Sabio, over at the blog Triangulations pondered about the role of faith in Buddhism, and lists out the different types of faith from a Vajrayāna perspective. He writes:
"Believe it or not, “faith” is present in Buddhism too. But like all religions, there are many varieties of Buddhism and each with conflicting stances. For that reason, there is no agreement on “faith” in Buddhism just as there is no agreement on “faith” in Christianity."I had never really broken down in my mind the different types of faith, but one thing I was sure on, there is a great difference between faith and belief/blind faith. Faith to me, as for my Zen practice, is really a bit of all four of these types of faith (not blind faith obviously) which Sabio lists out. It has always been about seeing, experiencing and understanding firsthand what the Buddha was pointing to. Based on this, faith is following the path I do because of logic, reasoning and prior experience. Knowing that the teachings I have studied and practiced in the past I have seen as true, so I am encouraged to keep going. In a way, it's really a relationship of growing trust.
Blind Faith: The Buddha warned his disciples against blind faith. ‘Do not believe what I say simply out of respect for me. Discover from your own lives the truth of what I am teaching you’.
1. Clear Faith: When the practitioner becomes aware of the qualities of the Buddha and his teachings, his mind becomes light and joyful. That is the first degree of faith: Clear Faith
2. Aspiring Faith: Then, when he realizes these qualities can enable him to achieve Enlightenment and help a large number of beings, he begins to want to acquire them. Clear faith has turned into aspiration.
3. Confident Faith: When the follower becomes sure, from his own experience, that those qualities can be developed and are as sublime as described in the writings, he acquires a deep conviction.
4. Unshakable Faith: Finally when, through spiritual accomplishment, his faith has becomes so much a part of his mind that he would not be able to renounce it, it is irreversible.
But what about 'authentic' Zen practice? Are there more 'authentic' ways of testing and seeing Buddhist teachings? For that matter, are certain teachers more 'authentic' than others? Karen Maezen Miller at Cheerio Road had this to say about the idea of authenticity. Karen writes:
"My teacher Maezumi Roshi used the word so-called a lot. He used it before every word that really wasn’t what it stood for. (That’s every word.) It’s such an efficient way to point out the source of our confusion: confusing the way things really are with the mental artifice of words and concepts.I was very glad to see such a respected Zen teacher say this about the shell game played on the word authenticity. Sure, there may be more effective ways of practice for some, but maybe not for all; and there are some teachers who are more skilled at guiding certain students, but not all students; and there are definitely those who trade in twisted, misleading or poor ways of practice and teaching. The reality is however, the most important things for both teacher and student to pursue in practice is intention, effort and understanding, and not some notion of selling a 'more authentic' style of Zen or Buddhist practice.
That’s why I’m majorly peeved by the word authenticity. As soon as I say it, I’m not. Just the notion that there is a way to be more real than you already are is a lie. People who trade in authenticity trade in deception, and it’s a deception that they reinforce by their own salesmanship."
So why do we practice? Well, there is no ultimate reason, but at the same time, it is crucial that we bring our practice and understanding to what we do on a moment by moment basis into our everyday lives. Does that make sense? Most Zen teachers will emphasize that we sit for no other reason than for practice itself; and this practice does not end at the cushion. There is a very old Zen saying, 'Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.' The same tasks and problems of life remain after we are done with formal practice; however, with this bare attention which is cultivated, we can begin to understand just who is chopping the wood and who is carrying water. Nathan at Dangerous Harversts, in a post entitled Buddha's Hesitation - Translating Practice into Life, talks about practice and how it flows into everyday life. Nathan writes:
"Which is why, going back to our practice intensive experiment, I'm interested in structures like it that allow for more of the ebb and flow between introspection and one's relationships and everyday activities. Because there's enough intensity from the form to conjure up some of your shit, and then you have to face it, work with it in the middle of your life with others. Which is what often happens to us anyway, right?"I really like that phrase, "our practice intensive experiment." I also like how Nathan reminds us that our practice or introspection, is indeed watching and understanding how the world around changes from moment to moment as we go about our everyday activities and relationships.
Everything we do in our daily lives off the cushion, no matter how minor or trivial can be practice.
When we hit the snooze button on our alarm clock, that can be practice.
When we eat our morning breakfast, that can be practice.
When we take the kids to school, that can be practice.
When we take a shit, that also can be practice.
Whenever we are engaged in any activity, to quote Suzuki Roshi, 'with single minded effort', that is practice. But what is most important to remember is that when we forget ourselves, and are not present with these activities, our attention of mind has probably wondered off somewhere, playing havoc in our frontal lobes. This is what attracted me to Zen, this bare attention of presence, realizing how this 'I' that we all cherish so much arises and bringing some semblance of calm to my ordinary world of chaos.
Not trying to sound too Zen, but while I do not sit for any particular purpose, my everyday life is why I practice. Everyday life is practice, that is if I allow it to be.