Monday, October 30, 2006

"Oh Ye of Little Faith"

I was having a conversation the other day with a friend who is a devout Christian. And I mean that in the best sense of the word. He is a kind, honest, compassionate guy who really tries to live according to the traditional ‘core’ Christian ideals, such as “Love One Another” and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

While we were discussing his faith, I let him know that I was raised Catholic, and was not only familiar with the teachings in the bible, but I have actually read the bible, cover-to-cover, twice. Once as a teen-ager, and once as an adult. And as an adolescent, I believed in Christian dogma. Now I do not. He said, “Oh, so it’s not that you are unfamiliar with God’s word. You just choose not to believe.”

I asked him if he chose to believe in God, and he said yes.

Is it just me, or is this bizarre? How can an intelligent, thinking person say, “I choose to believe this, and not that.”

My question applies not only to Christians, but to people of any faith. Do you believe in reincarnation? How so? I don’t mean you like the idea of reincarnation and hope that maybe it’s true. I mean you are absolutely certain about it. I’m talking about real belief and faith. I’m talking about the kind of belief that forms the core of your being, that forms the premise for your life and all the choices you make.

See, I don’t think I have faith in anything. And I think it is impossible to “choose” to believe in anything. To a child, the concept of Santa Clause is very nice, and the belief in the guy brings the child joy. But as soon as they are told Santa Clause does not exist and are shown evidence to the contrary and an explanation that makes more sense, the child ceases to believe in Santa. Can the child “choose” to continue believing?

I don’t think so.

So how can someone choose to believe in a particular religion or faith, if they have access to compelling evidence to the contrary?

Are religious people just faking it? Do they really have faith in Jesus, God, and the Afterlife? Or are so many zealots hell-bent on converting everyone around them just to make themselves more secure in the attractive dogma that they doubt at their cores?

If someone truly believes in Christian dogma, including faith in their afterlife and their place in it, wouldn’t they be completely fearless in the face of death?

Are they?

Like I mentioned, I was raised Catholic. And not just “go to church on Christmas and Easter” Catholic. I studied Catholic history, and considered myself a youthful biblical scholar. I even led retreats for other serious Catholic adolescents. I suppose I had faith in God, Jesus, and all that entails.

However, upon continuing with my more “worldly” education, including Biology, Physics, History, Philosophy, Anthropology, Comparative Religion, Psychology, Sociology, Literature, etc. etc., I found that Christianity as an accurate model of the cosmos made absolutely no sense, but it made perfect sense when considered in historical context, with some sprinklings of psychology and sociology.

I did not choose to stop believing, it was just that my experiences did not align with Christian dogma. Following this shift, as I viewed the world as a young adult without the filter of Christian dogma, I found it mind-boggling that I had ever over-laid this fictional world on top of my immediate experience of the world around me.

Which brings me to Buddhism. As I was learning about science, history, etc., I also learned about Buddhism. The way it was taught at the university, however, also sounded more like superstition and dogma than what I now know as Buddhism. But there was a core to the “religion” that resonated with my experiences: Most people live out their lives filled with delusion; this causes suffering; there is a way out of that suffering, and it involves waking up and seeing things clearly.

Now I know that faith and belief are just thoughts. The universe does not care what you believe. It is what it is, and it is right there in front of you.

44 Comments:

At October 30, 2006, Blogger oxeye said...

The universe does not care what you believe in as long as you believe in something..

Living without any belief is not an advisable way to proceed through life, although a good amount of skepticism is healthy.

The Buddha condemned both absolutism and nihilism as contrary to his way. He also taught that there was a means to end our suffering in our lifetimes.

I think I will choose to "believe" him on both counts. :)

 
At October 30, 2006, Blogger Anatman said...

Oxeye: "The universe does not care what you believe in as long as you believe in something... Living without any belief is not an advisable way to proceed through life..."

Why?

 
At October 30, 2006, Blogger cromanyak said...

I was raised Roman Catholic, and looking back it never suited me. Buddhism suits me and that's why I'm a Buddhist. I don't really think I have a choice, nobody does. Some poeple just haven't realized it yet. It's the same with being an atheist. I can't help it.

