To Believe or Not To Believe

Recently I spent a writing/research day at our local bookstore. In passing, I picked up, “The Book of Understanding: Creating Your Own Path to Freedom” by Osho (also known as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, Indian mystic, guru, and spiritual teacher), and was immediately put off and attracted—both—by what he had to say about belief:

Bahama Sky by Laurie Buchanan

Bahama Sky by Laurie Buchanan

I do not believe in believing. My approach is to know, and knowing is a totally different dimension. It starts from doubt, it does not start from believing. The moment you believe in something, you have stopped inquiring. Belief is one of the most poisonous things to destroy human intelligence.

All the religions are based on belief; only science is based on doubt. And I would like the religious inquiry also to be scientific, based on doubt, so that we need not believe, but we can come to know someday the truth of our being, and the truth of the whole universe.”

Here’s what Bernard Levin—journalist, commentator, and writer—had to say:

Osho is not trying to purvey information but a truth that bypasses conscious thought and all that belongs to it, just as the most important activities of human beings bypass the mind.”

What do you believe about belief?

Listen with your heart,

Laurie Buchanan

Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.”
               — Laurie Buchanan and our Facebook page

© 2011 Laurie Buchanan – All Rights Reserved

44 thoughts on “To Believe or Not To Believe

  1. Laurie this kind of inquiry and sitting on the thin blade of inquiring with a sense of tentative understanding of “for now” seems to be a comfortable place for me. I like the flexibility that something else may be possible. Math was my hardest subject because I just was never really sure there was only one right answer. I always wondered about all the other possibilities.

    I can see how you were both attracted and put off. However, Donna Harraway may have as much to say about how science is a religion with its own set of beliefs going unquestioned.

    A perfect set of musings for a rainy Mayne Island Thursday.

    • Terrill – I appreciate and resonate with your “for now” perspective. Like you, I embrace the idea of unlished, unlimited, potential and possibiliy. Thank you so much for sharing the Donna Haraway link. You’ve got rain, we’ve got shine — no matter how you slice it, the whole concept of belief, science, and religion is a nice pot of “ponderment” to stir today.

  2. I think there are so many things in this life that are not well explained by science or hard facts. Belief is how I manage to get thru daily life, without it I would be lost. Perhaps because I’m an emotional person, and belief is tied to emotion. I like to seek out the explanations for things for which there is one. But when there is simply not, I rely on my belief system. The past year or so maybe more than others, I need to believe in certain things that have no explanation.

  3. My answer…
    It’s very important to start with the freedom to question everything. Then cut a path through information to understanding and finally arrive at your own sense of belief.
    Everyone’s ability to take this journey should be respected and encouraged.

  4. Wow I just have to spend some time thinking about this…I do immediately find his words about belief stopping action a truth…Oh this is very interesting..

    Did you buy the book?

    • Patricia – It does beg thought, doesn’t it?

      I didn’t buy the book — yet. I’ll find out if it’s available on Kindle and then upload a sample (I’m so grateful they offer this option). And then after reading the first chapter or so I can determine if I’d like to purchase the book.

      • Wow,
        The chapter options is new to me, I have had a kindle a long time…and I just accidentally pushed the wrong button and purchased a Kindle book I did not want – now they will take it back right away…I still have one book from the first year that is 900 pages I do not wish to read, but the title was so close to the one I was looking for – I bought the wrong book.

      • Patricia – Yes, when I’m in the buying mode on my Kindle, there’s an option near “buy this” that says, “send a sample.” Depending on the publishing house, I receive between 1 and 3 chapters. With this option, you sort of get a honeymoon before you commit to marriage (purchase). In the case of the accidentally purchased book, I always receive a message that says, “Are you sure you want to purchase THIS book?” I then have the option to say yes or no. After purchase, I get a message that says, “Are you certain you meant to purchase THIS book?” Again, I have the option to say yes or no.

      • My kindle does not have all those messages? Just something about “this purchase was a mistake please remove it” I don’t get those options when I purchase off the computer for kindle – at least not yesterday?

