This is June 26 2022. And let me say how thrilling it is to see a full Zendo again, it's been, I think, hasn't it been two years, at least two and a half years and with the pandemic, since we've been able to pack all of us into the Zendo is full. It's, it's, it's inspiring. Since the pandemic began, I've fretted a little bit about whether people would get habituated to taking the easy way and I'm talking about local people and staying at home during sittings, teisho. So maybe, maybe this will be a tipping point where people will feel more inclined to come in and actually experience all this in three dimensions, at least until the next wave of COVID. I'm going to talk about faith this morning. I really got stimulated about faith last weekend when I was attending funeral masses in the Boston area. My my wife very briefly, because most you know, this my my wife had her two last surviving aunt and uncle in their 90s had them die in the same weekend and felt really obliged to to go up there from Florida got to attend the funerals. She she had to go through her mother's funeral without me because I was in sesshin and the same way their father and her brother at least, that was a that was a workshop I had to be here for on a Saturday but I at least made it halfway through the weekend to to join her so and and when when my father died some 20 years ago, while I was in leading sesshin at Chapin Mill, she without hesitation insisted that she go with me, cancelled all our patients in a matter of an hour or two. And so it was an easy call from me to to join her. It was quite an immersion in Catholic ritual. She is part of a huge Italian Catholic family. And, and it involved two wakes, two funerals, and two Mercy meals. Mercy meals she told me not for the first time was is the dinner that you go to, there's so many people that would have had to go to a restaurant, the dinner that follows the funeral and the burial. And so as I sat there in this really quite magnificent church and twice on the weekend and heard the funeral mass and took it all in. I just found myself impressed at the faith, the faith of the faithful, the family to see to see these 100 or more people, many of them very educated, professional people, line up to take communion. Something I don't have in my past I've never in our family we never were taken to church. And so it's still novel to me. It's still fascinating. And so the question came up what is faith? First starting with this that weekend and those funeral masses, what is faith is that how much of it undoubtedly some of it, some of it is conditioning as children, children are taken to church, sometimes every Sunday, sometimes even more frequently, and it becomes somewhat a matter of of compliance
All right maybe indoctrination in some cases in doctrine ation conditioning and it becomes part of one's identity, I suppose. And you don't question it
in terms of character, once character is composed of dispositions, it's a good Buddhist word dispositions that are solidify that have congealed out of roles that have become habitual. I found the Latin word identity them, which means over and over we acquire an identity through repeated actions, involvements.
And, I suppose it appears that you don't question when, when taking these wafers that have been consecrated as the body of Christ and wine concentrated consecrated as his blood and doing it No, doing it without hesitation you know, it'd be easy, it would be easy to make odious comparisons in going to a theistic church or mosque or synagogue, I, but for what end, different different faiths appeal with two different people. And what I found myself doing instead it's appreciating the, the, the common elements with my own faith in the Dharma. And I found myself just appreciating that what I was part of, in those two funeral masses was faith in something beyond the self. They call it God. We call it our true nature or essential mind or original self. Of course, religion can be a source of terrible violence that has been throughout history. But it's also something that personally I just admire, whatever the religion is, because as a way of looking beyond this as George Bernard Shaw said, This feverish clod of ailments and grievances demanding that the world will not complain that the world will not devote itself to, to making you happy. There's something beyond this mind body, this individual identity
and as I sat there in the pew, in that church, I thought of is I've watched the proceedings I thought of, I think it was Lyndon Johnson, who said that was least it was attributed to him. We never stand taller than when winter would then when we're on our knees. Same could be said, I suppose about doing prostrations. prostrations are a big element in Zen practice, but we do them I just did them as part of the ritual before teisho to three prostrations and we come to realize that that there is value in doing frustrations if we can get out of our thoughts about them
Very briefly, in the prostrating we, we placed the forehead to the floor and raise the hands near the ears just a few inches. And what we're doing really is we're lowering the seat of the small eye, the eye, the me and the my, we're lowering that and raising up with our hands, raising up our true nature that is our true self. Doesn't have to be done before a Buddha figure, but usually is or some other devotional figure. The Buddha figure itself is a representation of our our true self. So really, Roshi Kapleau struggled with this when he went to Japan the early days, he, he resented going before how to Roshi and doing the usual frustration that is the way that you initiate the one to one encounter we call Doug son. And, and he must have been terribly disgruntled about having to do that before the teacher because had an arrow she finally said to him, you know, capitalist sign when you bow down before me, you're bowing down to yourself, your true self. I'm not apart from you.