 
At October 30, 2006, Blogger Dan said...

cos if you had no beliefs you'd be fucked. you need beliefs like 'living is preferable to death' 'this world is real and it matters how i interact with the other inhabitants' if you didnt have these kind of beliefs you'd quickly end up in prison or in a mental hospital or dead or just really really confused. every thing that you do is done on the basis of some underlying belief or other.

 
At October 30, 2006, Blogger gniz said...

Oxeye says "the Buddha condemned both absolutism and nihilism as contrary to his way."
This is exactly the kind of dogmatic thinking that Anatman is questioning in his post.
First of all, you dont really have a clue who the Buddha was or what he said. You've read something translated from somewhere else just like when Christians read the bible and take that as what Christ said.
I'm not really splitting hairs either. In order to get past dogmatic thinking, it seems to be important to not just quote scripture as if the fact that it has been written down for 3,000 years makes it any more true than what Anatman just wrote 5 minutes ago.

 
At October 30, 2006, Blogger Ed said...

If the universe simply is what it is, why is "Buddhism" -- or indeed, any "ism" -- necessary?

Doesn't that make the very idea of freeing all sentient beings just something else extra to do?

 
At October 30, 2006, Blogger Anatman said...

"you need beliefs like 'living is preferable to death' 'this world is real and it matters how i interact with the other inhabitants'"

Dan, I disagree. I think we continue to function as biological organisms regardless of how we rationalize our actions. Every shred of instinct in you drives you to survive, regardless of any formal "belief" that living is better than death.

Simple direct experience, regardless of personal beliefs, will teach you to behave in certain ways. While walking down the street, try slapping everyone on the face. You don't need any belief that the world is real and your actions matter to quickly change your behavior.

"If the universe simply is what it is, why is "Buddhism" -- or indeed, any "ism" -- necessary? Doesn't that make the very idea of freeing all sentient beings just something else extra to do?"

Ed, Buddhism and the other "isms" are not necessary. As far as the vow to "free all sentient beings," that could be the topic of an entirely new conversation... Maybe the next post?

 
At October 30, 2006, Blogger oxeye said...

anatman - because not believing in anything is an extreme position. Buddhism is about finding a middle way.

gniz - my words were just my thoughts given at the time of my writing them.. Take them with a grain of salt. You can believe anything or nothing.. that is your choice. I think Buddhism involves belief to some extent. You have to pick and choose along your way. That is the way I see it. if you don't see it that way, no skin off my back bro.

 
At October 31, 2006, Blogger Anatman said...

Not believing in anything is an extreme position in as much as not taking drugs is an extreme position. In this way, the "middle way" idea can be bent to rationalize any action.

 
At October 31, 2006, Blogger MikeDoe said...

"I choose to believe this, and not that"

That does actually sound rational. Most people believe a whole bunch of things without knowing that they are beliefs and that they have a choice over those beliefs.

 
At October 31, 2006, Blogger Dan said...

" I think we continue to function as biological organisms regardless of how we rationalize our actions. Every shred of instinct in you drives you to survive, regardless of any formal "belief" that living is better than death.


i think maybe we using different meanings of belief. every shred of instinct makes me want to live but i think those instincts when put into language become the belief ' livings better than death'


"Simple direct experience, regardless of personal beliefs, will teach you to behave in certain ways."

but surely there must be some kind of belief that simple direct experience is worth paying attention to for it to affect our behaviour. i think maybe you mean that we dont need any beliefs other than the simple core beliefs that result from the way we are. e.g after touching fire we are compelled to form the belief that if you touch future fires the same result will happen. without these kinds of very basic beliefs e.g. the belief in induction and the belief that pain is something to be avoided, you'd be fucked.

 
At October 31, 2006, Blogger oxeye said...

anatman, To not believe in anything is a nihilistic viewpoint. Nihilism by definition is an extreme position. Extreme positions are not Buddhism.

 
At October 31, 2006, Blogger oxeye said...

It is somewhat ironic to me that I am taking this position because I have never been much of a believer in anything before. But at this point I now find myself believing in some things..

I believe in the value of practice or I wouldn't be practicing. I also now believe in some of the basic tenets of Buddhism regardless of where they came from or I wouldn't bother following them. Even a hard case like my friend gniz must suspect there is something true in Buddhism or he wouldn't be such a loyal reader of certain Buddhist blogs. Or maybe, like he claims, he only reads them to relieve his boredom. Yeah, right..

