Friday, October 12, 2012

Faith Is Mind

Scott Bradley


Though finished with the series on the Xin-Xin Ming, I continue to read it and commentary on it and find such a significant divergence of view in the understanding of this one word Xin (Hsin), translated "faith" or "trust", that I wish to pursue it further here.

The title above was a subtitle to one post in that series, but I'm not sure that I actually pointed out how it differs from the more accepted "Faith in mind". I prefer "Faith is mind". This is very possibly not what the author had in mind, but as I have previously said, I come to this document for inspiration, not doctrine.

Here is part of a commentary that speaks of what is probably the orthodox understanding of this Xin:
This is not faith in the ordinary sense, it is a belief that comes from firsthand experience, a faith which arises out of supreme knowledge and wisdom of enlightenment. This "believing" is an affirmation that all existence or reality is essentially the Buddha mind, which is our true nature. Hsin is the conviction that at the bottom of all phenomena lies the One Mind, the Buddha mind, which is one with our real nature, the Buddha-nature.
The first thing we are told is that this "faith" does not precede the experience, but is its consequence. Though I wonder about the need to provide any interpretive content to the experience at all, I understand how that "faith in mind" might arise from that experience. But this also means it has nothing to do with me, for I have not had the experience. And, more importantly, I have no basis for exercising that faith-with-content before or in pursuit of that experience.

What I can do is put my faith in the human experience as an expression, not of something else ("Universal Mind"), but of itself. This "faith in mind" is, in fact, the actual exercise of mind. Thus, "faith is mind", which is to say, "the exercise of mind is faith". It is an affirmation of the human experience. On what basis? Because it is so. It is an affirmation of life because life is affirmation.

I fear I am coming across as pedantic, but the distinction is, I believe, an important one. It is the difference between believing in something and simply being something. This is precisely what is expressed in the commentary above; only it imposes interpretive content and speaks from a distant shore which has no relevance to this shore upon which I presently am.

The imposition of articles of faith is what Zhuangzi calls "adding to life". Yet life, he insists, is sufficient to itself. We need not disturb our peace "striving to make all things one"; we need not believe anything at all; all we need do is let the human experience unfold as it is. This, I believe, is the heart of the Zhuangzian vision. We need not pursue anything; we need only live the exploratory adventure of the human experience and let arise what will.

You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

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