A Commentary on Zurchung Sherab Trakpa’s
Eighty Chapters of Personal Advice
~ Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
The virtues of faith
Son, there are six virtues of faith.
Faith is like a very fertile field.
When a fertile field has been well ploughed and tilled, each grain the farmer sows, whether wheat, rice, or any other kind, will yield thousands more grains, and the farmer will become very prosperous. In the same way,
the whole crop of virtue will grow.
When one has faith, one will naturally feel a great longing to practice the Dharma, and through this one will be able to achieve all good qualities. As the Buddha said, faith is like a jewel or treasure. It is the root of all other trainings and practices.
Faith is like a wishing-gem—
it fulfills all one’s own and others’ desires.
Someone who finds a wishing-gem and places it on top of a victory banner will have all his wishes and prayers fulfilled. All the clothes, wealth, food, and valuable things he could want will be effortlessly provided, not only for him but for everyone else in the region who prays and makes wishes before that wishing-gem. Similarly, if we have faith, everything we desire to achieve in our Dharma practice, such as being able to listen to the teachings, to reflect on them, and to meditate on them, will be effortlessly
granted, along with all the good qualities that arise from these.
Faith is like a king who enforces the law.
He makes himself and others happy.
As a result of faith, we naturally recognize that all happiness comes from observing the law of cause and effect, from acknowledging that negative actions lead to suffering and that positive actions lead to happiness. We develop mindfulness and vigilance, distinguishing between what is to be avoided and what is to be adopted, and we then become suitable vessels for the qualities of the Dharma. When a king enforces the laws he has decreed, there is peace throughout the kingdom and there are no quarrels, feuds, or bandits. Similarly, when we have faith, not only are we happy, we are able to make others happy too. The spiritual qualities that we gain from having faith will be perceived and shared by the people around us. And like a medicinal tree that heals anyone who touches it, our own faith will inspire others to endeavor in the Dharma and to seek liberation.
Faith is like someone who holds the stronghold of carefulness.
He will not be stained by defects and he will gather qualities.
A temple or mansion that is built on the solid rock of a mountain is extremely safe and invulnerable to attack from hostile forces. Inside it feels very secure and one can collect within it all sorts of valuable things. Similarly, if we have faith, we will gradually be able to gather and store safely the whole treasury of precious qualities of the Dharma, such as those of listening, reflecting, and meditating. Sakya Pandita said that if one studies one verse a day, one can gradually become very learned, like a bee gathering honey. Even though a bee has a tiny mouth, by collecting the nectar it is slowly able to amass a large quantity of honey. Likewise, by studying gradually with the mouth of faith we will be able to gather the qualities of the Dharma—disillusionment with the world and diligence directed toward liberation.
Faith is like a boat on a great river.
It will deliver one from the suffering of birth, old age, sickness, and death.
With a boat one can cross even a very wide river. One has little difficulty in safely carrying oneself across and transporting all sorts of goods and valuables. In the same way, if we have faith, we can recognize the defects of our condition in samsara, where we are afflicted by the sufferings of birth, old age, sickness, and death. Moreover, we gradually recognize that the only remedy for this is the Dharma, and through practicing the Dharma we are able to free ourselves from these four root sufferings of samsara.
When Buddha Shakyamuni’s disciples encountered problems, the Buddha used to explain how these difficulties had come about through actions they had committed in their past lives. By this means, his disciples naturally began to understand the workings of the law of cause and effect and the fact that nothing in samsara is beyond suffering. As a result, they rapidly attained the level of Arhat. Faith has the power to dispel any of these four main sufferings. To illustrate how it dispels the suffering of old age, there is a story from ancient India about an old man of ninety years who requested ordination from Lilavajra. Lilavajra told him that since he was so old and did not even know how to read or write, it was too late for him to take ordination and to begin the path of Dharma in the usual way. But there was a special practice he could do, and he gave him the empowerment and instructions on the sadhana of White Mañjushri. Because the old man had great faith and possessed the appropriate karma, within seven
days he had a vision of White Mañjushri and attained the accomplishment of immortal life. It is said that to this day he dwells in Payul Phakpachen. So through faith one can even overcome the suffering of old age. One can equally alleviate the suffering of sickness. By meditating on the Medicine Buddha and reciting his dharani, one can purify the negative actions that are the cause of one’s illness and thus be cured of disease.
Faith is like an escort in a dangerous place.
It will free us from the fears of samsara and its lower realms.
Through faith we acquire confidence in the Dharma. We acknowledge the defects of samsara and we realize that the cause of our suffering in samsara is our past negative actions, which in turn arise from afflictive emotions. This leads us to exert ourselves in practicing the Dharma, and as a result we are naturally freed from the lower realms. This is why it is very important to repeatedly generate faith in our minds.