There is the concept of faith (śraddhā) in Buddhism. There is also the concept of faith found in Christianity. Both concepts have been translated into the English word faith but in what ways are the concepts different and also are there ways in with the concepts have similarities.

I'd find it particularly interesting if anyone knows the original roots of the word faith in Christianity (i.e. what was the original word in Greek or Hebrew) and how the translation compares to how śraddhā has been translated. Do the words have nuances that have been lost in the translation to the simple English word faith?

  • 1
    these type of comparative questions are problematic in an open forum. Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 17:23
  • “We Christians have no monopoly on the Holy Spirit: “All those who are led by the Spirit of God are [daughters and] sons of God.” (Romans 8:14) ” - “Discussing God is not the best use of our energy,” Thich Nhat Hanh writes. “If we touch the Holy Spirit, we touch God not as a concept but as a living reality.” “It is safer to approach God through the Holy Spirit than through theology,” Excerpt From: Thich Nhat Hanh. “Living Buddha, Living Christ.”
    – Buddho
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 9:36

6 Answers 6


As someone who was born into Orthodox Christian faith, has been baptized, attended church occasionally, has read full Bible, both New and Old Testament (BTW the Orthodox version of which includes 11 more "books" than the Protestant, 4 more than the Catholic), who has high respect for the teaching of Christ, appreciation of Father, and deep connection with Holy Spirit, and also as one who's been practicing and studying Buddhism for decades now, and became independent of others in regards to Buddha's message -- I suppose I'm in a good position to answer this question.

The words representing "faith" (śraddhā & pistis) in both religions share most of their semantic fields: belief, trust, confidence, loyalty. Sraddha includes a couple more meanings like assent/approval/consent/reverence, and appetite/longing/wish/expectation -- which too are connotations of "faith" as it is understood in Christianity. So overall, we have two rather similar words.

Faith in Early Christianity

The "main" definition of faith in Christianity is found in Letter to the Hebrews by the Apostle Paul and goes like this:

As for faith, it is realization of the expected and confidence in the invisible.

In Orthodox Christianity this phrase is explained as follows: "Not only we who carry Christ's name consider the faith as the greatest, but everything done in the world, even by people strange to the Church, is done by faith, since the one who does not believe that [he] will rip the grown fruits, will not tolerate the labors". Another example given is the faith of the seafarers, who "entrust their lives to a small wood" and "give themselves to unknown hopes and have by themselves only faith, which for them is more reliable than any anchor".

From this we can see that "confidence in the invisible" is not as much blind faith in the existence of something we can't verify, but rather "realization of the expected" -- confidence in the outcome of our effort, based on our prior experience and our knowledge of how the world operates. This means that as Christians interacts with the world, they are supposed to get first-hand evidence/support of why the Son's Commandments make sense, see Holy Spirit at work, and recognize the law of Father behind all.

At the same time Orthodox Christians, like Zen Buddhists, recognize that our understanding can never exhaust the depth of things. There will always remain something which escapes analysis and which can not be expressed in concepts. Therefore, any realistic view of the world necessarily includes reverent recognition of this unknowable depth of things, that which constitutes their true, indefinable essence. This appreciation of the ultimate ineffability of the Law is a major component of faith.

Standing on these two legs -- appreciation of the order of things, and fascination with the depths -- we can have courage to do what's right, even though there is no 100% explicit guarantee it will work. This is faith.

Faith in later Christianity

Where this starts breaking up, is in its application to actual Christian practice, which virtually demands a Christian to take the following creed:

I believe (pisteuo) in God,
the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried;
he descended into hell;
on the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting. Amen.

So as we can see, what started as very rational declaration of faith as expression of experience, understanding, gratitude, fascination, courage, and righteousness -- was later turned into an ultimatum.

Faith in Early Buddhism

Although many Buddhist define their faith as a growing conviction one gains as one is exposed to Dharma and progressively verifies it on one's own experience, this is not what I see in Pali Canon.

Instead, Buddha speaks of faith as the first phase of the path, during which the practitioner gets inspired by the message of Buddha, based solely on a verbal exposure (MN 125):

A householder or a householder's son or one born in another family hears that dhamma. Having heard that dhamma he gains faith in the Tathagata. Endowed with this faith that he has acquired, he reflects [on his life and decides to joins the spiritual path]

At this point one is called faith-follower (SN 25.3):

[1] One who has conviction & belief that these phenomena are this way is called a faith-follower: one who has entered the orderliness of rightness, entered the plane of people of integrity, transcended the plane of the run-of-the-mill.

