One night at the dharma talk, a student asked Zen Master Seung Sahn, “What is great faith?” He held up his little finger: “Do you see this?” And she said, “Yes.” “That,” he said quietly, “is great faith.” In the simplest way, he was encouraging us to trust our perception. Faith is a kind of confidence; it’s complete trust in the truth of what we see, even when we’re being told something different.
The teachings of mindfulness and self-compassion ask us to trust and stand up for what’s most important, to live the truth in our hearts. The teachings of understanding and love inspire us to see the nature of reality with wisdom; the content of wisdom is compassion.
Compassion cares about racial and environmental equity, women’s rights, the earth. Compassion cares about what Mahatma Gandhi called satyagraha, the force of truth. Self-compassion says, it’s time to trust our own perceptions and act—to change both the world within and the world around us.
For a little while during the night, our Los Angeles horizon was wreathed in gorgeous, towering cumulus clouds we rarely see. They dissolved into mist and vanished with the pouring rain. Great faith means trusting the fleeting truth of this moment, moment by moment. Like love and compassion, trust is invisible—yet it lights our path.