Whether it’s faith that we will be ok, safe, regardless what life throws our way because we have returned home to out true Buddha nature and are at peace and happy. Whether it’s faith that we are a good person. Or weather it’s faith that our efforts will bear fruit. Having faith is important to not succumbing to the endless sniping, the doubts, emotions, confusion, and negativity, of the ego-mind.
When I think of the importance of faith, I’m reminded of the title of the Bach cantata, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” Indeed, if you have faith, and it comes from deep in your heart, it is a mighty fortress. The other aspect of our fortress is taking refuge in the Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha, because it is only through the support of their wisdom that we learn to find our true selves, our Buddha nature, and free ourselves from the control of our ego-mind.
Regarding faith that our efforts will bear fruit, perhaps in the way we envision, perhaps in some other way, it is important to note that this is free of attachment. We approach our efforts with the attitude that if it happens as we envision, great; if it doesn’t, that’s ok too. But we still have faith in our efforts. The two attitudes are not inconsistent.
Nor is there anything un-Buddhist about thinking about the future. It is impossible to go through life without planning for the future. As I’ve frequently written, being present does not mean not planning for the future. It does, however, impact how we plan for or think about the future. (See my posts, “As a Buddhist, How Do You Think About the Future,” and “As a Buddhist - Revisited.”)
But faith to the ego-mind is similar to what light is to a vampire. Because faith can deal a mortal blow to the ego-mind by denying it access to you; by creating a forcefield around you that repels any negative energy. The ego-mind therefore seeks to destroy your faith either by belittling it, perverting the concept of faith, or rolling over it by sheer force of power.
One way it destroys is by saying that faith is “just words.” If you’re miserable now, if your lacking what you want … that is what’s real. Faith in the future is just words. And that sentence can have a devastating impact on faith if the faith does not run deep.
A related way is using the Buddhist emphasis on being present to destroy faith. The ego-mind will remind you that you have to live in the present, everything else is thought. So forget about faith. But this is a perversion of the concept of faith; it is not thought, it is not a function of the mind, it comes from the heart. So even if one is present, one can have faith.
If all else fails, the ego-mind will try to overwhelm you with the power of emotions and roll over your faith like a steamroller. The power of the ego-mind and its willingness to use that power regardless of its impact on your wellbeing is not to be underestimated.
As with all challenges in walking the path, one must be ever vigilant of the darkness and negativity of the ego-mind. It is not your companion in your search to end suffering; it is your adversary. Have compassion for it, but know that it is your adversary.
You may well ask the eternal question, why does the ego-mind do this to us? The ego-mind has been formed by our life-experiences and what it sees as the way to protect us from these experiences in the future. It does not want to hurt us, but if we are destroyed in the process of trying to protect us, that doesn’t seem to impact the ego-mind.
Also, remember that your wounded inner child is the avatar of your ego-mind. He is very much alive in you right now. Your wounded inner child sees the world as a menacing, hostile, place. Until your wounded inner child is healed, he will continue to scream and yell, throw temper tantrums, when he is confronted by what he sees as the hostile world. He takes everything very personally. His trauma is so deep that it distorts everything.
Knowing this, being aware, is of critical importance as you try to move from a past controlled by your ego-mind to a future in which you put your will and your life in the care of your true Buddha nature.