Belief is a product of the mind, but faith is not. Faith is an attitude of acceptance of not knowing.
Knowing (knowledge) does not create faith. Not knowing (Ignorance) does.
Faith is a product of one’s upbringing, culture and tradition. The mind interferes in the process of faith more than it contributes to one’s mental development. It hinders logical thinking and scientific reasoning.
Faith is what comes to play within us when our beliefs begin to doubt the eventuality of the outcome that we hope and pray for.
The mental wellbeing can be buoyed (uplifted) by our beliefs, but can also be brought down (depressed) by them when they prove there is no adequate evidence to what you believe. Beliefs most certainly will change at some point in the journey to the quest of truth.
Even beliefs that was held dearly close to our heart, have come and gone over the course of our lifetime or in the past millennium. Galileo proved that the earth is not the center of the universe, it is not flat, it is a planet and so forth. These were beliefs that we humans held closely to be true by having developed faith by tradition not by evidence, in documents that we believed to be from God.
We can believe an abstract truth, but as a result of our human limitations, we can never really know the absolute truth. And even our individual experiences with the same truth can collide. In time, as new spiritual and cultural information is revealed, and the so-called truths of the past can be revealed as arbitrary, false or irrelevant. Beliefs come and go, but dogmatic faith is not so fickle and will bog down with human progress.
Faith is not a statement of beliefs, but a state of being animated through our perceptions. It is like a commando walking on a tightrope fifty stories up with no preconception of the outcome. It is trusting beyond all reason and evidence that he has not abandoned his faith about his perilous skill.
For example, we know that the world is a Globe? Can an average person see or realize that the earth to be a Globe? Yet we accept the inferences made by scientists that the earth to be a Globe over God in this matter. So where is the faith in God? Our Faith lies with the scientists regarding the flat earth and whether the earth is the center of the Universe. Do we doubt our inferences regarding this matter due to human limitations and still place our faith in God to say that the scientists are wrong? Some do but the intellects, who aspire truth, will indulge in research to find a tangible answer to quench his thirst for the truth.
Take another example do a child have belief or faith in his or her parents? Every child inherits beliefs at birth that his parents will provide the needful to sustain life.
However, Faith is implanted to the child’s psyche by tradition making believe what is given to him or her by the parents or by the monks and Brahmins to be true and should be accepted.
During the time of Buddha, the Kalama’s of present-day Nepal questioned Lord Buddha regarding this matter.
For this reason, Lord Buddha taught to the Kalama’s in the Kosol Kingdom (Devadaha) in Nepal, the teachings which has been preserved in the ancient texts “Kalama Sūtta.”
The Instruction to the Kalama’s (Nepali people in Devadaha/ Kosala Desha)
The Kalama’s of Kesaputta (Devadaha, Nepal) goes to see the Buddha
Venerable Arahãth Ananda, cousin Brother of Lord Buddha, restated at the first Buddhist Council about the teachings to the Kalama’s by Lord Buddha.
Note: The first Buddhist Council was held soon after the death of the Buddha, around 400 BCE, under the patronage of the king Ajatashatru with the monk Mahākasyapa presiding, at Sattapanni caves Rajgriha (now Rajgir).
“Once the Blessed One, while wandering in the Kosala country with a large community of bhikkhus, entered a town of the Kalama people called Kesaputta.” The Kalama’s who were inhabitants of Kesaputta in present day Nepal.”
The Kalama’s came to Lord Buddha and asked for guidance.
“There are some monks and Brahmans, Venerable Sir, who visit Kesaputta. They expound and explain only their own doctrines; the doctrines of others they despise, revile, and pull to pieces.
Venerable sir, there is doubt, there is uncertainty in us concerning them. Which of these reverend monks and brahmans spoke the truth and which falsehood?”
The Lord Buddha answered and taught;
THE CRITERION FOR REJECTION OF BELIEF AND FAITH DUE TO FALSEHOOD.
“It is proper for you, Kalama’s, to doubt, to be uncertain; uncertainty has arisen in you about what is doubtful. Come, Kalama’s. Do not go upon what has been acquired by,
nor upon tradition;
nor upon rumor;
nor upon what is in a scripture;
nor upon surmise (conclusion/ belief);
nor upon an axiom(saying)
nor upon specious(false) reasoning;
nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over;
nor upon another’s seeming ability; nor upon the consideration,
Kalama’s, when you yourselves know: ‘These things are bad; these things are blamable; these things are censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill,’ abandon them.
The criterion for acceptance Lord Buddha taught.
1. Absence of greed,
2. Absence of Hate,
3. Absence of Delusion’
Kalama’s, when you yourselves know: ‘These things are good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,’ enter on and abide in them.
“What do you think, Kalama’s? Does absence of greed, hate and delusion appear in a man for his benefit or harm?”
“For his benefit, venerable sir.”
Being not given to greed, and being not overwhelmed and not vanquished mentally by greed,
Being not given to hate, and being not overwhelmed and not vanquished mentally by hate,
“Kalama’s, being not given to delusion, and being not overwhelmed and not vanquished mentally by delusion,
this man does not take life, does not steal, does not commit adultery, and does not tell lies; he prompts another too, to do likewise. Will that be long for his benefit and happiness?”
“Yes, venerable sir.”
“What do you think, Kalama’s? Are these things good or bad?” —
“Good, venerable sir.”
“Blamable or not blamable?”
“Not blamable, venerable sir.”
“Censured or praised by the wise?”
“Praised, venerable sir.”
“Undertaken and observed, do these things lead to benefit and happiness, or not? Or how does it strike you?”
THE KALAMAS (DESCENDANTS OF PRESENT DAY NEPALI) SPOKE WITH JOY & HAPPINESS;
“Marvelous, venerable sir! Marvelous, venerable sir! As if, venerable sir, a person was to turn face upwards what is upside down, or to uncover the concealed, or to point the way to one who is lost or to carry a lamp in the darkness, thinking, ‘Those who have eyes will see visible objects,’ so has the Dhamma been set forth in many ways by the Blessed One.
We, venerable sir, go to the Blessed One for refuge, to the Dhamma for refuge, and to the Community of Bhikkhus for refuge. Venerable sir, may the Blessed One regard us as lay followers who have gone for refuge for life, from today.
By Dr. Sunil Jayasinghe
(Reference: Angutara Nikāya, Tika Nipata, Mahavagga, Sutta No. 65)