A few notes on faith

From Faith, Devotion, and Blessings on the Path to Liberation

Faith comes in a few different ways. First, there is the intimation of a greater truth, something in us that says, ‘Yes, this is the way to go’.

This becomes verified faith, as we follow our intuition. Our trust in a teacher or a tradition proves itself. We become healthier, more at peace, open to others and responsive.

After this, and higher than these two is unshakable faith. Having this kind of trust calms and steadies the mind.

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We can notice that faith and devotion are related. Faith is an openness, or we can say, a receptivity. Sometimes this comes after careful reflection, and sometimes it is just there – immediately, and beyond any amount of reason. It’s amazing when this happens, and it is so unusual that it calls for our full attention. This is a kind of awakening in itself, with some part of ourselves knowing in a new way, and deeply trusting another.

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From The Profound Practice of Taking Refuge

There is a kind of faith that can arise for a person when first meeting a teacher, or a tradition, or hearing even one line from a teaching. They can immediately feel ‘Yes, that’s it. This is the truth.’ This has happened so many times, in both Buddhism and in other Traditions.

Thich Nhat Hanh told a story of seeing the drawing of a Buddhist monk on a magazine when he was a young boy, and how it awakened faith in him, and a strong desire to learn more.

Some people when they begin to talk about faith, almost right away want to assert that ‘this is not blind faith’ – but to me, when I hear them say this, it feels like something may be lacking for them. The meaning of faith here is a kind of intuition, a knowledge of things not yet proven. That some have this experience while others do not only points out our differences of temperament.

Faith as an intuition of truth is something deep, and in the language of the teachings, onward leading. Those without it rely more on reason, and may eventually get to the same place, of deep trust in a teacher and the teachings. Which brings me to a second kind of faith, that I’ve heard called verified faith.

We meet a path and are inspired to learn more. When some result then comes from our own practice, no one can ever take this from us. That’s where faith becomes more solid, and reliable. There is more we can learn, and so the first kind of faith, as a deep intuition of truth, is something that can stay with us, and our learning to trust that more and more can continue to lead us onwards. This gets easier with time, and humility is essential here as well.

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From On Faith and Reason, and the Balance of the Faculties, and Sacred Outlook

For my own purposes over the years I’ve come to view faith as an intuition, as the knowledge of things not yet proven.  When it comes to faith, if anyone were to ask us how we know somethings, or why we are being led to go in a certain direction, there’s no answer that we can give them that can satisfy either ourselves, or them, but without some amount of faith, our progress will be slow, or non existent.

If we have faith, we relax on some level. I think of those who are somehow cut off from this faculty, and how they suffer from wanting to know everything in advance. (raises his hand, ha)

Faith is associated as well with devotion. We know with our hearts so much more than can be understood with the intellect. If faith is trust and reliance, relaxing, and being patient, and believing in something, then devotion acts more like a magnet, drawing what we are devoted to to us.

If we follow our heart, follow our intuition, with faith, trust and devotion, then we will be led to paths we would not find otherwise, to depth and meaning and fulfillment.  This is the ideal.

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Part of the problem for us Westerners is our over-reliance on rational thinking. This function has its place, but there are also some things that come to us only through the door of the love, the door of the heart, through faith and intuition, or direct experience.  If we rely too much on the intellect here, it blocks us.  When we want to know everything ahead of time, or have a logical explanation for everything, we can get in our own way.

Many spiritual truths don’t lend themselves to being contained within concepts, and those who live just in the intellect suffer the loss of so many things, like the perception of beauty, mystery, wonder, intuition, inspiration and delight… These things are seen with the eyes of the spirit, and not with the eyes of the intellect alone.

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At their best faith and reason can complement each other.

When well developed reason sees that it can only go so far, and that there is more that can be known directly, reason bows to faith and devotion, stands aside, and lets this ability fulfill its function.

When faith sees that reason highlights, illuminates, exalts and brings into application those things that are sensed with the intuition, then faith bows in gratitude, stands aside and lets reason do its work.

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From Blessings, Faith, and Devotion

Faith has this quality of receptivity. With it, we are open to something greater than ourselves reaching our lives, healing, illuminating, and guiding us… 

Once faith has opened the way, and an intimation of a greater love and wisdom has reached us personally, the devotion that is then born is best described as a depth of love and trust that acts as a magnet for blessings. We begin to orient our lives around the sense of the divine wisdom that speaks to us in our own innermost language.

Faith matures in us to a deep peace that comes from being held in tender, divine care, and from knowing our capacity to grow and change.  Such trust in our teacher is also responsive. It strives to be ever more awake, learning the language of the heart that is becoming more sensitive to being guided.

The path develops in this way.  We are not alone in our reaching for happiness.  On the contrary, this world abounds with grace and blessings. If we are receptive to it, we can know this for ourselves, manifesting beautifully in our lives.