Can doubt be helpful?

Do you think doubt can be helpful? I am a very sceptic person and sometimes doubt things most buddhists just believe but I think when you want to find the truth the most important thing is to delay forming fixed views about something and consider every information and be as neutral as possible and I believe that when the buddhas teachings are correct you can doubt as much as you want and still have even more faith because of it. What are your opinions or what do suttas you know say about that?


We can doubt until the ocean boils and our ears are stuffed with wax and still be no closer to the truth! Please excuse me, I wanted to say something with a bit of flair.

The Buddha was doubtful when we was still a bodhisatta, so I think we can be a little doubtful too. I guess the best we can hope for is reasonable doubt.

I feel a difference between the expressions, “I doubt it.” and “I don’t know.” The second seems more humble and open while the first, I think, closes one off.

If our wholesome qualities are increasing, how can we doubt our practice? If they’re decreasing and unwholesome qualities increasing, well, we might want to start doubting!

Kind regards.


There is a procedure for progression in understanding dhamma. Starting from an established truth the practitioner works outwards comparing other suttas with what they already know (“comes to an agreement”), systematically overcoming doubt and proving points held on faith:

“Hearing (reading) the Dhamma, he remembers it. Remembering it, he penetrates the meaning of those dhammas. Penetrating the meaning, he comes to an agreement through pondering those dhammas. There being an agreement through pondering those dhammas, desire arises. With the arising of desire, he becomes willing. Willing, he contemplates (lit: “weighs,” “compares”). Contemplating, he makes an exertion. Exerting himself, he both realizes the ultimate meaning of the truth with his body and sees by penetrating it with discernment.”—MN 95


Depends on how you doubt.

If you doubt and clarify, find out, practise, ask questions and be willing to change your views, then it serves as motivation for improvement.

If you doubt out of just for the sake of it, or out of the ideology: always doubt, no matter what. Then it can be harmful for the doubt can prevent you from practising or accepting simple truths even when all the sufficient evidence is in front of you.

The second kind of doubt is found in some secular Buddhists when they are presented with evidences of rebirth. The first kind of doubt is normal, when we meditate, go deeper, got lost, need a teacher. Still, even the first kind of doubt is one of the 5 hindrances and it is to be eliminated via questioning, practising, seeing results of practise. The second kind of doubt is very harmful.


OOO… can’t resist this one… (but then Snoopy has been certified to be a Philosopher of repute by Ajahn Brahm!) :joy: :rofl: :sunflower: :sunflower:

Can doubt be helpful?



Ok, yes I meant doubt as in, I am not sure.

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As the Buddha told the kalamas, you are correct to doubt… doubt has arisen about things worthy of being doubted.

Consider however, the present moment experience. Do you have any doubt that this is what you are experiencing, right now?

Investigate that. The rest will fall into place.

(P.S. Its OK to doubt the how, why, wherefore or therefore of the experience… that is what the investigation is all about. However, if one doubts even one’s own experience of the present moment, I doubt anyone or anything can help! :rofl:)


I have doubts about consciousness, I’m not convinced that it’s a good thing? @___@


One of my first Buddhist teachers always told me “don’t believe anything you think.” So absolutely, doubt can be helpful, doubt about thoughts, feelings, views… those should be investigated with some skepticism about why they have arisen, whether they are skillful, etc. Things that one can observe or experience without running them through the filter of thoughts and feelings are much more reliable. This is why I believe the Buddha’s teachings, rather than just having faith in them, because they directly illuminate my own experiences and observations.


From MN 29: “Here, bhikkhus, some clansman goes forth out of faith from the home life into homelessness, considering: ‘I am a victim of birth, ageing, and death, of sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair; I am a victim of suffering, a prey to suffering. Surely an ending of this whole mass of suffering can be known.’

I think it makes sense to say that no matter what, the pursuit of freedom from suffering starts within doubt - within not knowing for sure what is truly effective in dealing with suffering. The Buddha, for instance, teaches that sensuality is dangerous, and SN 36.6 tells us that the only escape the ordinary person knows from painful feeling is sensuality; but does the ordinary person, who’s seeking a solution to their suffering, know the Buddha is right? They may believe him, but with a caveat: they don’t know for sure why he is right. (This is where faith comes into play, but that’s another topic).

Doubt should be explored as a symptom of a larger issue - one that will continue to emphasize a need for work until knowledge removes it completely. I think it can be a very humbling experience to admit that it is present, and aside from the general sentiment from MN 29 above, there are many suttas that describe a lack of certainty, so there’s no reason to be averse to it. Think about it like this, if someone is unwilling to acknowledge the extent of doubt (and of suffering in general), that would in turn make it difficult for them to attend to where the work is. You could know all the information available, but if you’re unable to admit that you don’t know how it applies to the very suffering you are prey to, how will you ever begin to do anything about it?

So not only is it helpful, it’s there whether you like it or not, so best to use it to your advantage.

Also good to keep in mind that doubt as a fetter and doubt as a hindrance differ, though I’m not sure if that exceeds the limits of what you’re interested in discussing. Either way though, doubt is indicative of a need for work.

Hope this helps. :slightly_smiling_face:


Doubting the truths of suffering is a mire of suffering:

AN8.6:1.1: “Mendicants, the eight worldly conditions revolve around the world, and the world revolves around the eight worldly conditions.
AN8.6:1.2: What eight?
AN8.6:1.3: Gain and loss, fame and disgrace, praise and blame, pleasure and pain.

Doubting the value of worldly conditions leads to freedom:

AN8.6:6.6: Having given up favoring and opposing, they’re freed from rebirth, old age, and death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress.
AN8.6:6.7: They’re freed from suffering, I say.

And with right freedom, there are no doubts.

AN5.193:11.4: In the same way, there’s a time when your heart is not overcome and mired in doubt and you truly understand the escape from doubt that has arisen. At that time you truly know and see your own good, the good of another, and the good of both. Even hymns that are long-unpracticed spring to mind, let alone those that are practiced.