Why is Buddhist Faith not blind?

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Why is Buddhist Faith not blind?

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Feb 26, 2009 4:35 am

In this corner of the Forum: viewtopic.php?f=16&t=741&p=9390#p9390
JC spoke thus:
jcsuperstar wrote:its not just the 8fp but also the 4 truths that require faith, i mean sure there is suffering, that we can all see but why is there suffering? its quite obvious that many have looked at this problem of suffering and come up with different reasons so why should one automaticly assume the buddha was right? we have to have faith that he was right about the cause of suffering, then we again have to have faith that it can in fact end, that he wasnt just unloading a bunch of BS on us and then at that stage we have to have faith that his path will work and that he wasnt just faking it... buddhism actually takes a lot of faith if you really think about it. it just doesnt ask us to have blind faith like other religions do.

I don't completely disagree, but if I was asked to justify this statement I could have a little difficulty.

I mean, basically I have accepted the proposition: "Develop sila, read dhamma, meditate, etc, and you'll eventually be liberated". And I can certainly see progress, but there is no logical way of proving that that it will lead to liberation.

Equally, a Christian might accept the proposition: "Live morally, go to church, read the Bible, meditate, etc, and you'll go to heaven". And by doing that he/she would probably also notice quite a lot of progress, since he/she would be developing many of the same things that a Buddhist would, though the meditation and "view" would be different. [And in fact, a Buddhist would say that if a Christian developed the loving-kindness values that (sensible) Christians aspire to, then he/she probably would be reborn in "heaven".
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ay_24.html Tolerance and Diversity by Bhikkhu Bodhi]

So, for the sake of argument, how would you argue that my "faith" is less "blind" than the faith of my Christian counterpart?

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Re: Why is Buddhist Faith not blind?

Postby jcsuperstar » Thu Feb 26, 2009 5:17 am

because we're asked to test it, and told it can happen in our lives, not just after death
also many other faiths have no tolerence for questioning the faith or the teaching themselves.
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Re: Why is Buddhist Faith not blind?

Postby Jechbi » Thu Feb 26, 2009 5:32 am

mikenz66 wrote:So, for the sake of argument, how would you argue that my "faith" is less "blind" than the faith of my Christian counterpart?

It's a different theory of faith. In many forms of Christianity, faith itself is an operative component of salvation. But this faith also is not of the self, but inspired by the Holy Spirit. So even faith is not something a Christian can point to and say, this thing I have done has earned salvation. In its own way, the Christian faith (at least in some of its forms) is presented as a path toward the realization of liberating selflessness, (though not in the same way as it's understood in Buddhism).

The theory: Christian faith is blind insofar as it is inspired by the Holy Spirit, not based on one's own logic or intelligence or any other such ability. For this reason, in Christianity (at least in some of its forms), grace works through this faith, which in turn is further cultivated by good works inspired by faith. The "human" role of the unrepentant sinner is to reject this faith, thus putting the "self" in the way of direct apprehension of the divine.

If you try to apply the term "blind faith" to Buddhism, it doesn't fit in the same way that it fits into many forms of Christian theology, because there's an altogether different theory and use of faith in Buddhism.
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Re: Why is Buddhist Faith not blind?

Postby Prasadachitta » Thu Feb 26, 2009 6:38 am

[quote="mikenz66"
So, for the sake of argument, how would you argue that my "faith" is less "blind" than the faith of my Christian counterpart?

Metta
Mike[/quote]
Christians tend to give advise about how to overcome spiritual difficulties that makes no sense to me. Other than that Im not sure that there is any difference. Of course I am totally out of the loop when it comes to any other religion but Buddhism and The Native American Church.

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Re: Why is Buddhist Faith not blind?

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Feb 26, 2009 8:20 am

Hi JC,

Continuing my "Devil's Advocate" position:
jcsuperstar wrote:because we're asked to test it, and told it can happen in our lives, not just after death
also many other faiths have no tolerence for questioning the faith or the teaching themselves.

