faith ［信］ ( shraddhā; Pali saddhā; shin): A basic attitude emphasized in both early Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism. Faith constitutes the first of the five roots, or the five elements of practice conducive to enlightenment, expounded in early Buddhism. The five roots are faith, exertion, memory, meditation, and wisdom. Mahayana Buddhism likewise emphasizes the importance of faith. The Flower Garland Sutra says, “Faith is the basis of the way and the mother of blessings.” The Mahāparinirvāna Sutra says, “Although there are innumerable practices that lead to enlightenment, if one teaches faith, then that includes all those practices.” In the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni addresses Shāriputra, who was known as foremost in wisdom, as follows: “Even you, Shāriputra, in the case of this sutra were able to gain entrance through faith alone. How much more so, then, the other voice-hearers.” The Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom attributed to Nāgārjuna (c. 150–250) reads, “The great ocean of Buddhism can be entered through faith.” In Great Concentration and Insight, T’ien-t’ai (538–597) states, “Buddhism is like an ocean that one can only enter with faith.”
Another Sanskrit word for faith is adhimukti, which means confidence and is rendered in Chinese Buddhism as “belief and understanding.” It means faith based on understanding; it also means to first take faith in the Buddha’s teaching and then to understand it. Adhimukti is the Sanskrit title of the “Belief and Understanding” (fourth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra translated by Kumārajīva. The “Distinctions in Benefits” (seventeenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra says, “Ajita, if there are living beings who, on hearing that the life span of the Buddha is of such long duration, are able to believe and understand it even for a moment, the benefits they gain thereby will be without limit or measure.” In The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, Nichiren (1222–1282) states: “Belief represents the value or price we attach to a jewel or treasure, and understanding represents the jewel itself. It is through the one word belief that we are able to purchase the wisdom of the Buddhas of the three existences. That wisdom is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.” See also faith, practice, and study.