From Rational Buddhism:
Buddhism and ...
|Faith, the ultimate F-word for rationalists|
'For rationalists such as Richard Dawkins, 'Faith' is very much an F-word .
Faith makes a virtue out of believing unprovable and often improbable propositions. Dawkins contrasts this with the scientific method, which he describes as a system whereby working assumptions may be falsified by recourse to reason and evidence.
The Place of Faith in Buddhism
So is 'Faith' in Buddhism the same kind of unquestioning belief in bizarre and often mutually contradictory assertions as found in other religions, or is it more in the nature of 'Trust'.
Buddha, in his rejection of essentialism and affirmation of the importance of impermanence, displayed an insight into the way that things exist that has only recently been confirmed by science. Buddhist meditational techniques have also recently been empirically verified to have measurable beneficial effects. But how far should we trust Buddhist doctrine when it deals with topics that are beyond our present comprehension?
Trusting the Guide to the Path
Consider the situation where we are hiking on a mountain in the Scottish Highlands.
We are following a map, when suddenly a fog closes in and we can only see a few feet ahead. We decide to get off the mountain as quickly as possible and wait for better weather. The map shows a quick way down which appears to be shorter than the route we took to get here. But do we trust the map?
Well, there are good maps and not so good maps. There are maps originating from the observations of competent mountaineers using suitable equipment and accurate record keeping, and there are maps originating on the back of beer mats drawn from hazy memories in Highland bars at 11 o'clock at night after traversing the malt whisky shelf.
So how do we decide whether to follow the route on the map? How do we know it won't lead us over a cliff or into a bog? Are we prepared to stake our safety and maybe our life on this map?
One way to weigh the risks would be to judge the reliability of the map by what it has shown so far. Has it accurately described the route we've taken?
Or has it shown things that aren't there, and missed out major features that are?
If Buddha's map to the path has proved accurate up to where we are now, then maybe we should have sufficient faith in it to take us a bit further along the path.' More