Thursday, March 23, 2017

Buddhist Confidence (Saddhā)

Real meaning of Buddhist Saddhā

According to the suttas of Buddhist cannon the most appropriate sense of the term Saddhā means confidence. But more translations and texts represent Saddhā as faith, but the term “faith” does not represent the real meaning of Saddha.

Unlike other religions, Buddhism does not appreciate a belief without a rational understanding. Buddhism instructs to believe after thinking about the teaching of the Buddha. But we cannot find such a freedom in other religions. Therefore, it is not logical to take the same meaning to introduce the term saddhā in Buddhist teachings. Hence, the most appropriate term must be “Confidence” to represent the term Saddhā in Buddhist teachings since it goes with the wisdom and the freedom of thinking.

Blind faith has no any place in Buddhism. The Buddha does not say to be faithful in him or in his teachings without knowing about him and about his doctrine very well. Only after having a rational knowledge about the Buddha and his Dhamma one must believe it. “paccattaŋveditabbo viññūhītī” which means; individual must comprehend the teaching with one’s own wisdom not just because others are following.

If generally say the rational confidence about the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha is known as Buddhist saddhā.

How the saddha is defined by scholars

According to ideas of scholars saddha means; the rational confidence about the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. This is not a kind of blind faith which does not have a rational base.

The P.T.S dictionary gives the meaning as faith, from the vedic Śraddhà; the verb saddahatimeans to believe, to have the faith.

According to the Sinhala language Sedhehe  (ieoeye& Derived from pàli saddhà.

According to sanscrit explaination the term saddhā referes Śraddhà : Śrat, Śrad or þrad+root ÖDhà, implying the idea found in the truth or heart. & faith.

According to pali explaination Saddhà : Derived from Sam, Saï or Sat+root ÖDhà, implying  meanings well-bear. & sam+root Öòhà means well-put.

According to Rigveda Srddadhàna = devotion, strong faith and believing
Dictionaries added loyalty, trust, faith, belief, confidence, belief in divine revelation, religious faith, sedateness, composure of mind, intimacy, familiarity, respect, reverence, strong or vehement desire, more over the longing of a pregnant woman.

The well-known Brahmin Teacher Yaska has given the etymologies of words in his work known as Nirukti explains that Śraddha is so called as it contains ‘Śrat’ that which true.
It is also said that as there is a clear understanding of the four ideals of (Purusartha) Virtue, wealth, Pleasure and Release and the god who presides over such an understanding is called Śraddhà.

However some scholars in comparing Indu-Iranian languages with western Indu-European languages maintain that the Latin word Credo (belief) and Indu-Iranian Cretim and Sanskrit Śraddhà even though they are not original yet they show some similarity in terms of their meaning.

Characters of Saddhā

According to the explaination in Milindapañha it explains the characters of saddhā:

  1. Clarification trait of Saddhā (sampasādanalakkhaņā saddhā)
  2. Inspiration trait of Saddhā (sampakkhandanalakkhaņā-saddhā)
On the other hand it may be useful to understand the characteristics and the degree of Saddhā. Basic Saddhā could be explained as being based on the mental qualities possessed by individuals, such as doubtlessness, faith mixed with confidence, and conclusions based on logical convictions. Accordingly having a serene mind could be seen as a feature of Saddhā.

Another aspect is explained in the definition of Saddhā: He believes in the Buddhahood or Enlightenment of the Master (Saddahati Tathāgatassa Bodhiü). If one logically and deeply examines the doctrine, with time one would develop a serene mind. This suggests that serenity is associated with a clear and logical mind.

Saddha has a quality of purifying the mind. There is a very interesting simile in Milindapañha. Certain kings have special gem called “Udakapasadaka gem” and this has an extraordinary quality to purify the water. Further it says it is possible to clear even muddy water and after clearing it even king drinks that water. This is the great quality of the gem. In the same manner Saddhā has an ability to purify the mind from some defilements. If samone has Saddhā his mind is very clear to get the doctrine.

This confidence is useful to comprehend doctrine and it is a necessity of a follower.
According to the Alavaka sutta the Saddhā is the best precious gem of a person. 

“Saddhida vittaŋ purisassa seţţhaŋ”

Types of Saddha

According to the famous classification of Saddhā has two parts.

Amūlikā saddhā
Ākāravatī saddhā

Amūlikā saddhā is not the kind of belief of confidence the Buddha encouraged his followers to have in the Dhamma or himself. This is an irrational faith which does not have a strong base.

Ākāravatī saddhā – the motivation to follow the noble eight-fold path should be Ākāravatī saddhā which based on justified belief, rational faith.

“So taŋ dhammaŋ sutvā tathāgate saddhaŋ paţilabbhati…”

“A householder or householder’s son or one born in some other clan hears the Dhamma. N hearing the Dhamma he acquires faith in Ththāgata...”

As can be seen from the context, the faith referred to is not blind faith. It is confidence placed in the teacher and as a result in the teaching. Such statements are encountered very frequently in the text.

The way how saddhā has to be developed.

