Do You Have "Bad Faith?"
- TheDailyEnlightenment.comWeekly 19.11.05
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Realisation: Do You Have "Bad Faith?"
"Buddhist faith is not just trusting the Dharma, but also trusting that all can realise the Dharma." - stonepeace
In philosophy, there is a term called "bad faith", which, according to Wikipedia, refers to "the flight from existential responsibility and the inauthentic embrace of choices..." Sounds confusing? Here's an sample of bad faith that some of us might have experienced or even been guilty of... Imagine this scenerio - a taxi driver picks up a passenger. When the passenger boards, he doesn't turn around to greet him but starts driving right away. Neither does he asks for the passenger's destination or his preferred route of travel. But of course, even without prompting, the passenger tells him his destination. The driver does not acknowledge hearing him - he neither speaks or nods, but simply drives to the given destination. When it is reached, he swiftly reaches for the fare and gives the necessary change. He doesn't thanks or even responds to any thanks. Even the lack of thanks doesn't seem to affect him. The whole journey thus began and ended in "total" silence. The driver just wants to do his job as a job per se, and wishes to do absolutely nothing more. He doesn't even wishes to acknowledge the existence of the passengers who he relies upon for his livelihood!- Shen Shi'an
Now, this driver is probably exhibiting bad faith. He does his job mechanically, as if he is part of the transportation machine that is the cab - a faceless ghost in the machine that is never emotional in a positive or negative way, just being barely functional. Sometimes, service with robotic bad faith gets bad faith in return. Both parties know each other are not mere "things", but they treat each other as so. Worse still, often as "transparent things"! Both know they have the freedom to respond otherwise, in a more warm and human way, but conveniently choose to ignore this freedom and behave with bad faith by default, as if it is the natural and only thing to do. The driver is not just a driver and the passenger not just a passenger, yet they pretend they are nothing more than that. And they pretend this pretense has absolutely no implications. Worse still, some taxi drivers with unoccupied cabs drive past waiting passengers whom they would rather not ferry, as they look ahead while driving, while it is obvious that they could see the wild flagging from the corner of their eye. Bad faith indeed! Why not wave to apologise? Then again, sometimes passengers accidentally end up flagging two cabs. Equally out of bad faith, they pretend they do not see the second cab coming as they board the first, not even looking at or waving an apology to the second cab's driver. Sadly, bad faith can occur in many areas of life - be it in interactions with strangers, colleagues, family, friends or even lovers!
Either way, bad faith is a form of pretentiousness that sometimes reduces oneself and/or others into lifeless objects instead of thinking and feeling beings. One who exhibits bad faith is not really himself - it is a subtle form of dishonesty or non-genuineness, both to oneself and others. Please do not mistaken bad faith as impoliteness, as one can also swing to the other extreme of being overly eager to please, with excessive courtesy that hints of hypocrisy and ulterior motives, even when there might be none. Middle path please! Existentialism tells us that we are "condemned to be free", but we often voluntarily imprison ourselves in the moment in operative social roles in line with our faulty value systems, thinking we have no better course of action. We then act in bad faith. The truth is, even in the most drastic of situtations, we are free to choose how to respond using the better way, even when under threat, even when choices are limited. For example, being held hostage at knifepoint, one can either risk breaking free to save himself, or remain a hostage. Even in physical bondage, one can choose how to position one's mind - one can choose to be positive that there is hope for freedom, or think negatively that one is doomed. Even the "giving up" of freedom is a choice made out of freedom. In this sense, there is absolutely no way to escape from personal responsibility.
The Buddhist answer to bad faith is of course to interact with "good faith" in goodwill - never ever mechanically, but with sincere living compassion and wisdom that is appropriate for each different situation. Buddhism acknowledges that we are all sentient beings geared towards the common goal of True Happiness, whether we know it or not, whether we are going the right way or not, all while being "immersed" in the many dissatisfactions (Dukkha) of life. Knowing this, empathy and compassion for each other should naturally arise as the only appropriate response. Life is already tough enough. Why live it with bad faith to yourself and others? Why not be "true"? More importantly, why not be "truly" kind and wise? We are definitely not mere objects. We are all with Buddha-nature, with the potential to be future Buddhas, with "Buddha-ness" within us, even if it is much hidden. How would you treat a Buddha? Do you behave with bad faith? What if the Buddha catches your eye, and he looks you in the eye? To the Buddha who smiles kindly at you, you naturally smile back in good faith. When we face genuineness, may we be genuine. But more importantly, when encountering bad faith, may we be just as genuine with the similar compassion and wisdom. Challenging maybe, but this is spiritual practice! With good faith in the innate goodness of all, bad faith can be touched and transformed to be just as good, if not better!
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