Faith in a Seed…
A reflection on practice by Marcia Rose
“Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up
where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed.
Convince me that you have a seed there,
and I am prepared to expect wonders.”
Henry David Thoreau
I’ve been growing vegetables & flowers for many years, & still every Spring I experience a sense of awe & faith when I observe the tiny seeds in my hand as I carefully put them into the ground… AWE in relationship to the mystery that these tiny dots do what they do & FAITH based in years of experience that at least most of them will eventually burst out of their tiny tight selves & grow into lettuce, squash, tomatoes & sunflowers…etc.
So here I am this spring considering FAITH. What is it? Where does it come from? How does it work? What is its role in relationship to the teachings & practices as taught by the Buddha? Is there a difference between FAITH & BELIEF… & if so, what is the difference? FAITH in what… in who?
FAITH is one of the ‘wholesome & beautiful mental factors‘ that develop & blossom through our Dharma practices of concentration & mindfulness. It is also the first of the five spiritual powers that strengthen & blossom with diligent practice. The other four being: effort/energy, mindfulness, concentration & wisdom.
So one aspect of FAITH is that it’s a wholesome power. It’s a strength.
The Pali word for FAITH is saddha. There’s no one word in English that can render the full meaning of saddha. It encompasses trust, confidence, courage, strength, devotion & clarity. The literal translation of saddha is “to place the heart upon,” connecting from the heart, offering or giving over one’s heart. My Israeli students tell me that the root of the word FAITH in Hebrew is a verb. It’s not something that we have, but rather something that we do.
So, another aspect of FAITH is that it’s a verb, an action. We are willing to take the next step, willing to open to the unknown, to see & know our practice as an adventure… ‘to place one’s heart upon.’
The Buddha Dharma understands three levels of faith…the first being Blind Faith. We encounter something or someone that inspires us & we feel a brightness & maybe also devotion & love in those moments. This faith is often based in dependence on someone or something outside of ourselves to make us feel good. Consequently, it’s not sustainable & may not be rooted in wisdom.
The second level of FAITH is Verified Faith which is rooted in confidence born of our own clear observation, investigation, wise reflection & the discriminating wisdom that arises out of our direct & focused mindful attention in relationship to our experiences of our body, mind & heart.
The third level of FAITH is the great power of Unshakable Faith which is rooted in Verified Faith. As we continue developing a meditation practice that evolves towards the blossoming of deepening concentration, clear mindful awareness & understanding/insight, we begin to touch an unfettered FAITH in the incredibly vast potential of understanding that is available via our spiritual path. Unshakable Faith is rooted in staying open & connected in the experience of the moment… open to the mystery/the truth beyond the realm of our often tightly clung to conditioned habituated ideas, opinions, beliefs, interpretations & feelings.
As we travel this path, we must rely on FAITH, not on BELIEF. In meeting & honing into our experience with a set of beliefs, we will quite likely ‘re-act‘ our learned, habituated patterns of thinking, feeling & acting again & again.
So, FAITH as willingness, confidence & trust in our own potential for ‘waking up,’ based on experience not on beliefs… ‘waking up‘ out of ongoing dissatisfaction, out of feeling incomplete, separate & disappointed… ‘waking up‘ from delusion & craving. Saddha moves us towards learning to live our life grounded in an open & kindhearted mindful presence. FAITH affords us the possibility of ‘waking up‘ into the spaciousness of openhearted presence & ease of being with things as they are, however they are inside us & outside us & being able to respond appropriately with the great vitality of wisdom & compassion.
As we gently & patiently hold the seeds of the Buddha’s teaching in our heart, they develop & blossom into beautiful & liberating fruit through our diligent practice.
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