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So I was reading about jhana and nimitta in a book by Pa-Auk tawya sayadaw here page 41 if anyone wants to read. Where I come across this:

To balance faith with wisdom, and concentration with effort, is praised by the wise. If, for instance, faith is strong and wisdom is weak, a person will develop faith in, and respect for objects without use and essence. For instance, he will develop faith in, and reverence for objects revered and respected by religions outside orthodox Buddhism, such as guardian spir- its or protective deities. If, on the other hand, wisdom is strong and faith is weak, a person can become quite crafty. Without meditating, he will spend his time simply passing judgements. This is as difficult to cure as to cure a diseas caused by an overdose of medicine. If faith and wisdom are balanced, however, a person will have faith in objects he should have faith in: the Triple Gem, kamma, and its effects. He will believe that if he meditates in accordance with The Buddha's in- structions, he will be able to attain the pañibhàga-nimitta, and jhàna

Now I do experience with the latter, too much wisdom, not enough faith.

I did and must have had some faith at the beginning of my study into Buddhism, though at that time I still had faith (believed) in god (creation/christian god) but now I "know" things that I no longer have faith in, because I know and understand them I have conformation rather than faith. Even kind of complicated concepts like "faith in" karma, I no longer have faith in because I understand and can see first hand karma manifest through cause and effect. Even the Buddhas enlightenment I have "seen" so to speak as I have seen the fruits of the path so my faith in these things have waned or dissipated.

There has not been any sort of scepticism about the actual Buddhas teachings for a long time, I at least intellectually understand even the most complex concepts.

I remember hearing a sutta about Buddha asking a student if they have faith in the Buddha and the student replied "no I do no longer have faith in the Buddha", to which the other members of the sangha were shocked, but the meaning of the sutta was that this person had gone beyond faith and understood the dhamma so no longer had any faith in what the Buddha taught, as he had seen himself. I cannot remember if this is a mahayana or theravada sutta, and I think the student was an arhant, meaning after arthantship one no longer has faith. Still the question is before arthantship, as I myself am not an arthant.

So the questions are: how do we then gain or renew faith in order to balance wisdom? Is there a point where faith is no longer able to manifest in ones mind before arhantship so there is no way to balance wisdom with faith? and if so, how would we [then] actually be able to balance wisdom without faith?

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  • You have confidence in God now?
    – Lowbrow
    Dec 17, 2023 at 8:15
  • Not at all, I now know it lacks an inherent existence, even from a more basic non Buddhist philosophical PoV, God would not exist [to me] if I ceased to exist which means god is dependant upon my perception to exist. Using me as a microcosm of us all, the logic still keeps. It is a mental concept that is dependently related upon our perception for it to exist and function. No different from the pantheonic deities in some Buddhist traditions, they are mental fabrications. Though when I first started seeking answers to the important questions I originated in an innate belief in a creation God.
    – Remyla
    Dec 27, 2023 at 15:38
  • Originated as in came from a religious perspective and understanding that was based upon the Christian God, ethics, morality etc.
    – Remyla
    Dec 27, 2023 at 15:39

4 Answers 4

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So the questions are, how do we then gain or renew faith in order to balance wisdom? ....and if so, how would we actually balance wisdom without faith?

Re-gaining faith in the noble eightfold path, I think, is a good balance against wisdom. It is the belief or faith that there is still much work to be done on the practice in the noble eightfold path, balanced with existing wisdom and knowledge.

I suspect one danger of wisdom or knowledge is that we become complacent and don’t want to push ourselves harder. The faith that there is more which the Buddha taught (of the noble eightfold path), that we have yet accomplished or completed, will then push us more diligently in the practice. As we practise more, new penetrative insights (wisdom) that weren't there before suddenly appears. This results in more wisdom with its accompanying peace albeit transient. And the entire process continues till the moment of full liberation with its lasting peace.

Is there a point where faith is no longer able to manifest in ones mind before arhantship so there is no way as to balance wisdom with faith?

No, both faith and wisdom are needed till final liberation. Wisdom to discern what is still lacking. Faith that it can be overcome just as the Buddha had taught and the noble ones had achieved. As mentioned in Anguttara Nikaya (Tika-Nipata No. 128) below.

"Well, Anuruddha, as to your statement about seeing the thousandfold world-system, that is just your conceit. As to your statement about being strenuous and unshaken and so forth, that is just arrogance. As to your statement about your heart not being released from the āsavas, that is just worrying. It would indeed be well for the venerable Anuruddha if he were to abandon these three conditions, if he were not to think about them, but were to focus his mind on the deathless element."

Lastly, from what I understand, this balancing of wisdom and faith will be relinquished upon full liberation.

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Don't read that word as faith. Read is as trust. I think that will ultimately prove more helpful in your practice. For Westerners, the word "faith" is loaded with Judeo-Christian connotations. We have "faith" in Jesus, dying and rising again. We have "faith" that the universe is ruled by a benevolent, personal God. We profess our faith. We are saved by faith. And so on and so forth.

In the religious Buddhism, you can certainly have the same sort of faith. Many people do. Some are even liberated by it to a degree. Practically speaking, however, this sort of faith will only get you so far. After all, no deva or Bodhisattva can ultimately save you. You have to do that for yourself. Instead of having faith, have trust. Trust that the dharma leads to liberation. Trust that you are practicing meditation properly. Trust that when challenges arise, you can meet them. Trust - like falling into a trust fall - that the sangha and all the Bodhisattvas will support you on your way.

Trust means pushing on along the road when you don't know where it will ultimately lead. It requires a suspension of judgement both about the path and the person walking it. It takes an act of ultimate trust to keep moving forward no matter what happens. Like a man in a tree, holding onto a branch with his teeth, trust is speaking a true word knowing that doing so means falling to your death. Speak anyway and see what happens. I hope all this is making sense.

