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Being Faith is Courage in Action

contributed by
Rev. Dr. Susanne Freeborn

About herself, Susanne writes, “My spiritual studies began in 1967 when I was 16 years old, in Juvenile Hall waiting for foster home placement. I found a paperback copy of a book called The Compassionate Buddha which sparked a lifetime of studies in Eastern teachings, and ultimately led to ministry. Now, I teach online from Monterey, California”.

The nearest title we find at to The Compassionate Buddha is “Teachings of The Compassionate Buddha“ edited by Edwin A. Burtt. When we queried her, Susanne agreed that’s probably it, but after all the years, and all the changes they have wrought upon her, she cannot be certain.

Faith is a daily practice of being that there is only One and that this One is being me now. Being that, nothing and no one is left out of this One. Regardless of the circumstances or what I know or don’t know, what I like or don’t like. Period. This takes Courage with a capital C.

The Buddhists have a special term: “one-pointedness”, which means the state of being present in this precise moment. This is really the same way of being Faith: that there is only One, that this one is God, and that this One is being me now. Being present in the moment allows no other being than this One.

Dogen Zenji, the second patriarch of Zen Buddhism, taught that studying and practicing Zazen, the Way, or Dharma, was a way of being in the world, in our lives, and not a means to an end. He meant us to apply this in everyday life.

According to Dainin Katagiri in Returning to Silence, “the Way is exactly the same as the end itself”. Meditation, Zazen, is the Way for Zen Buddhists. Katagiri tells us that “Dhyana means zazen, and dhyana is exactly the same as prayer. Buddha said that Dharma is a light you can depend on, the self is a light you can depend on, but this self is existence, or holiness or the Truth itself.”

Like meditation, prayer is a practice and not a means to an end. “Within such a practice of prayer, there is no object to try to pray to, or no subject who is doing the praying; this is real prayer.” Or as Religious Science teaches, “God in me, as me, is me.” There is no separation. Katagiri goes on to say, “So all we have to transmit is how sublime human life is.”

This is how Buddha and all the great Sages and Illumined Beings before or since “gained the Way”. Katagiri recommends that “Even though you don’t understand, do zazen. If you do understand, do zazen. If you are bored, sit zazen; if you find it fascinating, sit zazen. That is all we have to do. This is basic universal practice, because we create life anew, day after day”.

This requires Faith, but do we really know what faith is? Having grown up attending fundamentalist churches, the first thing that comes to my mind is a kind of following blindly, without question. Surely, I thought as a child, and still am likely to think, this is not what leads to everlasting life. So how do we know when we are exercising faith and not just blindly following? This is where Courage with a capital C comes to play. In being faith we are faith, as in “Who I AM is faith”. To live this kind of faith takes great courage when the evidence for our beliefs can at times seem scanty.

The ordinary circumstances of life present us with plenty of challenge to this notion. Who are we when life doesn’t follow our preferences? When a loved one dies, or we get seriously ill, when we don’t get the promotion, or our children don’t live up to our expectations? If there is only One, then we must also be that there is nothing wrong.

A great deal of courage is required to hold fast here. This is not easy. We may have a hard time believing that there is only One at these times. If it is faith we are being, God’s love is apparent to us, and these disappointments then remind us of who we really are, and cause our courage to live in faith to grow beyond imagination.

This condition of tranquility and peace, of not being unsettled in the face of difficulties, is a tranquility that comes in the process of life, and not by retreating from life, but of being a person of faith in life. Having the courage to trust Love, God, and your Self as sufficient to whatever life presents, there is nothing lost, all is One.

It is our duty
— as men and women —
to behave as though limits to our ability do not exist.
We are co-creators of the Universe.

Teilhard de Chardin

Dogen Zenji (1200-1253) was a Japanese Zen master, perhaps Japan’s greatest Zen master, and the founder of one of the two most important schools of Zen in Japan (Soto, the other being Rinzai). He is considered by many Buddhists to be a bodhisattva. Return to text.

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