As a factor of the Buddhist path, faith (saddha) does not mean blind belief but a willingness to accept on trust certain propositions that we cannot, at our present stage of development, personally verify for ourselves. These propositions concern both the nature of reality and the higher reaches of the path. In the traditional map of Buddhist training, faith is placed at the beginning, as the prerequisite for the later stages comprised in the triad of virtue, concentration, and wisdom. The canonical texts do not seem to envisage the possibility that a person lacking faith in the tenets specific to the dhamma could take up the practice of insight meditation and reap positive results. Yet today such a phenomenon has become extremely widespread. It is quite common now for meditators to make their first contact with the dhamma through intensive insight meditation, and then to use this experience as a touchstone for assessing their relationship to the teaching.
Contrary to Buddhist modernism, there are many principles taught by the Buddha as essential to right understanding that we cannot, in our present state, see for ourselves. These are by no means negligible, for they define the framework of the Buddha’s entire program of deliverance. Not only do they depict the deeper dimensions of the suffering from which we need release, but they point in the direction where true liberation lies and prescribe the steps that lead to realization of the goal.
From “Two Styles of Insight Meditation,” by Bhikkhu Bodhi.
Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, we depend on readers like you to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.