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December 16, 2020

Faith, Hope, Love – Not Two, Not Three

by Seijaku Roshi

“A Human-Being is part of a Whole called by us Universe…” — Albert Einstein

“May the sound of this bell penetrate deep into the cosmos
Even in the darkest spots
Living beings are able to hear it clearly
So that all suffering in them cease
Understanding comes to their heart
And they transcend the path of sorrow and death.
The universal dharma door is already open
The sound of the rising tide is heard clearly
The miracle happens
A beautiful child appears in the heart of a lotus flower
One single drop of this compassionate water
Is enough to bring back the refreshing spring to our mountains and rivers.
Listening to the bell
I feel the afflictions in me begin to dissolve
My mind calm
My body relaxed
A smile is born on my lips
Following the sound of the bell
My breath brings me back to the safe island of mindfulness
In the garden of my heart
The flowers of peace bloom beautifully.”

I am often asked, “Do you believe in God?” “I do but not the way my words may leave you to believe and, I do not believe what people say about God.”

As a Buddhist I believe there exists realms of consciousness “rarely experienced” larger than this “self I call myself,” this small self which feels, and thinks, has emotions, and concepts and; certainly larger than the mundanities of daily living. A reality or consciousness if you prefer, larger than ourselves — Call it God, Buddha, Dharma, Universe. Whatever name we may choose to, “Point to It,” we are to understand that whatever term we use can be often misleading more than helpful. In my lifetime born into the Catholic faith, I have called It “God,” I have called It by many names. Whatever I call It in the moment has more to do with my “experience,” in the moment than any belief I may or may not have. Dharma is seamless and timeless, boundless, not dependent on either the spoken or written word.

Buddhism teaches us that, our “Ignorance” of this Reality and, that our lifestyles which often expresses itself as something “separated” from this Reality, is the real and true cause of our discontentment and suffering.

Faith (Saddha) in Zen-Buddhism focuses on the “Triple Gem,” that is, “Buddha-Nature; The Dharma (Teachings); and finally, the Community of spiritually developed followers, specifically the Monastic Community or The Saṅgha. The Lay members of the Sangha (The Community of Monks and Nuns) are understood to be part of this “Triple Gem”. The role of the Lay-Community has always been a “supportive” role. Because the layperson may not leave family and home to train day and night, they support the Monks and Nuns to “dedicate” their training and living the Dharma in the world, for the benefit of “all sentient beings”. Therefore, Layperson and Monk or Nun — “Not Two” — we are part of a “Whole” called by many names.

Faith is not meant to be a devotion to any particular person, such as the historical Buddha-Shakyamuni, but exists in relation to Buddhist concepts like — “All beings possess Buddha-Nature, all beings are Buddha.” To personally realize this “Faith” is to realize the “cause” of what the Second Noble Truth calls, “Cessation from Suffering”. To “Realize this Faith,” is to live it. Belief in it alone has no place in Buddhist ideology except to serve as a first step toward “awakening” from the dream of ”separation”. Faith can only be lived and not just believed.

Where there is “Faith,” realized or in the process of being realized, always is followed by “Hope”. Once again we are not to perceive “Hope” as just some sentimental or desperate wish for salvation, but rather a “living” expression or, “context,” for Love, Kindness, Compassion, and Benevolent Service (Charity) to surface.

Hope is the foundation of the Buddhist path. “The Buddha’s teaching is fundamentally hopeful. It affirms that there is a reliable way to release ourselves from suffering, to protect other beings, mitigate harm, and build a better world…Dharma practice or training channels our longing for happiness, harmony, and equity in a skillful way. This begins with ‘Saddha,’ most frequently translated as “Faith” or “Conviction.” Saddha refers to one’s aspiration and confidence in the path. It is the intuitive sense that there is something worthwhile about being alive, that inner freedom is available for each of us.”

Hope and the Path of Loving-kindness, Compassion, and Benevolent Service are — “Not Two”. The fruit of the true path always results in Love. Love for oneself, Love for Life, Love for all sentient beings.

On the Buddhist path “Love” is not just a sentimental or romantic experience or notion; Love manifests itself as “action” as “community”.

“Community is the spirit, the guiding light, whereby people come together to fulfill a purpose,
to help others fulfill their purpose, and to take care of one another.”

Love is and must be the ground for any authentic spiritual life, in a world marked by “hyper-individualism” and which increasingly devalues “loving thy neighbor as thyself”.

Love is always realized as action. Community (Love) is the spirit which underlines and informs all actions, it guides us through the darkest moments of life. The Sangha, the Community, join together to fulfill a “shared purpose” — “Liberating all sentient begins from suffering and its causes.” The Community meets and supports each other to fulfill their individual expressions and talents which informs the actions of the whole toward meeting that, “Shared Purpose”.

Finally and certainly not least of all, The Community comes together to “take care of one another.” Authentic Spirituality is “Relational”. Community does not happen in a vacuum. It is inclusive, it is compassionate, it is by nature benevolent. “This is the true-joy in life,” being called to live one’s life as a “Force in Nature”. Committed toward a vision of an ever evolving reality which is always directing us toward Love; toward acts of Kindness which heal rather than harm; toward Compassion for oneself and others in an existence so often marked by pain and suffering; and toward endless Benevolent Service which benefits, acting with Wisdom and a sense of real necessity.

“Let True Dharma Continue…”

I Love You,

Seijaku Roshi
 

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