Impermanence pulls the carpet out from under our feet, but at the same time transforms our values, the qualities which we seek out as valuable in our experiences.
If we don’t understand the change, it causes confusion, followed by doubt. Even though we might know what we should be doing, we get stuck in the sense of doubt and meaninglessness, and we can’t even begin.
Why do you get up in the morning to do anything? Why does it matter at all?
If I keep asking ‘why’ and dig into the layers of my constructed self like this, the first layer reveals a matter of habit, ‘because this is what I did yesterday’. Under that, the answers are formed out of stories I tell myself about myself and the world I live in.
Under that, there is some degree of reasoning, philosophy and abstract ideas. Under that, I am desperately trying to hold onto something solid, and I start defending my ideas with personal memories and experiences (‘because when I was like this and this …’), or I refer to famous names (‘because this and that teacher said …’).
Under that, I have to give up and confess that it is a matter of faith and personal conviction. What I do is simply what I decide there and then. At the end, I stand there and have to admit that I don’t know, but I believe that doing such-and-such makes sense.
Faith is not a fixed quality in the mind.
We have the capacity to choose credible statements which we perceive will guide us toward a greater understanding and happiness. We can test any given belief by applying it in practice and by observing the results, and we can then support or abandon that belief accordingly.
I may review, investigate and update what I believe about what makes sense to me, but until my experience verifies it, my reasoning has to be supported by faith. Otherwise, I will not make an effort in any direction, and my life will be governed by blind habits and external pressures.
Faith is the fuel for the virtues of resolve and energy. Later on, faith will be reinforced by experiencing the results of practice, but without fuel, our car doesn’t even start.
This reflection by Ajahn Gambhīro is from the book, Wordless Questioning, “Why,” (pdf) pp. 111-113.