Well, yes, but fully testing it means going all the way to Arahantship, which may take me quite a few more lifetimes at this rate... :coffee:

MN 27 Cula-hatthipadopama Sutta
The Shorter Elephant Footprint Simile
"This, too, is called a footprint of the Tathagata, a scratch mark of the Tathagata, a tusk slash of the Tathagata, but a disciple of the noble ones would not yet come to the conclusion, 'The Blessed One is rightly self-awakened; the Dhamma is well-taught by the Blessed One; the Sangha of the Blessed One's disciples has practiced rightly.'
...
"His heart, thus knowing, thus seeing, is released from the fermentation of sensuality, the fermentation of becoming, the fermentation of ignorance. With release, there is the knowledge, 'Released.' He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'

"This, too, is called a footprint of the Tathagata, a scratch mark of the Tathagata, a tusk slash of the Tathagata, and it is here that a disciple of the noble ones has come to conclusion: 'The Blessed One is rightly self-awakened; the Dhamma is well-taught by the Blessed One; the Sangha of the Blessed One's disciples has practiced rightly.'"


So, until then we're taking it on trust, aren't we?

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Re: Why is Buddhist Faith not blind?

Postby jcsuperstar » Thu Feb 26, 2009 8:47 am

sure.... sorta

you havent made a value judgement about it though, you havent said faith is bad or faith is good. most people who leave other religions for buddhism do, they see faith as something bad and then try to refute buddhism as a religion which requires faith.

also most "faith based" religions do not actually have faith, faith is based on knowledge. you have to know god and have seen how he acts etc to have faith. so in reality the deist religions have no faith at all since they have nothing base it on.

say my brother calls me at 3am from jail and says "some woman said i raped her but i didnt can you help?" now i know my brother i know his actions etc, i would have faith that he's telling the truth. if a stranger called i could not have faith, since i have no relationship or prior knowledge of his actions
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Re: Why is Buddhist Faith not blind?

Postby cooran » Thu Feb 26, 2009 9:26 am

Hello all,

Just so we are all on the one page about what the Buddha taught 'faith' actually is:
"Does Saddhā mean Faith?'' by Ñānamoli Thera
http://www.bps.lk/wheels_library/wh_052 ... c178478034
Faith in the Buddha's Teaching, by Soma Thera
http://www.bps.lk/wheels_library/wh_262.html

metta
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Re: Why is Buddhist Faith not blind?

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Feb 26, 2009 10:06 am

Hi JC,
jcsuperstar wrote:you havent made a value judgement about it though, you havent said faith is bad or faith is good. most people who leave other religions for buddhism do, they see faith as something bad and then try to refute buddhism as a religion which requires faith.

I'd say that they are confused. I think it's obvious that the practise of Buddhism requires faith.

I was trying to tease out in what way Buddhist faith that attaining Nibbana is possible is different from Christian faith regarding Heaven being something attainable. I don't actually find the argument that "Nibbana is possible in this very life" a particularly significant difference. It's merely a difference in timing, not a difference in "knowability". [Besides, a "this life" interpretation also exists in Christianity.]

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Re: Why is Buddhist Faith not blind?

Postby nathan » Thu Feb 26, 2009 11:50 am

I was brought up in the Christian faith so don't get me started about the similarities or the differences or I may never shut up! :smile:

I went into a christian bookshop in the city a few weeks ago and asked for books about meditation. They couldn't find me any and I couldn't find any either. The shopkeeper eyed me more suspiciously the longer I looked through the books they did have. Not that there was any ill will involved, I imagine she simply wondered what I was looking for so enthusiastically. I assured her that I would find some books on the subject elsewhere by christian authors which is very true. Christianity does not lack some insights into the subject but in general I have not seen many christians who have a strong meditative practice and the difference does show even in them.

So, I would say that the path is not blind because we are taught to enter and continue on this path with our eyes open. That is true all the way along or we wouldn't wrestle with our understanding as we do. I think this is quite different from other forms of faith and it does not work itself out in the same kinds of ways even when the faith appears equally strong or even stronger in effect.
Last edited by nathan on Thu Feb 26, 2009 12:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}
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Re: Why is Buddhist Faith not blind?

Postby genkaku » Thu Feb 26, 2009 12:08 pm

I prefer a pretty flat-footed approach to faith -- one that admits what needs to be admitted and goes forward anyway.