      • I have the Kindle II, very old and the Kindle I I gave to my daughter when I got II, because II reads aloud to me when I am working in the kitchen! ( yes addicted)

        I just purchased a book on the Kindle directly and I did get Accidental Purchase? option at the bottom of the thank you page….but I do not get that on the PC or the laptop Mac or my iphone app. I have to go into accounts to delete and remove those…I am also trying to figure out how to move 30 books off my home page to archives – I better ask amazon that one! but no read a couple of pages option offered today.

      • Patricia – The “Read a Sample” button should be either on top or below the “Purchase” button when you’re thinking about buying a book. Once you get your sample, when you get to the end of the sample chapter(s), it says, “That’s the end of the sample, do you wish to purchase this book?” and then you can click on yes or no.

    • I found it on the book I purchased last night – That is the first time I have every seen it, but IT Girl ran an update on my Kindle for me – I think it was in that bundle? Thank you Thank you for all your good sharing.

      • Patricia – I’m glad that it’s finally an option for you. I always use it. My theory is that if the writer hasn’t engaged my heart and captured my interest in the first chapter or two, I’m not going to spend the money to find out if it would happen (or not) later on.

  5. Bernard Levin—journalist, commentator, and writer—had to say:

    “Osho is not trying to purvey information but a truth that bypasses conscious thought and all that belongs to it, just as the most important activities of human beings bypass the mind.”

    I agree with the words of Bernard. Osho is trying to manifest the ultimate that lies beyond the domain of intellect marred by limitations. He is not curtailing the ability to believe but he is simply trying to warn that we should not treat our beliefs as ultimate. Truth is eternal and therefore beyond beliefs. Beliefs are temporary and hence cannot act as Ultimate.

    Arvind K.Pandey

    • Arvind – I so appreciate what you’ve said here, especially “…that lies beyond the domain of intellect marred by limitations,” and “…not treat our beliefs as ultimate.” Thank you for sharing your thoughts here.

  6. I get what Osho is saying. Our psyches are riddled with unconscious beliefs upon which we unconsciously act. Our beliefs determine our way of being in the world. It is not just beliefs about existence — we also hold beliefs about ourselves and how we have to be in the world. Anytime I hear a “must” or “have to” in my head — that I must do this or I have to do that, there is a belief underlying my motive. I can choose to examine that belief. Many times I discover it is something someone else told me. It is not mine. When I consciously discover a belief, I can work with it, and I am getting to the place where I can let go of beliefs and feel safe. I am reading “The Book of Not Knowing” and the author rips our belief system apart. His premise is there must be an empty space – a space of not knowing – for learning to occur.

    • Barbara – I haven’t read “The Book of Not Knowing” (yet), but at first blush it sounds like a Buddhist practice known as “Beginner’s Mind” or “Not Knowing.” I’ve just added the book to my reading list 🙂 I definitely resonate with what you said regarding “must” and “have to!”

  7. Osho is 100% correct when he asserts that believing ends inquiry. Of course we all know that religion in a general sense is a way to reconcile our inability of coming to terms with teh end of all exoistence for eternity, yet if offers many peace of mind, and a connection to some form of goodness, righteousness or a positive world view. I was born Roman Catholic, I received all the sacraments, my kids have all been brought up as Catholics, and I was marries in the church. Same goes with Lucille who is a lifelong Catholic. But, admittedly I’ve kept my distance from the church as far as attending masses anymore. I stopped doing that many years ago, and have come to embrace far more rational ways of explaining the universe. I have not embraced atheism, and am closer to agnoticism, though I have not renounced by Catholism for a number of reasons.

    • Sam – I oh-so resonate with you, “…have come to embrace far more rational ways of explaining the universe.” I’m looking forward to reading your Monday morning diary tomorrow to see what films and/or stage productions you and yours have seen this weekend 🙂

  8. This question really stirs up the various words wandering through my mind/brain(?) and the various meanings within me. Belief can mean we “believe” without proof positive i.e. I believe SOMEONE exists because I see their picture on facebook or on their blog site. However, I have not met them in person, so it could really be someone else posing as the person in the photo ! 🙂 ! with their own thoughts which may be very different from the real person in the photo.