The following two phases will help us understand the limits of faith:

[2] One who, after pondering with a modicum of discernment, has accepted that these phenomena are this way is called a Dhamma-follower.

[3] One who knows and sees that these phenomena are this way is called a stream-enterer.

Such unwavering faith, that drives one until one sees for himself, is often mentioned in Pali Canon in context of the factors of the path, along with persistence etc. (MN 70):

For a disciple who has faith in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this: 'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I'... 'Gladly would I let the flesh & blood in my body dry up, leaving just the skin, tendons, & bones, but if I have not attained what can be reached through human firmness, human persistence, human striving, there will be no relaxing my persistence.'

Faith in later Buddhism

By the time of Vasubandhu's Abhidharmakosa (4th or 5th century CE), faith is beginning to acquire a character of dogma:

If it is asked, what is faith? Faith is full confidence in the efficacy of actions and their results (i.e. karma), in the (noble) truths, and in the Three Jewels; it is also an aspiration (for spiritual attainment) and clearminded appreciation (of the truth of Dharma).

This eventually becomes e.g. a following dogma:

How is faith perfect?
This is believing deeply that the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are Eternal,
that all Buddhas of the ten directions make use of upaya,
and that beings and icchantikas all possess the Buddha-dhatu.

It is not believing that the Tathagata is subject to birth, old age, illness, and death,
that he has undergone austerities,
and that Devadatta really caused blood to flow from the Buddha's body,
that the Tathagata ultimately enters Nirvana,
and that authentic Dharma dies out.

Reminds something, huh? :)


In both Christianity and Buddhism we can see the process of gradual codification / dogmatization of symbols and principles, this is normal. Both religions have layers, and if you explore the populations of practicing representatives of both religions, you will always find a gamut of sophistication, from the most superficial to the most profound.

Putting aside the question of the cyclic process of regression and reinstitution of Sat-Dharma (True Teaching), we can see that originally the faith in Buddhism and the faith in Christianity were kinda opposite. Indeed, like I showed above, in Christianity faith used to be an expression of one's (however limited) insight into the Cosmic Law, first and foremost in its ethical aspect. While in Buddhism faith used to refer to a condition of inspiration and unwavering drive one has until one confirms the teaching first-hand. The object of Christian faith, although implicit, is here, while the object of Buddhist faith is over there.

This is because early Buddhism is based on a metaphor of Ground, Path, and Fruition -- while Christianity is in some sense based on a metaphor of Field (whether the battlefield of good and evil, or the field of one's life). The later Buddhism, esp. some strands of Mahayana have adopted this notion of Law (Tao, Bup etc.) and became somewhat less goal-oriented, which found reflection in their definition of faith.

To finish this up, let's consider a perpetual question: which one is better? In my sincere opinion, both the faith as appreciation of the implicit and ultimately inexpressible but evidently effective Law, and the faith as putting one's trust in not yet clear but inspiring the confidence Teaching are important. One starts with the second type and eventually attains the first type. Could we go as far as to say that Buddhist path culminates in first-hand knowledge of the Law of God? May be. This is how I see it anyway ;)

  • 2
    It's a little appalling that the only relevant answer has apparently been downvoted. Commented Sep 21, 2014 at 2:26
  • 1
    Not really, I was just late to the party :)
    – Andriy Volkov
    Commented Sep 21, 2014 at 2:34
  • 2
    +1 good answer. I had three reactions to it. -1.) I'm surprised at your conclusion, that they "were kinda opposite": because you said "confidence in the outcome of our effort", which seems to me just like the Buddhist definition, i.e. that it's what motivates/helps you to act. It is, even, confidence in the teacher (Matthew 16:13-20). -2.) The creed you mentioned is a different word (Σύμβολο): it's the object, what's believed, a flag or symbol, "this is what you must profess in order to belong to our sect."
    – ChrisW
    Commented Sep 21, 2014 at 11:53
  • 1
    IMO the creed was chosen not because it's core Christian values (e.g. The Greatest Commandment); almost the opposite, it's only defines the sect's position on fringe/controversial topics (e.g. "Is God one or three?" and similar arcana). Obviously, Buddhist and Christian beliefs are different. The English word "faith" is used for both, "why/how do you?" (e.g. because I am motivated by faith), and "what do you?" (e.g. the lessons which Jesus taught, and/or the doctrine of the church). IMO the question only asks about the first of these of these meaning of "faith".
    – ChrisW
    Commented Sep 21, 2014 at 11:54
  • 2
    -3.) I wonder whether "faith" in both (Christian and Buddhist) cases varies over the person's lifetime. In Buddhism, is "faith" more necessary at the beginning than later, after you are able to "experience it for yourself"? I suspect that something similar might be true with Christian faith, that for example "Mark 10:13-16" implies that faith might be almost childish, and "1 Corinthians Chapter 13" that faith alone is "nothing" and that the intention is to subsequently transform (make charitable) the adult person (and society).
    – ChrisW
    Commented Sep 21, 2014 at 11:54

