Faith – The Catalyst
What do we need in order to attain the realisation of mahamudra?
First, we should know how it is NOT attained. There is a quote by Master Shang in the Ocean of Definitive meaning, which reads:
“This [i.e., mahamudra] is not realised through extensive study.
It is not realised through great knowledge.
It is not realised through coarse analysis.
It is not realised through expertise in the key instructions.
It is not realised through force or effort.
It is not realised through methods or symbolic instructions.
It is not realised through any of these kinds of busy activities.”
And why is it not realised through these means, he gave the reason: “It is said in a tantra: It is not found anywhere.”
Whether it is mahamudra, dzogchen, or the mind, whatever you may call it, no one can explain it, even the Buddha. You are not going to understand it by the lama telling you how it is, and certainly not through reading books. It has nothing to do with how learned or intelligent you are. Some of you who have a knack for picking things up quickly, might think you can do the same with meditation, but it doesn’t work like that.
So you may wonder, ‘If it is not realised through any of these, what should I do?’
Well, we can see what Gampopa taught here: “As a method for realising mahamudra, there is nothing other than devotion.”
To realise mahamudra, there needs to be a trigger, a catalyst. And there’s no doubt that faith is that catalyst. Without faith, you might be able to become learned in the scriptures, but you will not become a dharma practitioner in the true sense; forget about knowing the mind.
Whether from my experience of relying on my own lamas, or from what I have seen when guiding people in meditation in the retreat centres, it is so true what Gampopa says here. Faith plays such an important role in our practice. But not knowing what faith and devotion does for us, we don’t see it to be important.
Anyway, what is it that we need in order to become a dharma practitioner? We are told that the main thing we need is faith and belief. So we should work to develop our faith. Even when things aren’t going well for you, just stick it out, listen to what you are told, and do your best to follow what the lama instructs. In the dharma, we hear phrases such as, “Follow the words of the lama,” or “Fulfil the sacred command of the lama,” but the meaning of this, in simpler language, is, “Do as you’re told.”
Our way tends to be to follow our own fancies and to resist anything other. We tell ourselves, “No, that doesn’t really suit me. What I need is….” This is our basic mentality. We have too many of our own ideas about how to practice the dharma, and that’s what we ‘practise.’ But this will not help us to become a dharma practitioner or to make progress on the path.
When we have faith, we feel that there must be a good reason for whatever the lama tells us to do. And the fact is, that if you have belief and you act on the lama’s words, whatever you do will turn out well. Assuming you assessed the lama properly before entering into a lama-student relationship with them and the lama is a good lama, the lama will look after you, he will be concerned for you. A good lama won’t disregard what is good for you and your progress. They won’t waste your time. So by having faith and belief in the lama, and following their advice, we will make progress and develop.
If we were to feel that we know better than the lama what is best for our progress on the path, why would we bother going to receive instruction from the lama in the first place?
Naturally, all of us want to become good practitioners, and to have a thorough understanding and practice of the dharma, but there are those who turn out well, and those who don’t. It’s not that the lama only blesses those who have faith in them, and dismisses those who don’t, since a true lama’s sole wish is to benefit all sentient beings. But the necessary causes and conditions need to come together. That is why we need to have faith. When our faith and devotion, and the lama’s love and compassion come together, and we do our best to follow their advice, then there is hope that we can come to understand the dharma, and become a practitioner. That is how we receive blessings.
The taken from the Ocean of Definite Meaning by the 9th Gyalwang Karmapa, Wangchuk Dorje. English translation by Elizabeth M. Callahan.