Buddhist Correspondence Course Newsletter
continued on p. 3
Does a Buddhist Practitioner Have Faith?
any Westerners who come to Buddhismwere raised in a different religious tradi-tion, such as Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. Inthose religions, the role of faith is relatively straightforward; faith is directed to-ward God. But how do we think about faith in the context of a non-theistic reli-gion like Buddhism? Is faith wholesome or unwholesome? What did the Buddhasay about faith? How does faith develop?In different teachings, the Buddha lauded different sets of qualities as conduciveto enlightenment. An often cited set of wholesome qualities that he taught arecalled the ‘five spiritual faculties.’ Faith is one of these five spiritual faculties. Thefaculties are:1. faith or conviction or belief (
)2. energy or persistence or perseverance (
)3. mindfulness or memory (
)4. concentration or focus (
)5. wisdom or understanding or comprehension (
)In Buddhism, faith is directed toward the Buddha’s awakening, toward theDharma, which is the truth of his teaching, and toward the sangha, the com-munity that practices together. These are called the three jewels or triple gem.Faith in Buddhism is also a belief in our own Buddha nature; a confidence in ourown capacity for spiritual development and liberation. So from this perspective,faith is wholesomeHowever, we are also cautioned against one spiritual faculty overpowering and in-hibiting the other faculties. To prevent one faculty dominating another, it is recom-mend that the five spiritual faculties be developed in counterbalancing dyads.Faith and wisdom are one of these dyads.One strong in faith and weak in understanding has confidence uncritically andgroundlessly. Faith that is not balanced by wisdom is blind faith. We can see thisin religious fundamentalism of all sorts. Indeed, in the Kalama Sutta the Buddhahimself argues against "blind faith." This kind of faith is unwholesome.On the other hand, one strong in understanding and weak in faith may becomecunning and scheming. Such a person may be a good debater, but their heart ishard and their reasons for learning lack compassion.In one sutta, Sariputta, one of the Buddha’s beloved disciples says this about thefive faculties: “These five faculties, if cultivated and regularly practiced, lead to theDeathless, are bound for the Deathless, end in the Deathless." In other words,practicing these five faculties can lead to enlightenment. So, we are instructed tostrive for a balance of faith and wisdom.For me, my faith was sparked the first time I saw a bikkhuni (nun). She was sobeautiful and happy. I could see that she knew how to lead a good life. She in-spired faith in me. Now my faith is strong. I entrust myself to the triple gem.
The BCCN is distributed at no charge to those taking the Buddhist Correspondence Course. This is your newslet- ter–by you, about you, and for you. You are the major contribut- ors, so send us your questions, problems, solutions you've found to difficulties in practice, thoughts you have on practice, artwork, po- etry, etc. Due to limited space,some editing may be necessary.We also welcome your comments on the newsletter and sugges- tions for ways we might improve it to serve you better.
Please mail all correspondence to:Buddhist Correspondence Coursec/o Rev. Richard Baksa2020 Route 301Carmel, NY 10512
Let us know if we may use your full name or just initials.
To receive copies of any of theresources listed below, please write to Rev. Richard Baksa atthe address above.• A listing by state of Buddhistgroups that may be able tosend volunteers to your prisonto conduct Buddhist activities.• The "Religious Land Use andInstitutionalized Persons Act of 2000." This guarantees equalaccess for all religions to prisonfacilities for the purpose of reli-gious meetings.• “What is the Religious LandUse and Institutionalized Per-sons Act?” This explains theAct and how it is to be applied.