Do we need a "belief"?

Discussion in 'Belief and Spirituality' started by CobblersApprentice, Jul 28, 2019.

  1. On another thread a degree of frustration was expressed when someones "beliefs" were proving difficult to tie down.....:)

    Myself, I would find it difficult to express my beliefs as, thinking about it, I have none. I have Trust/Faith.

    This can be variously understood. Zen calls for "beginners mind", a mind unencumbered by preconceived notions, however arrived at.

    Wei Wu Wei (aka Terence Gray) ends his "Harlequinade" with:-

    It is interesting to note that in the recently discovered collection of sayings of Jesus there is one in which he formally adjured His disciples to divest themselves of all their 'garments'. It is understandable that such a statement should have been omitted by those later compilers who had no idea what such a requirement could mean. But to us it should be a commonplace. As far back as Chuang-tse we find the story of the old monk who, in despair of knowing enlightenment before he died, went to see Lao-tse. On arrival Lao-tse came out to meet him, welcomed him, but told him to leave his followers and his baggage outside the gate, for otherwise he would not be admitted. The old man had no followers, and no baggage, but he understood, went in and found his fulfilment.

    Why should we have no "baggage" to know "Truth"? G. K. Chesterton once claimed that our world was just as it would be if Christianity were true. Yes indeedy, that is the way it works! Confirmation bias. One soaked in Buddhist cosmology would no doubt think the same.

    Yet what would we SEE if we had no bias at all? Is that even possible? Is it even advisable?

    Maybe this has much to do with what an Early Church Father once said, "I believe in order to understand." But is " believing" in something first an advisable way to "understand"?

    Marcel Proust:- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.

    These are not academic questions. Beliefs do divide us. Cause wars. Inquisitions.

    What do others think, using one paragraph above as the actual question of this ramble:-

    What would we SEE if we had no bias at all? Is that even possible? Is it even advisable?
  2. Just to add, for me this is related to a post I made on the Dogen thread:-

    The significance of the key notion of “casting off the body-mind” in the context of Dōgen’s life and thought was that zazen-only, as the mythic-cultic archetype, symbolized the totality of the self and the world and represented that in which Buddha-nature became embodied. To cast off the body-mind did not nullify historical and social existence so much as to put it into action so that it could be the self-creative and self-expressive embodiment of Buddha-nature. In being “cast off,” however, concrete human existence was fashioned in the mode of radical freedom—purposeless, goalless, objectless, and meaningless. Buddha-nature was not to be enfolded in, but was to unfold through, human activities and expressions. The meaning of existence was finally freed from and authenticated by its all-too-human conditions only if, and when, it lived co-eternally with ultimate meaninglessness.

    I think - again - of Eckhart's "Love has no why."

    However, I did not wish to clutter up the OP.
  3. If we could see unencumbered by bias, with baggage, with beliefs, would this in fact be the "unshakeable freedom of mind" spoken of in Buddhist Texts as the goal of the Holy Life? It this the "truth that sets us free" spoken of in the NT? Would this be St Augustine's "loving God and doing what we will"? Is this the radical freedom that Thomas Merton spoke of, ending with "God is Freedom"?

    Hee-Jin Kim on Dogen:-

    The vision of ‘things as they are’ is never of a fixed reality/truth; the power for self-subversion and self-renewal is inherent in the vision itself. Thus ‘things’ seen as they are are transformable. Every practitioner’s task is to change them by seeing through them. From Dogen’s perspective, this is the fundamental difference between contemplation (dhyana) and zazen-only. To him, seeing was changing and making.
  4. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea An ordinary cup of tea

    Jul 1, 2011
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    Faith without belief? Sounds paradoxical. Like theology without language.
  5. OK, rephrase it.

    Once, having inherited various cultural beliefs, gathered and affirmed various beliefs as we have sought understanding, stood by beliefs when challenged, even fought for them, defended them.........can we in fact discard them, allowing faith to remain; discard all "baggage" and be free of belief entirely?

    And would such be "enlightenment"? (or whatever name we would want to give it)
  6. Just to add, having said at the beginning of the OP that I had no beliefs, I was in no way implying I am "enlightened"!

    Even as I wrote, I was thinking of the difference between "belief" and " bias".

    Also, given my own love and defence (in the past, on various forums) of the concrete, time/space, historical, human being (this against what I see as some sort of ethereal soul inhabiting an eternal "heaven") I'm not even sure about anything here.
  7. Bhaktajan II

    Bhaktajan II Active Member

    Jun 28, 2013
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    Specificity, if you please.

    Cheap Seats with "The Whatever name we would want to give it Travel Agency"

    Advance tickets now on sale to a great place for your next holiday ---when you get there IT'S ALL A BIG SURPRISE!

    How can one go some where and yet know less than what took your entire adult life to negotiate?

    I know how to get to the corner market with my eyes closed ---so where are you headed with your enlightenment? ---IT WILL ALL BE A BIG SURPRISE???

    Chose the goal, aim for the goal, proceed toward the goal ---[yes, we know you already have a plan B, which likely you have all the details of]
  8. Well, we have kicked around various words without any real conclusion or concensus, so I left it open. But me, though in "choosing" I left Theravada, I do prefer the Theravada definition that the "goal of the Holy Life" is unshakeable deliverance of mind.

