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What does faith mean to a Buddhist? Zen teacher Norman Fischer talks with Sharon Salzberg about the conclusions she draws in her new book, Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience.

Norman Fischer: One thing that struck me in reading your book was the story of your very difficult childhood. Your father left when you were four and went on to have severe psychiatric problems. Your mother died when you were nine. You went to live with your grandfather and he died shortly after. It was, as you say in the book, a series of “uprooting turns and incomprehensible losses.”

And because of all that you went through in your early life, faith loomed large from the very beginning. You had a tremendous incentive to give rise to faith, which is probably the case for many dharma students. In your book, you talk about the progression from bright faith to verified faith to unwavering faith. I want to ask you how faith arises and how one kind of faith unfolds into another?

Sharon Salzberg: Many dharma students can recall that period of bright faith, which is at first an intoxicating rush of falling in love—falling in love with a teacher or teaching, or falling in love with a brand new sense of possibility when we had previously felt confined or unworthy. Suddenly, this inspiration can turn our lives around. It's incredibly exhilarating and wondrous. It’s the first step.


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