Sunday, February 28, 2010

Radical Trust and Radical Patience

Subhuti said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, in the future will there be living beings, who, when they hear such phrases spoken will truly believe?"

The Buddha told Subhuti, "Do not speak in such a way! After the Tathagata's extinction, in the last five hundred years, there will be those who hold the precepts and cultivate blessings who will believe such phrases and accept them as true.

"You should know that such people will have planted good roots with not just one Buddha, two Buddhas, three, four or five Buddhas, but will have planted good roots with measureless millions of Buddhas. All who hear such phrases and produce even one thought of pure faith are completely known and completely seen by the Tathagata. Such living beings thus obtain measureless blessings and virtue.

From Chapter 6 of the Diamond Sutra

I read these lines this morning to open a seven hour board retreat for our zen center. In terms of working with issues of institutional sustainability, these words spoke deeply to me. However, looking at them now, what stands out is the emphasis on having faith.

Faith doesn't seem, on the surface, to be a heavy teaching in Buddhism. Partly, it's the word, faith, which is probably associated (in many North American minds anyway) with monotheistic traditions. However, I think if you replace "faith" with languaging like "radical trust," then you can certainly find the Buddha lurking about.

I think it's really hard, in this high paced, violent, heavily materialistic world of ours to develop radical trust. All that talk we do about everything having Buddha-nature and how everything is dynamically functioning together sounds great, but often feels like just nice talk when you spend any time reflecting on the relative world of our everyday lives.

The selection above from the Diamond Sutra above points to, among other things, a quality of time beyond the regular notions of time we have. In others words, it's calling for us to develop a radical patience along with that radical trust, while at the same time doing the work to "plant good roots."

At our retreat today, I felt we did a bit of root planting. And I feel like our sangha is at a point now where we can place some sustained work into enhancing and refining our organization for the long term (instead of simply the year to year way we've functioned for the past several years). A wonderful place, filled with potential.

At the same time, the largeness of some of the topics, and the level of effort required to bring about fruition of some of the projects discussed, is calling for us (I believe) to develop both a radical trust and radical patience. Radical trust that we will find the ways we need to go and be able to come together to do what needs to be done. And radical patience in that we need to renounce completely any attachments to outcome.

I must admit that towards the end of the meeting, taking in the whole of what had been proposed, I, as board chair, felt a deep panic. Just an hour earlier, our guiding teacher experienced something similar, and we both had a little laugh about our shared experience there. Together, we resolved to let it go for the evening - to not fixate on what needed to be done next. I didn't completely drop it, as this post probably shows, but I don't feel panic or anxiety at all right now - only interest (curiousness) in the process unfolding as a whole.


Trevor said...

Very nice. Glad to hear your board is guiding your ZC on to a stable future.
If you're interested, check out "How to Raise an Ox," by Francis Cook. This is my favorite Dharma book! He has a chapter called, "The Importance of Faith" in there where he lays out a very convincing argument for the central role of faith in Dogen's Zen. In fact, he says that Dogen's Zen is the Zen of faith. Very cool stuff.
All the best,

Amy said...

I agree with you Nathan, opening the heart to radical trust and radical patience sounds like a key to not feeling overwhelmed. And I appreciated what you said at the beginning of the meeting about holding everything lightly.

Algernon said...

This is a timely and welcome read.

There is a Soto Zen Center an hour north of me where I've been a regular visitor for two years, even though I am formally a student in the Kwan Um school. At this local Zen Center, there have been some personal conflicts that arose over the past few months, that culminated in some screaming fights and a physical accident.

There is now some reflection and healing going on in that sangha, and this past weekend I was elected to its board, and thus I will be taking part in that process.

Your reflection is greatly appreciated.

Nathan said...

Good luck with the board work Algernon.

Thanks Amy. It was good that I said what I said to open the meeting because I remembered it afterward, which helped me let things be.

Thanks for the book suggesting Trevor. I'll check into it! I'm very fortunate to be surrounded by thoughtful, talented people on our board.

spldbch said...

Part of that radical trust and radical patience means recognizing that you might not always "see" progress but that doesn't mean it isn't happening. It also means trusting that things are as they should be, however that happens to be at the moment.

Nathan said...

"Part of that radical trust and radical patience means recognizing that you might not always "see" progress but that doesn't mean it isn't happening." Thanks for this excellent reminder Melody!

Helmut said...

One translation and meaning of the word Dukkha, usually translated as "Suffering", is the word, enduring.
I think that this notion of radical acceptance partakes of the deeper meaning of enduring. In endurance we may suffer, but we come out of it more whole, somehow, if we apply the Dharma and precepts to the "enduring".
In gassho,