    Or, in MY mind I believe something because I KNOW it to be true. We tend to use words, many times, which mean one thing to us, in our mind, but may mean something different to someone else. This is how we misinterpret each others words, especially when written because we cannot hear how they say it and see their body language.

    So many times I HEAR a speaker/teacher say we should not act on FEELINGS, another word which brings up differing opinions! I often wonder about this because I have often “felt” something strong deep down within me that something is right or wrong, good or bad. And in one particular case I feel deeply/strongly about something and at the same time have a strong “SENSE” about it and the endless possibilities.


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  10. My 2 cents … believing is a mind function, knowing flows from being. As Tolle also reminds us, the “mind” can be like a wild river … unless we focus on living as spiritual beings (which requires letting go of mind and its predictable polarities). Easier said than done, of course, but also so liberating. I’m reading a book about writing fiction … the author says the same basic thing … the “mind” can’t write a wonderful novel, only the unconscious (the non-thinker) can do that. Enjoyed this! With heart, Daisy (working on poetry today, so definitely trying to get out of my head 🙂

  11. Hi Laurie

    This is a complex topic.

    I agree with Osho in part – that thinking one has truth stops one inquiring – and it seems to me that inquiry (skepticism) is almost always appropriate.

    It has been my experience, that the more I know, the more I know I don’t know, and the less certain I become about most of what I once thought I knew.
    When I first became aware of this it was quite an unsettling feeling, now I find it comforting.

    It seems to me that reality is vast, so amazingly vast, and our conscious reasoning powers so slow – that there must always be this amazing disjuncture between what we experience and what aspects of it we have contemplated in depth.

    It is worth considering that just using the 62 characters of normal text (numbers 0-9 and letters upper and lower case A-Z & a-z), that if someone who was a fast typist (20 characters per second), typing out every combination of those letters possible, starting with the simplest and working up, they would still only be typing out 11 character words even if they started at the birth of the universe (14 billion years ago).

    The possible combinations of letters on a single page is so vast, it is beyond comprehension.

    Our bodies are cooperating entities made up of trillions of cells, approximately 10,000 times more cells in our bodies than there are people on planet earth. Within each cell is about 10,000 times as many molecules as there are cells in our bodies.
    It is not possible for any single human being to even see (as individual entities) all the cells of their own body in their own normal lifespan, let alone contemplate the amazing complexity of action going on inside each one of them.

    To then start to contemplate on the amazing ability of holographic storage and retrieval of information to form associations that are sensitive to context, and the astounding ability to intuit and abstract that results from this function within our brains; and one is left in complete awe at the immensity of this universe we find ourselves in, and the processes of evolution that have bought us into being out of inanimate matter, and the abilities that we find within ourselves.

    We are, quite literally, only limited by the stories we create about our limitations.

    Unfortunately (yet understandably) most of the stories handed down to us by our cultures are seriously deficient in significant aspects as explanatory frameworks and roadmaps to our possible futures.

    So I say question everything, and trust your own judgments and intuitions, for even if they are wrong, it is far safer for humanity as a whole if individuals make their own mistakes singly, rather than great masses of people making gigantic mistakes together.

    • Ted – This is the part of what you said that really, really jumped off the page at me: “We are, quite literally, only limited by the stories we create about our limitations.” I oh-so-agree with you 🙂

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  13. I keep a button magnet on my refrigerator that says, “Believe those who seek the truth. Doubt those who find it.” It’s a gentle reminder to me not to get caught up with and taken in by groups who claim to have the answer to every question.

    I also like the song, “Closer to Fine,” sung by the Indigo Girls, especially the following lines:

    “There’s more than one answer to these questions
    Pointing me in a crooked line
    The less I seek my source for some definitive
    The closer I am to fine”
    ~ Emily Saliers
    (Closer to Fine)

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