We might ask, how is faith to be protected? Another way to ask the same question is to ask, what does faith want? If we want something to be big and strong, we should feed it the right food. The right food for anshin is what are called the Four Sukhas. The word sukha means bliss. We have already looked at how faith is connected with innocence and simplicity. The Four Sukhas carry this idea further. The word sukha also occurs in the word Sukhavati which is the Indian word for the Pure Land of Buddha - the sukha land.
The first sukha is renunciation. This is something that faith wants. Faith is, in many respects, the opposite of compulsiveness. When we do not have faith we cling to things. It might be some addictive behaviour or it might be possessions or status or other things that feed the ego. Either we feed faith or we feed the ego. Dogen, in one of his talks, says that practitioners of the way do not treasure possessions or rank or sensual indulgence, they just treasure time. That is a profound observation. When we are caught in compulsivity, time starts to blur. The spiritual practitioner "does not waste time" as it says in the Most Excellent Mirror Samsdhi. So renunciation is clearing a space where our time can be totally experienced and we do not miss a moment of our life.
The second sukha is seclusion. Faith likes solitude. When there is opportunity the practitioner likes to retreat. This does not mean that he or she does necessarily spend a lot of time alone - she might or might not - but she or he is not clinging to people. The spiritual teacher is able to give disciples a lot of space because he has no particular interest in controlling them. Each has their own life. The teacher helps, but much of that help consists in helping the person to find their own space. So faith frees one from co-dependency. This also means that the person of faith can be decisive. This is another face of innocence. When one's motive in in accordance with Heaven there is nothing to fear.
The third sukha is peace. Faith loves peace. Faith means not being at war, either with oneself or with others. A person of faith does not stir up trouble, does not add energy to conflict. This does not mean, however, that he or she is a wimp. Peace requires active care. As was said in an earlier teaching in this series, we should work at peace with the same commitment and energy as people work at war. My mother would say that the war years were the best years of her life. She meant that it was a time when people naturally and willingly co-operated and supported one another, there was great goodwill and friendliness, and people were united. Of course, it was for a destructive purpose. The ideal is to have those same qualities for a constructive one.
The fourth sukha is bodhi - awakening. Faith loves to be awakened, loves to discover. The idea that faith is a dogmatic attachment to fixed beliefs and a refusal to look at evidence is not at all what is meant by faith in Buddhism. Actually it takes faith to be open enough to look at ideas that challenge one's pre-established position. It takes faith to doubt. Dogmatism and clinging to fixed positions is more a symptom of fear than of real faith. The person of settled faith take things in their stride and discovering that one has been wrong about something is always helpful - how else can one learn, grow and improve? When once we are awakened to faith, we go on being awakened by all the miscellaneous circumstances of life that we then run into. The person of faith has the faith to be willing to take risks with their life. It is for this reason that they do not fear finding things out that shatter their previous world. They have confidence that the newly emerging world will also be fine.
Back to the Forest
The Buddha wanted that we renounce the things that tie us down. However, we no longer live in a society in which one can simply go to the forest and live off the fruit of the land. Society has become immensely more complex and there is no free space left. Therefore, we have to create little pure lands where such a life can be lived.
Eleusis is a forest retreat. When I was young and grown-ups asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I would tell them that I wanted to be an eccentric and live in a wood. This would make them laugh. However, my dream has come true.
One is only safe in company if one is completely content being alone.
One can only safely say yes, if one would be completely happy to say no.
One can only live fully if one would be quite content to die.
One can only handle being in authority when one knows how to serve.
Completely contentment means to be without hankering. Loneliness, for instance, is a hankering for company whereas a person who is free is happy in solitude. A person who has no hankering for possessions can be trusted with things. A person who has no hankering for position can be trusted with authority. A person who has no hankering for particular states can be at peace in his mind.