Doctor Of Humanistic Depth Psychology
Master Zen Teacher And Counselor

Phone: (808) 880-1395
Email: DrB@ZenDoctor.Com

The Zen Way Of Being Faith Before Beliefs

This Article by Dr. Bonnici was Published in the Journal
of the Buddhapadipa Temple in London, England.
Copyright 1990 All Rights Reserved

Breath is the Bridge between Meditation in Stillness and Action


My life practice as a husband, father, grandfather, psychologist, Zen roshi, and globally published writer has evolved over fourty years into a devotional practice posture which integrates the formal discipline of Zazen meditation with the unconditional grace of embodied Faith.

For me, the historical figure of Shakyamuni Buddha is the inspirational focus and example of this inherently meaningful and functional relationship between the sincere embodiment of Faith Mind and the sitting practice of Zazen Meditation. Therefore, I will speak of this precious relationship between Faith and Meditation through the symbolic context of Buddhist Psychology and Zen Meditation Practice. I encourage others from differing religious traditions and spiritual paths to read this article with open hearts and explore the potential meaning of Shakyamuni Buddha's life and teachings within their own symbolic-experiential framework and spiritual life understanding.


The interior posture of Faith Mind humbly acknowledges that human nature is basically driven by personal desires, self interest, and egocentric passions. From the view point of the mind of Faith, there is no way in which human beings could acquire merit through spiritual practice and direct that merit toward their own salvation. Any effort we make toward liberation and emancipation from our ego is forever tainted by egocentricity itself. By acknowledging our perpetually defiled nature and throwing ourselves with Faith Mind into the Unconditional Embrace of an Infinitely Compassionate Wisdom, we may experience freedom and emancipation from our egoism and its attendant tensions and conflicts which plague our life.

We leap with Faith Mind to acknowledge that the Universal and Compassionate Nature of All Existence embraces us just as we are, no matter what we do or do not do. Faith Mind knows that in the midst of our greed, aggression, and ignorance we are never removed from the potential of realizing a deep self-acceptance and inner peace based on the bodily felt Grace of a Universal and Unconditional Compassion. Faith Mind knows that all our delusions and faults will never remove us from this Grace of Unconditional Embrace. Likewise, the Mind of Faith realizes that all our spiritual efforts and practices will never help us to acquire or attain a Precious Gift given to us without condition or judgment. When this Mind of Faith acknowledges that all human beings are embraced by an Unconditional and Universal Compassion, the heart is filled with a deep Gratitude and Appreciation. Faith Mind affirms that human beings who experience this boundless Gratitude can only respond by practicing a life of Truth, Integrity, Giving, Caring, and Compassion for self and others. Such life practice is not based on acquiring salvation or building merits. The primary motivation for human behavior becomes an overflowing heart of gratitude rather than the acquisition for personal reward or the avoidance of punishment.

There are many religious sects around the world, including some forms of Christianity and Buddhism, which take the position of Faith Mind. These religious traditions symbolize or anthropomorphize Unconditional Wisdom-Compassion according to their own founding revelation, spiritual tenets, historical view point, linguistic framework, and socio-cultural perspective.

In contrast to Faith Mind, the way of Zazen Meditation affirms that our Original Nature is fundamentally clear and bright and before any ideas of purity and defilement. Our thoughts, passions, and desires cover the clarity, wisdom, and compassion of our Original Nature like clouds covering the beauty of an originally luminous Moon Mind. By the diligent spiritual practice of zazen meditation we may return to this Originally Enlightened Mind and free ourselves from bondage to our ego and its persistent drives toward greed, anger, ignorance, desire, and aggression. Looked at through the biblical framework of Christianity, the Way of Zazen Meditation would affirm that we have fallen out of Paradise by eating out of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil---that because of our greed to attain the power of a dualistic thinking mind we lost our Oneness and intimacy with God. However, Zazen Mind also acknowledges that we can return to Paradise and Intimacy with Everywhere Sacred Oneness through the practice of embodied silence, self-surrender, and non-dualistic mindfulness. The Way of Zazen Meditation is in accord with the Wisdom from the Bible which simply states, "Be Completely Still and Know THAT I AM".


