I was wondering what I should blog on next and so I sent a note to my teacher Mitch Doshin Cantor and he suggested that I begin writing on Faith in Mind a sutra (poem) written in the 6th Century because it is a great way to learn about the beliefs and tenants of Buddhism. It is vast and in the version that I will be using it contains over 1,000 words!
This is the longest sutra I have tried to create a workbook from. Needless to say, it will take me a lot of time and energy and many blog posts to do it justice. This will give my readers the opportunity to take as long as they like to quietly focus on one section at a time.
Its opening verse is among the most quoted verses of Buddhism, even so most people do not know its real origin.
The first section reads:
The great way is not difficult
For those who have no preferences.
When love and hate are both absent everything becomes clear and undisguised.
Make the smallest distinction, however,
And heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.
If you wish to see the truth then hold no opinion for or against. . .
The struggle of what one likes and what one dislikes is the disease of the mind.
This line “The great way is not difficult for those who have no preferences” has been taught and shared by spiritual leaders, seekers, philosophers, psychologists, therapists, and clergy for centuries. I first came across it as a Unity minister when reading a wonderful book by Ken Keyes, Jr., The Handbook to Higher Consciousness. It has influenced my life ever since. Little did I know at the time that he was a student of Ram Dass, Chogyam Trungpa, and Alan Watts. I guess I was a Buddhist before I was a Buddhist!
In it he talked about giving up our preferences! That having preferences about everything is the path to pain and suffering. And as the sutra says it does not matter whether those preferences are heaven over hell, love over hate, or mint chocolate chip ice cream over vanilla. Well, the ice creams not really in the sutra!
I recall going to Ken Keyes’ College in Coos Bay, Oregon, in the 1980’s for a month long work study program. The very first thing I did was organize a group of people to get the macrobiotic cook to make at least one of the pizzas with “real” mozzarella cheese and not tofu cheese for the non-vegan students! Talk about needing to learn what Ken had to teach! I was the star pupil…
After all these years it is still a lifelong process of learning to live without preferences. I still sometimes “set heaven and earth infinitely apart” and although I still like that mint chocolate chip ice cream I will eat the vanilla if you serve it–no preferences.
It may not be a quick and easy path, but it is an important one. I do “wish to see the truth” and so if you catch me showing off my preferences I hope you’ll remind me because Sosan says, “The struggle of what one likes and what one dislikes is the disease of the mind.” That is one disease I hope to avoid as often as I can! With your help I’m sure I’ll find my way.
Thanks Ken, wherever you are!
 Faith in Mind: Attributed to: (Sosan, Zen) Seng’tsan, 3rd Chinese Patriarch