What is Faith? What is Refuge?
Following the gathering at the end of May commemorating the Buddhist holiday of Vesak, there’s been a lot of interest and questions on the topic of Faith. What is it? How does one develop it? How does one practice recollecting the primary objects of Faith and Refuge – the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha?
In this follow-up talk given on the New Moon night, Tahn Pamutto offers reflections on what Faith actually means, and points out the way the term is used in popular culture might not actually be the thing we’re trying to grow in.
As it turns out, there’s a difference between Faith and Belief. In terms of mindstates, one blind belief is not much different from any other. We’re gambling that the thing we believe is true. This is the danger of blind faith. A deeply devoted believer in a particular religion is no different in this way from a mentally disturbed individual convinced that something is true even if everyone around disagrees. It’s the same faculty of mind at work.
Instead, the Buddha exhorted his students to not cultivate blind faith on any grounds – as in the Kalama Sutta (AN 3:65): – “Don’t believe on the grounds of oral tradition or strength of teaching lineage, not by hearsay or book learning, by logic or inference, not by working it out for yourself, not because the speaker seems competent or even because you think, ‘This person is my teacher.'”
The Faith we cultivate in this spiritual practice is the confidence in those things that we can prove to ourselves – based on things we have seen proven true again and again. This is the kind of Faith that grows stronger and bears fruit; the faith that allows us to overcome obstacles not by mere prayer but by an internal confidence in reliable processes of mind and nature.
Tahn Pamutto goes on to describe the Triple Gem, and how these are not objects of blind faith by spiritual principles we help us work past three of our biggest obstacles in life: Pain, Fear, and Illness.