The Perfection of Faith

Adhitthana (Pali): Decision; resolution; determination.

Conviction: A strong persuasion or belief; the state of being convinced.

The verb πειθω (peitho) and its derived noun πιστις (pistis) are possibly the most signature words of the Greek New Testament. The verb means to persuade, and the noun means faith, trust or certainty. From the noun in turn derives the verb πιστευω (pisteuo), meaning to have faith, that is, to behave as someone who has persuaded himself into certainty. (Abarim Publications)

Christian Hope: “The state of pure love does not exclude the mental state which is called Christian hope. Hope in the Christian, when we analyze it into its elements, may be described as the desire of being united with God in heaven, accompanied with the expectation or belief of being so.” – Francois Fenelon, Maxims of the Saints

“Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive and ye shall have.” (Mark 11:24)

Faith comes down to having an unshakeable belief in yourself.

Inscribed on the Believing Mind:

I always study and attempt to apply the paramitas, or perfections, because they are the keys which unlock the gate to freedom. The shortest list is that of the Mahayana School, so some perfections do double-duty. I entitled this post “The Perfection of Faith” because this blog is Inscribed on the Believing Mind. However in the Mahayana list, this perfection would be that of zeal, or the will to succeed. And faith, as we know, is an act of the will. One isn’t born with faith, nor can a doctrine exercise any power over the mind: rather, one comes into contact with a doctrine and makes a decision to believe it.

Faith in oneself works exactly the same way. If anything, we are born without it because we are dependent on our caregivers for our very lives. This is where all of the ego-based emotions of the id come from—a fear of not surviving this period of complete helplessness. So, to have faith in oneself means that one has decided to let go of fear and trust that nothing that could possibly happen can harm you.

There was an aspect of my awakening which impressed upon me the power of believing in oneself. I was taking an online “enlightenment” course, and the first assignment was to write down your goal and to state it out loud every morning and night. I had read a lot of D. T. Suzuki, and so I made satori my goal. Satori is a sudden awakening, but I thought that it meant sudden enlightenment. When I did have a sudden awakening three weeks into the course, it occurred to me that I had gotten what I had asked for in its literal sense, a delightful notion; but what really happened is that by aiming higher than what I hoped for, I achieved what I hoped for. To clear six meters I aimed for six and a half.

A characteristic of sages that I have never seen discussed is their decision to “do or die in the attempt.” Generals invading foreign lands used to order the burning of bridges behind their advancing troops so that they wouldn’t attempt to go back home. The temptation to go back is usually expressed by the thought, “at least”: “I may not succeed, but at least I have the comfort of being in a group” or “I may not succeed, but at least I feel more peaceful.” To seek consolation in anything but success will bring failure, as Meister Eckhart has said:

So, if you would seek and find perfect joy and comfort in God, see to it that you are free of all creatures and of all comfort from creatures; for assuredly, as long as you are or can be comforted by creatures, you will never find true comfort. But when nothing can comfort you but God, then God will comfort you, and with Him and in Him all that is bliss. While what is not God comforts you, you will have no comfort here or hereafter, but when creatures give you no comfort and you have no taste for them, then you will find comfort both here and hereafter. (The Book of Divine Comfort, Complete Works, p. 535)

Self-realization can be attained in your lifetime if you decide that you are going to do it, whatever it takes. You don’t lack the knowledge of how to do it because you have Lester Levenson’s teachings. The only thing that prevents any person from doing it is a lack of resolve. You may have been a mass-murderer in your previous life, but this is no deterrent whatsoever to you becoming a buddha in this life. In fact, having been a mass-murderer may give you an advantage, because you will have a strong desire to stop going around and around, lifetime after lifetime.