Taking the position, "I will not believe in anything." comes with certain risks. The position is sound enough if all you wish is not to be taken in by some erroneous idea. If however, you do not allow yourself any room to accept new ideas, or to make any changes in what you do not believe, the result will be that you will not be able to accept any changes gracefully. And the unwelcome changes that do come your way, and they will come.. will be resisted mightily. Because nihilism is a closed system.

The Buddha supposedly counseled his students to try and avoid looking at things with aversion or attraction. This would include ideas also. Having an open mind is preferable to having a closed mind. To not be willing to believe in anything is having a closed mind.

But I am not trying to convince anyone of anything.. This is just what I think this morning. I expect tomorrow could be different.

 
At October 31, 2006, Blogger Drunken Monkey said...

I have a strong feeling that what Buddha taught was true, although I haven't experienced all that he has taught.
Call me a carrier of the dogma virus, or a robot. It doesn't matter to me.

In the end, its personal intuition that draws you to practice, not that there is logical reason to believe that the self doesn't exist or any other teachings for that matter.

Im weird like that.

 
At October 31, 2006, Blogger Anatman said...

Oxeye:

Thank you for your thoughts and comments, and please consider the following.

When you are practicing Zazen and are no longer clinging to your thoughts, what are your thoughts about belief and faith at that moment?

If you have no thoughts of belief or faith, are you being nihilistic? Is this an extreme position, and therefore not Buddhism?

Dan, I think a belief may be a thought that is clung to and identified with until it has become a filter for our direct experience.

Empty your mind of preconceptions, hopes, aspirations, likes and dislikes, and pay attention to your body and the world around you directly for a moment.

What are your beliefs at this moment? I have none.

Again, this is not something I choose. It just is the way it is.

Just semantics? Perhaps.

 
At October 31, 2006, Blogger oxeye said...

anatman: Thank you too.. when I am sitting zazen, I am not sure when or what I will be thinking or not thinking. My thoughts arise and they pass away. It is always like that.

You wrote, "Empty your mind of preconceptions, hopes, aspirations, likes and dislikes, and pay attention to your body and the world around you directly for a moment. What are your beliefs at this moment? I have none."

Well me either, in that moment. In that moment I won't have belief, likes, dislikes or anything else. But at other times I will. And at other times, you will too, I would guess..

Buddhists are both believers and people that recognize that belief can be an impediment to truth. We must as Buddhists have faith in our practice. A person who does not believe in the truth of the Buddhist way is not a Buddhist. That person can be a lot of other really cool things but he cannot be a Buddhist. I think that is elementary.

You have made a good argument.. But I am not convinced yet. You do have the passion of someone who truly believes in what he says, or in your case, the passion of someone who doesn't really believe in what he says. :)

 
At October 31, 2006, Blogger Anatman said...

"We must as Buddhists have faith in our practice. A person who does not believe in the truth of the Buddhist way is not a Buddhist."

You may have a point there. I refer to myself as a Buddhist for the sake of expediency, to help communicate my perspective to others without having to elaborate for hours or days.

But then again, I know some Buddhists who would say that if you do not believe in reincarnation, you are not a Buddhist. And I know others that would say that if you do believe in reincarnation then you are not a Buddhist. So I take these types of statements with a mountain of salt.

I do not have "faith" in my Buddhist practice. I don't even understand what that means. I think it probably entails an expectation of some kind of result.

I don't call my self "Buddhist" because I believe in the truth of the Buddhist way. I say I am Buddhist because that statement most accurately describes my experience of the world. And I engage in Buddhist practices and studies because this the path that is unfolding before me, and this path helps me see things more clearly.

You see, I don't "believe" in the Buddha's teachings. I have seen that those teachings are true. I don't "believe" that following the Buddhist path will get me to any special place. I just see that the path is a good path.

Right now.

 
At October 31, 2006, Blogger Gesus said...

'We must as Buddhists have faith in our practice'

This comments bothers me....
That whole post bothered me oxeye. And not in a good way.
It would be better this way, 'We must'nt (as Buddhists) have faith in practice'.Is more apt. Faith brings with it an expection of what goina be. As in primate buddism says, a desire. You know what that leads to.

