What to believe, what to doubt ...
I answered a question I particularly like from someone over at E-sangha (see, everything has a good resolution!!): It was on the subject of which tenets of Buddhism we can doubt, and which to believe by "faith" (in the questioner's words) ... [As many of you know, I am not too big on overly mechanical and literal views of Karma and Reincarnation (although I do believe the whole life/death thing is something of a state of mind) ... and I consider myself an agnostic on what happens after "death" [besides that "state of mind" thing] ...
Reverend Jundo originally stated, -
Well, Master Dogen was pretty big on the fact that we should test Buddhism for ourselves. Some things we might take on faith, but the heart of the Practice is personal experience.
I very much agree with this statement. If i may ask you another question, are their elements of Buddhism that you are prepared to accept on faith, and if so how do they differ from the ones you are not prepared to accept on faith?
I think faith is a very important part of any religion, and indeed everyones life. So often, when we cannot prove something completely we maintain faith in its viability.
How does faith effect your practice, and what you are prepared to accept or reject, and why? (that bits an open question.)
Thank's again all.
I consider myself an agnostic about any teaching that, with sufficient time, does not prove itself in my life by personal experience or regarding which there is no evidence besides someone having made the claim in an old book (and I do not care which old writing or book, or how illustrious the claimed author).
I believe that, at the outset, whenever one encounters a plausible idea, one should be open to it and put it to the test. Thus, for example, in my youth (like many of us) I was open to the teachings of my family's religion (Judaism in our case) ... but many of the tenets seemed too fantastic and I saw little evidence that the world actually works in the way the religion describes. (I still consider myself an agnostic, not an atheist ... but for all practical purposes, I do not believe in the Judeo-Christian teachings). It is no different with regard to Buddhist or any other teachings that seem outlandish and unsupported, based on myth and wild conjecture, or which are perhaps someone's creative idea cooked up for how the universe functions (I am an agnostic amd a doubter ... By the way, one man's "myth" is another man's "cherished belief and certainty", so don't consider me as the last word on what is true or not true).
Now, some things about Buddhist practice require great faith at the outset (I prefer the words "great trust" to "faith" because of the seemingly blind religious feeling in the latter term). We must trust that Zazen will open to our eyes and ears (hear with the eyes, see with the ears!) what it purports to. Master Dogen said that 'Zazen is Enlightenemt itself'', merely crossing the legs and straightening the back is attaining non-attainment ... It takes awhile to taste the self-less for yourself.
But if people can't get the hang of that (fortunately, I think most do) after a period of time (maybe a few months or a couple of years to really taste the timeless sweetness of timelessness), I think they should probably reject the practice and try something else. Fortunately, I think that most people who come to Soto Zen will get the taste of Master Dogen's "Just Sitting" and radical non-seeking pretty soon, although it takes a lifetime to make it part of one's life .... day by day. In my case, the Practice proves its worth to me in my own life 1000 times each day. One must keep the "Great Trust" in the Practice and Teaching, but it is a Trust that proves its trustworthiness in actual life. So, I keep it. (Other teachings, for example, ideas about human psychology and the way "time" and "space" function also seem useful and relevant, so I adopt those too. They also can be personally experienced, just like "hot" and "cold" can be experienced).
Master Dogen emphasized living life in this moment and lifetime, and that enlightenment is in this moment and lifetime. He may or may not have believed in other aspects of traditional doctrinal, but his emphasis was in this moment ... In a Practice focused on this moment and such, that is what is vital and "future" (for want of a better term) events will take care of themselves and are not where the focus is at.
And I better leave off my comment there and go no further ...
If anyone is new to the Soto Forum and is confused by why I sometimes speak in a roundabout way on some things, or go no further ... let us also leave that wordless ... and open to all possibilities ... never doubting what must not be doubted.
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1) While it is acknowledged that levels of understanding of the Dharma will vary among members, and that all will have their own beliefs about it, certain doctrines such as karma, postmortem rebirth ... are held to be core teachings by all Buddhist traditions. Members are free to privately disagree with these teachings, or to discuss and ask questions about them, but not to debate them, denigrate them, or deny that they were taught by the Buddha.
PS - The above is my own take, and other Soto Priests might present things with a different flavor.
PPS - And if you ask me how I do choose what to believe, because few things in this world are 100% certain and the evidence is often far from conclusive ... Well, if you step into a court and ask a jury (I used to be a lawyer in a previous life), they decide this way: Using their common sense, listening to their heart, weighing the reliability of the source of the evidence ... then, at the end, they stick their finger in the wind and make their best guess as to what is more likely than not likely.
This post has been edited by jundotreeleaf: Today, 01:05 AM