And I think some of us have more trouble with that than others, maybe early in practice. I was never thrilled with it myself. I was fine in Dark Sun, because I had such an immense respect for Roshi Kapleau. But bowing down to a Buddha figure. In those early and that early year, that first year, when I was practicing in Ann Arbor, at the Quaker Meeting House, they were forever, I'm forever grateful to them for letting us use one of their rooms, twice a week. But at the end, when we came, and we ended the sitting with four vows and three prostrations I just laughed. I wasn't gonna be part of that. And then I started thinking, Wait a minute, all these great enlightened masters, this would be natural for them to do it. Maybe there's something to it. And then eventually you realize that if you if you're doing a prostration, or a bow, with no thought in the mind, of oneself and right or wrong or anything else, when the mind is really free of all that, then there's something really remarkable that you come to experience when you're doing a prostration.
Another thing that impressed me in those funeral masses was the soloist. They really they have these rituals down these Catholics. It's, it's impressive. And she, what impressed me was that she was so into her singing She was so undivided. There's no trace of self consciousness, no trace of Tunis separation of any kind. She was her whole body was Intuit. I couldn't detect any hesitation she was she was doing it wholeheartedly and really embodying her faith.
Once read that Mother Teresa of Calcutta. confessed to having doubts about her faith. I know that people have written some unsavory things about Mother Teresa but look what she did her her social work for the impoverished in Calcutta. She was walking the walk. She had doubts about her faith, maybe not often, but sometimes she did. But her faith she embodied her faith and what she accomplished there.
So like a doubt is a doubt is a thought we learn in sesshin, especially that doubts are just thoughts, and we learn not to pay attention to them. It's happened a few times over the years where a sesshin participant has come, and, and in some distress and saying, I need to leave, I need to leave. And they say, I can't do this. So meanwhile, this is on, let's say, day five. They've been doing it for five days. And they say, I can't do this. So I try to get that across to them. You've been doing it, to stop thinking about it. And you'll just carry on through it. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't. And I've seen too many people. It's not common, it's quite uncommon for people to leave sesshin under those circumstances, but it can they can be haunted for years by what they did not not following through with the commitment they made in the application form.
I remember Roshi Kapleau saying more than once that faith in Zen means faith, that when the Buddha said All beings are endowed with original enlightenment, he was neither mistaken nor lying
so it's another way of saying it means faith in Yeah, in faith in our original enlightenment
and of course, it's a big part of faith. There's more to it
sometimes people have asked me I guess maybe in a workshop, have asked how human ignorance or say how the ego arose, and how it arises in us. But But to me, the real Marvel is the the faith, we can find in the possibility of enlightenment, the awareness of the possibility of awakening, which is something outside our experience. Least in this lifetime, it's like this. We're like fish that can sense a reality that is air or land consensus reality and aspire to it, without having had any any evidence of any experience of it. I mean, that's how amazing it is. So something something is cooking
in all of us, at least, most people who practice faith in in what
in the three pillars of Zen Yasutani Roshi said, Buddhism has been described as both a rational religion and a religion of wisdom
but a religion it is, and what makes it one is the element of faith
a rational religion
by that I take it to mean a religion not based on superstition. And yeah, it's tricky. You get into semantics with the word rational. Einstein famously said A religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology, covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity. Buddhism, he said, Buddhism answers this description. If there was any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs, it would be Buddhism. know if Yasutani Roshi had come across that statement of Einstein when he described it as a rational religion
it doesn't have to be Zen Buddhism as a religion, it's a one of the few world religions major world religions. And you can say it's a religion because it's based on faith in that which we cannot reach through the senses. hearing, seeing smelling, tasting, touching, or the intellect, it's beyond the reach of our ordinary discursive, intellectual mind
which you can practice then? As a non Buddhist Of course, it's it's what's what's, what's particularly Buddhist or religious about counting the breath, or following the breath. So, Zen can be practiced this as a as a practice, concentration practice, and awareness practice. But then it's, it's pulled out of its roots, which, historically are Buddhist.
Early in my practice, I was faintly embarrassed by the word faith. I still remember the sort of wincing when Roshi would use the word faith in teisho. Or even the word religion. Why I've heard other people now and then say, well, it's a trust more than faith. And, well, yeah, we trust our friends, we trust our spouse. But that's different than faith, isn't it? I had taken my share of philosophy courses in college. Now looking back on it, I didn't know it at the time, but I was searching, searching for the truth. And I just found that all these great philosophers for hundreds of years there were certain issues they debated and argue both sides that they couldn't come to come to an agreement on and I came to feel that that's just wasn't my way trying to pursue philosophical thinking.
It'd be something more I thought, it was years later than I read it. passage by Francis Bacon. Or he said, a little philosophy inclined with one's mind to atheism, but depth and philosophy bring everyone's mind about to religion
does the word faith to some of us suggest some kind of a weakness of mind with our maybe based on this scientific ethos that dominates Western culture well used to have things of sewing going going so off the rails with conspiracy theories, who knows what comes next.