Futhermore, detest how ppl say "as buddist I e.t.c." Its self labeling. Just to remind you's no one is a buddist, one may belive in it but not be it. In same way as your not your job, the money in your account, etc (watch fight club) This "as a buddist we must"etc is another form of high brow egotiscal masterbuation. Reminds me the NRM of chritainianty, which stinks of religion its unbarrable.


Practicing to be(come) a buddhist is putting a purpose on a completly purposeless act. dats why its so difficult
Sitting does not need a puposore. The sitter does.
"Practice" (hate that word too) is just sitting. Just being. Your not practicing at sitting, but are sitting.

Far from Anatman main post, which hits on stuff i've pondered for years now. Glad other ppl thing of that too.
ta

 
At October 31, 2006, Blogger PA said...

"Seeing" that Zazen is a good path as opposed to "believing" it is, is just playing with semantics, I think.
When I do zazen I see it's good, so I now have this belief that it's a good thing, so I carry on.
Seeing is believing!
For me anyway...
And just because something is extreme, doesn't mean it's not Buddhism. I could cut out all burgers, which is quite extreme, but still be Buddhist!

 
At October 31, 2006, Blogger earDRUM said...

Nice post, Anatman.

I don't think I believe in anything. If I stick my finger in a fire and it hurts, I assume that fire is hot and can sometimes hurt me. I might discover that if I stuck my finger in ice for a while and than stuck it in fire it would take a while before it hurt. So it isn't a simple black-and-white thing, after all. I discover that my earlier assumption was't quite accutrate.
What I'm trying to say is that I think we continuously update our mental notes about our envirnment and our selves. From my experience, nothing is ever completely certain. So I hesitate to believe in anything, for certain. The more I live, the more I learn, and the more my assumptions about the world are changed.
I think it is better to not believe. Once we believe, we shut ourselves out from learning more. And this closed-mindedness is the very danger that most religions pose to our world.

 
At October 31, 2006, Blogger Dan said...

"You see, I don't "believe" in the Buddha's teachings. I have seen that those teachings are true. I don't "believe" that following the Buddhist path will get me to any special place. I just see that the path is a good path."

i would agree with pa here (hey pa :) ). you're just playing with words. compare what you said with


"i don't believe that if i touch a fire it will burn me, i have seen it is true".

or even,

" i don't believe that jesus christ is the one true living god, i have seen that it is true"

also going back to your original statement. it still rests on a a squillion underlying beliefs. eg. the belief that you are able to distinguish the true from the false and that the two words have a publicly understandable meaning. the belief that the word good (in 'a good path') has a tangible meaning. the belief that there is some point or reason why it is worth taking this path and not another. millions of beliefs all the time.


when you say

"Empty your mind of preconceptions, hopes, aspirations, likes and dislikes, and pay attention to your body and the world around you directly for a moment.

What are your beliefs at this moment? I have none."

you're basically saying "empty your mind of beliefs..... now what are your beliefs?" well sure but as oxeye points out this is not how we normally are which is one of the reasons why it is so important to sit zazen. it gives us an opportunity to experience reality without all of the usual crap or filters as you put it. the 'backwards step' as dogen called it.

 
At October 31, 2006, Blogger Drunken Monkey said...

Floppy Donkey penis.

God damn, Im so tired and all this mindless banter is annoying me.
Im going to sleep.

 
At October 31, 2006, Blogger Anatman said...

Dan: "one of the reasons why it is so important to sit zazen. it gives us an opportunity to experience reality without all of the usual crap or filters as you put it. the 'backwards step' as dogen called it."

You can experience reality without the usual crap and filters even when you are not sitting zazen. One place to start is by examining beliefs and preconceptions.

When I say I see that the Buddhist path is a good path, it still does not entail belief. This is a direct experience. When I eat something, I know if it tastes good or if it tastes rotten. If it tastes rotten, I spit it out. If it tastes good, I continue eating.

On my Buddhist path, the experiential aspect is different than the sense of taste, but it is still a direct experience. No belief involved.

 
At October 31, 2006, Blogger oxeye said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At October 31, 2006, Blogger oxeye said...