To live in this faith is the road to nonduality,
because the nondual is one with the trusting mind.

From "Verses on the Faith Mind"

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  • I always saw the translation of faith in Buddhism as "conviction" as in we are convicted that the Buddha was an enlightened being and nibbana is possible but you have not seen it for ourselves. Still after seeing the goal, faith in that regard has gone. Initially I was instructed to guide faith with equal amounts of doubt as like the OP passage, too much faith in what others say without sceptical doubt will lead us to believe anything another said without enquiring ourselves, which in turn can lead people to believe in nonsense like protector deities. This is essentially what Buddha........
    – Remyla
    Jul 18, 2023 at 16:14
  • Instructed himself with the kalama sutta. For us to actually inquire and see for ourselves.
    – Remyla
    Jul 18, 2023 at 16:15
  • I think a better approach to faith is understanding it like a diver who leaps into dark water not knowing how deep it is. Or committing to a relationship in spite of your doubts.
    – user25112
    Jul 18, 2023 at 18:43
  • That is faith in the conventional term, hope, belief etc. In Buddhism, the translation of faith is not correct because the definition of the English word faith is different to the mind state of what this phenomena means. In a similar vain dukkha is translated as suffering, but the word suffering alone does not adequately translate what the work dukha means, as there is no word in the English language for dukkha. So a more fitting English word would be conviction.
    – Remyla
    Jul 18, 2023 at 18:52
  • The Meaning of the mind state "faith", it is a positive, hopeful and encouraging mind state, which if one has conviction in a concept, where once you have it it encourages you to go forward in the path. The English word faith is more that it is a wishing mindstate, a form of ignorance that makes you believe in something, say Jesus was an incarnation of god for example, and with that faith you will be ignorant to knowledge that counteracts your beliefs. Faith can be broken though. Conviction cannot, because it is experiential wisdom.
    – Remyla
    Jul 18, 2023 at 18:55
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I think it is not wisdom, but rather knowledge that is to be balanced with faith.

“Here, bhikkhus, some misguided men learn the Dhamma—discourses, stanzas, expositions, verses, exclamations, sayings, birth stories, marvels, and answers to questions—but having learned the Dhamma, they do not examine the meaning of those teachings with wisdom. Not examining the meaning of those teachings with wisdom, they do not gain a reflective acceptance of them. Instead they learn the Dhamma only for the sake of criticising others and for winning in debates, and they do not experience the good for the sake of which they learned the Dhamma. Those teachings, being wrongly grasped by them, conduce to their harm and suffering for a long time. Why is that? Because of the wrong grasp of those teachings.

“Suppose a man needing a snake, seeking a snake, wandering in search of a snake, saw a large snake and grasped its coils or its tail. It would turn back on him and bite his hand or his arm or one of his limbs, and because of that he would come to death or deadly suffering. Why is that? Because of his wrong grasp of the snake. So too, here some misguided men learn the Dhamma…Why is that? Because of the wrong grasp of those teachings.

“Here, bhikkhus, some clansmen learn the Dhamma—discourses…answers to questions—and having learned the Dhamma, they examine the meaning of those teachings with wisdom. Examining the meaning of those teachings with wisdom, they gain a reflective acceptance of them. They do not learn the Dhamma for the sake of criticising others and for winning in debates, and they experience the good for the sake of which they learned the Dhamma. Those teachings, being rightly grasped by them, conduce to their welfare and happiness for a long time. Why is that? Because of the right grasp of those teachings.

“Suppose a man needing a snake, seeking a snake, wandering in search of a snake, saw a large snake and caught it rightly with a cleft stick, and having done so, grasped it rightly by the neck. Then although the snake might wrap its coils round his hand or his arm or his limbs, still he would not come to death or deadly suffering because of that. Why is that? Because of his right grasp of the snake. So too, here some clansmen learn the Dhamma… Why is that? Because of the right grasp of those teachings.

“Therefore, bhikkhus, when you understand the meaning of my statements, remember it accordingly; and when you do not understand the meaning of my statements, then ask either me about it or those bhikkhus who are wise.
MN 22

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Thinking how to "gain or renew faith" makes it hard to let go of stuff. It makes it hard to let go when we want more of something. We can't drown our suffering by heaping on more faith and wisdom.

But we can let go of suffering. And in letting go of suffering, faith brightens on its own.

MN68:5.5: Rather, didn’t you go forth thinking: ‘I’m swamped by rebirth, old age, and death; by sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress. I’m swamped by suffering, mired in suffering.
MN68:5.6: Hopefully I can find an end to this entire mass of suffering’?”

What will happen to your wisdom and faith when you die? Will it be reborn looking for more?

MN68:7.8: ‘The Realized One has given up the defilements that are corrupting, leading to future lives, hurtful, resulting in suffering and future rebirth, old age, and death.

The spiritual life is not a solitary pursuit of gaining faith and wisdom. Instead, the spiritual life relies on our connection with others.

SN45.3:2.2: Good friends, companions, and associates are the whole of the spiritual life.

Good friends, companions and associates show us how to open our heart. They teach us how to release our heat without limit. Instead of worrying gaining faith and wisdom, ask about the openness of your heart.

SN46.54:11.2: ‘But reverends, how is the heart’s release by love developed? What is its destination, apex, fruit, and culmination?

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  • This entire post was on a complete tangent and did not even take the OP question in mind and provide an answer.
    – Remyla
    Jul 19, 2023 at 23:19
  • "I’m swamped by rebirth" sounds like a mistranslation. "future lives, hurtful, resulting in suffering and future rebirth" sounds like another mistranslation Jul 20, 2023 at 2:11

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