The four kinds of faith
Today we are endowed with a precious human rebirth, so called because only in a human body can we find Enlightenment and free ourselves from the lower realms and the cycle of suffering in Samsara. Just getting a human body is very very difficult indeed and we cannot see the lower realms except for some of the animal realms because our current perceptions do not allow us generally to apprehend these phenomena. But we can see from general observations how few human beings there are compared to other beings. Hence once we have a human body, we should not waste it.
Many nihilists have no faith in spiritual values and err hopelessly in an endless cycle of suffering. They do not realise that all beings are the product of ignorance manifesting according the law of cause and effects. Thus having obtained the precious body, we should strive with great diligence always to improve and make it better. For this there are no other path than that of the Dharma which is not just a flow of words without meaning purely intended to trick people, but the Dharma is the explanation of the true nature of reality as it is.
All spiritual Buddhist practice start with taking refuge in the three Jewls of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha . For this we need to have faith, a faith which is firm and stable.
There are traditionally four stages described in developing faith
- fully convinced faith
- Irreversible faith
Attraction gives rise to vivid faith, which is when the mind becomes attracted to the object. It may be a strong joy or a great appreciation of the qualities we observe. We may have visited a holy place with statues, stupas and other representations of the Buddha body, speech and mind. We could also have just met with a genuinely great Master, who has inspired us through his invisible Blessings or read about their life stories. This is still changeable as our mind can turn to aversion as well as appreciation
Emulation means that , going beyond the attraction, the desire to become like the object we are contemplating is arising within us. We strive with efforts to become similar, like the ordinary wood left to lie in the sandal grove, we too acquire its sweet fragrance.
Fully convinced faith and irreversible faith are born out of our nascent knowledge of the qualities of the Buddhas , bodhisattvas and our Master. The fully convinced faith becomes irreversible, when, come what may, nothing will be able to alter our mind or our devotion. This is the faith we should constantly try to develop through examination of the Teachings, and the Teacher, especially as no blessings nor accomplishment can ever occur in the Secret Mantra vehicle without irreversible faith in one’s Master.
Drikung Kyobpa Rinpoche once said
Unless the sun of devotion shines
On the Snow Peak of the Teacher’s four kayas
The stream of his blessings will never flow
So earnestly arise devotion in your mind
And it is further taught
Wishing for primordial wisdom beyond concepts to dawn
Without fervent trust in the teacher
Is like waiting for sunshine in a north facing cave
That way appearances and mind will never merge
Unlike the lower vehicles, it is not taught that the profound truth can be established on the basis of analysis and logic . Patrul Rinpoche describe it thus:
What is taught in this vehicle is to pray with fervent devotion and complete faith to a supremely realised Teacher whose lineage is like a golden chain untarnished by any variance with the Samaya, to rely on him alone and to consider him as a real Buddha; in this way your mind will completely merge with his. By the power of his blessings been transferred to you, realisation will arise.