    Yes, I agree "a great big surprise"! Who knows the next moment, and the "choice" (spontaneity) of radical freedom within it?
  9. Well, again, my experience is - as I have indicated before - I'm quite surprised already by where I am, and find it difficult to accept that I had much hand in any particular "negotiation."
  10. I have always worked out my salvation "in fear and trembling" (as it is said in what some call The Good Book) so in this context my "goal" was "salvation", possibly freedom from fear of all "authority figures" human or divine.

    As I have said, no matter my aim, the place I've ended in remains surprising, even the route taken at time.

    Plan B? Ask Theresa May.
  11. muhammad_isa

    muhammad_isa Active Member

    Jun 28, 2019
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    Perhaps you mean "do we need a creed?" or "do we need to be part of organized religion?"
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2019
  12. Thanks for your interest, but, no, not really.

    Obviously, you may pursue that, the thread is open!

    EDIT:- Looking back, post 5 covers this. At least as I see it. Thanks.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 28, 2019
  13. Just out of interest, a quote from Thomas Merton that as I see it relates to all this, and to @muhammad_isa 's query.

    The best we can say is that in certain religions, Buddhism for instance, the philosophical or religious framework is of a kind that can more easily be discarded, because it has in itself a built-in “ejector,” so to speak, by which the meditator is at a certain point flung out from the conceptual apparatus into the Void. It is possible for a Zen Master to say nonchalantly to his disciple, “If you meet the Buddha, kill him!” But in Christian mysticism the question whether or not the mystic can get along without the human “form” (Gestalt) or the sacred Humanity of Christ is still hotly debated, with the majority opinion definitely maintaining the necessity for the Christ of faith to be present as ikon at the center of Christian contemplation. Here again, the question is confused by the failure to distinguish between the objective theology of Christian experience and the actual psychological facts of Christian mysticism in certain cases. And then one must ask, at what point do the abstract demands of theory take precedence over the psychological facts of experience? Or, to what extent does the theology of a theologian without experience claim to interpret correctly the “experienced theology” of the mystic who is perhaps not able to articulate the meaning of his experience in a satisfactory way? We keep returning to one central question in two forms: the relation of objective doctrine to subjective mystic (or metaphysical) experience, and the difference in this relationship between Christianity and Zen.

    (From an essay in "Zen and the Birds of Appetite")
  14. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea An ordinary cup of tea

    Jul 1, 2011
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    I think I follow, but I really don't think this can exist in a human mind. It's interesting to juggle these concepts mentally, it can give us a good idea about where one thing ends and another begins. But I don't think it can be a reachable goal. But then you know how suspicious I am of enlightenment.
  15. muhammad_isa

    muhammad_isa Active Member

    Jun 28, 2019
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    What faith remains? If you discard your understanding 0f G-d, then you no longer have a credible belief.
    How can that be enlightening? :)
  16. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

    Jul 20, 2007
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    Believing we don't need a belief is itself a belief. The idea is self-refuting. Where's the middle path? We need beliefs, but we also shouldn't accept beliefs without examination:

    "If one learns from others but does not think, one will be bewildered. If, on the other hand, one thinks but does not learn from others, one will be in peril" (The Analects 2.15).​
    muhammad_isa likes this.
  17. Hi, I would seem to prefer questions, while you appear to prefer definitive answers. I need Faith while questioning.

    Merton spoke above about "ejectors". You appear to like being firmly strapped into your seat, hand well away from the button.

    As I have said before, as I see it, Belief clings, Faith lets go.

    The question for me is when, or perhaps, can we press the button too soon.
  18. I am asking about the possibility of living with no beliefs. As I see it, you are merely playing with words.

    The Middle Way is not for Buddhists a mid point between two extremes.
  19. A final word.

    I am the Cobblers Apprentice for good reason. The cobbler Saichi cried out "Gratitude is all a lie, there is nothing the matter with one". My life is one of constant gratitude, thank you, thank you, thank you. I merely recognise the possibility that Saichi is right. Despite what might appear at times as a flippant attitude, I take things seriously. I have wrestled on and off for a long long time over Merton's assertion that true mystical experience is a Contact of two Liberties. Sorted.

    Whatever, I am off for a short break, normal service (if that is the appropriate phrase) will be resumed Friday. I will have access to the Forum, but time will be limited. I like to answer others quickly, without mulling over things too much, no-calculation. Next four days, who knows?
  20. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

    Sep 25, 2003
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    Shame Wei Wu Wei did not provide ant reference regarding the 'recently discovered collection', as without it, my skeptic's eye immediately casts the whole text as a piece of propaganda. But I only post this as being obliquely relevant to the discussion ...

    In another life we spoke about Jiriki (自力 'self power') and tariki (他力 'other power'), and I drew (I think, or do, anyway) between that and the idea of jnana/gnosis/belief and bhakti/love/faith ...

    That's a huge question. In the crib we begin to discern and distinguish the difference between self and the world, and we start building concepts of both ... we are biased before we even realise there is bias ... ?

    Then we have seeing and seeing ... we might have our eyes open, but what do we really see? Do we really see anything as it is?

    In some cases, I'd say yes, but does that render it infallible? No.


    I may be over simplifying, but to me its seems that for one to have trust/faith, there must be an object of t/f, and that is what one believes, even if one has t/f simply in oneself.

    Explaining that t/f is another matter, and explaining it to oneself is a prior matter.

    Is it possible to say some saints/sages have proceeded in the Way without ever asking the question 'what do I believe', but rather simply affirm 'I believe' ...

    ... Perhaps, to paraphrase Augustine (you started it), perhaps it's that old conundrum about time: "What, then, is faith? If no one ask of me, I know; if I wish to explain to him who asks, I know not."

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