Levels of Faith
(Minghui.org) Many people have fascinations, interests and hobbies. Some interests can become a way of life, as they have become a kind of belief system. But only through trying circumstances can one really tell how firm one's belief is.
Let's analyze some examples of interests versus true belief.
Shegong's Dragon Fascination
During the third century B.C. in China, in an era called the Spring-Autumn Period, there was a county named “She” in the kingdom of Chu. The magistrate of the county was Shen Zhuliang and people called him Shegong (Lord She).
Shegong had a fascination with dragons. His belt was decorated with dragons, his wine cup had a dragon carved into it, and his house was decorated with everything dragon-related.
A real dragon heard of his fascination and decided to pay him a visit. The dragon descended from the sky. Its head looked into Shegong's window on the second floor and its tail stuck into the hall. When Shegong saw the real dragon, he was so scared that the blood drained from his face and he immediately ran away to hide.
Shegong constantly talked about dragons, painted dragons and carved dragons. But in his heart, he only liked the dragon symbol that he could handle – but not a real live dragon! For this reason, when a real dragon visited him, he was terrified.
Some people practice cultivation as though it's their hobby, just like Shegong and his dragon fascination. They like to read the scriptures and enthusiastically practice the exercises. But they only want a cultivation practice that can improve their health, extend their longevity, and bring them happiness without any grief.
When reality doesn't meet their expectations, or when conflicts and confrontations emerge, especially when there are tribulations, they are afraid and begin to doubt the cultivation practice. They often tell other people they are practitioners, but they are not genuine practitioners since they treat cultivation practice as a kind of hobby.
Judas was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ. He followed Jesus because he witnessed Jesus having used his supernatural abilities to heal illnesses, expel possessing demons and bring the dead back to life.
Judas was given the responsibility of managing the money to cover day-to-day expenses for Jesus and the disciples, take care of travel expenses and help the poor. He had listened to Jesus' preachings every day and had seen Jesus' unselfish life, but he never abandoned his own greed.
He often kept a small portion of the money he managed as his “service fee.” He thought it was very reasonable. But in the eyes of God, he was a thief. Other disciples believed that Judas was an important assistant to Jesus, and he was also proud of himself and often showed off his abilities.
Although Judas had followed Jesus for a long time, he never rid himself of greed and remained quite competitive. His purpose of following Jesus was to have all the benefits of following a powerful person and to show himself off. Each time money passed his hands, it was a test for him, which he failed each time.
As Falun Dafa practitioners, we must ask ourselves: Why get angry at each other or complain about unfairness toward oneself? What are we pursuing and competing for? Cultivation requires a practitioner to let go of one's desires to fame, self interest and lust. If one has no ambition to relinquish desires, is he/she still a practitioner?
Job's Faith in God
In the Old Testament of the Bible, there is a book about Job. Job was a blessed man who lived righteously. Satan challenged Job's faith in God by suggesting that Job served God simply because God had blessed him with wealth and many children.
God allowed Satan to take Job's wealth, his children, and his health (but not his life) in order to test Job's character. Despite the difficult circumstances, Job did not curse God.
It is easy to have faith in God when one is prosperous and life is good, but difficult to remain steadfast when one has lost everything or is hurt. True faith is unconditional, regardless of having many or no blessings. A true believer will demonstrate firm belief when faced with tribulations.
Levels of Faith
Lao Zi talked about people learning the Dao: "When the highest type of men hear the Dao, with diligence they will practice it. When average men hear the Dao, it seems some is kept and some is lost. When the lowest type of men hear the Dao, they laugh at it heartily. If they didn’t laugh at it, it wouldn’t be the Dao." (Chapter 3, Zhuan Falun )
As for practitioners, I think there are three levels too.
The first (lowest) level comprises those whose cultivation stays on the level of lip service. They may be new students who are eager to try the practice, and praise the Buddha verbally all the time. But they usually don't read the scriptures and become fearful and doubtful when sickness karma first appears.
The second level comprises those who are only halfheartedly trusting of the Fa. Some of them enter the door of cultivation seeking protection from tribulations, or desire benefits after seeing others who have benefited. Half of their heart is that of Buddha-nature, and the other half is still full of human notions. They desire to reach consummation but are not willing to lose human possessions. They are charitable but secretly wish to be rewarded more than they give.
The third level comprises those who believe with their souls. Their faith is in their bones, and they constantly raise their levels, becoming one with their faith. They have nothing that they can't give up. Nothing can tempt them away from their faith. They live according to their faith and are willing to validate their faith through tremendous sacrifice.
Beyond Personal Gain
For centuries, people have been worshiping the Buddha to go to the Western Paradise, or worship Jesus Christ to go to Heaven.
Some people think they can have wealth by having faith in Buddha. Some think they can be blessed and protected by worshiping God. In the end, this approach cannot be called faith. It's acceptable to start on the path of cultivation with these thoughts, but over time one must rectify oneself fundamentally and get rid all that is selfish. The purpose of true, pure faith, is not for one's own personal gain.
Having a true faith is to conform to the characteristic of the cosmos, become a good being in the cosmos and safeguard the cosmos.
“But cultivation doesn’t have any conditions attached—if you want to cultivate, then you just cultivate. ” (Chapter 1, Zhuan Falun)
“What is a Buddha? 'Tathagata' is what human beings call someone who’s come with the truth and the power to do what he wants, whereas real Buddhas are guardians of the cosmos and are responsible for all righteous elements in the cosmos.” (“Teaching the Fa at the Western U.S. Fa Conference” in Guiding the Voyage) .
True faith is unselfish. It is to benefit others, a responsibility, and an obligation.
I noticed that some practitioners can only believe a little bit more after they gain a little bit more. This kind of faith will not withstand a test. Master mentioned this in “For Whom do You Practice Cultivation:” (Essentials for Further Advancement)
“Isn’t any form of pressure a test to see whether your faith in the Buddha Fa is fundamentally strong? If you still are not fundamentally resolute in the Fa, everything else is out of question.”
Some practitioners are diligent in practicing the exercises and studying the Fa. But when sickness karma arises, they can't handle it and begin to panic. Actually, the answer is pretty simple. It is to test the integrity of our faith as to whether we are resolute in the Fa or are just pursuing health and wealth.
My understanding is that there are different levels of faith. One should not linger at one level for too long. One must improve and move on to a higher level to be closer to the divine and become a divine being oneself.
Let's ask ourselves a question: “Can we remain faithful in the Fa no matter whether we are healthy or sick, rich or poor?”