I am working on an essay on the subject and wanted to solicit your knowledge. Specifically on the EBTs of course, but if you have thoughts on how these have historically carried through in the LBTs (Theravada LBT as well as Mahayana LBT), I am all ears.
In the Tibetan tradition specifically I can think of two strands of teachings on the subject. The first is the three types of faith that we find in the Stages of the Path type teachings like the Lam Rim or Words of My Perfect Teacher (which can be traced back to Atisha), and the second stem from the epistemological works of Dharmakirti and Dignaga.
The Three types of faith:
The first type of faith is about seeing the qualities we admire in, for example the three jewels or meditation, and gaining an appreciation for it. The second, is wanting to emulate what we have seen in the expression of the three jewels or meditation, or whatnot. The third has two parts or stages, first, the less stable stage, we hear about teachings that make us feel inspired, such as teachings on selflessness or the brahmaviharas, etc. and we feel confidence from them. The second stage, we deepen our understandings of the subject and gain a firmer appreciation of the truth of these subjects.
The Epistemological Tradition:
And then there are the epistemological developments found in Dharmakirti where we talk about inferential and direct perception. What John Dunne calls the instruments of awareness but is usually translations as valid cognition. The question we’re trying to resolve in this framework is specifically, how do we know something that we haven’t experienced for ourselves (like enlightenment, Anatta, etc.) to be true?
The three types of faith do seem to play a role in answering Dharmakirti’s questions, but I have never seen them presented together and I am not going to try to do that work atm. So for now, let me just dive a just a little into the issues on these two means of acquiring knowledge (of the truth of the teachings). There is a lovely text by H.H. the Dalai Lama in The Foundation of Buddhist Practice, in Chapter 2 “Gaining Nondeceptive Knowledge” that breaks this down in simple terms. And because this is an extremely extensive subject containing volumes of untranslated material and secondary academic literature in both Tibetan, Japanese, English and many other languages, I will stick to the simple stuff here.
The Dalai Lama describes three types of phonemena:
- “Evident Phenomena:”
- “Slightly Obscure Phenomena”
- “Very Obscure Phenomena”
The first one are things we can understand with our senses and feelings (pain and pleasure) which we can know directly. The second, we have to do a little deduction or inference, like we don’t normally experience impermanence in a very visceral way in the immediate moment, but we do notice the sun is in the east every morning and in the west every moment and therefore can see that it moves and is changing positions in the sky. Or to know selflessness, we can go and breakdown through analysis that we are made up of parts, karmic chains, etc. The very obscure stuff, we know through authoritative testimony, like we know our time of birth because our mothers or birth certificates say so. Or for a lot of us, we know certain things about particle physics because scientists told us so. For enlightened beings of course, they know these things directly, through their work in meditation and so forth, but for those of us that aren’t enlightened, these are ways for us to maintain faith in the teachings while we are trying to get there.
Now none of this stuff is showing up in the Wikipedia article on faith in Buddhism (Faith in Buddhism - Wikipedia), and that is unfortunate. Someone with better and deeper understandings of this from the LBTs should definitely edit these in. As for the EBT breakdown, I don’t know how good the the wiki article is, but it is definitely more extensive than the EBT stuff found in here.
So how much of this is found in the EBTs? Wikipedia supplies the terms Śraddhā and Prasāda, but how are these similar or different from the above descriptions found in LBTs?
And of course there is the Kalāma Sutta, which if I understand correctly may be a later development (though of course, it could have been shuffled around in different collections and just not made it into the Chinese translations). So if this Sutta is unique to Theravada may not have played any roles in the development of these later developments I describe above. But parallels in teachings would be interesting to think about.
Anyway, I have been struggling with faith for several years now and so this feels like a good place for me to dive into and think about. So any understanding of how the EBTs frame these and/or how they relate to the later developments I talk about would be really nice.