By Daniel Scharpenburg
“The great way is not difficult for those who do not pick and choose.”
That’s how the classic Zen text Faith in Mind begins. I think it’s a statement on Right View. It has increasingly become one of my favorite texts. It was written by Sengcan, the third zen patriarch.
A word about that term, faith. I think we have a lot of baggage around that word sometimes. Because of that word I have to put the text into context in the development of Buddhism in China. In Sengcan’s time there was a really popular Buddhist sect called Pure Land. To explain it as simply as I can, they believed that faith in a being called Amida could cause you to be reborn in a place called the pure land, where attaining enlightenment would be very easy.
The title of this text is in response to that belief. The truth is that a lot of Zen Buddhism evolved in response to what other groups were doing. Sengcan was saying we should have faith in our minds instead of in some other being or other world. It reminds me of John Lennon’s quote, “I don’t believe in Beatles; I just believe in me.”
“I don’t believe in the pure land. I just believe in mind.”
In this line Sengcan is saying if we can just let go of our attachments and aversions, then our practice will be easy. If we can just stop obsessing about the things we want and the things we don’t want, then we’ll be in good shape. Often obsessing about these things doesn’t serve us well.
That line is telling us that if we can just let go of our expectations and our attachment to outcomes then that’s it.
The view we’re talking about cultivating is a broader view—a view that isn’t rooted in the small self, the mind that thinks I-Me-Mine all the time. Right view is really seeing the world from a broader perspective. If we can do that, then we are well on our way to Enlightenment.
“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.” ~ Rumi
Editor: Dana Gornall