Pa - "And just because something is extreme, doesn't mean it's not Buddhism. I could cut out all burgers, which is quite extreme, but still be Buddhist!"

Pa, you lost me here.. I assume you are joking. If you are not an American, cutting out burgers is not really very extreme.. It comes down to what you believe Buddhism to be. I believe it is about finding a middle way.

Eardrum - You should hesitate to believe in just anything. But you should not hesitate to believe in something. After sitting zazen for a while, you should begin to trust your intuition. If you can’t do that you should begin to question what it is you don’t believe and why. If you can question belief, you should be able to question your disbelief.

Anatman - “When I say I see that the Buddhist path is a good path, it still does not entail belief. This is a direct experience. When I eat something, I know if it tastes good or if it tastes rotten. If it tastes rotten, I spit it out. If it tastes good, I continue eating.”

Anatman, That would make sense if all food either tasted good or tasted rotten. Your statement is dualistically simplistic. Food usually tastes somewhere in between good and rotten. Buddhism will entail some belief, as it will entail it’s very opposite. It is not either-or.

 
At October 31, 2006, Blogger Anatman said...

Let me be more explicit.

I am using the terms "faith" and "belief" to refer to a conviction for which one has no proof or direct evidence.

When I say something is good, this is not a statement of belief. This is a statement of personal value and preference, based on direct experience of that "something," whether it is food, or my Buddhist "practice."

If I say "'Heroes' is a good TV show," this is not an expression of belief. This is an expression of preference, based on personal experience.

If I say "Jesus Christ is the one true God," this is an expression of faith and personal belief.

See the difference?

My experience of Buddhism is that it does not require any belief at all.

Oxeye, using this definition, what elements of Buddhism do you feel require faith or belief?

 
At November 01, 2006, Blogger PA said...

Oxeye - he he, no I wasn't joking! It wasn't a good point though :-) But I meant that sometimes I feel I need to be extreme to regain a sort of balance: it seems quite extreme to cut out TV, for example, but I think it's a good way to regain a bit of balance. It's quite extreme to decide to sell my car and use public transport or walk places, but maybe that's what is needed. My rubbish point being - sometimes extreme measures are needed.

 
At November 01, 2006, Blogger oxeye said...

Anatman - I see your point and I understand the difference. But I am starting to realize that the words faith and belief might be a little problematic here. For a lot of people they have some very heavy emotional baggage attached to them beyond what they actually signify. For someone who was raised in a tradition that really stressed having faith and belief, the words might be somewhat off-putting.

Faith is just having a little confidence or trust in the correctness of your direction. It does not mean you have to accept things that you don't think are good or true. You said, "I see that the Buddhist Path is a good path" but you do not necessarily believe that it is a good path. I think you are shying away from clarity because of what you might be attaching to a word.

 
At November 01, 2006, Blogger Dan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At November 01, 2006, Blogger Dan said...

"On my Buddhist path, the experiential aspect is different than the sense of taste, but it is still a direct experience. No belief involved."

but that's how we form our belief:. through direct experience.
we experience the sun rising every morning so we form the belief
'tomorrow morning the sun will rise'

if someone directly experienced jesus being the one true god that would then be the basis of their belief. if you directly experienced buddhism being a good path you would believe it to be a good path. if you directly experienced oysters tasting good you'd believe oysters to taste good.
and conversely,

if someone directly experienced oysters tasting like crap then they would believe they tasted like crap. if someone directly experienced buddhism being a load of hocus pocus nonsense then they would believe it to be so and if someone directly experienced jesus to be a false god then they would believe that.

phew!

 
At November 01, 2006, Blogger Anatman said...

"Faith is just having a little confidence or trust in the correctness of your direction."

Like I said, I have no faith. Not even in the correctness of my direction. Seriously. "Correctness"? What is that? I say, baggage.

"we experience the sun rising every morning so we form the belief 'tomorrow morning the sun will rise'"

If you have that belief, it is just a wisp of nothingness, and again, excess baggage. The sun does not care if you think it will rise in the morning. Maybe it will, maybe it will not. Maybe you will not live through the night to see it. Science tells us that one day, the earth will stop turning and the sun will stop shining. That day may be today.

Are you guys missing the whole point of Zazen? The NOW. Direct Experience. Not fantasies grown like crystals in your minds.