There's a Wikipedia article here about the word "faith" in Christianity; which begins,

The word "faith", translated from the Greek πιστις (pi'stis), was primarily used in the New Testament with the Greek perfect tense and translates as a noun-verb hybrid; which is not adequately conveyed by the English noun.

An explanation of what the Greek perfect tense is can be found here:

Perfect Tense

The basic thought of the perfect tense is that the progress of an action has been completed and the results of the action are continuing on, in full effect. In other words, the progress of the action has reached its culmination and the finished results are now in existence. Unlike the English perfect, which indicates a completed past action, the Greek perfect tense indicates the continuation and present state of a completed past action.

For example, Galatians 2:20 should be translated "I am in a present state of having been crucified with Christ," indicating that not only was I crucified with Christ in the past, but I am existing now in that present condition.

"...having been rooted and grounded in love," Eph 3:17

Sentences which summarize it include,

The pi'stis-group words in the New Testament can thus be interpreted as relating to ideas of faithfulness, fidelity, loyalty, commitment, trust, belief, and proof. The most appropriate interpretation and translation of pi'stis-group words in the New Testament is a matter of recent controversy, particularly over the meaning of pi'stis when it is directed towards Jesus.[4]

Do the words have nuances that have been lost in the translation to the simple English word faith?

Based on the Wikipedia article, perhaps it implies a personal connection, the "fidelity" of human relationships: "Jesus is/was my friend", and "do this is remembrance of me", that kind of thing.

I won't try to say what the same word was used to mean, in the Old Testament.

The use of the "perfect" tense (meaning 'completed', not meaning 'without fault') is appropriate for referring to actions which have been completed (e.g. Jesus's life, death, and resurrection; a Christian's past baptism causing their present salvation; etc.): see also the notion of Christianity as "good news".

Per Wikipedia (here and here), the Buddhist word "faith" also (i.e. perhaps similarly to the Christian word) includes the meanings of "trust" and "loyalty".

The descriptions given in this article seem to me to imply that the words have the following in common:

  • Hear that something exists (dharma or law)
  • Trust in the spiritual attainment of the teacher (Buddha or Christ)
  • Practice/study/discovery of what the message really means
  • Happiness, confidence, satisfaction if/when/because one is able to align one's life with one's faith
  • If I recall correctly (from some verses in the palicanon) then even the mere ability to trust/believe resp to have faith that the direction the teacher directs me shall be helpful/healthy/worth-the-effort. From which I take (for myself) that "trust" or the "ability-to-trust" is for the spiritual seeker similar to the ability of a sportsman simply to move, run or basically to metabolize physical tension and by this is able to improve physical fitness. Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 13:29

Faith is a central concept to Christianity, but like Buddhism, Christianity has different branches and the views differ somewhat in each. The wikipedia article on Faith in Christianity gives a fair summary of some of these views.

The Original (Ancient Greek) word that is translated to 'faith' in English versions of the New Testament is:

pistis ( πίστις ), Phonetic Spelling: (pis'-tis), Definition: faith, belief, trust, confidence; fidelity, faithfulness. (source)

This word appears in the New Testament 243 times and is a key concept in the teachings of Jesus Christ in particular. The closest the Bible comes to providing an explicit definition of the word is found in the 'faith hall of fame' chapter of the bible in Hebrews 11 (NIV) which is somewhat lengthy, but entirely germane:

Faith in Action

1. Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

2. This is what the ancients were commended for.

3. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

4. By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

5. By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

7. By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.

8. By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

13. All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

17. By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

20. By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.

21. By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

22. By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.

23. By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

24. By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

29. By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.

30. By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.

31. By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

32. And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

39. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

As you can see, it starts with a short definition of sorts, but the overwhelming sense of the passage is that faith produces action; indeed as it says elsewhere in the Bible:

