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Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience Hardcover – August 5, 2002

4.6 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Bestselling author Sharon Salzberg explores the meaning of faith through her personal story about a harrowing childhood of isolation and loss (a father's abandonment, a mother's early death) and her eventual journey into the Buddhist tradition. The overriding message, explains Salzberg, is that faith is "not superficial or sentimental: it does not say everything will turn out all right." So what is faith, if not trust in a happy ending? Salzburg, the cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society, explains that faith resides not in the outcome, but in the willingness to see the possibility for change.

"The first step on the journey of faith is to recognize that everything is moving onward to something else, inside us and outside.... We see that a self-image we've been holding doesn't need to define us forever, the next step is not the last step, what life was is not what it is now, and certainly not what it might yet be."

Like the great teachers of Buddhism, Salzberg relies on her stories to make the teachings relevant. She shifts effortlessly from the voice of a memoirist to the voice of a master teacher. Through her insights, we come to understand faith as a verb. Faith means never giving up on the possibilities of each moment, always seeing "our own potential for happiness, for vibrant wisdom and sustained compassion--a potential that all beings share." --Gail Hudson

From Publishers Weekly

Current world events show that we need to find fresh ways to think about faith. Just at the right moment, Buddhist teacher Salzberg (Lovingkindness) offers a deeply personal and luminously honest work that makes faith relevant to us all. Unyoking faith from its usual association of adherence to systems of belief (and even the belief that we have no faith), she allows it to be a verb, an act of offering and affirmation that can heal and enlarge our lives. "Faith is the animation of the heart that says, `I choose life,' " she writes. "This spark of faith is ignited the moment we think, `I'm going to go for it. I'm going to try.' " In 1970, as a shy, 18-year-old college student, Salzberg recounts, she decided to travel to India to learn to meditate. She had lived cocooned in sadness since her mother died when she was young, until a course in Buddhism sparked the intuition that life held possibilities that could make her future different than her past. She went for it. In the rich stories that follow, Salzberg describes how that first flare of faith ignited the next, how a path appeared step by step, light by light, as she encountered teachers and friends and, finally, her own innate wisdom and compassion. True faith, according to Salzberg, is the action of the heart opening to admit life in all its unknown potential. It does not need to constrict around a particular belief or view, because it flows from an inner sense of reality, "a homing instinct for freedom." Salzberg shows that, in its essence, faith is a love of life that breaks out as it is exposed to real forces. Truth feeds faith. This is a work of great truth and great heart. It will help everyone who reads it.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover; First Printing edition (August 5, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573222283
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573222280
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #870,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Rain on January 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I have spent the better part of my life searching for the elusive cure for depression, fear and anxiety. Complicated matters, indeed. Something that occured to me along the way that I was raised without religion and that the lack of faith in my life may contribute to my suffering. It seemed to me that there were so many people who had something to believe in, something to soothe their tormented soul. So many seemed to have a god who would carry them to safety. I didn't. Believe it or not I typed the word "faith" into the search engine and up popped this book. I bought it not having any clue that I was about to be introduced to Buddhism. To call this story, this author, life changing doesn't do it justice. I must have engaged in right action and right thought more than a few times in my life because karmically Sharon Salzburg was brought to me when I needed her most. All of my questions about life and especially death were answered in the most uplifting yet simple way. I am really not afraid any more. I haven't become a Buddhist because of this book. I just live the best I can and lean on the teachings when I need to be reminded about what makes life the most peaceful and fulfilling. I lean on Buddhism when I am afraid. It hasn't let me down yet.
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Format: Hardcover
