When we are exposed to the Buddha dharma, it is natural for us to initially try and wrap our minds around this different perspective on life intellectually. Which is important and has value because the dharma is so contrary to the way that we’ve been brought up to think and act that we need to establish a level of comfort with it. It needs to make sense to us for us to have faith in it, to believe in it. Modern man does not take to blind faith.
But at some point, as we learn and understand that all of our perceptions and feelings, all of our thoughts, are just a product of our mind and thus of dependent origination (regardless whether the origination is something pure like the Buddha dharma or unskillful like the lessons we receive from popular culture), we learn not to listen to our mind but instead go within ourselves to our true Buddha nature, our heart.
Going deep within ourselves through daily meditation practice is how we free ourselves. Both by seeing that the things that our mind tortures us with are not us, allowing oneself to say, “Not me!” but also by discovering the truth of the Buddha dharma for ourselves from within ourselves. That is the only way that these truths will become part of us and the paradigm of our life will be ultimately changed.
I have often wondered why it is that back in the days of the Buddha, or even more recently in the days of Master Bankei (17th century Japan), people, not all but many, experienced almost instant enlightenment. I think that occurred because most people were not well educated in the contemporary sense, they weren’t used to dissecting everything by using their mind. As a friend of mine says, “analysis, paralysis.” People back then were very open to blind faith. Also, perhaps most people did not have such well-developed egos.
And so they were able upon hearing the teaching to take it at face value, without analysis or thinking, and confirm it within themselves. Belief was a direct process.
But even though we have lost that ability, the spiritual path is still ours to choose. One just needs to understand that our intellectual understanding of the dharma can only take us so far along the path and that through meditation we need to come to these truths from within ourselves to make further progress.