First: I have tried a lot of things to assure my happiness and peace in this life and most of them have proven unable to provide anything other than a temporary fix.

Second: Buddhism holds out some promise ... but then so have the other things I tried. It's a crapshoot, pure and simple: No one can foresee the future, no matter how yummy the words may be.

Third: I put my money on Buddhist practice because nothing else has worked very well. Are Buddhism's promises true? I don't know. Is it just another two-penny religion? I don't know. But I put my money on Buddhism because there is a lot of so-called evidence (teachers, sutras, etc.) that SEEM to accord with my disposition and hopes.

Fourth: I am filled with about equal measures of hope and skepticism and denying either one is pure hooey. All I can do is PRACTICE AND FIND OUT. So, on behalf of my hopes, I may quote scripture and try to practice what is advised. On behalf of my skepticism, I may try not to lie. But in the midst of all this, I will do my best to remember: No one can know the future. My faith and hope are just my faith and hope. Neither of them provides the firm ground I seek. They may support and encourage, but that does not make their promises -- yet -- true.

Fifth: My teacher once observed that "for the first four or five years (of practice), belief and hope are necessary. After that, they are not so necessary." Why? Because anyone with experience of anything has no need of running around believing or hoping. Experience is what you KNOW ... and isn't that better than anything you might simply hope or believe?

Sixth: Knowing is not a static thing. It changes from moment to moment. Yesterday's understanding may encourage today's, but that doesn't mean that yesterday's understanding is the same as today's. For this reason, practice is endless.

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Re: Why is Buddhist Faith not blind?

Postby zavk » Thu Feb 26, 2009 12:39 pm

Thanks for starting this great thread Mike! This is something I've been pondering on recently. I shall have to gather my thoughts carefully. But for now, I'd like to make some general remarks, if only to give myself a point of reference for a fuller response later.

Firstly, whilst I appreciate how Buddhism enjoins us to base faith on investigation I think this notion of a 'verified faith' (and particularly one that is opposed to so-called 'blind faith') has sometimes become a convenient slogan of sorts. This is not to deny the various suttas and commentaries that espouse the importance of independent inquiry. Rather, I'm wondering about the unexamined assumptions that lie behind our reading of such advice as well as our presuppositions about what is within the domain of 'the verifiable'.

Secondly, and this follows from the first point, I think it'd be worth our while to take a step back to reconsider the very notion of 'faith' itself. It seems to me that in discussions like this, the word 'faith' is used--whether in criticising or supporting one position or another--as if it has some self-evident meaning that is just waiting to be unveiled. I think a way forward is not to be so quick to qualify faith with this or that (as 'blind' or 'verified') but to be willing to grapple with 'faith' itself. For me this is precisely what 'faith' demands of me.

Hmmmm... I'm not quite sure what I'm on about now. This 'faith' thing is strange... I'm going to bed now.

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Re: Why is Buddhist Faith not blind?

Postby nathan » Thu Feb 26, 2009 1:03 pm

I can't say it's the same for me as with most people. I "grappled" with my faith in the context of Christianity all through childhood and into adulthood. With the Dhamma, as with the rest of life, I no longer grapple with faith. It is a quality or condition that, as Genkaku has said, is there or not. This approach makes it much easier to see where my supreme confidence is. I DO grapple with the knowledge, quite tangibly, and with the understanding ultimately but it is the realizations, based on both the knowledge and the faith that acts together with it that results in that understanding. I do not know what is right to do or think at times but I am taught and so I try out that teaching with one kind of faith and the results lead to an entirely different quality of faith.

Ironically, my Christian faith has really benefited from my Buddhist faith and visa versa. Before the Dhamma practice, I had doubts about God and Christ. I have far fewer doubts overall now and I get along much better with both God and Christ and I am sure the Buddha would approve of the increased harmony in my internal neighborhoods. The Dhamma is my refuge and sanctuary but God is in a reality for me much more apparently now than He was before I made the very long considered and deep commitment to Buddhism.
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}
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Re: Why is Buddhist Faith not blind?

