The F-Word: Reconsidering Faith with Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel

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For some faith is an outdated, even dogmatic idea. Namgyel sees it as “not something you have or don’t have, faith is a way of being in relationship to the world around you.” She refers to it as “faithing”. This dialogue takes a deep dive into the Buddhist principle of mutual causality and dependent origination. She says “everything leans” and explains in greater detail the following: “This is a very, very deep principle. The Sanskrit word for it is Pratityasamutpada, which is often translated as dependent arising or dependent origination. I like Joanna Macy’s translation, which is ‘mutual causality’: Everything is bumping up against everything else and causing it to happen. It’s a continued genesis of appearance and experience. It’s a way of talking about the genesis of appearance which is happening all the time in a continuous way.” Her shorthand for this is “everything leans.” She suggests that a helpful mantra in answer to any inquiry might be: “It depends.” She adds, “[W]e live in a world where ‘it all depends’ and everything is influencing everything else. We might think we know something at one moment but everything is always interrupting and influencing and so it’s always changing. Life, as we know it, is very dynamic. I’m trying to look at that kind of nature and how we navigate that and how that releases our intelligence and releases our ability to respond to the world with more intelligence.” There is much to contemplate in this spirited dialogue. (hosted by Justine Willis Toms) 


Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel is a Buddhist teacher and teaches throughout the U.S. and Europe. She’s the wife of Tibetan Buddhist master Dzigar Kongtrul and has studied and practiced in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition since 1985. After many years of solitary retreat, Dzigar Rinpoche appointed Elizabeth as Retreat Master at Longchen Jigme Samten Ling, retreat center in southern Colorado. 

Her books include:

To learn more about the work of Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel go to

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • What grace has to do with relationship
  • Why having faith is more than just believing in something to make you feel more secure
  • How faith has become a bad word
  • Why replacing faith with spirituality is too easy, too general, and might negate a more disciplined path
  • How it takes joyful courage to struggle with our spiritual doubts
  • How inquiry is equal to joy and will lead to wakefulness
  • How Mother Teresa, Thomas Merton, and Joanna Macy are great teachers because they are great disciples
  • What it means to understand “faithing”
  • What Namgyel means by “everything leans”
  • What is the meaning of the mantra “It all depends”
  • Why humans search for a secular creative power in the universe
  • Why capturing truth is highly overrated and a “knower” mind is a closed mind
  • Why evolution doesn’t work in the linear direction
  • What does activism look like to spiritual practitioner 

Host: Justine Willis Toms         Interview Date: 3/21/2018         Program Number: 3639

Music Playlist

From Album: Quiet Mind
Artist: Nawag Khechog
1991 Sounds True #STA M001D

Opening Essay: Track 01 Year of Tibet
Music Break 1: Track 02 Nomads of the High Tibetan Plateau
Music Break 2: Track 03 The Flight of a Shepherd Boy
Music Break 3: Track 06 Giving and Forgiving