Faith, Belief, Knowledge and Wisdom

Posted December 11th, 2019

How can you know that handreading works ? You can just ‘believe in it’ I guess. Or you can have faith that the person reading your hands is not a charlatan.

Or you can have experience of it….

In Buddhism, emphasis is placed on seeing and knowing and not on faith or belief. Beliefs are what you think is true, faith is what you hope is true.

Beliefs are functionally a correlate to doubt. People who have strongly held beliefs are psychologically afflicted by intense doubt. Belief arises when there is no seeing or knowing and is an expression of a dualised orientation to experience.

Faith *can* denote a positive attitude that you are trusting enough to take on board something new and unfamiliar so that you can explore it, look at it, criticise it, experience it. But, unfortunately, it more often describes a function of personal psychology where one gives over ones power to others (a teacher, a guru, a god etc) as a strategy to avoid a critical evaluation of experience and/or as a strategy to avoid the discomfort of no-knowing. The more strongly one does this, the more like belief faith becomes.

Beliefs (and faith) limit what you can know and experience.
If you are committed to a path of truth, you have to be able to sit with no beliefs, calm and contented and open.

Within Buddhism, the word used for ‘faith’ is ‘sraddha’, which literally translates as ‘confidence’. Its good to have confidence in your teacher, guru or god, but that confidence should be born out by experience, understanding and, most of all, insight.

From experience, we can know what is true.
(although there does need to be some evaluation of what it is that does the experiencing, what it is that is experienced and, indeed, how that experiencing occurs….)

From evaluation and reflection, we can understand what is true. (and here again, there needs to be a rigorous examination of the preconceived notions that we hold – and an evaluation of the very processes by which that thinking and understanding arises…)

Through insight we can just see it.

So we have belief, faith, experience, reflection and insight.
Only one of these leads to Wisdom.