Through the encounter and practice of the Truth of Suffering in my own life, I have come to understand that the Way of Faith Mind and the Way of Zazen Meditation are both reflections or facets of Shakyamuni Buddha's own lived experience and true teachings. For me, Shakyamuni Buddha was a human being who integrated the differing spiritual postures of embodied Faith and seated Meditation. Through his lived postural integration, Shakyamuni shows how we can come to acknowledge, practice, and embrace life just as it is while embodying faith, humility, clarity, gratitude, and compassion for self and others. I have always felt that Shakyamuni's experience was not removed or other than our own---that somehow if we could sift out scriptural myth and legend from this True Man, we would more clearly see that the simple progression of his lived experience is exactly his Teaching and his Way.

We know that this was a human being who became dissatisfied with the pleasures of material life---that he encountered the Truth of Suffering, sought liberation through yogic asceticism, faced disillusionment and despair, aroused Faith Bodymind, sat in zazen meditation with inner determination and self-compassion, embodied Enlightenment, and arose in Compassionate action for the benefit of all beings. When we look closely at this experiential progression from disillusionment to enlightenment and compassionate action, we can begin to see the heart of Shakyamuni Buddha's true teaching and embodied Way of Lived Enlightenment. However, our understanding and practice of Shakyamuni's lived experience cannot be based on scriptural sources alone. We must come to know this Man and his teachings through our ability to empathize and identify with the progression of his lived experience in our daily human life just as it is. In a very real sense, we have to become Shakyamuni to understand and practice Shakyamuni's True Life. Through such a personal empathic identification with Shakyamuni Buddha, we would come to see the reflection of our own innate Buddha Nature and a realizable depth and quality of lived Enlightenment in our everyday life.

This empathic seeing of our everyday experiential self as Shakyamuni's Life and Shakyamuni's Life as our everyday experiential self is for me the basis of inspired meditation life practice in daily work, teaching, study, play, creativity, and relationships. It is my intent here to share my inspiration of Original Faith Body as Zazen Meditation with other teachers, students, and practitioners from various spiritual paths and practices. It is my hope that this shared personal empathic experience of Shakyamuni Buddha will encourage others to view and relate to him in a more personal and intimate way through their own immediate experience of being human in every day life. It is also my hope that this empathic vision of Shakyamuni Buddha's lived example will provide a further basis for strengthening a heartfelt complimentarily in the devotional practice postures of Faith Bodymind and Zazen Meditation.


Two thousand five hundred years ago the wandering ascetic, Shakyamuni, was completely absorbed in his spiritual quest to attain liberation from human suffering and embody a living enlightenment for the mutual benefit of self and others. Shakyamuni had already endured six years of austere self-denial and self-abuse which left his mental faculties greatly diminished and his body grotesquely emaciated. His flesh hung on his bones like withered bark, his skin was cracked and bleeding from extreme exposure to the elements, and his lips were the color of cool stone. His weary eyes had sunk deep into their sockets as if withdrawing from the world of suffering to embrace the oblivion of death. It was at this critical moment of life and death that Shakyamuni became completely disillusioned with his spiritual journey. His six years of seeking to embody a life of enlightenment through arduous ascetic practices suddenly appeared worthless and without meaning. Racked with the excruciating pain of a withering body and a mind filled with self-doubt, hopelessness, and self-condemnation, Shakyamuni did not abandon his Vow to live the Truth, attain liberation from suffering, and embody a living enlightenment for the mutual benefit of self and all sentient beings. Shakyamuni realized that he was entirely alone in his spiritual disillusionment and could no longer take refuge in the religious beliefs, ascetic practices, meditative forms, or spiritual teachers within his culture. In his utter disillusionment and pain, he knew that he had to trust something in order to clarify the Truth, but he did not know where to place that trust. The only thing he could immediately trust was that his body was upheld by the earth, that the density of stones could be felt, and that his biological functions of breath and heartbeat were sustained in the Moment. Shakyamuni saw that even in his bodily emaciated and mentally feeble state, the Universe Itself remained tangible to his sight and touch in an Infinite Multiplicity and Order beyond his mental comprehension. These tangibly felt and trustworthy bodily experiences aroused in Shakyamuni a faint intuitive sense that a Compassionate Wisdom permeated the Universe just as it was. This faint experiential intuition was the glimmering emergence of Shakyamuni's Original Faith that his Innate Bodymind Nature was the expression of the True Wisdom Nature of a Whole Universe. For Shakyamuni, this intuitive leap of Faith Mind was fundamentally non-retrogressive. This is to say that his arousal of Faith was not subject to backsliding because his only alternatives were the abyss of total despair and the finality of death.

