (The talk is well worth listening to and this quote is around the 23rd minute. The link is below). This definition resonates with me and after many years of training I feel a strong faith growing.

I believe that it is a faith rooted in my experience of training. After all, in the beginning no matter how strongly we may be attracted to Buddhist practice (and I was) we have only the scriptures and the words of others to go by. The Buddha said that we should not believe what he said but rather we should find out for ourselves whether what he taught was true. Knowing this is, in part, what caused my confusion when I also heard people talk about having faith while training.

However, little by little I have seen how training has changed me and benefited my life. Thus, when I now come up against obstacles and often great pain, I am better able to tell myself to just keep going; to be willing to take another step even if at that moment I can see no light at the end of the tunnel. But it is also important that when doing this I have no expectation as to the particular outcome or way through the difficulties that I might like. That imposes an expectation of my ego and prevents me from simply embracing whatever comes.

I don’t think training ever gets easier. To break through the delusions of mind and samsara requires constant diligence and effort, perhaps even more as time goes on because the mind tricks become more subtle. Yet within the challenges there has grown a certain quiet understanding that all I have to do is to keep going and that comes from my experience. I think that is faith.

I would love to hear what anyone else thinks. This is the link to the talk

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