There are Buddha’s teachings on healthy skepticism. Since the days of the Buddha, people have quickly fallen into the so-called blind faith. That is far from the authentic faith derived from a humble realization of our cognitive limitations.
At the moment in our lives, we would inevitably encounter the situation that we can’t do anything but believe in something beyond our epistemological and ontological realm. Kant called it antinomy. That is to say, ultimately, we can never see what we can’t see, and we can never understand how other creatures see their universe, either.
Whether we like or not, tautologically, the universe we live and see is on the way we live and see it. In other words, why do we sense and imagine spacetime? It is because that is the only way we live and see the world and the universe. Ironically, then, due to our sense of spacetime, we can’t imagine the very end and beyond of the universe without knowledge of antimony.
In physics, we hear the size and age of the universe. Beyond them, however, it seems that we have no choice but to keep silent. The same could be true in any fields of discipline as long as we use our languauge. That reminds us of the words of Wittgenstein:
Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus
We must be silent because, as Wittgenstein said, “the limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” After all, the world we live in could be an illusory phenomenon that we scarcely recognize and feel so. Therefore, the universe we live at most, or hypothetically in faith, could be the combination of what we see and what we can’t see.
So, what are Buddha’s teachings on healthy skepticism? These are the following five statements of “Don’t believe.”
- Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.
- Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many.
- Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.
- Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.
- Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.
And if I am not mistaken, there could be the sixth statement, which could be something like:
- Do not believe in anything simply because these are my (Buddha’s) teachings.
And he wrapped up with the following statement.
But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.
It seems that this sixth teaching would contradict the rest of the statements. If we should not believe in Buddha’s teachings, in the first place, how can we follow and accept in all of them? That is why often the teachings of Buddhism sounds nihilistic. But that is not true.
As the final statement said, it is up to us. After our observation and analysis, we can decide whether or not we follow these teachings.
If we agree with Buddha’s teachings according to our observation and analysis for good reasons, we can apply them to our lives. That is also the reason why some call Buddhism pragmatic. As long as it works, we use it. That should be the basis of these teachings.
That is, however, not the end of the story.
Let’s ponder on the implication of the sixth teaching. If we apply this principle even for our observation and analysis effort, then we could also say as follows:
- Don’t believe in anything simply because we agree on them and we think of them right.
That is to say, we can’t believe anything, including our observation and analysis per se.
On the one hand, we quickly and blindly believe in anything because of our false external authorizations. On the other hand, however, we also believe in anything because of our deceptive internal self-righteousness. Consciously or unconsciously, we tend to think what we think is always right, which would become the basis of our blind faith.
The bottom line is that we believe in what we think of right due to the external and internal bases. In reality, however, that would often have no basis at all.
So, what should we do?
We could say, “Don’t believe in anything at all.” Does it sound nihilistic? If it does, then we could rather positively say as follows.
Believe in the teaching of “Don’t believe in anything at all in this world.”
After all, we are so limited and superficial to fall into our false, blind faith. Thus, we keep on reminding us, saying, don’t believe in anything at all. That is to say; we must accept the truth of our inherent limitations.
We are so limited and partial in this world. Beyond our partiality, there would be the entire universe that we can’t never imagine, which is to say, the eternity – more figuratively, the kingdom of heaven.
We must not believe in anything in this world. Thus, we believe in anything in heaven, not by relying on anything internal and external. Only at this moment, our authentic faith in transcendentals could emerge.
We can believe in God only through such authentic faith, which was, has always been, and will be beyond our comprehension. “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” That is the reason that even Buddha himself kept his silence on this topic.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.Isaiah 55:8-9
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