Shakyamuni experienced his arousal of Faith Mind as a reaching-out in heartfelt trust to a Wisdom which unconditionally sustained his breath and heartbeat while orchestrating his total bodymind functioning beyond his willfulness or conscious intent. The Faith Mind which was faintly awakened in Shakyamuni was fundamentally a non-dual Faith Mind. This means that Shakyamuni's faint leap of Faith did not separate the Wisdom which orchestrated and upheld his total bodymind functioning from the Wisdom which orchestrated the quantal organization and energetic interdependency of all forms throughout infinite time and space. Shakyamuni intuited that the everywhere Non-Dual Wisdom which sustained his immediate life functions and the vast array and order of all Creation was the expression of an unconditional Grace. Shakyamuni saw that there didn't have to be life or Creation, and yet there was. This means that he perceived his life and all existence as a precious gift given by a Compassionate Wisdom which was mysteriously beyond comprehension, condition, judgment, or expectation.

The glimmering awakening of Shakyamuni's Original Faith was in essence the experiential emergence of a felt intuitive sense that the Compassionate Wisdom inherently functioning within himself was fully capable and trustworthy of manifesting an authentic and embodied enlightenment for the mutual benefit of self and others. Sustained by that faint emergence and simple refuge of Original Faith, Shakyamuni choose to face and embrace his immediately felt experience of spiritual disillusionment with self-honesty, clarity, and inner-directed compassion. Turning the light of his feeble contemplative awareness upon himself and his spiritual practices, Shakyamuni had to admit that the ascetic practices and meditative traditions of his culture were completely impotent in helping him achieve a spiritual liberation and living enlightenment for all sentient beings. Conscientiously examining his own intentions and motives, Shakyamuni had to acknowledge that his seemingly laudable and noble ascetic methods were based on a prejudicial evaluation regarding the impurity of the flesh and a biased mistrust of the body's wisdom. He came to recognize that asceticism was fruitless and extreme because it was based on the dualism and opposition of mind against body, of spirit versus flesh. He came to acknowledge that the negation of the flesh and the demeaning of the body's wisdom were both a biased and prejudiced view of spiritual life and human nature.

Poised in the Truth and still resolute in his Vow to live enlightenment for all beings, Shakyamuni compassionately tended to his bodily needs and nourished himself back to health and well-being. It was during this process of bodily nourishment and self-care that Shakyamuni sought within himself to find the most authentic meditative container and inward postural stance to express and manifest Original Faith Mind. He knew from past experiences with ascetic methods that willfulness, mind control, infliction of pain, repression of thoughts and feelings, withdrawal of the senses, and grasping at spiritual states were all contrary to manifesting an authentic Way to embody a living Enlightenment. He realized that to embody Original Faith a meditative practice would have to balance inner-discipline with self-compassion, a vigorous mindfulness with a deep bodily relaxation , an intense inward listening with a mirror-like shining out of all the senses, and a complete trust in bodily felt experience with an ever ready willingness to yield oneself to the Truth. Shakyamuni intuitively chose to embody these postural balances of Original Faith in a simple and profound form we now call Zazen Meditation. The interior postural stance which Shakyamuni chose to emphasize in zazen is simply this --- Just Sitting, embodying Faith before beliefs, passionately exerting inner and outer Wakefulness, breathing into the Core of his Being, listening with the Ten Thousand Pores of his Body to Vast Wisdom in this Only Moment of life and death.


