Did Ajahn Brahm lose the plot?

In the following video, AB said that Buddhist do not have the faith in Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. I think he misrepresents the Buddhist here. Faith is a cornerstone of Buddhist teaching. Faith is mentioned at least on two occasions in thirty-seven Bodhipakkhiyadhamma. Why Buddhist faith is different to other religions is that faith is not practiced alone but it practiced in conjunction with other five qualities. I think Ajahn Braham failed to convey this message to the ordinance.

No he did not say this.

He said he, personally, does not submit to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha - in the way that a Theistic Religious person might submit to God. Instead, he says that he uses investigation.

He is not talking about Faith as a Spiritual Faculty or Spiritual Power (as mentioned in the EBTs), instead he is referring to Faith as it is being discussed in the context of this debate; he is talking about Faith as being synonymous with Religion, with religious institutions and with Blind Faith.

That wasn’t the point of the debate and it was very structured and time limits were set on everything said - it wasn’t the time and place and even if it was, he wasn’t in control of the entire debate and did the best he could. But hopefully his honesty encouraged others to look further into the beautiful Buddha-Dhamma and they can have the joy of finding these things out for themselves.


I feel that he got too much wisdom (investigation) and little faith (Saddha).
The advice from Buddha is to balance these two faculties.

the word faith does need to be handled with some amount of kid gloves when it comes to westerners, because of the shared experience of what faith means in the culture and the negative connotations that come with it.

For me personally I don’t even think I heard the word saddha or learned about faith followers and wisdom followers(those who’s practice depends more on one then the other) until I was a practicing Buddhist for years and delved deeper into the suttas. Faith , at least at first, is much more of a factor for those who were raised in Buddhism then those coming to it.

There is a Sri Lankan monk here, who you can tell has a deep devotional faith, I can’t say I have such a deep devotional aspect like that in my practice. I had trouble having faith in my old religion, let alone a new one, but I definitely have strong confidence in the triple gem which came from years of practice and the Buddha of the EBTs being right in my experience over and over. So in that regard you may say I have faith build on trust.


Yes, for those who don’t come from a western background, perhaps some reflections on why the term is so fraught with negative associations for many in the West.

The terms “faith” and “fidelity” are commonly used as synonyms for “loyalty”, and carry a strong implication of obligation, a fundamental category in the legal tradition of the West. In the medieval context, not only were people held to owe faithful allegiance to the Church, but a vassal also owed faithful allegiance to his lord. To break faith made one a traitor or “recreant”. This was punishable by death. The Church, as its worldly power grew, increasingly became involved in the infliction of harsh punishments on what it considered to be deviants and heretics who had broken faith by rebelling against the institutions of the Church or dissenting from its officially promulgated and meticulously organized official doctrines.

Later, with the rise of science, and the increasing intellectual pressure under which these doctrines fell, there emerged a powerful oppositional tradition of fideism (“faith-ism”), which emphasized the utterly mysterious lack of intellectual justification for Church doctrines, and made believing in those doctrines anyway, by dividing one’s own obstinate will to believe and submit tonpower against one’s own intellect, a mark of spiritual virtue. The more absurd the doctrines, the more virtuous one showed oneself to be by believing in them!

A lot of this is nothing but a very poisonous, oppressive and psychologically harmful system for the intellectual and emotional subjugation of individuals to an institutional religious (and sometimes governing) authority. A lot of people have worked very hard to free themselves from this subjugation, and have no desire to yoke themselves to a new one.

To be sure, there is a less loaded sense of “faith”, where it means something more like “confidence” or “trust”. That’s the one people are more comfortable with.


Probably a great reason to use a different word like “trust” or “conviction” to translate saddha.

There is too much Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian baggage for the word “faith” (fides, pistis) etc.


I think it’s also interesting to keep the response in context (with the quesiton :smiley: ).

The person questioning him was saying (I am paraphrasing) that he forfeited the right to engage in scientifical debate or something along this line when he put faith into the triple gem.

And he replied back that he did not submit to the triple gem - submit in the sense that you do as told and follow what has to be followed because it is written in the scripture.

Which is not the way I read EBT or most people in this forum would (hopefully :wink: ).


Saddha is maybe best conveyed as ‘confidence’, but there’s a fundamental mistake in thinking that e.g. theistic faith is different. The same sort of confidence exists across traditions & throughout history as occurs within Buddhism specifically, both with respect to the confidence of advanced contemplatives as well as with respect to simpler devotions.

Mahayana has confidence in their contemplative conclusions, for example, and this is precisely the saddha of other groups, such as here.

