In principle, there are two routes by which one can participate in enlightenment. One is the method of one's own effort. The other is the road of faith. Effort is hard work. It involves becoming highly alert, 24/7, keeping innumerable precepts, renouncing all worldly attachment and mastering the samadhis. Nagarjuna likened this to travelling over high mountains on foot. The road of faith, by contrast, is said to be like travelling on a boat. The boat carries you along. In this modern age of rationalism, secularism, reductionism and materialism, for most people faith is very difficult to find, so most people, if they make any attempt at all, do so by the path of effort. However this is also an age of self-indulgence, so those who are really willing to seriously take on the level of self-discipline said to be necessary are very few indeed. Furthermore, there is an inherent problem in the attempt to overcome delusion by means of self-directed effort, which is that if one is deluded, the effort one makes is bound to be wrongly directed because a deluded mind, by definition, does not make a sound judgement about such things, so even though one thinks one has set out on the right path, one is probably mistaken. By contrast, on the path of faith, which could also be called the path of good-heartedness, it is not actually necessary to eliminate all one's faults and foibles, but simply to face up to them and trust in a higher wisdom than one's own. Entrusting oneself wholeheartedly one receives mysterious help. Although one does not expect it, one is carried along on the path and things happen as they should. One thinks, "How wonderful and amazing that this should happen to one such as me!", yet, in some strange way, things go on working out as they should.

Everybody who turns to the spiritual life has some faith and all make some effort, but it is evident that one or other of these ways assumes priority. When effort is one's priority, it will, hopefully, lead to a gradual gain in faith such as will eventually break through the contradiction that a deluded person is bound to make a deluded effort. So on the path of effort, faith will make the last step. On the other hand, when faith is one's guide, faith itself controls whatever effort one makes. One does not make effort in order to achieve spiritual advancement for oneself, but rather to express and actualise the faith that one already has. Effort is thus subsumed within one's faith from the very outset. Thus, on the path of effort one is all the time trying to go beyond where one is at present whereas on the path of faith one is actualising one's actual present state, trusting that whatever is needful will be granted at the appropriate time. On the path of effort, the Buddha light is a distant star towards which one journeys. On the path of faith, the star bathes one in light already and one is grateful without expecting more.

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Replies to This Discussion

Thanks Dharmavidya. There's always an element of self gain in my motivation to make an effort and also in my attempts to allow myself to be carried by the Dharma effortlessly. I take this as a lesson that we cannot fully eliminate self, but there seems to be a value in offering this imperfection to Amida as well. Would you agree that this is an important aspect of relationship with the divine? A sort of spiritual exchange in which foolishness becomes faith!?

Namo Amida Bu( ,

Yes, I think that is quite a good way of thinking about it. Namo Amida Bu.



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