The authentic form of zazen as Seated Buddha Meditation has been transmitted to us only through the embodied example of the historical figure Shakyamuni Buddha. Through two and a half millennium, the compassionate image of Shakyamuni lingering in the stillness of Seated Buddha Meditation continues to inspire and authenticate a human being's sincere embodiment of Original Faith for the mutual benefit of self and all sentient beings.

The Eye and Treasure of the Truth Body is exactly the form of Shakyamuni Buddha seated wholeheartedly in Original Faith, awakened self-compassion, and complete bodymind entrustment to Vast Non-Dual Wisdom. Zazen is Shakyamuni taking absolute refuge in the Faith that his innate bodymind wisdom before name and form is exactly the True Wisdom Nature of the Whole Universe. Manifesting Original Faith as the exterior bodily form and interior mind/heart of zazen meditation, Shakyamuni awakened to his Innate Buddhahood and the realization that all sentient beings are originally enlightened and unconditionally embraced just as they are. Upon seeing the morning star, Shakyamuni Buddha declared, "How wonderful! All sentient and insentient beings are originally endowed and embraced with the creative integrity, enlightened wisdom, and unconditional compassion of a Whole Universe." Through that historical and joyful utterance, Shakyamuni Buddha authenticated the full experiential potency and conscious functional meaning of Original Faith Mind. At that moment of self-enlightenment, Shakyamuni's faint intuitive awareness of Faith Mind suddenly awakened to itself as a fully conscious and embodied experience of Original Faith before beliefs. This means that Shakyamuni's earliest arousal of Original Faith as an obscure intuition, emotional yearning, and mental perception erupted as a fully embodied validation and self-evident experience of living Truth. Like a human body immersed in water and immediately knowing its embracing wetness, Shakyamuni's blood, bones, marrow, and tissue experienced beyond a doubt that all things are One and that Wisdom and Compassion pervades the infinite forms of the Universe just as they are. Shakyamuni came to understand that his previously faint arousal of Original Faith Mind was exactly the Innate Buddha Mind of Original Enlightenment calling to Itself to realize Itself --that complete attainment of Buddhahood without gain is exactly the sincere embodiment of beginner's Faith Mind as zazen meditation--that devoted and steadfast sitting in zazen posture is authentic embodiment of Original Faith, Innate Buddhahood, and Original Enlightenment.

Shakyamuni Buddha's historical example and awakened declaration shows us that to arouse and embody Original Faith as zazen meditation is exactly the manifestation of intuitive Buddha awareness and the accomplishment of Original Enlightenment without gain--that there can be no separation between the arousal of Original Faith, steadfast zazen practice, and living Enlightenment now. This is the sudden and compassionate way of Original Faith handed down through the embodied historical example and life teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha. Shakyamuni showed us that all our self-effort and struggle to gradually attain Innate Buddhahood and Original Enlightenment is basically a fruitless and painful endeavor, for they are a universally given Grace. The more we struggle to attain liberation through spiritual practices, the farther away we go from recognizing, accepting, and living Enlightenment Now.

Shakyamuni showed us that the sudden and effortless way of arousing and embodying Faith Mind is always near at hand. We need only to arouse Original Faith, embrace the Grace of Original Enlightenment, and sit zazen wholeheartedly as Shakyamuni Buddha's own bodymind just Now. Honoring ourselves in this way, we can practice our life in the True Faith body of Shakyamuni Buddha and Shakyamuni Buddha's True Faith Life and Enlightened Grace can live in and through us just as we are.

