*Brian Wilcox. 'a moment in time'. Flickr
Koans, or riddles, in Zen Buddhism, used most prominently in Rinzai, are meant to be confusing, so the logical mind will drop and insight, or wisdom, arise. A koan may have a different response from one person and another from another person. A single koan can have diverse insights. This is like Truth, which appears in different ways to persons and peoples. Relatively the Way is many ways, yet one Way, too, while, absolutely, being beyond both Way and ways. So, while I share briefly an insight from a Zen koan, please take time to reflect on it yourself, and you may receive a different insight. Your insight may be equally valid, or even more helpful than mine. You may receive more than a single insight. I would like to think all my writings are received in this manner, more like an invitation for each reader to listen to what the Truth within says, even if what is received is different from what he or she read of my writing.
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One morning after a round of zazen (i.e., sitting meditation), Raven asked [Roshi] Brown Bear, “Does faith have a role in the practice?”
Brown Bear said, “Great faith.”
Raven asked, “How should I direct it?”
Brown Bear said, “One, two, three.”
*Robert Aitken. Zen Master Raven.
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Being raised in an evangelical Christian home and church, I was taught faith was directed to God outside myself, up in the sky. Faith was principally a religious term, meaning I was to trust God. When I prayed, I was to pray in complete faith to God, or God might decide not to grant the request, based solely on my not fully trusting one-hundred percent; ninety-nine percent was not good enough. I recall trying very hard to make myself fully trust, and, of course, that did not work well at all. I could not find a way to force myself to have that one-hundred percent trust. I did not know what percent I had, so what percent I needed to conjure up, but I could not grasp that complete faith.
I recall coming to the time of realizing faith had become very close to me, the very path I was walking. Faith became to me as near as my feet moving along the way, one step, next step, another step, ... on and on. Faith became faithing again and again. And, interestingly, most Christians seem not to recognize this, but in the New Testament of the Christian churches, the word faith is almost always a verb, not a noun. So, one is faithing, not merely having faith or expressing faith. This is Buddhist... faithing one, faithing two, faithing three. And this is Jesus in saying to potential followers, "Come now, follow me."
We could be misled by the idea of faithing one, two, three. Faith really does not start again with each moment, except when we divide that moment as apart from the continuum of timelessness. We learn to see that faith, for it transcends time, simply is of the spaciousness each moment arises from and as. So, from one side, faith, as all qualities, is repeated each moment; from another side, faith is part of the flow of the path. We could say the path, so faith, is flowing.
So, Roshi Brown Bear, to me, is saying, as to directing faith, "You faith one step at a time." Anyway, we cannot trust the future, even a nirvana or heaven or a reincarnation in the future, and we cannot faith in the past, for the past cannot be anymore than the future can be. Yet, the journey relatively is from moment-to-moment, so we can only be fully present in trust now and now and now.
Whether one trusts in God or something else, this applies. Even if I trust a friend, I can only faith in that friend in one moment, in each moment. So, faith is nurtured now, even as faithing is now. That I express faith in one and, then, in two, does not mean faith will be as strong or even present in three. One, two, three... faith is nurtured by loyalty to the way expressed in cultivating a faith posture within. Faithing can become weaker or stronger, for faithing is living, is alive, and all that lives needs caring for in kindness.
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The path is moving. This appears paradoxical to our minds, but the way is always now and always moving. How can it be only now and moving too? Yet, this is the path. One, two, three is this moving. So, faith is a gift of the path. Faith arises in the total movement of the path. Being faithful to the way, faith arises. How? As says Roshi Brown Bear, "One, two, three."
*Brian Wilcox. 'A Marigold Moment'. Flickr
*(C)Brian K. Wilcox, 2019
Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered from major booksellers online, including the publisher 1stBooks.