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November 22, 2018

Faith – “strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.”

by Seijaku Roshi

Far too often in the modern world man is willing to “throw the baby out with the bath water.” When problems arise or God forbid tragedy strikes, too many of us move away from our faith in God or Something larger than ourselves. Perhaps we pray less, attend our places of worship less often, put aside meditation, withhold our donations, or are less mindful of our behaviors harmful both to ourselves and others. When problems arise this is a time to “find refuge” in our faith and the spiritual practices which will get us through the darkness, remembering as Mark Nepo writes in his book “Awakening,” describing his battle with cancer, “The presence of God does not guarantee the absence of pain, but makes it more bearable.” Likewise, the Buddha’s teaching on “cessation from suffering,” (The Four Noble Truths) should be understood as a means for transforming life’s disappointments to opportunity’s and not oppositional.

In Buddhism we are taught to seek and find refuge in what religions call “Faith,” what Buddhist refer to as “Finding refuge; in Buddha-Nature” – that immeasurable, incomparable, true-nature of the Universe, which pervades every part of the Universe. We are taught to “turn to the teachings or – Dharma, finding refuge there for guidance. Finally, we are to seek and find refuge and support in the Community of fellow Dharma practitioners – “The Sangha”. We understand that our “doubts” are not oppositional to the journey but rather part of the process. We are not to fear doubt along the way, but to transform it in finding refuge or turning to our faith and applying both the teachings and what we have learned from them in dark moments. 

Today we find ourselves in a state of “uncertainty and rapid change,” this does not mean we need to fear uncertainty or to make any real changes in our efforts to navigate our personal “ship of state”. Except perhaps go deeper in prayer and meditation, until we find that anchor or perhaps the right angle of the sail that will get us and our loved ones through any storm, if “we have a strong and unshakeable “Faith”. 

Regular meditation and prayer is the work of strengthening our faith. Only through constant exposure to the unexplainable evidence that at all times we are surrounded by and are a “part of a whole called by us Universe” or God, or Buddha-Nature, or the Laws of Science if you prefer. Quoting Einstein again, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” If human ego is relaxed or forgotten for a moment, we can admit that ultimately all life is a mystery, to be lived and not solved. It is in the living of life not the explaining, we find life’s vitality, wonder, and awe. Indeed when life as if “everything is a miracle,” we find the true joy of living.

Earlier this year when I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, doubts rushed in along with its mate fear. A perfectly normal reaction to any type of life threatening experience. While in the arms of my twin sister, in the doctors parking lot, I heard that mysterious voice say to me, “Breathe”. I haven’t stopped “breathing,” “sitting,” or “praying”. My journey has taken me closer to the people in my life as well as strangers, not to mention every moment of the life given me since. I am regularly asked, “How do you get through it?” I can only say, “I couldn’t if it wasn’t for the past forty-three years of my life as a contemplative, as a monk.” Everyday, every moment, every person I meet, “Everything, is a miracle”.

Now is a time to get out of our heads, end the conversations about “them and us”, and find that “anchor or right angle of the sail,” which will not only get us through these desperate times, but also “nearer to each other”. We have been given the “wind of the season of good will”, to navigate. We need to extend that wind into the New Year ahead, and every New Year until we no longer can recognize the difference between the holidays and every day.

Today I will gather with my biological family, and in my heart, will be my extended family: my brothers and sisters of Pine Wind and the many friends and guests I have met over the years. Though I continue “fighting the good fight” and traveling “through the valley of the shadow of death,” I am, so so grateful, for – Miracles! 

I Love You,

Seijaku Roshi

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