September 3 Faith in our Buddhist Practice


This Monday night, Bea will facilitate.  She shares:

This week I would like to focus our discussion and sharing on the topic of Faith in our Buddhist practice. During the summer, I spent one week in New Mexico and had the opportunity to visit Chimayo, a holy pilgrimage site nestled at the base of a range of mountains between Santa Fe and Taos. The picture I chose to accompany this week's discussion is from there and it captures the many offerings that people leave in the three chapels and spread around the grounds of the sanctuary.   


Like many other pilgrim and holy places, people come from all over the world to pray and spend time in Chimayo. It is quiet and peaceful there. There are not just rosaries hanging from rocks and fences but also hundreds of pictures of men and women in uniform and in the chapel of the baby Jesus, there are so many images of smiling children glued to the walls and small baby shoes hanging from the ceiling. One room had many crutches hanging from a wall, perhaps a sign of healing and the symbol of a miracle. It is impressive how many people put their faith in Chimayo and in similar places of worship. 


That visit made me think about faith in the Buddhist tradition and whether we too put our faith into something when we practice in this tradition or not. How appropriate is it to speak about faith in Buddhist practice? And if it is appropriate, is faith related to something outside or inside of us?  Can we have faith without attachment to outcome? Do we have faith in our capacity to return to our breath? Do we have faith in the sangha or in the monastics who devote their lives to mindful practice? 


As I walked through Chimayo, I felt the place was indeed special and sacred. I felt the beauty and strength of nature intertwined with spiritual depth and the power to heal. I have faith in the awareness that we are all interconnected and the holy site of Chimayo brought that out of me. In Buddhism, cravings and attachments are the cause of suffering. The offerings displayed at Chimayo are a testament to the suffering and pain that we humans experience but also to the impermanence of that suffering and the power of Love, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity.


Below is an extract from the first chapter of Teachings on Love, written by Thay:


"Happiness is only possible with true love. True love has the power to heal and transform the situation around us and bring a deep meaning to our lives. There are people who understand the nature of true love and how to generate and nurture it. The teachings on love given by the Buddha are clear, scientific, and applicable. Every one of us can benefit from these teachings.

During the lifetime of the Buddha, those of the Brahmanic faith prayed that after death they would go to Heaven to dwell eternally with Brahma, the universal God. One day a Brahman man asked the Buddha, "What can I do to be sure that I will be with Brahma after I die?" and the Buddha replied, "As Brahma is the source of Love, to dwell with him you must practice the Brahmaviharas-love, compassion, joy, and equanimity."


A vihara is an abode or a dwelling place. Love in Sanskrit is maitri; in Pali it is metta. Compassion is karuna in both languages. Joy is mudita. Equanimity is upeksha in Sanskrit and upekkha in Pali. The Brahmaviharas are the four elements of true love. They are called "immeasurable," because if you practice them, they will grow in you every day until they embrace the whole world. You will become happier, and everyone around you will become happier, also.


The Buddha respected people's desire to practice their own faith, so he answered the Brahman's question in a way that encouraged him to do so. If you enjoy sitting meditation, practice sitting meditation. If you enjoy walking meditation, practice walking meditation. But preserve your Jewish, Christian, or Muslim roots. That is the way to continue the Buddha's spirit. If you are cut off from your roots, you cannot be happy.


If we learn ways to practice love, compassion, joy, and equanimity, we will know how to heal the illnesses of anger, sorrow, insecurity, sadness, hatred, loneliness, and unhealthy attachments... Love, compassion, joy, and equanimity are the very nature of an enlightened person. They are the four aspects of true love within ourselves and within everyone and everything."


How do you experience faith in mindful practice? Do you think you can have faith without attachment to outcome? What does that look and feel like to you?


See you Monday evening, September 3.