But again, In Zen practice, we're really placing our faith in that which is which cannot be understood with our ordinary mind is brilliant as we may be replacing our faith in the unknowable that which is beyond the limits of empiricism
there's a verse in the Mumonkan collection of koans or Mumonkan rites, it helps you cross the river when the bridge is broken down. It accompanies you when you return to the village on a moonless night. What's the it? We could say it's this these phrases we keep using our true nature, original nature, central mind. But what that what does that all come down to? It's nothing. We're placing our faith in no thing. This True Self that is no self
those who are who are devoted to theistic religions, God based religions, may may argue that these these terms we use our true nature and so forth. They're really they're they're synonyms for God. And there's something to that. I've come to see what's what's different. I think it's fair to say that there's no in talking about our essential nature. There's really not understanding of any agency. It's not a it's not a thing. It's no thing. This has to be confirmed through through awakening. In the meantime, we use those words, our true nature and so forth, and we to easily substantiate them in our mind, make them into things, it. But I have also come to see I used to have such scorn for people who believed in God, but come to see that for people, yeah, if you believe it's a guy up in the sky with a white beard, I can still find scorn for that. But but but if you have a more sophisticated understanding of God as the as the ineffable, the the eternal, the unknowable, well, then, there isn't such a big difference between our faith in Zen and the faith and Christians or Muslims or Jews.
That statement that we just have to faith rests on a belief that when the Buddha said, All beings are equally endowed with this enlightened nature, that he was neither mistaken or lying. Is that is that faith? Required really, to persevere in practice? I'd say no, maybe if, if our aspiration to is to away is to awaken, maybe that can be very important. But in practical terms, that is in terms of practice, the most basic faith is faith in the practice, the breath, the koan, whatever it is we're doing as our meditation practice. That's what it really comes down to, isn't it? And faith that by doing that particular method that we work on, by doing that, we benefit from it. And I think that's, that's another way a broader way to understand faith that applies in many fields, not just religion. If you if you had no faith that you would get any benefit from doing yoga, why would you do it? There's some faith based and that or any our practice or practicing musical instrument. Course we have faith And if you want to really extend it, every time we get out on the road on a divided highway, we have faith that the drive, the oncoming cars aren't going to swerve and crash into us. There's a lot of faith that pervades our lives.
If we're really in Zen practice back there is that practice, we really only need enough faith to keep sitting. And from that, everything else won't fall. We just set it in the Hacohen chant that we just just chanted together, upholding the precepts repentance, and giving the countless goodies in the way of re living all come from Zen. Zen, another word for sitting. We, this is the one of the things that always appealed to me about Zen is we just do the practice day in and day out, and keep doing it and doing it. And then things will unfold. If we can stick to it, and not muck things up by stopping and thinking, Am I making progress? How long is this going to take? That's that's where we really handicap ourselves. That's faith.
Exam faith is based on experience, is by doing the practice, that's the experience. By having the experience of practice over a long period of time that we've developed faith, we grow our faith.
There's a famous passage from the Buddha, where he said, Don't believe solely because the written testimony of some ancient wise man is shown to you. And don't believe anything on the mere authority of your teachers or priests. What you should accept as true and as the guide to your life is whatever agrees with your own reason and your own experience, after thorough investigation, and whatever is helpful, both to your own well being and that of other living beings. He wanted, he wanted us to find, through our experience, develop our faith in this nature, his true nature of hours. Whatever agrees with your own reason, capital R, at least it has a capital R. In Zen, where we're seeing what is beyond logic and reason. But here with a capital R, I think, well, the way I take that is whatever agrees with your own intelligence capital I not just your own IQ, and your academic training, but your own, and how to even define that. Something beyond the the intellect beyond reason and logic. But then your own experience. With workshops, we just had a workshop yesterday introductory workshop, all we're trying to do is to get people started to get have them. Have you ever make enough sense to them that they're willing to give it a try. And then if they can stick with it long enough, they'll find out for themselves that it works
there's this idea in now it's in Japan, at least, I don't know maybe China and Korea have a difference between self power and other power. The usual way of this is categorized as the Zen school rests on self power, self reliance. No God. Whereas other power is more common of other religions, including a sect a very popular sect of Buddhism, called the puroland school. The idea there is, is by by repeating with, in a heartfelt way repeating the statement, I place my trust in the Buddha AMITA that this can eventually change, change us, maybe even lead to awakening But there it's there's no bones about it and play. I'm placing my trust not in my own true nature, but in the Buddha Amita. It's sort of difference between self reliance and God reliance, maybe muda reliance. But even in Zen Self Reliance really means capital S self, really relying on our true nature, not just this ego nature of ours. But when all is said and done, how could he really be different? If it's true, that that the whole notion of a self separate from an other if that if it's true that that's illusory, then it's a it's a sort of a false distinction, self power and other power?