Buddhist teaching refers to several fields in order to cultivate saddhā in one’s mind. These fields are;

1)   Belief in the doctrine of karma and rebirth (kamma and punabbhava)
     One has to cultivate his knowledge regarding concept of Kamma and Punabbhava. It is the path to arise confidence in kamma and rebirth. Just because, kamma and rebirth are described in texts one must not believe it as it is. He has to analyze it and think rationally before believe the Buddha or his teaching. 

2)  Belief in the three characteristics of existence. Doctrine of dependent origination (pañccasamuppāda) 
    All are impermanent, (anicca), Suffering (dukkha), Devoid of self (anatta). All are results of causes.   

3)  Belief in the Three-Refuges (teruvan)
    The end of the investigation of dhamma will be the confidence of noble triple gem. 

    ex: a certain house holder called Upali was a follower of Nighanthanathaputta. But after listening to Dhamma of the Buddha he was willing to be a follower of the Buddha and go for refuge to the triple gem. The reason is he was confident in the Buddha, Dhamma , and the Sangha after listening to the Dhamma.

4) Belief in the results of actions (kamma-phala) and Nibbāņa as the   final attainment.

Kammassakomhi kammadāyādo kammayoni kammabandu kammapatisarano yaŋ kammaŋ karissāmi kalyanaŋ vā pāpakaŋ vā tassa dāyādo bhavissāmi’ti…

This is the prescribed way to be confident in Kamma theory in Buddhist teaching. Anyone must not believe in this theory merely because it is in the texts or in the tradition. Being rational and come to a conclusion like the person called Subha came to know about Kamma and its’ results.

Subha came to the Buddha and questioned about the variety of the people in this society. Some have long life while others have a short life, some are rich and some are poor, some are famous and some are not famous… etc. and finally he came to a conclusion about the reason behind this variety in the society is affected by the theory of kamma. But Buddha just declared the only reason.

lokiya-Saddhā and lokuttara-Saddhā

In the Abhidhamma-books like Paţţhāna and Kathāvatthu, two levels of Saddhā are distinguished namely:

Mundane Saddhā (lokiya-Saddhā) which is the lower level of faith. People who still not attended to any level of the realization follows this confidence. For example king kosala had a great devotion about the Buddha but he was unable to attain any level of the realization. But regularly he visited the Buddha and discussed the Dhamma. Sometimes this saddha can be changed according to the mentality of the person. This type of confidence is known as lokiya-Saddhā.

Supramundane Saddhā (lokuttara-Saddhā) which is a higher level of Saddhā. Those who have attained to any level of the realization has this confidence and it is not a changeable quality. For example, Mahakassapa maha thera went to the forest and lived in the forest. The reason for this was, people misunderstood him as the Buddha. As a result he left the village and lived in the forest till his passing away because of his confidence in the Buddha.

According to the sammādiţţi sutta of majjima nikāya. There it is described how right view is acquired, which establishes faith in the doctrine. One way is to know what is wholesome and what is unwholesome. When one understands this well.

 Misunderstandings in relate with “Saddhā”

Saddha is a main concept which has to be understood in correct manner in Budhist teachings. Some appear to be using shardha or Sardha instead of sraddha or Saddha. But it is a wrong usage. Other religious followers also are faithful in their religious teachings, but the way of believing the Buddhist teaching is more different than other religious teachings. The Buddhist saddha is based on free thinking. One is the person who has to decide whether he follows the path or not. But other religions order their followers to believe their teachings. But Buddhism does not take such irrational path.   

The word ‘Adahayi’(Believe) comes directly from the Pali word Saddahati. It means to keep something well in mind.

Some sense and believe that “Saddha”, is insignificant in the Nobel path. But, it is the “Base” for the  realization of doctrine of the Buddha.

Significant role played by “Saddhā” in Nobel path

            Prof. K.N. Jayathilaka in his “Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge” emphasizes, ten applications of Saddha in Noble path such as,

The Chaŋkī Discourse of the Majjima-Nikàya illustrates that five factors including Saddhā that may turn out in two different ways here and now, viz. Confidence (saddhā), approval (ruci), oral tradition (anussava), reasoned cogitation (ākāraaparivitakka), and reflective acceptance of a view (diññhinijjhānakkhanti).

But Saddhā of a person in whom one believes can be determined after investigation of his physical and mental behaviour. However the Saddhà is highly personalized. It cannot be proved to be accepted by other.   


Buddhist saddha is a feeling that mixed with the confidence in a rational way rather than hanging of a wrong view according to the tradition. First one has to be pleasant about the person who follows tha teaching. After he places Saddhā toward him; filled with Saddhā he visits him and pays respect to him; this is the first step of the Saddha
When the person is seeing great behavior from the particular person, he pay respect to him. Having paid respect to him, he gives ear to what he says, when he gives ear, he hears the Dhamma; having heard the Dhamma, he memorizes it and examines the meaning of the teachings he has memorized; when he examines their meaning, he gains a reflective acceptance of those teachings; when he has gained a reflective acceptance of those teachings, enthusiasm springs up.

This is the proper manner that Buddhism is showing to the all the people in this cycle of birth.

Ven. Sumiththa T.
Sri Lankan Buddhist Cultural Centre - Hong Kong 
3F, 27 Sheung Heung Road, To Kwa Wan, 
Kowloon, Hong Kong

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