“Saddha means confidence, not faith!” <-- this is an empty boast (no pun intended), which is to say, it’s a distinction without a difference.

1 Like

Apologies, I am still learning how to use the features, and didn’t know how to delete the text box in composing a reply.

Others had said what I was going to say, and I realised there was no benefit in my repeating or re-phrasing anything…

Please feel free to express your opinion.

1 Like

Thank you SarathW1 :slight_smile:

If anything, I tend to share my opinions too much :smiley: I was just trying to curb my natural tendency and exercise Noble '‘Silence’, but the technology called me out! I was trying to delete the text before it posted, didn’t want to make a fuss.

Personally I loved Ajahn Brahms Talk. The fact that he is a straight shooter, and challenges the status quo really resonates with me. His speech to me was echoing the Kalama Sutta about questioning everything and not submitting to blind faith and religious hierarchy.



Join my club.:grinning:


I totally agree with you. A distinction without a difference because you can say faith is confidence.


What do people perceive or mean when the use the word “faith”?

Here’s a transcript from the assertion made to Ajahn Brahm there and then:

So, does that person idea of faith match with yours? I think not, but I could be mistaken :wink: .

1 Like

Sure looks like it:

This is a form of Dualism, and is exactly the sort of faith that a Xian has. Yes, these ideas match.

Let’s have a quick read:

There is no single ‘established’ terminology for different models of faith. A brief initial characterisation of the principal models of faith and their nomenclature as they feature in this discussion may nevertheless be helpful—they are:

  • the ‘purely affective’ model: faith as a feeling of existential confidence
  • the ‘special knowledge’ model: faith as knowledge of specific truths, revealed by God
  • the ‘belief’ model: faith as belief that God exists (where the object of belief is a certain proposition)
  • the ‘trust’ model: faith as believing in (in the sense of trusting in) God (where the object of belief or trust is not a proposition, but God ‘himself’)
  • the ‘doxastic venture’ model: faith as practical commitment beyond the evidence to one’s belief that God exists
  • ‘sub-’ and ‘non-doxastic venture’ models: faith as practical commitment to a relevant positively evaluated truth-claim, yet without belief
  • the ‘hope’ model: faith as hoping—or acting in the hope that—the God who saves exists.

Faith is common for all humans, in general. Every one of these can apply to someone making claims on insufficient evidence, whether a religious person or not. Faith is bad epistemology wherever it’s found; the point here is that it’s found in Buddhism just like it’s found in Xianity, and so on. But, Buddhist speakers keep trying to set up saddha like it’s better-than.

It isn’t.

1 Like

Right, I think we’re right back into the video debate… only with different words (and sure enough mine can’t real match AB’s in any capactiy).

This dualism is based on the fact that you put some faith into science and the physicality of the world.

It’s a classic, but can I really avoid asking you: have ever seen an atom? A molecule? Or even a meter, a newton or any of those scientifical elements that we put our faith into because that’s how we’re taught in school?

Clearly we don’t surrender to it, we’re mostly blind to it.

I think it’s not wrong to say that when you have some faith into the buddha’s teaching you surrender, but to me I am surrendering from a world that I’m told is a certain way that doesn’t match my experience.

To enter a world in which I try to understand my experience, to no longer make the world fit my ideas, but to try to fit with the world as it is…

1 Like

My personal opinion is that the faith in Xian and Buddhist the same except Buddhist faith is means to an end. I think for Xian’s the faith is the end.

1 Like

I disagree - because if you have faith in an honest person who happens to be correct about things which you do not fully understand, then acting on their advice will be to your advantage. This is really, really basic and I see no grounds for not accepting this simple truth.

The problem is that there are surely a lot of people claiming to know and see things that they really do not know and see, and others who wrongly believe they understand things (delusion). So then, how do you know where to place your faith? For me this is not such an easy question (I have my own opinions, naturally, but am rarely effective in arguing them to others).

The point I was trying to make is that saddha = faith. It is not a different approach to religious claims, which is what Buddhists usually say.

You don’t understand science at all. I’m not gonna climb that hill.

Their honesty doesn’t guarantee their accuracy in one case, nor does accuracy in one case mean they will be accurate in another case.

:roll_eyes: Just, nevermind. I should know better.

Fair points. You can problematize faith in all kinds of ways. The point I was trying to make is that you can’t exclude the possibility of situations arising in which placing faith in someone/something is actually the best thing to do.

Buddha wanted to avoid blind faith.
Some people termed this as verified confidence.
Perhaps there is no English term equivalent to convey this idea (Saddha).

1 Like