"I am starting to realize that the words faith and belief might be a little problematic here. For a lot of people they have some very heavy emotional baggage attached to them beyond what they actually signify."

They don't have baggage attached, they ARE baggage.

Zazen is not a religion, and at its core, neither is Buddhism. It is about letting go of preconceptions, not clinging to them. Direct experience of the moment. NOW

As long as you cling to your beliefs or your faith, you are missing the point. Even the belief or faith that your path is "correct" is just another ego-boosting projection.

 
At November 02, 2006, Blogger gniz said...

Anatman,

So well said. I think people are really missing this distinction.

Faith in the sun rising does not cause it to rise. But i also think that people are speaking about how they make choices, and at a basic level, underlying beliefs may cause us to do or not do a lot of things. Like not putting your hand in a fire. As someone said, there are basic assumptions we make about the world and it is a very gray area as to when that goes from "direct moment to moment experience" over to a "belief" or baggage.

I think it is more important or just as important to recognize more intricate dogmatic belief systems within ourselves. Having basic beliefs about not hitting random people or not putting your hand in a fire are not nearly as problematic as they rigid systems people set up in their minds.

I think many many buddhists have incredibly complex frameworks of beliefs that are just as dogmatic as anyone else's beliefs. Some of these Buddhists can be found on this blog posting.

(Yes i am one of them! Ha!)

g

 
At November 02, 2006, Blogger oxeye said...

anatman - Not believing that the sun will rise might be intellectually honest, but we set our alarms anyway. The Sun will rise whether you rise or not. Your rising is dependant on the Sun, not the other way around. Is it possible that the Sun might not rise tomorrow? I guess it is possible.. But we still set our alarms. Buddhism is nothing if not practical.

You asked, “What elements of Buddhism do you feel require faith or belief?"

Basically I do not think any of the elements of Buddhism require belief. Air does not require breathing. I just believe that following the Buddhist way can help people wake up to what is true. That is a matter of belief in truth. It is not a fact.

You wrote, “there is a way out of that suffering, and it involves waking up and seeing things clearly.”

but can you prove it?

 
At November 02, 2006, Blogger Anatman said...

Oxeye:

"You [anatman] wrote, 'there is a way out of that suffering, and it involves waking up and seeing things clearly.' but can you prove it?"

Can I prove this to you? No. Have I experienced this directly? Yes.

Gniz:

"and it is a very gray area as to when that goes from "direct moment to moment experience" over to a "belief" or baggage. I think it is more important or just as important to recognize more intricate dogmatic belief systems within ourselves.

Point taken, and well put. In a conversation like this, semantics are difficult to get around. Words and definitions are critical, but they also get in the way.

On a side note, Gniz, I've gotta say, something about the tone and content of your post just blew me away. So thoughtful and skilful. No trace of anger. Has there been a major developement in your life/path?

All who participated in this discussion:

Maybe I'm talking about dogma? Unquestioned belief? Belief in the face of contradictory evidence? Belief in something for which you have no evidence, and of which you have no direct experience? Take your pick. These things prevent us from seeing clearly.

When we get down to splitting hairs and assuming fortified positions, the returns of the discussion diminish. I see that I am guilty of that.

But I also appreciate the patience, passion, and honesty of the good folks here who take the time to think about the nonsense I ramble on about, and put more time into posting thoughtful commentary that forms the basis of our discussions.

You are my teachers, and I thank you.

 
At November 02, 2006, Blogger gniz said...

Anatman,

Thanks for the kind words.
The lack of anger in the post is just reflecting the fact that at that moment i wrote it i wasnt angry.
I wish I could say i'd somehow found the key to my path or whatever.
I'm interested in the 'dogmatic thinking' part of this discussion.
I'm curious about Buddhists who on one hand can talk about relinquishing illusory views, waking up to reality--and yet on the other hand they quote Buddha, scripture, or Allen Watts to justify their claims.
I feel (and it is NOT a fact, i may be wrong) that this is dogmatic thinking.
How is the Buddha any different than Jesus? He never actually wrote anything, and most of us are using translations to see what he supposedly said about things.
Now, we test his statements with practice and come to conclusions.
Many Christians say the same thing, they accept Jesus' teachings and find that they are saved.
I'm curious about people's need for rigid structures and stories in order to practice something as simple as Zen.

