First one needs to step back and be clear what the faith is that we’re looking for. If you’re a practicing Buddhist, it’s not faith that we will be able to achieve a certain goal or that through our spirituality the universe will keep certain bad things from happening to us or conversely will cause good things to happen. Because such a faith would be an illusion. It would be a misunderstanding of the benefits of Buddhism.
Buddhist faith is faith that all will be well regardless what life throws our way. That our spirituality will enable us to be at peace and happy regardless what happens. That our spirituality will provide a shield to protect us from all the dysfunction and negativity and inhumanity that surrounds us.
This is for most of us a difficult step because we are raised to be goal oriented, to achieve. Being able to say that this is the faith one is looking for means that one is already at least somewhat comfortable, after being exposed to Buddhist teaching, with the idea that we may not achieve what we’re looking for and that we’ll be ok anyway.
We know from our life experience that very often, even usually, we aren’t able to achieve what we are looking for and we end up frustrated, defeated, and suffer. Most religions have so much power because people are led to believe that they can pray to God for certain things to happen. Wouldn’t that be nice. When their prayers aren’t answered, they’re told that God works in mysterious ways, is unknowable. And if you have faith, you’re ok with that. It’s the equivalent of a Buddhist saying, it’s just the way it is.
Buddhism has a different construct. It doesn’t offer you that kind of help in achieving your goals. What Buddhism does offer you is a way to find peace and happiness despite not achieving your goals or better put by not attaching to your goals, the end point of whatever process you’re working on.
Ironically the result of this non-attachment to the endpoint is that we have the energy to keep on persevering with our chosen project … assuming that it is a Right effort … despite setbacks or “failures.” We have faith that all will be well regardless what happens, but we also have faith that we are doing the right thing. Thus ironically it is much more likely that we will in the end achieve our goal. Think of Gandhi or Martin Luther King.
So, back to the original question. If you are looking for faith, faith that all will be well regardless what life throws your way, then you find that faith simply by believing, by having faith. The same is true if you're seeking faith in the God of the Old Testament. If that sounds like circular reasoning, it is.
When you read the teachings of the Buddha … for example, that we are all born essentially perfect with our true Buddha nature in side us; that our true self is that nature not our ego; that the cause of our suffering is craving, our emotions; and that we have the ability to free ourselves from our cravings and emotions and thus end our suffering … you either believe it and have faith in it, or not. It either makes sense to you or not. There is no proof beyond your own experience. When I read my first Buddhist book, Sogyal Rinpoche’s Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, the light bulb kept going on in my head. “Of course, so that’s why I experience this!” Once I read that, I was sold, I was a believer.
Much later in my practice, I realized the truth of the Buddha’s teaching from within myself. But for the first 19 years of my practice, I had faith because it made sense to me, it rang true. The fact that I also started to be able to discern moments when I saw the light, when I experienced the benefits of my practice, supported that faith, And it is that faith that kept me on the path, meditating daily, establishing what I call a “platform of serenity,” despite the various forms of suffering that I continued to experience for many years.
And I am still not completely free of suffering. Walking the path is the activity of a lifetime. There is a well-known Bach chorale, “A Might Fortress Is My God.” One could say also, “A mighty fortress if my Buddhist faith and practice.”