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. - James 2:17 NIV

Not being an expert or even one moderately acquainted with the tenets of Buddhism, I hesitate to delineate the significant differences between the use of faith in the two religions with any authority or to any great depth. However, if I can assume Suminda's answer's definition as a solid basis, I see commonalities and I see differences. The main commonality would be the strong relation of faith to practice (as per the last verse quoted); the main difference would be that Christianity has a strong emphasis on the relational nature of faith as trusting in 'the living God' as one would trust a (living) person - not in giving mental assent to a theological proposition, but in taking the person on face value, trusting their word and following and obeying them - Christian prayer is a manifestation of this relational faith in the living God.

Summary: The Christian definition of 'faith' is highly nuanced beyond the normal English definition of the word and in some ways significantly differs from the common understanding.

  • 1
    SFAIK Buddhism includes a similarly "relational" faith, in that it puts trust a.k.a. "takes refuge" in the Buddha himself, as well as empirically experiencing the result of belief/practice.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 13:15
  • 1
    @ChrisW You cannot draw parallels of this with other religions in any apple to apple way. Even matter of fact fruit to fruit. Possible comparisons will be like a football to orange like and will definitely lead to confusion. Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 17:13
  • @SumindaSirinathSalpitikorala Perhaps I must. "Drawing parallels" is what this question is asking: it asks, "What are the differences/similarities"? I suspect it would be a mistake to assume that they're completely different in every way, just as it's also incorrect to assume they're completely the same in every way. And, we might believe that Buddhism has or is a "one true way" in its definition of "faith", but (like Christianity) even Buddhism or Buddhists seem to have various different types of 'faith'.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 18:20
  • @ChrisW Interesting, but pehaps you could clarify this - is this form of trust in the Buddha as a living interactive person or in his teaching/method/advice/system? For instance, regarding the former, could a Buddhist exercise a relational form of faith by asking and expecting to receive answers to prayers made to the Buddha? Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 18:56
  • 1
    There is no concept of prayers in Buddhism. You pay respect to the Triple Gem with gratitude like you look up to your teachers in Asian cultures. (Generally you prostrate before a teacher for respect. ) Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 21:07

The role of faith is as follows:

  • Other teachings: unquestioned belief in a dogma or central teaching, which cannot be verified through practice, which cannot be questioned or scrutinised, and which generally is a promise after death that cannot be realized within this lifetime and experienced here and now. Also here is an entity which saves a person or decided the fate of an individual or a law giver. Also there is a sect which is rewarded concept based on acceptance, faith, etc.
  • Buddhism: faith is some belief in the practice to seriously try it out to start with. Each step in the Dhamma when you get close to the final goal thus your faith is strengthened when you see / verify / understand the teaching at the experiential level here and now. The teaching is not a promise after death which is not verifiable, hence you can gain and strengthen your faith when you see things as they are, though practice and direct experience. If needed the Dhamma is open for scrutiny as it can stand such scrutiny thus a source of inspiration and faith after such exercise (this is how many of the early western Buddhists did become Buddhists). In Buddhism there is not law give. Regardless of what you call your self (Christian, Muslim, Hindu, etc.), if you practice according to the teachings you will get the same benefits (Also see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dharma_(Buddhism)#Qualities_of_Buddha_Dharma)

To elaborate more on the Buddhist view on faith I give the following example. If you do not have faith in a doctor your will not got to him. If you do not have faith in his medicine you will not take it. Once you have faith in the doctor and medicine and you take the medicine and then you get better you know the prescription works and the doctor is indeed not a quaker. In this case Buddha is the doctor and the prescription is the Dhamma. Buddhism is based on psychology and Buddha was one of the greatest psychologist. In this regard you can draw a week parallel on the role of faith in compassion as faith you will have in a psychologist or particular treatment and faith in a religion. As I said this is a week analogy as Buddhists you have to have lot of gratitude as if not for his discovery we will not have this treatment and if not for the monastic tradition that did not preserved this we will have not got it. According to the birth stories the search for the solution lasted unimaginable life times and lot of pain, hence much deeper gratitude is required towards the Buddha than a doctor who might cure you one. (See Buddhism and Modern Psychology and Buddhist Meditation and the Modern World)

Also another analogy is teacher student relationship. If you do not trust your teacher you will not lean what he teachers and hence cannot benefit from what you have been taught. E.g. if some one is teaching you archery, and you do not think what is taught is indeed the best way to aim, or your teacher is good at it, you will not learn and also will not be skilled at it as you have not practiced as taught. Also again you need deeper gratitude towards the Buddha for his higher dedication for teaching and also the quality of the teaching. In comparison to Western Psychology, the Buddhist treatment is much superior in terms of the results and consistency.

