Q & A : Blind Faith

Student’s Question:

How should we respond if some of our family members challenge our belief in Buddhism as being just blind faith?


Rinpoche’s Answer:

The way I think about it is, if our families say that our belief in Buddhism is just blind faith, they are right. I’d tell them they’re spot on and thank them for saying it. Why is that? Well the truth is that we ourselves aren’t clear about whether our faith is blind, or informed and based on reasoning. But we’ve no choice other than to start somewhere, and for a beginner blind faith is the only path available. So what they’re saying is completely right.

In the same way that a newborn baby doesn’t know the ABC, let alone their own parents, everyone starts their learning of Dharma with blind faith. All the knowledge and skills we have acquired in this life result from a gradual learning process. And whenever we start out to learn something new we obviously have to have a degree of trust and faith that it is correct and valid, otherwise we would never bother learning things. So blind faith, which is to trust something before we are certain of its validity through our own experience, precedes all learning. You won’t find anyone who knows much of anything when they’re just starting out in something. People know that’s just how things are, allowing time for a gradual learning process which leads one to see how things are for themselves.

It’s okay for people to say that our belief is based on blind faith. And we should be totally open about it: “Yes, you’re absolutely right! I don’t understand the deeper workings of Buddhism fully for myself just yet. But I truly feel it to be something wonderful and highly beneficial, and for this reason I want to learn about it. I wish to slowly gain a good understanding of it, and in that way grow beyond any need for blind faith.”

This is how we should think about it. Because if at the start we don’t engage with something new just because we do not know how it works on a deeper level, we’ll give ourselves no chance of coming to know it. I feel if we can have an open-minded approach to learning, one that is accepting of the fact that as beginners our faith is blind, it will be very helpful. It will allow us to move along and mature in our learning, until we gain the type of faith that is informed and based on our own direct experience.

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