Shakyamuni's last words of encouragement were "be a lamp unto yourself". This is Shakyamuni Buddha's call to arouse our Original Faith and embody it in zazen as Seated Buddha Meditation. Old Shakyamuni knew that the transmission of Innate Buddhahood and Original Enlightenment rests fundamentally in our decision to arouse Faith Mind, yield ourselves to Universal Grace and embody them both steadfastly in the self-compassionate and disciplined posture that is exactly zazen meditation. The practice of zazen meditation as exactly the embodiment of Original Faith and Original Enlightenment is the "Great Treasure of Liberation" that Shakyamuni Buddha has passed down to us through all the ages. If we project, idealize, or chase an enlightenment or a buddha beyond our own zazen embodiment of Original Faith and, we will truly dishonor the teachings and lived example of Shakyamuni Buddha while demeaning the integrity and limitless worth of our own Innate Buddha Nature. If we abandon this seated embodiment of Original Faith and the Grace of Innate Enlightenment, we will surely cut ourselves off from the precious breath and inspired life of Shakyamuni Buddha; and, perhaps more importantly, we will abandon that innate confidence and trust in our own Buddha Nature and the Compassionate Functioning Wisdom of a Whole Universe. On the other hand, not abandoning our Buddha Nature means unconditionally embracing the totality of our felt experience, sitting upright and steadfast in zazen posture, entrusting ourselves to the Universal Wisdom-Compassion Body of this Only Moment, and honoring Shakyamuni Buddha as our own seated bodymind form.


Being true to Shakyamuni Buddha's lived example, we are called to arouse Original Faith, embody it as zazen meditation, and place our complete trust and confidence in the Integrity and Wisdom of a Whole Universe as it manifests in the texture of our felt bodily experience within each passing moment of life and death. As we arouse Original Faith and heed Shakyamuni's call to "be a lamp unto our self", we are actually nourishing a devoted readiness to trust our felt bodily experience and relinquish our attachment to any traditional, scientific, religious, or cultural beliefs about reality. When we arouse Faith Mind and follow the Buddha Way by relinquishing our tight grasp on personally held beliefs and usual ways of thinking, we need not suppress or extinguish their presence or functioning within ourselves. Rather, we are called by Shakyamuni's lived example to hold our beliefs and usual ways of thinking in abeyance so that they do not replace our immediately felt experience as the primary source of our inner wisdom, confidence, meaning, and knowing.

When we are attached to the categories, expectations, and assumptions of any conceptual process or belief system, we jeopardize our intimacy with our inner preverbal wisdom and our ability to decipher the potent meaning of our felt bodily experience. If our felt bodily experiences are contrary to our held group beliefs and personal concepts, we view such experiences as fundamentally threatening to our fixed psychological and emotional sense of security in the daily impermanence of our lives. When we tightly grasp at fixed beliefs and concepts to make sense out of our world and our lives, we reflect a serious lack of Original Faith in our innate Buddha Nature, in our capacity to be intimate with the wonder and meaningfulness of our immediately felt experience before words, and in our ability to listen inwardly to the Integrity, Wisdom, and Compassion of an Infinitely Creative Universe.

The more we favor our accustomed beliefs and thought processes and are unwilling to hold them in abeyance, the more we alienate ourselves from the guiding Innate Wisdom of our felt bodily experiences and our ability to be compassionately empathic and open to the immediately felt human experience and Innate Wisdom of others. When we hold on to the security and comfort of cherished beliefs and abandon trust in our immediately felt bodily experience, we literally loose touch with that genuine place within ourselves where Original Faith manifests as innate knowing, meaning, wonder, and confidence.

If we want to truly embody Shakyamuni's Original Faith, we must be willing to let go of our tight grasp on the secure mooring of fixed personal concepts, accustomed thought processes, and cherished beliefs. We must be willing to temporarily "hold aside" our developed world view and personal ways of thinking and experience our inherent mental and emotional vulnerability to the vastness of an Infinite and Unknown Universe. Like Shakyamuni, we must be willing to recognize and embrace our ultimate human condition of "not-knowing" in each passing moment of life and death. We may at first feel that we have set ourselves adrift in an infinite sea of uncertainty, aloneness, and insecurity. But like Shakyamuni before us, we may come to realize that our commitment to live the Truth just as it is, to embrace our felt experience with unconditional compassion, and to embody Original Faith as Seated Buddha Meditation is exactly the authentic refuge and comfort of our "True Spiritual Home".


