Belief and Faith
Belief or faith can mean different things depending on the context. Without any investigation, we may think that belief implies a blind, almost ignorant attitude. In this audio teaching, Phakchok Rinpoche discusses his own belief in the Buddha’s teaching. He describes his personal experience and reminds us that solid belief comes about through practice.
Belief Comes from Experience
Rinpoche explains that he wasn’t a “natural” believer. He understands skepticism. But his teacher taught him how to meditate a bit and at the same time he struggled with his own emotion, finding no solution for his anger. Then because he realized he needed to do something, he applied the Dharma and meditation instructions. By following these teachings, he experienced changes. And because of that, he developed strong belief in the Buddha’s teachings and great faith in and respect for his teacher.
The Buddha himself taught that we should put teachings to a test. In his teaching to the Kalamas, preserved in the Pali canon, the Buddha explained,
“Don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, “This contemplative is our teacher.”
Translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, edited by Access to Insight. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 2 November 2013,
We can understand that the Buddha thus discouraged blind acceptance. Instead, he advised that students put teachings into practice themselves and only then make a clear decision. In a similar manner, Rinpoche asks us to investigate the teachings for ourselves.
Believing When Seeing Our Own Faults
When we practice meditation, we need to understand how we are influenced by the five poisons, or five negative emotions. We need to really see our behavior with our family and friends. Then, when we see our problems, we should admit our own mistakes. Try to do this by saying gently to ourselves, “Yes, I have these problems.” And we don’t need to tell anybody else about that yet. When we have come to see our habitual patterns and negative emotions, Rinpoche says that half of our work is done. From there, the second half of the work is to learn how to practice and then spend some time doing it.
When we can’t admit our own issues, then meditation does not bring about transformation. Instead, we look at our meditation as a grade to pass. We need to improve ourselves, but we shouldn’t keep judging ourselves. Rinpoche asks us to note this part in particular! Please don’t blame yourself.