Beliefs Culture Opinion

COMMENTARY: On the spiritual path, the key is trust

c. 1997 Religion News Service

(Les Kaye is the abbot of the Kannon Do Zen Meditation Center in Mountain View, Calif., and the author of”Zen at Work”(Crown).)

UNDATED _ I don’t think it makes much difference what spiritual practice we choose, and there are certainly a wide variety to choose from these days. But whatever our choice, our expression of spirituality must be based on trust _ trust in something very great, something that we cannot see.

It makes little difference what name we assign it or how we address it: God, Allah, Buddha, Great Spirit, Ground of Being or True Nature. What does make the difference is learning to put trust in True Nature because it exists everywhere and is expressed everywhere and by everyone.

Authentic spiritual practice emphasizes deepening our trust of the True Nature inherent in everyone, even including people whose everyday behavior we cannot always trust.

In the affairs of daily life, the nature of trust between people is very complex. It is based on both our direct experience of each other as well as what we carry around in our mind, such as another person’s reputation and our own beliefs and prejudices.

Yet despite the politics of everyday life, that is the only place where we can express our spirituality. If we truly want to feel our spirituality, we have to trust everyone, that is, we have to place our trust in everyone’s fundamental purity, in their True Nature.

But how can we do that if we do not fully trust someone else’s behavior, someone who we feel cannot be trusted in the affairs of daily life? We can only begin to nurture this trust by first trusting ourselves.

When I was in high school, I had a good idea of the kind of work I wanted to do when I grew up. Even though I was very certain about this, I was obliged to meet with the guidance counselors anyway.

They said to me:”You can do anything you want.”I was shocked to hear them say this; I didn’t believe them. I felt that I could do one or two things with my life, but not”anything.”I thought they were giving me false encouragement because it was their job to say such things.

In other words, I didn’t trust them.

Many years later, I understood that they were right. I came to recognize that it was myself that I had not trusted.

When I was young, I had various ideas about myself and saw myself in a limited way. I could have trusted my teachers if I could have trusted myself, if I had not held on to ideas about myself.

Trust is dependent on letting go. In my own spiritual practice of Zen Buddhism, we stress this point: letting go of opinions, letting go of attachments, letting go of desires. These are the things that limit our life. If we cannot let them go, they will create a wall around us and will separate us from each other. It is impossible to trust ourselves outside these walls and we will certainly not trust anyone who we believe wants to”attack”our wall.

Because the mind can be very stubborn, it is not easy to intentionally let go of limits that we have imposed on ourselves out of old, ingrained habits. So instead of trying to force our mind to let go, instead of trying to force us to change, we can simply engage our spiritual practice with an attitude of trust. We can pray, or meditate, or chant without expectation _ engaging in such activity for its own sake, to express something that we cannot see, something very great that has no limits.

Trust depends on accepting things as they are, letting go of fixed ideas of”good”or”bad,””like”or”dislike.”This is the best way to let go of putting limits on us.

It’s a matter of simply expressing our spirituality in the midst of things as they are, trusting that unlimited True Nature will express itself through us, through the activities of our daily life.

The foundation of trust and spirituality is the recognition that”untrustworthy”people are suffering from a misunderstanding about themselves, that they do not trust their own True Nature. So trust includes forgiveness when we feel harmed by someone else’s behavior. In that way, forgiveness is an expression of our letting go of ideas about ourselves, about not putting limits on ourselves.

It is also an expression of not putting limits on others, but trusting instead in their True Nature.

We may have to limit our relationship with someone because of the complex nature of everyday trust, but we can continue to trust our fundamental True Nature. Its always there for us.