Imagine that you are in a dark room where nothing can be seen. Yet even in the darkness you know there is a light switch. You find the walls and move about groping with your hand convinced the ligth is there. This is the image of faith I gathered from Sharon Salsberg's book. Faith as the conviction to keep looking. Faith as both the memory and the hope of light. Now, the conviction of light's existence is both something that is given and something that is found. The search requires an acceptance of the darkness (don't panic but don't get used to it either). The beauty of this book is that it transcends belief systems and directs us to the common loving energy that propels our fundamental search. This is a book of encouragement. If your search is sincere and if you live in harmony with your search - you too are part of the world's faithful.
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Format: Hardcover
Lustrous, totally lustrous... glowing with honesty and compassion.
"Faith" is a word so abused in our times. If you regard faith as mere wishful thinking, rigid ideology, a divisive divine favor bestowed upon an elite few, or (to paraphrase Mark Twain) deciding to believe what you know ain't true, then prepare to shed those lack luster preconceptions.
This is Sharon's personal story. Her losses, her pain, her awakenings, her love and richly earned peace. When I took a workshop on faith with Sharon two years ago, I found her to be warm, candid, and down to earth. These splendid qualities radiate from every page of "Faith." She is a natural teacher, and this book teaches so much.
So, what is "faith?" Open to the present moment, clinging neither to pain nor pleasure, entrust yourself to the boundless compassion that lies at the heart of your spiritual center. Trust what you know about unconditional love, what your own experience teaches you when you do not flinch from it, but compassionately embrace it. And discover through clarity and compassion your interdependent connections with all beings.
Am I close, Sharon? :-)
Namu Amida Butsu... may you be well and happy, and may all of you read this lustrous book.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a deeply authentic spiritual biography of some historical significance in American Buddhism and a volume on faith that should be added to every stack of soothing bedside books. In a childhood of emotional isolation and unanswered forbidden questions, Buddhist meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg suffered sudden abandonment by her beloved father at age 4, the bleeding death nearly before her eyes of her mother at age 9 and the lifelong institutionalization of her mentally ill father at age 11. Entering college at age 16, she was chosen early in her Buddhist studies in India to teach meditation in America not because of her scholarship but because "You really understand suffering." Chapter 5 (of 7), Despair: The Loss of Faith, is a candid existential leap by a both grounded and luminous spiritual teacher who has mentored students who have suffered "childhood beatings while hanging, childhood physical and sexual abuse, betrayals, illnesses, depression, loneliness, oppressive relationships, oppressive secrets, exhausting moral dilemmas"; knowing she was not alone was "a good qualification for a life of practice." "Who, if I cried, would hear me among the angelic orders?" Sharon Salzberg, for one. She does a masterful job of communicating the paradoxes in the Buddhist practice of "taking refuge" -- taking refuge in freedom and the burden of the authentic self. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
Faith in a theological context for many people is an act of belief in what one cannot prove. It has been used as a line drawn between those who "believe" and those who do not in a Christian context. But Salzberg's intent in this wonderful text drives at providing us all with a fresh perspective of what faith really is; a definition unassociated with doctrine and theology. A kind of faith in oneself, emphasizing a love and respect for ourselves. This kind of faith unearths our connection to all people, not a faith used as a tool of making you or I a separate entity. Faith doesn't necessarily require belief, it is a trust. A trust in ourselves through a waking up to who we really are. It does not necessarily denote a God, or even no God.
In the book Salzberg discusses her painful youth; she lost her mother very early on and her father was mentally ill. In 1968, Sharon came across Buddhism in a course on Asian philosophy, where she learned of the teachings of the Lord Buddha. She remembers feeling instantly drawn to his messages, in particular the Four Noble Truths. A few years later she was in India at Bodh Gaya doing her first meditative retreat. From that point on for a number of years, Sharon studied with teachers in Burma, Tibet, and India; experiences that ultimately affected her view on just what faith truly means in her life.
This book is the absolute best out there on the subject of faith, and I say that for people of any religion. Salzberg relies on both her years of experience and impressive array of teachers that always challenged her in bringing us this magnificent book.
Salzberg: "Faith is the ability to offer our heart to the truth of what is happening, to see our experience as the embodiment of life's mystery, the present expression of possibility, the conduit connecting us to a bigger reality."
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