Postby clw_uk » Thu Feb 26, 2009 3:37 pm

Id say that faith is not blind in buddhism because your not told you must accept this, it invites you to investigate and discover for yourselves. You have confidence in it that turns into understanding when you have insight into it. So you can start with the precepts for example, you dont know fully when you begin if they bring benefit, so you take them and reflect on if they bring benefit or not so you turn it from a confidence in the begining to knowing at the end



The Buddhadhamma is not a metaphysical thing either or theoretical like heaven, hell, god and angels etc are since these are just concepts, words, ideas and views that come from thinking, from conditionality. The Buddhadhamma is simply about reality, its just how things are, it doesnt come from thinking or views or beliefs. So its something thats true in this moment, you just dont see it, so all that needs to be done is to realise it

At least thats my take on it



Mike

Well, yes, but fully testing it means going all the way to Arahantship, which may take me quite a few more lifetimes at this rate


No reason why you cant now


I was trying to tease out in what way Buddhist faith that attaining Nibbana is possible is different from Christian faith regarding Heaven being something attainable. I don't actually find the argument that "Nibbana is possible in this very life" a particularly significant difference. It's merely a difference in timing, not a difference in "knowability



Having confidence in Nibbana though is something different since its a reality that can be understood here and now, its a confidence in ability to understand, heaven is a concept that may or may not be real and you have no way of knowing until death, so it comes completely from blind acceptance. Buddhism you can say "hang on a minute, lets see if its true" you cant do this with heaven etc


Faith in Buddhism is a means to an end, it gets you started to see for oneself, its not a salvation in its own right. Having faith in the buddhadhamma wont help you on its own
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Re: Why is Buddhist Faith not blind?

Postby Jechbi » Thu Feb 26, 2009 7:45 pm

A few random thoughts:

nathan wrote:I no longer grapple with faith. It is a quality or condition that, as Genkaku has said, is there or not.

This is a key to understanding faith. It is either present or not, depending on conditions that are not-self. Some Christians get very down on themselves if they believe they have "lost their faith." They fret and worry about going to hell. I think these feelings stem from the core misunderstanding of associating "faith" with "self," as in, "This is my faith. My faith is strong, or my faith is weak." That's one reason many Christian churches focus on cultivating faith in the midst of hardship through prayer (potentially a very powerful form of meditation), study, communion, fellowship, good works and so on. It's the whole process of planting the seeds. Just don't look too closely for the "me" in there. Conditions arise and pass away.

mikenz66 wrote:Well, yes, but fully testing it means going all the way to Arahantship, which may take me quite a few more lifetimes at this rate... :coffee:
So, until then we're taking it on trust, aren't we?

Implicit in this discussion is the split between "now" and "the future," as if we practice "now" with the expectation of some result in the "future." In one respect, that's a valid way of looking at it. After all, the Buddha's entire teaching revolves around suffering and the end of suffering. In anther respect, however, if we get too caught up in expectations about the future, I think it can distract us from the work at hand. For example, let's say you see a man bleeding on the sidewalk. One approach would be to wonder, should I help? Is anyone else going to help? If I help and mess up, will he sue me? etc. Another approach is to set all that aside and just help the poor bloke.

The reality is that we're all suffering. We've mostly learned at least to some extent that short-term solutions like wealth, good relationships, good health etc. yield only temporary results. Suffering continues. So we're motivated to practice for the end of suffering for ourselves and others. Will it work? Will we be successful? The question is pointless, in my opinion. As long as we're not fully successful, we don't have any real choice but to keep on working. And once we are fully successful, then the question is meaningless.

I still say it's possible to think in terms of faith without expectations. In Buddhism, I don't think we have blind faith in some imagined future, such as arahantship. Instead, we have firm, unshakable faith in suffering, real and present in this very moment. Faith in suffering motivates us.

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Re: Why is Buddhist Faith not blind?