By following Shakyamuni Buddha's example and embodying Original Faith as the refuge and comfort of our True Spiritual Home, we deliver ourselves and all sentient and insentient beings immediately to the Pure Land of Living Enlightenment. This mystery of delivering ourselves and all beings through Original Faith is dependent on two factors which are experientially validated in zazen meditation. One is the experience of Totality and the other is the experience of Non-Obstruction. Totality represents the merging of Faith and Realization that all beings, things, events, and times are no other than the Oneness of Universal Buddha Nature. Non-Obstruction represents the merging of Faith and Realization that all beings, things, events, and times interpenetrate and mutually effect each other through the Oneness of Buddha Nature and Its simultaneous arising, existing, and extinguishing as Just One Moment. Both experiences represent our wondrous liberation from linear time and our joyous freedom from bondage and clinging to a separate ego-identity and isolated bodily existence.

The experiences of Totality and Non-Obstruction are not fundamentally different. Though there are two names, their root in Original Faith is the same. Totality is the bases for our experience of Non-Obstruction and Non-Obstruction is the function of the experience of Totality. Their common root in Original Faith is the simultaneous awareness of the illusory nature of a separate personality and the at-one-ment between our bodymind's sense of Wholeness and the Integrity of a Whole Universe. This is not to say that our distinct and autonomous personality is negated in the experience of Totality and Non-Obstruction, because in the embodiment of Original Faith all dualities including part and whole, separation and non-separation interpenetrate and compliment each other without hindrance or mutual negation.

When we arouse Original Faith, we do not deny the existence of our separate bodily self or the functioning of our ego-identity, but rather we suspend our common sense assumption of their absolute encapsulating nature at the various levels of space, time, matter, energy, intelligence, and relationship. This means that when we sincerely embody the posture of zazen as Seated Buddha Meditation, we arouse the trust, wonder, and openness of Shakyamuni's Original Faith Mind; and it is that Infant-Like Mind of Wondering Openness which allows us to experience the primordial felt validity of Totality, Oneness, Mystery, Non-Obstruction, and Interpenetration.

In embodying Original Faith as zazen meditation and awakening to Totality and Non-Obstruction, Shakyamuni himself recognized that all sentient beings live in each other's immediately felt experiences, relationships and activities--that how all beings function effects us---that how we choose to live and what we do in turn effects all beings. If we are to truly embody and live in accord with the Truth of Totality and Non-Obstruction, we must heed Shakyamuni Buddha's call to sit down completely in Original Faith and be a 'lamp unto our self. We must be willing to take Shakyamuni's backward step into the infant-like wonder of our "Not-Knowing Mind". We Must be willing to sit with total exertion in this Only Moment of life and death, turning the light of our mindfulness inwards while shining the mirror of sense awareness outwards, devotedly entrusting our bodymind to Everywhere Interpenetrating Wisdom for the mutual benefit of self and all sentient beings.


We cannot honor Shakyamuni Buddha simply by witnessing our Original Faith and Innate Enlightenment with our mouth and mind, for this is not the fully embodied or lived authentication of Buddhahood. Authentic and sincere self-acknowledgment of living Innate Enlightenment comes from our decision to arouse Original Faith and embody it daily in the disciplined and compassionate seated Buddha form of zazen meditation. When such a decision is based on our identification with Shakyamuni's Buddha's own arousal of non-dual Faith Mind, that decision and identification empowers us to fully realize an Original Faith in our innate Buddhahood and our capacity to live Enlightenment just as we are. Thus, our decision to Live Enlightenment Now is not based on an effort toward a future attainment nor the complacency of a mental or verbal affirmation. That fundamental decision is founded on the "Mind of Faith", the mind of the "Sincere Beginner", the "Mind of Innate Enlightenment". It is this Faith Mind that calls to itself to embody all of Living Enlightenment as the external form and internal posture of Seated Buddha Meditation.

When we embody Original Faith as zazen meditation, practice and living enlightenment are non-dual. Because the arousal of Faith Mind and its embodiment as zazen meditation is all of the Grace of Original Enlightenment, the accomplishment of living enlightenment is realized before any ego-striving or self-effort. And because all of Original Enlightenment is authentically embodied in zazen as Seated Buddha Meditation, zazen practice is forever liberated from a grasping and exertion toward a future state or condition of ideal attainment. Thus zazen meditation is also freed from the self-abusive thoughts and judgments which arises because of the usually perceived discrepancy between self and ideal-self. The Buddha ideal is completely attained by living Original Enlightenment Now through the arousal of Original Faith and the steadfast and devoted practice of zazen as Seated Buddha Meditation. This is the Non-dual Wisdom Eye, the Treasure of Compassion, upheld by the true Law of Oneness and the ever wondering Beginner's Mind of Shakyamuni Buddha.


