It seems to me that faith is related to one’s own interaction with life. You have to look at life, you have to perceive it, understand it, correlate the understanding to interactions in different situations, and when the interactions confirm and verify the understanding that has taken place, there arises an awareness of truth which the interaction has caused. That awareness is then beyond doubt, beyond suspicion, beyond the argumentation of other people, beyond theories, dogmas and doctrines. Perhaps the word faith indicates the substance of that awareness.
You know, faith is not an intellectual conviction, it is not an emotional belief or credulity, it is not slavery. Faith is freedom and it can be related to that which is, not to that which was or to that which will, or might be. It is always related to life and living, the timeless present, which is eternity, divinity. It is not in relation to particularity, it is in relation to the wholeness of life.
Abraham Joshua Heschel on Depth Theology
The theme of theology is the content of believing; the theme of depth theology is the act of believing, its purpose being to explore the depth of faith, the substratum out of which belief arises. It deals with acts which precede articulation and defy definition.
Theology speaks for the people; depth theology speaks for the individual. Theology strives for communication, for universality; depth theology strives for insight, for uniqueness.
Theology is like sculpture, depth theology like music. Theology is in the books; depth theology is in the hearts. The former is doctrine, the latter an event. Theologies divide us; depth theology unites us.
Depth theology seeks to meet the person in moments in which the whole person is involved, in moments which are affected by all a person thinks, feels and acts. It draws upon that which happens to man in moments of confrontation with ultimate reality. It is in such moments that decisive insights are born.
Excerpted from The Insecurity of Freedom, via Heschel’s Theology: Organized Excerpts | The Shalom Center
Is Buddhist faith really any different?
On Quora, someone asked me the following:
Could I ask you a question on this article that you linked to?
“Buddhism does not deny that there are in the universe planes of existence and levels of consciousness which in some ways may be superior to our terrestrial world and to average human consciousness.”
How do Buddhists know this? I mean, there still seems to be either some form of special revelation here, that directly implies one of the following:
1) A special revealer / revealee relationship or;
2) Some special ability that indicates that a person has an ability to know things that others do not.
Now, rather than dispute the actual truthfulness of such a claim, I would rather ask: How do you verify? In other words, is Buddhism not also predicated on blind faith? Believing that one has an ability which cannot be demonstrated and therefore not tested?
In some more other words, how do you know the Buddha or whoever comes up with statements such as “there are in the universe planes of existence and levels of consciousness which in some ways may be superior to our terrestrial world” is not completely sucking it out of their thumb and that you are in essence, in lieu of faith giving you “access” to such knowledge, prevented from experiencing this?
In other words does this not leave me in the old paradigm that all religions are victim of in that “You have to believe it before you can see it”? And that it is basically the faith, not actual fact that leads you to experience or know of such planes?
Is there proof of any of this? Can such revelations or enlightenments be tested for truthfulness? Or do I just have to take someones word on faith or believe in it first before I can know it?
To which I answered:
I think it depends a lot on whether you are a person who approaches religion and religious texts literally or not. I am not a literalist, and I would never make claims on behalf of “Buddhism” or “Buddhists.” I can only speak for myself and my own experiential understanding.
I will say, however, that anything outside of the human experience is not particularly relevant to the Buddha’s teachings (Pali: dhamma, Skt: dharma) as I know them. I would interpret Nyanaponika Thera’s statement re “higher levels of consciousness” as an effort to speak with humility to that which we do not know and perhaps cannot know. To recognize our own limitations. Not to have blind faith in the definite existence of whatever it is that is not known, or to try and name it, or label it.
I think all religions, creeds, ideologies, systems, etc. are vulnerable to people accepting them without any critical reflection or experiential knowledge. That does not happen to be the way that I approach them.
Faith in Pali is saddha. This word is better translated as confidence. You have confidence in what you are doing as your spiritual practice bears fruit, as you see the direct results of your own efforts to put into action your own understanding of the teachings. The writings, the guidance offered by living teachers, the scriptures, these are all just guideposts, which are meant to be tested out experientially through meditation, through persistent reflection, and through a lived faith.
