Continuing the Commentary upon Summary of Faith and Practice

TEXT
Thus all obstacles become impediments to faith unless we experience contrition and letting go.

Path with a Goal
When we undertake a spiritual project, we are trying to achieve something. Buddhism is commonly presented as the attempt to achieve enlightenment. One then experiences many things as getting in the way. Many of these things are habitual characteristics of oneself. This can lead to a good deal of personal development as one tries to reform one’s life and to make oneself fit more closely to the ideal.

At the same time, this struggle inevitably gives rise to many doubts. One swings like a pendulum from enthusiasm to dejection and back again. It can also lead to a great deal of deception, both of others and of oneself. This kind of deception is generally not ill-intended, it is simply that one wants so much to fit into the expectation that any sign that one is doing so tends to be taken as confirmation and one then adopts that sign (lakshana) and turns it into a habit so that one artificially creates the appearance of a positive feedback loop. However, spiritual progress is not really about artificially conforming to a prescribed pattern, nor about being preoccupied with appearances. It is about liberation.

Old Habits Come Back to Haunt & Help Us
Also, when the old habit that one thought that one had overcome shows up again, one experiences a disappointment which crystalises into a doubt about one’s practice. One thinks, “I thought I had dealt with that issue and got rid of it - yet, here I go again.” This is a blow to one’s ego - one’s pride. The ego wants to present a tidied up picture of oneself to the world and even to itself.

So when such an “obstacle” recurs there are two options. One is, as just stated, to feel knocked back and lose faith. The other is to accept that this evidence demonstrates one’s bombu nature. We can see that the difference between these two options is the difference between pride and humility. Pride is a kind of “hanging on”. When we hang on to an idea of ourselves, it manifests as pride. This is true even when the idea that we have of ourselves is negative. The negative pride involved in hanging onto the idea of oneself as a victim or a damaged person or no good can be every bit as rigid as that of thinking of oneself as superior. In fact, it is not at all uncommon for both positive and negative forms of pride to go together.

Buddhist Ideals
This whole matter is also related to different conceptions of the spiritual path. On the path of the arhat, the goal is purity. On this path, spiritual pride is the last fetter that one abandons. This is because it is a path of earnestly trying to achieve an ideal. This inevitably involves repression and later that has to be undone - pride is the driving force of repression. On the path of the myokonin the whole thing works the other way around. The spiritual task of renouncing pride through contrition is the foundation rather than the final step. One keeps coming back to it over and over again, which is why we place stress on the bombu paradigm. The bodhisattva path, which is the central theme of the Mahayana, can be entered upon from either perspective.

Complacency
Also, here, I need to unpack a little further what is meant by “obstacle”. A spiritual obstacle is, broadly speaking, whatever brings one’s spiritual life to a halt or hiatus. Thus, something that induces complacency is just as much of an obstacle as something like a moral defeat. In fact, more so. The moral defeat might seem like an obstacle, but, in fact, might inject a new dynamic into one’s spiritual life as one wrestles with motives, consequences and conceptions of oneself and the world, whereas complacency may maroon one for a long time without anything useful happening at all.

We should be able to see, at least in principle, therefore, that many of the things that we think of as obstacles are not really so and that the real obstacles often go unnoticed. This, of course, is what the Buddha meant by avidya and this is why we talk about “awakening”. When we open our eyes to our actual spiritual condition, our complacency is shaken.

Views: 66

Replies to This Discussion

Thanks Dharmavidya. Recently I've been aware of my mind as presenting me with a continuous barrage of egotistical delusions and distractions. I can't help but think that it has always been like this but because of recent events my attention is more drawn to it, I'm just noticing a previously screened truth about myself. I often lose faith in my ability to have a genuinely virtuous thought. Is it possible to override the intrinsically corrupt mind, am I capable of real goodness!? I don't think I am. I think Amida converts my sinfulness into grace and that's the only hope there is!! I think you've answered this many times for me before, just wanted to publicly announce my defectiveness...again! Namo Amida Bu!!!

Thanks, Adam - nicely put.

RSS

Events

ITZI Conference 2017

Blog Posts

Korean Version of Workshops

Posted by JAESUNG KIM on August 6, 2017 at 6:58 0 Comments

2017 여름 불교심리치료 및 상담 워크숍 3회 내용

THREE PSYCHOTHERAPY & COUNSELLING WORKSHOPS

 

WORKSHOP 1: SNOW UPON A SILVER PLATE [ 銀盌盛雪]: PRINCIPLES OF BUDDHIST PSYCHOLOGY & THEIR PSYCHOTHERAPEUTIC APPLICATION

In this workshop we shall introduce and review important aspects of Buddhist psychology including the conditioned and unconditioned mind, object relatedness, skandha process, the unity of path and goal, bodhichitta,…

Continue

Great Intentions.

Posted by Adam Dunsby on August 3, 2017 at 22:42 0 Comments

  • The power of intentions is a topic that comes up regularly for me and always provides me with food for thought. In a recent service I was struck by the gravity of the Bodhisattva vows that we sing as part of our liturgy. ”Innumerable…

Continue

Study Group.

Posted by Adam Dunsby on July 18, 2017 at 22:41 1 Comment

We just had a study group meeting at Amida Mandala Temple. Only three of us but a very rich hour. Predictably we came round to the issue of ‘is one Nembutsu enough?’ My understanding: In a sense it is, because when we call Amida we become one with his vow and the Pure Land and thus we are saved. In another sense we have to keep calling him so that he can keep saving us. As if we’re all lost in a thick fog and Amida is a few steps ahead of us illuminating the way, we have to keep him in sight…

Continue

SIMPOSIUM AT OASIS

Posted by David Brazier on July 11, 2017 at 15:30 0 Comments

On 8th July we had a meeting of six teachers at Oasis together with many visitors.

Pictures: Here

Each of the teachers gave a presentation on what they considered most significant in their practice. Then there was an extended lunch period for socialising and, finally a sessions of questions and answers.…

Continue

© 2017   Created by David Brazier.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service