The Pali word Sradha doesn't translate well into English as faith since when you say faith it can be a belief with no proof or warrent. Better term would be confidence. Buddhism is not faith based but confidence players a significant role. Good analogy would be a Buddhist science teacher teaching. If you follow the instructions in the experiment as it is you can get reproducible results regardless of whether the students call them selves Christian, Muslim, etc. but you have to have confidence in the teacher to the extent that he is knowledgeable and teaching you the right method. Lack of confidence mean that you will not learn properly and also follow the method properly. In case you follow the instructions accordingly you get the results and not doing so will not give you the results, but each and everyone who take the right steps will get results. Also you can compare this to baking a cake. More faithful you are to a great recipe, more better the outcome would be. (Keep in mind that the reproducibility is more like in a drug trial, or balance of probability, or statistical than that of a physics or chemistry experiment.)

Also there are 3 stages of wisdom which is linked to confidence:

  • on hearing you feel the message sounds right
  • on further thinking about what you heard you see it is logical
  • when you practice and see for yourself your confidence becomes even stronger

I am answering this in a more generic fashion than targeted at a particular other faith by negation (taking the opposite meaning) of the 6 qualities of the Buddha Dhamma. So this is not targeted at any faith, but should be opposite of qualities of the Dhamma. Some faith based systems may not have or not have this at a varying degree. I just bundled this "other teachings", but some may have some of the characteristics the Dhamma. (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dharma_(Buddhism)#Qualities_of_Buddha_Dharma)

The 6 qualities of the Dhamma in detail (taken from Wikipedia):

Svākkhāto (Sanskrit: Svākhyāta "well proclaimed" or "self-announced"). The Buddha's teaching is not a speculative philosophy but an exposition of the Universal Law of Nature based on a causal analysis of natural phenomena. It is taught, therefore, as a science rather than a sectarian belief system. Full comprehension (enlightenment) of the teaching may take varying lengths of time but Buddhists traditionally say that the course of study is 'excellent in the beginning (sīla – Sanskrit śīla – moral principles), excellent in the middle (samādhi – concentration) and excellent in the end' (paññā - Sanskrit prajñā . . . Wisdom).

Sandiṭṭhiko (Sanskrit: Sāṃdṛṣṭika "able to be examined"). The Dharma is open to scientific and other types of scrutiny and is not based on faith. It can be tested by personal practice and one who follows it will see the result for oneself by means of one's own experience. Sandiṭṭhiko comes from the word sandiṭṭhika which means visible in this world and is derived from the word sandiṭṭhi-. Since Dhamma is visible, it can be "seen": known and be experienced within one's life.

Akāliko (Sanskrit: Akālika "timeless, immediate"). The Dhamma is able to bestow timeless and immediate results here and now. There is no need to wait for the future or a next existence. The dhamma does not change over time and it is not relative to time. Ehipassiko (Sanskrit: Ehipaśyika "which you can come and see" — from the phrase ehi, paśya "come, see!"). The Dhamma invites all beings to put it to the test and come see for themselves.

Opanayiko (Sanskrit: Avapraṇayika "leading one close to"). Followed as a part of one's life the dhamma leads one to liberation. In the "Vishuddhimagga" this is also referred to as "Upanayanam." Opanayiko means "to be brought inside oneself". This can be understood with an analogy as follows. If one says a ripe mango tastes delicious, and if several people listen and come to believe it, they would imagine the taste of the mango according to their previous experiences of other delicious mangoes. Yet, they will still not really know exactly how this mango tastes. Also, if there is a person who has never tasted a ripe mango before, that person has no way of knowing exactly for himself how it tastes. So, the only way to know the exact taste is to experience it. In the same way, dhamma is said to be Opanayiko which means that a person needs to experience it within to see exactly what it is.

