” Don’t believe a word I say! ” exhorted Chris Wright to the Friday night group at the Meditation Learning Center in Mesa, AZ. This was the beginning of a dynamic and engaging Dharma talk ranging across a gamut of topics. Plenty of tinder for several blog posts.
The place of belief in Buddhist practice occupies a radically different place than in most other spiritual traditions.
In his address to the Kalama people, the Buddha shared his criteria for discerning for oneself what to do. It’s a very 20th century criteria: test and verify, see what is true, only then, live up to whatever you have found.
The Buddha’s admonition followed a list of things people commonly believed in:
things that were very old,
written in sacred texts,
pronounced by authority figures,
handed down through generations,
unconfirmed but repeated by others.
The list reminds one how little human nature has changed over 2500 years.
(relevant link appears at the end of this article.*)
The Buddha did not treat the fuzzy, provisional space where the mind holds beliefs as other than mere thought, at best a temporary placeholder until verified through direct experience.
Direct experience is the final arbitrator of the usefulness of thought, speech or action.
Beyond direct experience, there is little worth your trust.
Beliefs are a kind of game that the egoic mind plays with itself.
When the egoic mind encounters a gap it cannot fill with knowledge, it becomes uneasy.
Quicker than a blink, it will manufacture something to fill the space.
The illusion of certainty and safety is restored.
” I believe ” …. starts innumerable stories in the imaginary life of the separate self.
Anything is better than not knowing, to the egoic mind.
The real question is, is that what you really want?
Is that really good enough ?
Only you can answer.