Aaron

 
At November 03, 2006, Blogger Justin said...

Oxeye,

Not believing in anything at all (except perhaps provisionally) is not the same as Nihilism - Nihilism is a belief-system like any other. Not having rigid beliefs is closely related to skepticism and Buddhism alike.

 
At November 03, 2006, Blogger Justin said...

Not believing in anything is not the same as believing there is nothing to believe in or believing there in 'nothing' - Not believing in anything is a state of true open-mindedness.

 
At November 03, 2006, Blogger Justin said...

Sorry for the fragmented response.

The point I was trying to make to Oxeye is that 'not believing in anything' is not the same as 'disbelieving in everything'. Disbelief is a belief that something doesn't exist.

Belief and indeed faith, do play a part in Buddhism. Yet should not be blind, nstead it should be investigated, tested and developed. Zazen and 'awakening' are not states of belief but states of direct awareness.

Belief is a skillful means.

 
At November 03, 2006, Blogger oxeye said...

thanks justin..

 
At November 03, 2006, Blogger karen said...

If you know something to be true, you don't have to believe in it. I think if you believe in something you are hoping that it is true. I don't have to say I believe the sun comes up everyday because I know it does. As far as faith goes, I see faith a little differently. I was raised catholic also and went to catholic school most of my life. Faith for me is implicit trust in the universe that all is well and all will be well. I forget which mystic said that but one of them did. And I really feel that way. When I get to worrying, wondering, driving myself crazy with why people are the way they are etc, I just know that it is the way it is and everything will be ok. That doesn't mean that I sit back and do nothing. I do what I can, when I can, but I'm not married to the outcome. For me this is the meaning of form is emptiness and emptiness is form. I sit, but I don't have to sit to come upon reality and people who sit to gain a glimpse of something are going to be in for a big disappointment. You can do a lot of things with your mind. One of the things you can't do is force your mind to awaken. I have in the past tried to do this. It doesn't work. Neither does all this talk.

 
At November 03, 2006, Blogger oxeye said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At November 03, 2006, Blogger oxeye said...

Hi Karen.

"One of the things you can't do is force your mind to awaken. I have in the past tried to do this. It doesn't work. Neither does all this talk."

words are less than perfect as a means of relating to others what we think we know.. and thinking about it can keep us from doing what really needs to be done. which is paying attention to the present moment.

But it is not without value. or we all wouldn't be doing it.

 
At January 03, 2007, Blogger Ray Tomes said...

The post states "How can an intelligent, thinking person say, “I choose to believe this, and not that.”"

Well they do choose, but they don't choose to choose, if you know what I mean. But your point is essentially valid.

"I’m talking about real belief and faith. I’m talking about the kind of belief that forms the core of your being, that forms the premise for your life and all the choices you make."

About 30 years ago I was visited by the Jehovah's witness on a fairly regular basis. I should mention that try as they did and as I did, we never managed to convert each other. ;-) On one occasion in 1975 they told me that the world would end before the end of 1976. They confirmed that they had a lot of work to do before then, and needed funds. So I offered to buy the guys house for about 1/4 what is was worth and I would pay now and get ownership at the end of 1976. His reply was "Oh ye of little faith!" but I said that I had faith in my beiefs and was just finding out if he did. Turned out that he didn't, as I expected.

 
At January 18, 2007, Blogger Adam said...

The way I see it at the moment is this: Belief provides a necessary structure for my practice and life, a focus that channels the energies of my life in a more productive manner.

I believe in the four noble truths and the eightfold path because it makes the most sense to me and seems a good way to live. However I think my meditation practice allows me to step outside those beliefs and understand they are essentially products of my mind and have no intrinsic existence outside of it.

I don’t see anything wrong with belief as long as you keep that perspective, as Max Stirner says in ‘The Ego and his own’ (and I’m paraphrasing because it’s been a long time since I read it) ‘the problem is that we create all these laws and rules and then forget it was us who created them’, I don’t think it’s beliefs themselves that’s the problem it’s delegating responsibility for them to some higher power (be it a government, a guru or a deity) that causes issues.

 

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