Postby Individual » Thu Feb 26, 2009 8:13 pm

mikenz66 wrote:In this corner of the Forum: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 9390#p9390
JC spoke thus:
jcsuperstar wrote:its not just the 8fp but also the 4 truths that require faith, i mean sure there is suffering, that we can all see but why is there suffering? its quite obvious that many have looked at this problem of suffering and come up with different reasons so why should one automaticly assume the buddha was right? we have to have faith that he was right about the cause of suffering, then we again have to have faith that it can in fact end, that he wasnt just unloading a bunch of BS on us and then at that stage we have to have faith that his path will work and that he wasnt just faking it... buddhism actually takes a lot of faith if you really think about it. it just doesnt ask us to have blind faith like other religions do.

I don't completely disagree, but if I was asked to justify this statement I could have a little difficulty.

I mean, basically I have accepted the proposition: "Develop sila, read dhamma, meditate, etc, and you'll eventually be liberated". And I can certainly see progress, but there is no logical way of proving that that it will lead to liberation.

Equally, a Christian might accept the proposition: "Live morally, go to church, read the Bible, meditate, etc, and you'll go to heaven". And by doing that he/she would probably also notice quite a lot of progress, since he/she would be developing many of the same things that a Buddhist would, though the meditation and "view" would be different. [And in fact, a Buddhist would say that if a Christian developed the loving-kindness values that (sensible) Christians aspire to, then he/she probably would be reborn in "heaven".
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ay_24.html Tolerance and Diversity by Bhikkhu Bodhi]

So, for the sake of argument, how would you argue that my "faith" is less "blind" than the faith of my Christian counterpart?

Metta
Mike

Buddhist faith isn't "blind," because it's not the additional arbitrary acceptance of particular propositions, out of ignorance, attachment, fear, or doubt, but rather, Buddhist faith is a clear extension of what you already know, rooted in knowledge, nonattachment, courage, and self-confidence.

If you argue that Buddhist, Christian, and Muslim faith is all equally blind, then you hardly have a basis to explain why you are a Buddhist and not a Christian.

I think that Christian faith and Buddhist faith are comparable, but Christian faith is packaged with various delusions.
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Re: Why is Buddhist Faith not blind?

Postby clw_uk » Thu Feb 26, 2009 8:16 pm

I like something Ajahn Sumedho said in reguards to stream-entry and arahantship


He something along there lines that you dont become a stream-winner, there is no i am a stream-winner and there is no i am not a stream-winner because thats still thinking, still self-view. Just like thinking i will become an arahant in the future is just thinking and self-view



Its there all along you just need to see it through awareness in the present moment, you dont become it so there is no i will become ..... in the future


Just thought id add that


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Re: Why is Buddhist Faith not blind?

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Feb 26, 2009 9:44 pm

Thank you all for the thoughtful replies.

Perhaps I should have expressed my point without using loaded words such as "faith". In posing the question I'm not particularly interested in the translation of saddha, the actual mechanism of stream-entry, or how one has to let go of the concept of "I".

Furthermore this discussion is not motivated to any particular problem that I have with my practise. Discussions such as this, I feel, do little to advance my practise. However, they can be an interesting diversion and may shed light on other discussions that go on here and elsewhere.

The point I am trying to make is that, despite the statement that in Buddhist practise one should "test for oneself", the advertised goal of Arahantship (or even Stream Entry) is, in fact, unverifiable until achieved. (See, for example, MN 27 Cula-hatthipadopama Sutta, The Shorter Elephant Footprint Simile, which I quoted above.)

Personally, I keep practising because I can see that it does give improvements. I can see that my teachers are living the holy life and it appears to be working for them. I can verify certain signposts from the Suttas, Commentaries, Dhamma books and talks, and discussions with my teachers.

However, I cannot actually state that I have "verified the teachings" in the sense of verifying the ultimate goal (Nibbana). And I suspect that there are few, if any, here who can.

Of course, it is possible to "redefine" the goal as something along the lines of: "Being reasonably happy and content in this life". Well, if that's the goal, I could say that I've verified it too. However, from my reading of the Teachings, it's not...

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Re: Why is Buddhist Faith not blind?

Postby Individual » Thu Feb 26, 2009 10:29 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Perhaps I should have expressed my point without using loaded words such as "faith". In posing the question I'm not particularly interested in the translation of saddha, the actual mechanism of stream-entry, or how one has to let go of the concept of "I".

