อาจารย์ อภินันโท


Faith is one of the five faculties (indriya) that the Buddha advised us to develop in order to free our hearts. These faculties are faith (saddhā), energy (viriya), mindfulness (sati), collectedness (samādhi) and wisdom (pañña). The list is presented throughout the Buddha’s discourses (suttas) in different ways.

One way is progressive: you start out with faith. You need faith to get going, and this applies not only to the Buddha’s path but to everything. It is the quality of the heart that allows us to move forward. Naturally, if we have faith, we are willing to make an effort – so that raises energy, the second faculty. Making an effort, with energy, is the prerequisite for establishing mindfulness, the third factor. And often, in the suttas, mindfulness is described as a precursor to samādhi.

So, once we’ve established mindfulness, and we have continuous mindfulness, then our attention gets collected, concentrated, and the mind becomes still, with a steady focus. If you cultivate sammā samādhi, that is samādhi with mindfulness, the mind becomes still and focused, and you get a deeper, more purified vision. You start to see things you haven’t seen before, or you see them in a new way – so you develop a deeper understanding, leading to wisdom, the final faculty in the list.

Another way of looking at the indriya, one that appears in the suttas, is to see them as qualities that balance each other or that need to be brought into balance. Faith needs to be balanced with wisdom. A lot of faith is good, gives us a lot of energy, but if there is no discernment around our faith, it may take us in a harmful direction. We can have faith in stupid things and raise quite a lot of energy through that. It is like driving a Ferrari in the wrong direction – you can create a lot of harm.

You could also say that wisdom needs to be balanced with faith; that is, wisdom without heart-qualities like faith, or kindness and compassion, will be arid, dry. Perhaps it wouldn’t even qualify as wisdom in that case. Wisdom is more than just intellectual discernment.

In the same way, we can examine the next pair, energy and samādhi. If we have a lot of energy and no samādhi, we would just be all over the place, restless. Our energy would have no proper containment. If, however, there is also samādhi, then the energy is focused and you can go deeper.

On the other hand, if you have samādhi but no energy, then you will just go to sleep. We experience this when our mind gets quiet but also dull, and we are not quite sure what is happening. That’s not sammā-samādhi. For sammā-samādhi, there needs to be mindfulness; we need to know what is going on. For that to happen, there has to be enough energy.

This gives us an interesting way of evaluating our meditation experience by looking to see whether these qualities are in the right balance, or seeing how we are out of balance – too much energy without enough calm, or too much calm without enough energy. This gives us an indication as to the quality of effort that might be needed.

And that which can indicate is ‘sati’, mindfulness, which doesn’t have an opposite. Sati doesn’t need to be balanced. You can never have too much mindfulness; rather mindfulness is what watches over the other qualities and allows us to asses in which way we are out of balance. It is the overseer, balancing all needed qualities.

This reflection by Ajahn Abhinando is from the booklet, Three Talks, “Faith Versus Belief,” (pdf) pp. 12-13.