A Twentieth Century Zen Master named Yasutani would tell ihs students that the only thing which made Buddhism a religion rather than a philosophy is the element of faith, that by practice one’s enlightenment would be realized.
That’s a pretty heavy thought for a Wednesday, I know.
But the man was right. I’m not here to expound on that particular thought. Philip Kapleau has done that far better than I could, and in a lot more depth. That’s how I learned of the teaching in the first place.
What I will talk about today, is something more general.
There is no life without it.
Before I lose the athiests among you, I hasten to point out that I am not here to tell you what to believe in. I’m here to tell you that you already believe in it, believe it or not.
When you wake up in the morning, you believe that the world will still be there. You believe that the world has predictable elements. You believe that your lungs will work well enough to keep you alive through the day.
When you get on a bike, you believe you can ride it. That you can get it from point A to point Q (with a few detours through points B through P because motorcycle) without wrecking it. On a bike, you can accept the possibility of wreck and ruin, because faith conquers fear and you believe that the risk is worth it, no matter how many times you prove it to yourself.
Proof does not deny faith. Proof reinforces faith, because proof gives you reason to believe.
That’s a good thing, because only by faith does anything get done.
Anything and everything ever accomplished is born of the belief in possibility. Even when there’s a fear the thing won’t work.
Faith conquers fear. Faith, as you may have heard, can move mountains. Faith can bring you from wherever you are to wherever you’re going. Faith was one of my favorite topless dancers when I lived in the local strip clubs.
That’s not really germaine to the discussion, but I wanted to give her a shout-out because positive reinforcement is important. Just doing my part to keep her name from being ironic.
Her show was something of a religious experience. In a place not usually associated with religion. There’s a lesson there.
Faith is usually associated with deities. Rightfully so, but faith is also independent of deity.
Even an atheist has to believe in himself.
Faith is no guarantee that you won’t screw something up, but to deny your faith in yourself, to tell yourself you can’t, is to guarantee failure.
I once read about a Catholic priest who was studying Zen Buddhism, the atheist religion, to see if the monastic and meditative practices were similar to those applied in Christianity.
A Buddhist monk told the priest that if they sat still long enough, he would find that “God will disappear, and only you will remain.”
The priest, as you might expect, was a little perturbed by that remark. He said, “Perhaps you mean that I will disappear, and only God will remain.”
The monk nodded and smiled.
“Yes, yes,” he said. “It is the same thing.”
And that’s the element at the root of things.
I said before, and I’ll keep saying, that you are God between your ears. That you are star-stuff, you are a living sun, and that the sun is a god. You have the power of a god.
To get the most out of it, you’ll need to have a little faith, in yourself.