To sit down sincerely in zazen posture is exactly the genuine arousal and true embodiment of Original Faith. The arousal and experience of Original Faith is not a condition for the authentic embodiment of zazen meditation. Just to do zazen with total exertion and heartfelt sincerity is authentic embodiment of Original Faith. This also means that the decision to sit zazen and actually placing the bodymind in zazen posture is exactly the arousal and manifestation of Original Faith. Zazen is the seated entrustment of our self and our whole life to the One Compassionate Functioning Wisdom which sustains and upholds all Creation. Zazen as the embodiment of Original Faith is exactly Shakyamuni Buddha. Sitting down as Shakyamuni Buddha is exactly beginner's bodymind yielding completely to the refuge of Vast Wisdom, Innate Buddhahood, and living Enlightenment without gain.


To raise the mind of Original Faith, embodying it as zazen meditation, is called the Awakening of Faith; to awaken and authentically embody Faith Mind is called Bodhicitta or the mind of Enlightenment. Bodhicitta is the beginner's mind which arouses Original Faith and sincerely manifests devotion and commitment to zazen practice. Because the beginner's mind of Faith is complete Enlightenment in itself, it need not seek to attain any thing beyond itself. Beginner's mind of Original Faith is called the pristine mind of Buddha accomplishment with no-gain. Faith Mind as manifested in beginner's zazen is called embodied Enlightenment with no-attainment. Acknowledging itself the mind of Original Faith is called Buddhadharma--the Awakened Truth. This mind of Faith is Shakyamuni Buddha himself. Shakyamuni himself is the form of zazen as Seated Buddha Meditation. The sincere embodiment of Seated Buddha Meditation is the mind of Faith--the wondering and clear Buddha Mind of Original Enlightenment.


When we arouse Original Faith and practice zazen as Shakyamuni Buddha's embodied form, we open ourselves to the experience of jijuyu-zanmai. Jijuyu-zanmai is a Japanese term which describes Shakyamuni Buddha's joyful experience under the Bodhi Tree as he rested in seated tranquil absorption, peaceful aloneness, and wondering at-one-ment with a Whole Living Universe. Jijuyu-zanmai is our innate capacity in zazen meditation to experience a serene mindful absorption or embodied concentrative awareness of being and lingering in our seated Buddhahood and the Universal pervasiveness of Buddha Nature. However, Shakyamuni showed us by his own lived example that Seated Buddha Meditation and the emergent experience of jijuyu-zanmai are only precursors to the precious fruit and function of a truly living Enlightenment.

Even in his own absorbed appreciation of jijuyu-zanmai, Shakyamuni Buddha experienced the arousal of a deep compassionate identification of his own humanness with that of all sentient beings . It was out of that compassionate identification with all sentient beings that he made his historical and loving commitment as the first Bodhisattva --an "Enlightenment Being" dedicated to compassionate action for the mutual benefit of self and others. Shakyamuni Buddha manifested the meaning of Bodhisattva heart/mind by surrendering the seated repose and serenity jijuyu-zanmai to arise and engage himself completely in the world of samsara--a world of karmic human relationships endlessly enmeshed in delusion, craving, and suffering. By embodying and living in accordance with the Bodhisattva way of life, Shakyamuni became our primary exemplar of how an "enlightened being" never forgets human caring and compassionate action for others.

Shakyamuni's Bodhisattva caring and compassion for all sentient beings began with the sentient environment within his own embodied humanness and extended itself from there to include all human beings. What this means is that Shakyamuni embodied the Bodhisattva way of life precisely because he identified with and embraced the full range of those joys, sufferings, frailties, strengths, and vulnerabilities which he shared with all human beings . Thus, the expression of Shakyamuni's Bodhisattva caring and loving compassion for all humanity is fundamentally an expression of a deep self-compassion and loving acceptance of his own felt experience of being human.

