I really appreciate your position. What you have written about your experience of 'verifiable faith' vis-a-vis your own experience of practice speaks to my own experience. I too feel that it would benefit our dhamma practice if we develop some sensitivity towards the notion of 'verified faith' vs. 'blind faith'. Reading the responses so far, I'd like to speculate
Along with most others, I would say that Buddhist faith is not 'blind faith'. But I don't want to say that it can only be 'verified faith'. I say this because we all talk about the limits of thought and how Awakening is beyond concepts, how Awakening is unconditioned, unthinkable, etc. So, a general way of understanding Awakening is that it involves the opening up of experience to something wholly 'other'
To experience something that is totally 'other' to what we presently know and feel raises the question of expectation
. Can we really experience this 'otherness' if it falls within our expectations? How can it be considered 'other' if it does? So I guess this is why people say that unlike other kinds of faith, Buddhist faith does not involve expectation.
However, I want to qualify that assertion. I would in fact say that to experience the wholly 'other' we cannot avoid having expectations. For 'otherness' to erupt into our experience, it has to come in such a way that it totally and utterly exceeds
, disrupts and dismantle expectations. There must be some level of expectation to which the unthinkable must exceed. I don't think Buddhism totally denies expectation. Suggestions in the Satipatthana Sutta about how one can attain awakening in 7 years or the various suggestions about stages of arahantship can be read as certain kinds of expectations. However, the important thing to note is that those very same teachings also warn against expectation.
The kind of expectation that we have in Buddhism is no doubt one that emerges out of the context of our own experience and which is always measured against the dhamma. But, I see this as a kind of expectation that always acknowledges the utter vulnerability of its own position
. In short, it is a kind of expectation that has a willingness to 'let go'.
I think it was Alan Watts (his unskilful behaviour notwithstanding) who said, 'Belief clings, faith lets go'. To the extent that 'blind faith' involves unquestioned beliefs, it is a certain kind of clinging. However, to the extent that 'verified faith' only accepts what rational thought can 'prove', it also risks sliding into a kind of clinging. Maybe what is needed is a certain middle path between 'verified faith' and 'blind faith'.
But I don't want to rely on some sentimental notion of the 'middle'. I don't want to suggest that we should simply have faith in the middle path as if the middle path is somewhere 'out there' waiting to be discovered. As the Buddha has said himself, the middle path is extremely subtle and difficult to discern. As I understand it, the middle path is not simply some median point between two poles, because whatever two poles there are (good/bad, eternalism/annihilationism, normal/abnormal, etc, etc), they are not fixed. The middle path is always in flux, shifting and contingent.
The middle path unfolds itself when we are receptive
to the flux and contingency of experience (I think Genkaku touches on this in his response above). For me, that receptivity to flux and contingency engenders a kind of faith
. It is a kind of faith that emerges from a willingness to continually seek
the ever-shifting middle path. A kind of faith not in
the middle path, but from
the middle path.
All in all, I would say that Buddhist faith is not blind, because it requires us to 'verify' the dhamma within the context of our experience. But I would also say that Buddhist faith is not ultimately verifiable, because it requires us to acknowledge and be receptive to an 'otherness' that we cannot possibly foresee, an 'otherness' that we cannot possibly inscribe within the domain of 'the expected' or 'the verifiable'. If I really have to give it a label, I'd call it a kind of 'radical faith
'. That is, until a better understanding comes along....
In good faith,