religions could be described as religions of faith in
that they teach that faith is sufficient for salvation.
In this sense Buddhism is not a religion of faith. Faith
is important, not because it leads to salvation, but
because the psychological qualities it imparts motivates
one to walk the Path, prepares one for the journey and
sustains one until results are achieved. Emotionally
it is an attitude of serenity and joy which frees one
from the discomfort of doubt and thus prepares the mind
for meditation. Volitionally it is a strong and courageous
act of will which concentrates all one's energies on
the ideal that one can see ahead but not yet reach.
Intellectually it is the acceptance of doctrines that
cannot be immediately substantiated by direct experience,
a willingness to wait with patience and trust until
the gaps in the evidence can be filled. Faith's importance
in the beginning of the spiritual quest and its contrast
with wisdom is well summed up by Nagarjuna who says:
associates with the Dhamma out of faith,
But one knows truly out of understanding;
Understanding is the chief of the two,
But faith preceeds.
objects of faith in Buddhism are the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha
and in the Mahayana, the bodhisattvas also. Most schools
of Buddhism have substantially the same attitudes to faith,
one notable exception being Japan's Jodo Shin Shu
School founded in the 13th century. In a remarkable parallel
to Protestantism, Jodo teaches that humans, being utterly
evil and powerless, can only be saved by absolute faith
and even that faith is given by the Buddha's grace.
Devotion in Buddhism. Kandy, 1975;
A. Bloom, Shinran's Gospel of Pure Grace. Tucson,1965.