MCTB Faith and Wisdom

Let's start with faith and wisdom. Faith in deficiency can lead to cynicism, giving up, half-hearted effort, and bitterness. Faith in excess can lead to blind adherence to dogma, sectarian arrogance, being disappointed when you realize that your teachers are human, an inability to examine realistically and revise your approach to spirituality when necessary, and many other problems. Wisdom in deficiency can lead to stupidity, blindness, gullibility, and foolish interpretations of the teachings. Wisdom in excess can lead to harmful cleverness, vanity about one's insights, an overemphasis on knowledge and study over practice and direct experience, and desperate attempts to think yourself to enlightenment. (Note: Zen koan training is something else entirely.)

You can see that an excess of wisdom is similar to a lack of faith, and an excess of faith is similar to a lack of wisdom. When this balance is right there is a heartfelt steadiness, a quality of balanced and genuine inquiry, an ability to persevere and yet a certain humility. Faith at its best produces deep gratitude for life in all its richness, for its lessons, difficulties and blessings, and for the chance to awaken. Wisdom at its best comes from deep investigation of life as it is and goes far beyond the reach of reason and rational thought, transcending the paradoxes that these inevitably create. In the end, wisdom and faith converge.

How do we apply this? Most of us will suffer from imbalances of wisdom or faith with some regularity. So if things are going a bit off, just check in with the Five Spiritual Faculties and ask, “Could I perhaps work a bit on wisdom, faith, or bringing these into balance?” This is a powerful question and, if we are willing to be honest with ourselves, it can correct a lot of errors on the spiritual path. Another good way to apply this is to look at the list of symptoms of imbalance above and see if perhaps some of these apply to us. This is an easy way to see what might need some attention.

MCTB Energy and Concentration