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Faith or Not?

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A Reader recently Wrote:
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I was born a “Baptist.” I never understood such a claim, for there was never a choice. This began in the crib. Something about belief, without evidence, just never set correct with me. The man of cloth, in Sunday School brought reassurance to my disbelief. I asked him to respect the invisible box around us. My box should never occupy his. He thought otherwise, and claimed, “. . . the Lord is with me.”

To this, I was clear in my reply, “But neither you or “He” have right to be with me, without an invitation.” That was some 20 years ago, but every scar holds pretty certain memories. That was when my belief in “God” received its second strike. We’re a baseball nation, so three strikes, you’re out. “His” third came when I died in my car accident, giving a prayer both in desperation and hope. Not for me. Hope for myself hadn’t worked before, and now there were others at risk. I prayed that “He” would take my soul for any other of my passengers, if not all.

As you may guess, it failed to be granted. After the first strikes against “God,” I’d already begun slowly researching other beliefs. Little less than a month ’til my seventeenth birthday the accident occurred. The coma, then 5 years of rehab held me from my research. Zen, Tao, Chi, all still interest me. But claim of faith to any of them, without any clearness as to what belief in would entail held me weary. As I listened to one of the first two lessons I downloaded, you did answer what belief in Buddhism would require as practice; meditate. If there’s more please, direct this lost puppy in a wheelchair to the titles which will make his belief in Buddhism clear.

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My Response:
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As for your question about practice and what should you do:

1. Meditation is important, yes, but it’s not everything.
2. Even more important is proper behavior towards yourself and others. I did some lessons about the “Five Precepts,” which are the “rules” of Buddhism. This was Episode 7 if you have all the older shows. If you look through the list of the five rules, it should be pretty obvious that they are intended to be practical and useful in real life. They might not necessarily be FUN, but it’s hard to argue they are good rules.

That’s pretty much it if you want to be a “decent” Buddhist. You can do more of course.

3. Buddhism is at its heart an internal, mental thing. That’s why meditation is emphasized. Reading and learning more about the ideas of Buddhism can only help you in your life, so it can be a continuous process of learning.

Really the bottom line of Buddhism is that it’s not about faith. It’s about practicality and reason. You can see for yourself that the precepts are for your benefit or the benefit of others, but not for the benefit of some invisible god. After you have been meditating regularly for some time, you will see real benefits with that as well. You don’t need to BELIEVE anything in Buddhism. Try these things and you will SEE the results.

Depending on what you read, Buddhism can be wrapped inside a lot of mystical mumbo-jumbo. That, in my opinion, is the main reason Buddhism is not more popular in the West, and my main goal in creating the Daily Buddhism; to make it accessible to everyone.

2 comments to Faith or Not?

  • David

    Hi Brian

    I couldnt agree more with your comment about mumbo jumbo hiding the essence of Buddhism and though the circumstances were different I came to Buddhism in a similar way. I kind of envied those people who had a blind faith but could not understand how, in essence, they could hand over all responsability for their lives and all accountability to an external unseen force. Surely faith starts with faith in ones self and being a “good” person. The Dharma and Buddhism have helped me to realise that it is individual action that is what is important and how healing or damaging that action can be and that there are wider consequences and benefits to those actions and the best we can all do is to try to live in loving kindness.

    I am sometimes asked what my religion is and I am never sure if my faith is a religion or purely a faith and a belief that if we try to live in the spirit of love then love will come back to us. Though I might live in hope and die in dispair this is my truth.

  • I really don’t like the word “faith” when talking about Buddhism. The important parts are provably, sensibly, logically provable. Meditation DOES help you live more calmly and think more clearly. The precepts are OBVIOUSLY good rules to live by.

    It is true that some parts of Buddhism, such as karma and rebirth, are more “beliefs” and do require a leap of faith, but you don’t HAVE to accept those ideas to consider yourself a Buddhist. I work and teach under the assumption that karma and reincarnation is the way things are, but when I think about it, there are many questions I cannot answer, so I don’t accept it fully. I think a healthy dose of skepticism and self-questioning, as well as the simple ACCEPTANCE of doubt, is one of the greatest things about Buddhism.

    You aren’t going to go to Hell if you doubt what I am saying.

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