Thursday, May 6, 2010

Faith isn't for the Nearest Dumpster

These words from Marcus' latest post seem very important this morning:

I’ll happily admit to being a beginner. I’ve tried, but cannot reach the most difficult philosophical heights of the Dharma. I’ve been to many Buddhist discussion groups where I’ve been lost at the complexity of it all. And I’m rubbish at meditation. But I look around at the good people in the temples, in Thailand and Korea, the places I know best, and see that Buddhist life is the precepts, generosity, chanting, and reliance upon the Buddha. That is enough. And difficult enough.

So faith is vital to me.

It's too easy to dispose "faith" into the nearest dumpster, feeling it's only for those "God" folks. But I think all of us, secular, religious, spiritual, or whatever - all of us need to place faith in something greater than ourselves in order to live healthy lives.

Chanting to myself silently on the bus this morning, I came to the lines about sangha in the refuges -

I take refuge in sangha. May all beings support harmony in the community, free from hindrances.

There have been times I've felt myself stuck on this line, seeing it as reinforcing excessive niceness and passivity.

However, this morning, it feels more like a calling from the world to see that even in the middle of conflicts and confusions, there is always a certain "harmony" present which is "free from hindrances."

I've felt very haunted by life lately. Not a haunting of personal, past experiences, but something bigger and less defined. I can feel it in my heart, in my breathing - what is it? This harmony perhaps, trying to break through the mud caked over it perhaps?

During a podcast with poet and spiritual writer David Whyte, he spoke of how in order to truly awaken, he feels one needs to experience an exile from one's self. I'm still sitting with that one because it feels really accurate, but kind of odd at the same time. Reminds me of a talk I had with one of my senior dharma sisters at our center. At one point she told me, "whatever all this is you're going through, you might never get any more clarity about it."

This points to, in part, I think this exiled quality - that there are some things in life that just remain mysterious no matter what we do to try to figure them out.
This post feels like that. May you not throw faith in the dumpster because sometimes, it's all you have.


Helmut said...

"Faith, means we trust the training."

There's sort of an interface between my karma, my intentions, and what I actually do.
That is where a fog can be created and I can become quite lost.
So far the only thing that I've encountered that consistently helps cut through that fog, is trying my best to remain still within the day-to-day conditions of my life.
For me, that means to take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
When I take refuge in the Buddha, I try to accept what is going on in my life and mind right now, and try not to judge it.
When I take refuge in the Dharma, I try to access the tools and teachings that promote stillness and compassion for self and other, as well as providing context for this moment.
When I take refuge in the Sangha, I am open and willing to take counsel and advice from fellow trainees that have more experience, and those whose opinion I respect. They may not necessarily be Buddhists but often are.

The above quotet was a phrase used by Reverend Master Jisho Perry, OBC; It was one of those asides in a Dharma discussion that sank in for me, because I heard it as an elegant and useful description of the word "faith", a word which many people find problematic in that they feel it doesn't comport with their view of "Zen", or Buddhism in general, I presume.
My feeling is that it (faith), is vital when we venture into the arena of real religion, and I have no doubt that Buddhism is a real religion.
By "training" I mean the practice of applying the teachings of the Buddha and the Ancestors in our daily lives to the best of our ability. Which, again, brings us back to the Three Refuges or the Three Treasures.
Buddha. Dharma. Sangha.

Emma said...

hear hear! Beautiful post Nathan. I loved the quote from the sister at your Dharma centre. We are often so busy searching for the answer, for clarity, for the 'ah ha' lightbulb moment - sometimes it's good to step back and say, 'well, I might never have it', and see if the sky falls down. :)

Marcus said...

"there are some things in life that just remain mysterious no matter what we do to try to figure them out."

Oh yes, how true. And how to respond? I can't help but think of Zen Master Seung Sahn, what would he say? "Only don't know, go straight ahead" - or something like that! :)

Thank you Nathan

spldbch said...

To me a big part of faith is accepting that there are things that we as people are simply not able to know or comprehend.