January 29, 2009

Living Doubt, Faith, and Courage

We were talking in the Zendo last night about doubt, faith, and courage, qualities that need to be cultivated in practice.  We spoke of doubt as the complex mechanism in ourselves that questions the process of thinking and the structure of the self, and that examines dependent origination.  Dependent origination is the teaching on cause and effect, the chain of causation, that one thing causes another.  Dogen Zenji defined the 12 fold dependent origination as ignorance, action, consciousness, name and form, the six senses, contact, feeling, love, taking, coming into existence, birth, aging and death.  It is through this vehicle of causation, of investigation through practice that is awakening itself.

Faith we spoke of as faith in ourselves to be able to see ourselves through the difficulty of the examination of causation and to be able to arrive at an understanding of the complexity of it.  When we inquire about our own anger, for instance, we can see the chain of suffering that we engage in and see the links in dependent origination.  Faith in ourselves is also faith in our own maturity to hold fast to extracting ourselves from links that perpetuate suffering.  It is causation that the Buddha saw when he awakened.  He saw the chain of connections of suffering, and he had faith in himself to know he could see into it and to find a way to step beyond suffering.  He had faith in himself to find an answer.  

Courage we saw as the strength to commit to a life of examination, and the courage to sustain oneself through difficulties.  Doubt requires great courage because doubt is uncomfortable.  Suffering is even more uncomfortable.  Doubt is intertwined with awakening and is but a hair's breadth away.  Hold fast!  Hold fast!  Examine deeply and wait.  See into yourself the way the cool mind of the scientist examines a specimen.  Follow the links in the chain as honestly and courageously  as the pure heart of the Buddha.  Allow clarity to wash over you.  This is our practice and this is the turning of the wheel of Dharma.  

Dogen Zenji says, "...do not think that practice leads to the far shore.  Practice exists on the far shore; therefore, if we are practicing, the far shore has arrived - because this practice invariably is equipped with the power of realization of the entire Universe."