In Japanese, and generally, they don't, they don't want to mix them with the pure lamb teaching but somehow the Chinese least in more recent centuries, they have found that it can be an effective mix. I don't know how that works exactly. But there it is another difference, religious difference. And then there's the matter of prayer. That's another word that always used to make me cringe. Who am I praying to anyway, asking, just asking favors of God. But that's what I just said. That's what we call petitionary prayer. Let's face it, it's very common. You know, gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme. How be good if you just give me
was a great story. And in this source of stories called the original title was stories of the Spirit stories of the heart. Parables of a spiritual path from around the world. The new title, but newer edition is soul food. Anyway, here's the story. About a pious man who tried to live by God's will. He lived in a valley out deep in the country. And one day, downpour came to his Valley and floodwaters arose. And the man went from the first floor of his house to the second floor as the rains continued. Finally, he climbed out onto the roof. We've seen this happen, we in video clips and photos. Finally, he climbed out onto the roof. And a rescue boat came up and offered to roll him to safety. But the man sent him away saying, I have full faith in God. I pray and believe and trust he will care for me. And so the rowboat left. Storm continued and rain further. And soon the floodwaters are up to his neck. And now a second rowboat came to rescue him. And again, he dismissed in the same way. I have faith and trust in God, I pray and believe. And they were sent away. While the rain continued, the water got so high that he could barely breathe through his mouth and nose up to the sub to his over his lip. And a helicopter flew over and let down a ladder to rescue him. Come off. They said, We'll take you to safety. No, he said with the same words as before. I have faith in God I pray and believe and I trust and I have followed him. And he sent the helicopter away. Well, the rain continued to come down. The waters rose and finally he was drowned. So he went to heaven. And after a short period there was he was granted an interview with God. He went in now we're getting into Catholic territory. He went in and was seated in front of the Almighty and then began to ask. I had so much faith in you. I believed in you so fully I pray and tried to follow your Will I just don't understand that when God scratched his head and said I don't understand either. I sent you two robots and a helicopter you I know you saw that comment
but but even even Petitioner Well, if you're, you know, there's a school of Buddhism I call outs, they call it Buddhism, where you the idea is if you are prayerful enough and you and you you can pray and ask for a new car or tractive husband or the win the lottery. That's not Buddhism Come on. Buddha Buddha said that this source source of our, our discontent, our suffering is this craving, egoistic craving, wanting something for oneself.
I really can't think of anything more important in Zen practice than faith. So we have the experience of seeing the benefits of Zen practice and that grows our faith. And that itself, helps us persevere and our practice and it strengthens our commitment to continue. And that perseverance and the commitment itself returns to growing more faith and experience.
The Chinese great Chinese Master Lin-chi resigned Japanese. He says, practitioners today can't get anywhere. What ails you. Lack of faith in yourself is what ails you.
Really, really what he means is lack of faith in your no self, that which is beyond the self, which is also us.
Faith is not something that's static, but it's it's mutable. It's growable. It's like a muscle it gets stronger through practice. So you don't need to worry if you feel you're lacking in faith just if you can have enough to do the practice it will grow.
Said master Dogan said one who would practice the Dharma must deeply deeply believe in the passing nature of things and have faith in karma. deeply deeply believe in the passing nature of things who would argue that things aren't impermanent who would argue that things don't pass? Okay, granted, a lot of things, the things that make us miserable, they don't pass as fast as we'd like them to. But everything passes. Depends on our timeframe. There have been recent books, I think one of them is the better angels of our Nature, that talk about how far worse most of human history was in terms of brutality and violence.
So, let's acknowledge that, as terrible as things are now and I've never in my lifetime, I've never seen things worse than they are in this country, maybe in the world now as now. Still, we've been through so much worse, apparently. I wasn't there. Or I won't don't remember being there. Impermanence is one of the three characteristics of existence. impermanence, no self and suffering. It doesn't take a great leap to have faith in well, it doesn't take great, a great leap to have faith in suffering, who is free of suffering or of impermanence? No self is a little little more of a challenge. It's We're so immersed in the cult of self, the I, the me and the my we so our whole society is just alarming how much the glorification of the self as a separate from others. But then again, through practice, we come to see that what we call the self is just kind of a collection, our cluster of memories and associations and images, there's nothing to it. There's nothing fixed that is, yes, there's a degree of continuity to our personality or character, but it's not absolutely unchanging. It's not we are not self standing entities. And through practice, continued practice. This, we come to see the truth of this. This realm of, of no self is True Self that is no self. Well, our time is up. We'll stop now and recite the four bodhisattva vows