Yes, because if you use the word "confidence," the question is a bit unintelligible in english, "Why is Buddhist confidence not blind?" When stated like that, as spiritual confidence, the question answers itself.

mikenz66 wrote:Furthermore this discussion is not motivated to any particular problem that I have with my practise. Discussions such as this, I feel, do little to advance my practise. However, they can be an interesting diversion and may shed light on other discussions that go on here and elsewhere.

...A very common form of false speech on Buddhist forums.

mikenz66 wrote:The point I am trying to make is that, despite the statement that in Buddhist practise one should "test for oneself", the advertised goal of Arahantship (or even Stream Entry) is, in fact, unverifiable until achieved. (See, for example, MN 27 Cula-hatthipadopama Sutta, The Shorter Elephant Footprint Simile, which I quoted above.)

This is like saying nuclear power is unverifiable until you're a nuclear scientist, with nuclear material to experiment with.

mikenz66 wrote:Personally, I keep practising because I can see that it does give improvements. I can see that my teachers are living the holy life and it appears to be working for them. I can verify certain signposts from the Suttas, Commentaries, Dhamma books and talks, and discussions with my teachers.

However, I cannot actually state that I have "verified the teachings" in the sense of verifying the ultimate goal (Nibbana). And I suspect that there are few, if any, here who can.

Of course, it is possible to "redefine" the goal as something along the lines of: "Being reasonably happy and content in this life". Well, if that's the goal, I could say that I've verified it too. However, from my reading of the Teachings, it's not...

When you practice, because you can always see there are improvements (and there are improvements), that is the ultimate goal.

From the Potthapada Sutta:
"Lord, do you teach that the summit of perception is just one, or that it is many?"

"I teach it as both one and many."

"Lord, how is it one and how is it many?"

"According as he attains successively to the cessation of each perception, so I teach the summit of that perception: thus I teach both one summit of perception, and I also teach many."

Both the grandiose, far-off idea of mystical omnipotence, all-pervasive tranquility, profound meditative attainments, and complete extinction of the self, that is the one summit of perception, but the moments in which we are merely mindful, not turning away from knowledge of suffering, all these moments are the many summits of perception.
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Re: Why is Buddhist Faith not blind?

Postby Jechbi » Thu Feb 26, 2009 10:34 pm

Hi Mike,

A few other thoughts:
mikenz66 wrote:I was trying to tease out in what way Buddhist faith that attaining Nibbana is possible is different from Christian faith regarding Heaven being something attainable.
mikenz66 wrote:The point I am trying to make is that, despite the statement that in Buddhist practise one should "test for oneself", the advertised goal of Arahantship (or even Stream Entry) is, in fact, unverifiable until achieved.

I think these two statements are really best understood in terms of dukkha. Faith in the statement "attaining Nibbana is possible" points to faith in the notion that this suffering, present right now, is temporary. Christian faith, however, is not correctly summed up in the statement, "Heaven is something attainable." A statement of Christian faith would be very different. I don't think it's appropriate to offer a statement of Christian faith here, but suffice it to say that at a minimum, it would include some reference to Jesus Christ.

That's probably still all somewhat unrelated to the point you were trying to make. Without using loaded words such as "faith," I sense that your point has something to do with expectations about the future. But I wonder whether it's really precise to say that the "advertised goal" is Arahantship or even Stream Entry.

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Re: Why is Buddhist Faith not blind?

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Fri Feb 27, 2009 12:21 am

I think when we practice Mundane Right View--at least for most of us--there is an element of what could be called "blind faith," otherwise we would have no basis to put in the effort for practice. We have faith that there is merit in good deeds, that kamma works, that meditation will cultivate insight and mindfulness, etc, and that we'll cultivate deeper insight, and confidence, as we go along. I don't think any of us start along this Path with any kind of certain conviction it will work for us. Maybe for some of us it makes sense or resonates with something deep within us, but I don't think any of us could say for sure we've directly experienced the Real. I know my motive for practice have changed several times over the many years I've practiced. I don't quite remember why I started to begin with. :lol:

Of course, at some point we hope or assume we'll attain Supramundane Right View where faith in any form is superfluous. If anyone is already there, I for one would enjoy hearing about it.

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