How to Cultivate Unwavering Faith in the Dharma
Question: How can I develop unwavering faith in Dharma? Why does my faith falter? What should I do?
Answer: It is difficult to develop total faith in the Dharma. In the cultivation of the Bodhisattvas’ way, there is a special stage called the "Ten Faiths". Buddhism also has the concept of the "Five Roots and Five Strengths". Of the five roots (faith, diligence, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom) faith is the first. Faith needs to take root before a practitioner has the power to develop the five strengths. If one has a firm and correct view which does not falter, one will not be easily swayed by non-Buddhist teachings and wrong views. One will have complete faith, a firm faith in the Dharma.
Why does our faith falter sometimes? As far as ordinary beings are concerned, faith in the Dharma does not come easily. This is particularly true in respect of the Pure Land Dharma path which talks about the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss, the salvation of Amitabha Buddha, and the inconceivable merits of the Buddha’s name. If one considers these elements from the ordinary beings’ perspective, they are hard to believe, because ordinary beings can only relate to their own experiences and their logic, and they would believe something only if they can see it. They cannot even start to imagine the realm of Buddhist Dharma. Insisting on believing something only after grasping its meaning is typical of an ordinary being’s mentality.
"Doubt" is in the nature of ordinary beings. "Greed, anger, ignorance, arrogance, and doubt" are the sources of our afflictions. Because we are in a confused, inverted and delusional state of existence, we are naturally skeptical of and even slander the right Dharma that Buddha taught. This is our true state. As we follow the teachings of Buddha, we gradually get rid of our doubts and our faith arises. If the right view is not firm, our faith will waver. Feeling susceptible and lacking confidence is normal, and is part of the process of spiritual cultivation.
How do we overcome this feeling? We should study and practice the Buddha’s teachings often and contemplate their meaning. As our right view of the Dharma gains a stronghold, our faith grows. When Buddha says "Life is suffering", we should observe life, apply ‘systematic attention’ to this saying and deeply reflect on its cause. As our life experiences grow, we will have a better understanding of the saying which is one of the Four Noble Truths. Our faith in these truths will be strengthened and we will also believe that the Land of Ultimate Bliss is real.
Don't adopt the perspective of ordinary beings but completely abandon their arrogance. Faith "means completely letting go of our ego, believing and going along with what the Buddha says.” This is a shortcut. However, we are just downright stubborn, self-righteous, arrogant, and reluctant to let go. What should we do? We should study and practice the Dharma conscientiously, and pay ‘systematic attention’ to it. It is a long and gradual process, much like using a knife to peel off tree bark layer after layer.
(Translated by the Pure Land School Translation Team;
edited by Householder Fojin)
Faith in, and acceptance of, Amitabha’s deliverance
Single-minded recitation of Amitabha’s name
Aspiration to rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land
Comprehensive deliverance of all sentient beings