Barbara, over at Barbara’s Buddhist Blog, links to this dharma talk by Sharon Salzburg. It deals with an issue that I have found difficult myself — the idea of faith, not as a mindless acceptance of dogma, but as an expression of practice. Don’t fail to read Barbara’s own take on faith.
I think that belief and faith sometimes go together. It’s not that they are mutually exclusive—we can believe something and also have faith in it. I would use the word belief to refer to something more in the realm of an idea about things. It can be something that we have never really examined, and therefore we don’t have a quality of faith in it that comes from seeing for ourselves that it is true. It’s more just an idea that we have. Beliefs are often these assumptions that we have about so many things that are really fabrications of the mind, not based on an actual, personal experience of things.
It’s not that all belief is wrong; some belief might reflect a true or a deeper understanding of things. But because it’s untested, perhaps, or not even acknowledged as a belief, I would distinguish it from that quality of faith which only deepens as it’s tested. And the practice is a great deal about examining these things and seeing what has some basis in actual experience and what is just a construction that has been made up.