But what should one do if one has doubts? Doubt is fear and shame, so just like any other feeling, you release it, following Lester Levenson’s teaching (Letting go of the ego). The following is the greatest illustration in history of someone letting go of doubt:

With all his memory and learning, Ananda could not sound the bottom of the Buddha’s wisdom while the latter was still alive. According to tradition, Ananda’s attainment to Arhatship took place at the time of the First Convocation, in which he was not allowed to take part in spite of his twenty-five years’ attendance upon the Buddha. Grieving over the fact, he spent the whole night perambulating in an open square, and when he was about to lay himself down on a couch all exhausted, he all of a sudden came to realize the truth of Buddhism, which with all his knowledge and understanding had escaped him all those years. (Suzuki, 1953, p. 67)

What happened to Ananda that he finally attained enlightenment after 25 years? Instead of repressing his self-doubt and shame, instead of pushing away the fear that he would never become an Arhat, he allowed the feelings to come out. He spent the whole night feeling the doubt, shame and fear, and in allowing these feelings up into his awareness, he let go of them. It is like allowing a child to have a tantrum or allowing someone who is bereaved to throw himself to the ground a wail: once the feelings have been let out, the mind is at peace.

Lin-chi:

The Master instructed the group, saying: “Those who study the Way need to have faith in themselves and not go looking for something outside. Whatever confronts you, don’t let it get the better of you. If you entertain even a moment of doubt, the devil will enter your mind. Even a bodhisattva, when he starts doubting, is prey to the devil of birth and death. Learn to put a stop to thoughts—whenever anything  appears, shine your light on it. Just have faith in this thing that is operating in you right now. Outside of it, nothing else exists.” (Lin-chi)

Jacob, brother of Yeshua:

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:2, New King James)

Erich Fromm: (1960)

To have faith means to dare, to think the unthinkable, yet to act within the limits of the realistically possible; it is the paradoxical hope to expect the Messiah every day, yet not to lose heart when he has not come at the appointed hour. This hope is not passive and it is not patient; on the contrary, it is impatient an active, looking for every possibility of action within the realm of real possibilities. Least of all it is passive as far as the growth and liberation of one’s own person are concerned.

Lester Levenson: (1993)

No matter what the methods are, they all must end up doing the very same thing: freeing us of our concepts of limitation. The methodology must quiet our mind, must do away with thoughts. Every thought is a concept of limitation. When thoughts are undone, what’s left over is the infinite Being that we are. . . .

The methods, to be effective, must be in a direction of first quieting our thoughts, and then actually getting rid of our thoughts. Make a conscious effort to bring up subconscious thoughts, and when they are brought to the conscious plane, drop them. When they do come up, because they are very limiting and very negative as a whole, you want to drop them and you do.

After you have dropped an appreciable number of thoughts, then you can drop them in large amounts. . . . Later you reach a point where you can drop all the remaining thoughts at once, because having infinite power, you will have reached the point where you can see that you have this infinite power and you then can use it to wipe out the rest of the mind. That is why it is sometimes said that Self-realization is instantaneous. When you get that far that you can see that the power is yours, you wipe out all the remaining thoughts at once. Then you are totally free; you’ve gone all the way.

Q: Is just seeing the subconscious thought or motivation enough?

Lester: Just looking at it is not enough. You must consciously drop the thought or consciously cast out the tendency or motivation. I’m assuming you’ll want to let go of these thoughts because they’re all limiting and negative. One reason why we don’t like to dig them up is that we don’t like to see how awful we are. But there’s nothing good or bad; there’s just moving in the right direction or the wrong direction. When we move in the wrong direction, we move toward more limitation, and that’s really [all that] so-called bad [is] . But everything is experiencing, and when we don’t judge ourselves we move much faster.

Q: When we don’t judge ourselves?

Lester: Right. When we don’t judge ourselves. Whatever comes up, say, “So what?” To get this far in your limitations, you have [already] run the gamut of everything bad. (“Realization Through Dropping the Unconscious“, p. 312)

 

Thiago Braz 2

Thiago Braz 3

Thiago Braz

YOU

 

Erich Fromm, D. T. Suzuki, et al. (1960). Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis. New York: Harper Colophon Books.

Levenson, Lester (1993). Keys to the Ultimate Freedom: Thoughts and Talks on Personal Transformation. Phoenix, Arizona: Sedona Institute. ISBN 0-915721-03-1

Walshe, Maurice O’C. (2009). The Complete Mystical Works of Meister Eckhart. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company. (download)

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