Enlightenment is not a word I use or like. Bodhi means awakeness or awakening. Do I believe there was a historical person who was awake and lived consciously with awareness and wisdom and taught others to do the same? Damn straight. There have been plenty of others as well. Do I believe it’s possible to do that in this life? Yep. Do I think it’s a permanent, unchanging, state of mind. Nope. Do I think I should strive for this so I can go somewhere else later? Nope. Do I do this so that I can be happy now? Yep.
[The above is and only can be my opinion of course. And, I also say this as someone who is seen as “God’s person” by many of the people I serve every day as a hospital chaplain and for whom I frequently offer spontaneous and personal prayer to God (or, using whatever religious language works for them) and see absolutely no conflict in doing so with my own spiritual practice or religious understanding.]
(context - not sure why this was asked on this particular thread)
Father Maurice Zundel on Prayer
- Q: What is prayer?
- A: It is a cry of love, a conversation with God. It fulfills our need to speak to those we love.
- Q: Does prayer inform God what we need?
- A: No. He already knows that better than we do ourselves.
- Q: Does it change the will of God?
- A: The will of God is perfect, infinite, and cannot change. Prayer cannot change God, but it aims at changing man, and opening his heart to God. We pray in order to submit our will to the will of God.
- Q: What is the will of God concerning us?
- A: It is for our good, our happiness.
- Q: Can God make us happy if we do not pray?
- A: No, because our happiness depends on there being a partnership of love between God and ourselves. There can be no such partnership without mutual love, without conversation. Prayer is a conversation of love. [...] Prayer is a gift of God to man. It honors man, not God, because it puts man on an equal footing with God. In making our destiny depend to some extent on ourselves, on our prayer, God treats us as equals. Prayer is choosing God. "We approach God with steps of love." (St. Gregory)
- Q: What makes a prayer?
- A: Everything in our life which can be performed with love. We can unite ourselves with the whole universe, love everything, identify ourselves with everything, provided that God is the center. It is good to ask for everything in our prayers, because it shows we wish everything to be spiritualized. For example, the grace before meals gives us an opportunity to affirm our free will, to sanctify what we eat, and to see in it a gift of Love, rather than a bodily necessity.
- Q: When should we pray?
- A: Always. Every action offered to God is a prayer. (Just as a father of a family who works to support his children is thereby showing his love for them.)
- Q: Should we pray each morning and evening?
- A: Yes. It is essential to set aside, each day, time in which we think of nothing but God. (Just as a father shows, in a special way, his love for his children by spending some of his time playing with them and giving them all his attention.)
- Q: How should we pray?
- A: We should pray in the way which best unites us with God. We must decide this for ourselves. It will not always be the same.
- Q: Must we use words, recite set prayers?
- A: Prayer is first and foremost a cry from the soul. All vocal prayer -- even inspired prayers like the Our Father and the Hail Mary -- should only be the beginning and the consecration of that inner prayer which springs from faith, hope, and love.
- Q: Can the body pray?
- A: Yes. The body normally expresses the spirit.
- Q: In what does the prayer of the body consist?
- A: In its bearing, its movements, words, and expression.
- Q: Can the body pray all day long?
- A: Yes, provided that, all day long, it expresses a loving soul (especially by silence and purity).
- Q: How can nature pray?
- A: Every time men contemplate it in order to come closer to God.
- Q: What is the liturgy?
- A: It is the public prayer of the Church. It is above all a prayer of praise, concerning God, not ourselves.
- Q: What means does it use?
- A: The whole of nature. Everything can be blessed, everything can be changed into prayer. The liturgical blessings bring about a transfiguration. Everything becomes a sort of canticle of love. For example, water becomes holy water. [...] NOTE: In making our discovery of God we make the discovery of our own person, of the whole of nature. Everything becomes infinite and eternal. All nature is a transparent veil over the face of Love. Religion is a life of love. Reality is only a sign of the presence of love.