Paccattaṃ veditabbo viññūhi (Sanskrit: Pratyātmaṃ veditavyo vijñaiḥ "To be meant to perceive directly"). The Dhamma can be perfectly realized only by the noble disciples (Buddha) who have matured in supreme wisdom. No one can "enlighten" another person. Each intelligent person has to attain and experience for themselves. As an analogy, no one can simply make another know how to swim. Each person individually has to learn how to swim. In the same way, dhamma cannot be transferred or bestowed upon someone. Each one has to know for themselves.

Sourced: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dharma_(Buddhism)

  • 4
    You incorrectly characterise the fole of faith in Christianity - the definition you provide is a strawman definition of faith favoured by atheists. It is irreconcileable to how faith is defined and modeled in the Christian bible. Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 11:00
  • 2
    Sorry to offend any body. My answer is not meant to do this. This is taken directly from the 6 properties of the Buddha's teaching with one I put with the possible meaning opposite to the properties and one with which is the properties of Buddha's teaching. Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 17:08
  • 1
    Added another paragraph. Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 20:38
  • 1
    From Stream Entry you have unshakable confidence as you have seen and verified the reality as it is. Also the Sutta gives the basis of the conclusion. Also "linage of faith" special ability Sariputta had. I think we should look at another traslation or the Pali term here as I am not sure if this is the best rendering. Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 21:27
  • 1
    Analogies are not perfect. Just trying to get the point across. Any body who walks the path gets the results. More like a psychological treatment it is not that clear cut like cooking. Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 21:34

What are the differences/similarities in the concept of faith as used in Buddhism and Christianity?

Faith is an English word. It is defined in Oxford Dictionaries:

Definition of faith in English:

1 Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.

2 Strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof.

2.1[count noun]A particular religion. ‘the Christian faith’

2.2[count noun]A strongly held belief.

Definitions 2, 2.1 and 2.2 are applicable to faith in Christianity.

These definitions are not applicable to Buddhism because there is no God in Buddhism. This gets further complicated by the fact that there are numerous Buddhist traditions.

Dhamma of Lord Buddha (Sammasambudda), 'four noble truths' (Cattari Ariyasaccani), from which all Buddhist traditions have been developed after the Parinibbana (extinction without remainder), does not entertain faith or beliefs in any form.

Dhamma is without beliefs.


The Pali scriptures refer to faith (saddha) in two most basic ways, namely:

(1) The 1st of the five spiritual faculties (indriya).

(2) The 1st of the five spiritual powers (bala).

Therefore, faith is the 1st mental quality required for any kind of spiritual activity. The other spiritual faculties & powers are energy, mindfulness, concentration & wisdom.

The spiritual 'faculty' of faith represents the mental capacity for belief, trust or conviction.

The spiritual 'power' of faith represents the mental capacity or faculty of faith put into action & bringing spiritual results or fruit.

Thus, the Christian teachings also distinguish between mere faith & the power of faith.

Matthew 17:20 Jesus answered, “You were not able to make the demon go out, because your faith is too small. Believe me when I tell you, if your faith is only as big as a mustard seed you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. You will be able to do anything.”

Matthew 21:21 Jesus answered, “The truth is, if you have faith and no doubts, you will be able to do the same as I did to this tree. And you will be able to do more. You will be able to say to this mountain, ‘Go, mountain, fall into the sea.’ And if you have faith, it will happen.

James 2:14 [ Faith and Good Works ] My brothers and sisters, if a person claims to have faith but does nothing, that faith is worth nothing. Faith like that cannot save anyone.

James 2:17 If it is just faith and nothing more—if it doesn’t do anything — it is dead.

James 2:18 But someone might argue, “Some people have faith, and others have good works.” My answer would be that you can’t show me your faith if you don’t do anything. But I will show you my faith by the good I do.

James 2:24 So you see that people are made right with God by what they do. They cannot be made right by faith alone.

One major difference is the objects of faith. In Christianity, faith is in conditioned phenomena. In Buddhism, faith is in both conditioned & unconditioned phenomena, as follows:

Monks, among things conditioned and unconditioned, dispassion is reckoned to be the best of them all: the crushing of all infatuation, the removal of thirst, the uprooting of attachment, the cutting off of the round, the destruction of craving, dispassion, Nibbāna. Those who have faith in the Dhamma of dispassion have faith in the best; and for those who have faith in the best, the best result will be theirs. AN 4.34

For example, there was a time when the famous Christian nun Mother Teresa lost her faith:

"Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear," she wrote the Rev. Michael van der Peet in September 1979.

If Mother Teresa had faith in the silence & emptiness, her mind may have reached the unconditioned Nibbana.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .