Faith & Dharma
The Practice of the Dharma (Spirituality) is the more difficult path of embracing the precepts and practicing meditation, with its two components of mental concentration (meditation) and spiritual insight (observing the mind). This practice of 'provisional' Buddhism deepens one's practice. Being more difficult, Chih-I said that it was for those of keen spiritual capacities. Not everyone is capable of practicing it right away. It is the Buddhism of the 37 facets of spiritual awakening, the 42 stages of Bodhisattva development, the Paramitas, etc. It is the Buddhism of the first half of the Lotus Sutra.
The Practice of Faith may be practiced
of lesser spiritual capacities, and is especially designed for those in the latter days after
the demise of the Dharma. The practice of faith entails opening oneself up to
and accepting the spiritual influence of the Dharma. The first step in faith
is turning one's life over to the care and spiritual influence of the Three
Treasures (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha). In itself this is a recognition and confession of
spiritual suffering and a request for help from the Three Treasures. It is the
original cause for the inspiration of the mind, and this cause must ever be
renewed to keep one on the path of enlightenment. Instead of the 37 facets of spiritual awakeniing and
Bodhisattvas stages, Chih-I uses the 6 levels of identity with enlightenment to
faith is transformed into spiritual wisdom. It
can be taught broadly to all living beings - it is more inclusive, and
reaching all living beings is the ultimate intent of the Buddha. It is Buddhism
of the second half of the Sutra.
The Practice of Faith gives one the
resolve to remain diligent and steadfast and never turn back. Lack of
faith will stop spiritual progress dead in its tracks. However, the
Practice of Faith without the Practice of the Dharma can result in one
becoming fanatical, self-righteous, prejudiced, uncritical and easily swayed by
others. One's understanding of Buddhism will be narrow.
The Practice of the Dharma helps one develop a critical thinking mind as well as good spiritual capacities, such as endurance, diligence, serenity, mental concentration, spiritual insight, and impartiality. However, the Practice of Dharma without the Practice of Faith can result in spiritual selfishness and the limitations of the small vehicle. If one learns the various techniques and teachings but forgets their ultimate purpose, one's understanding of Buddhism will be shallow.
Ultimately the two practices are the different but completely complementary facets of the practice of Buddhism. Faith and the spirituality of the Dharma are ultimately inseparable. Spiritual enlightenment requires both aspects of the practice to be in harmony.
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