An excerpt from my book, The Practical Buddhist
Do you have any beliefs?
I do not.
A belief is exclusionary. To adopt a belief is to exclude all other possibilities. Personally, I don’t know enough to adopt a belief about anything.
Not only are beliefs, by their nature, exclusionary, they are also not based on experience. You may say you believe in gravity, but I’d counter that you’ve experienced it instead. You may say that you believe in love or hunger but again, I’d say that you experienced them.
Do you believe in something you haven’t experienced?
For years I felt my life was devoid of meaning. I’d write in my journal about the big questions:
- Is God real?
- What do I believe?
- Do these beliefs serve me?
- Am I better off without my beliefs?
- Am I willing to take a stand for what I discover?
- If I am a child of God, then why do I feel guilty?
- Why should I feel guilty if I’ve been redeemed by Christ?
- How would my life change if I no longer was a believer?
- Why do we raise our children to adopt our beliefs?
- Are we afraid they will adopt the wrong ones?
- What are the rights ones?
- Are there any?
Over the years I came to the following conclusion:
Beliefs distract me from experiencing what’s real.
To fully accept one thing, you need to reject everything else. Alternatively, to experience something is to know it firsthand.
If you blindly accept 2 + 2 = 4, you don’t know it to be true. Without having two blocks set before you, adding two more, and them counting the resulting number you are accepting someone else’s version of this truth. It is only when first graders perform this tactile experiment that they experience how the resulting data is true.
I’ve experienced love, gravity, poverty, hunger, illness, joy, sadness, guilt, etc. I don’t need to form any beliefs about these topics to make them real.
When I find myself wanting to place faith in something I haven’t experienced, I have to pause and consider what I’m doing and ask myself whether this is an appropriate view.
Without exception, it is not.