In actuality, Shakyamuni's loving care for all sentient beings is a reflection of a Bodhisattva's capacity to realize the transparency and insubstantiality of a separate personal identity while acknowledging and unconditionally embracing the totality of his/her own inner samsaric world of endlessly arising thoughts, feelings, needs, and desires. Without the humble acknowledgment of his shared humanness and his unconditional embrace of the full range of his own felt human experience, Shakyamuni's loving compassion for all sentient beings would not have been aroused and his Bodhisattva way of life would not have been embodied or realized.

Shakyamuni's example reveals to us that when we make the daily commitment to relinquish the repose of Seated Buddha Meditation and wholeheartedly arise to engage in human relationships, we are essentially manifesting the vow to live the Bodhisattva Way---a Way which recognizes the insubstantial nature of individual personality while honoring the experiential integrity and wisdom of one's own bodymind functioning and the bodymind functioning of others. For Shakyamuni, honoring the integrity and wisdom of the human bodymind meant compassionately embracing the full range of his mortal feelings, thoughts, needs, and desires as they arose in each moment within himself. In this way, Shakyamuni nourished an unconditional Bodhisattva compassion and loving understanding for himself and all human beings in his life-long engagement with relationships in the world of samsara.

As our "Original Bodhisattva Exemplar", Shakyamuni relinquished Seated Buddha Meditation and his experience of jijuyu-zanmai to arise and endlessly deepen compassionate intimacy and authentic engagement with his own felt experience of humanness and the felt human experience of others. Shakyamuni Buddha arose in embodied Faith Mind to embrace the constant samsaric flow of his own inner human environment, while living Enlightenment by extending Bodhisattva caring, compassion, clarity, wonder, vulnerability, and integrity in his daily relationship with himself and with others. Thus, we are all called by Shakyamuni's own example to daily relinquish the repose and lingering embrace of Seated Buddha Meditation, rise up in Original Faith, intimately and unconditionally embrace our own felt experience of humanness, and endlessly practice the "Bodhisattva Path" as our devoted engagement in everyday life and human relationships for the mutual benefit of self and all sentient beings.


As our great historical exemplar, Shakyamuni Buddha honestly faced the truth of his life as it was. He aroused Original Faith, nourished the basic needs of his flesh, embraced his immediately felt experience with unconditional compassion, sat zazen, realized Original Enlightenment, relinquished his seated repose in everywhere Buddha Nature, and arose to live Bodhisattva Way for the benefit of all sentient beings. Shakyamuni's example encourages us to honestly face the Truth in ourselves while compassionately embracing the full range of our felt human experience in each passing moment. He calls us to arouse and embody Original Faith Mind, to compassionately care for our basic needs, to sit down completely in the Grace of Original Enlightenment, and to fully enter and embrace our life and our relationships according to the Bodhisattva Way. The progression of Shakyamuni Buddha's lived experience shows us that his arousal of Original Faith and his zazen embodiment of Innate Buddhahood and Original Enlightenment preceded the actual flowering of his Bodhisattva's Life and compassionate Dharma action for all sentient beings.

If we are to follow Shakyamuni Buddha's own experiential progression, we must recognize that the arousal of Original Faith and the embodiment of seated Buddhahood without gain are necessary precursors to the flowering of Bodhisattva practice in everyday life. Shakyamuni, himself showed us the rhythm of Living Enlightenment by being fully amongst others, perpetually returning to zazen as the seated embodiment of Original Faith, nourishing himself in jijuyu-zanmai, and forever arising as Bodhisattva to reenter the world of samsaric relationship for the mutual benefit of all Beings. Shakyamuni could not endlessly extend himself to others as Bodhisattva if he did not continue to nourish himself daily in the seated embodiment of Original Faith and the pervasive tranquillity and repose of Innate Buddhahood without gain. By expressing self-care as his ever returning in zazen to the Fundamental Root and the Compassionate Source of his life, Shakyamuni showed us that we must continually nourish ourselves in mindful repose of Innate Buddhahood before we arise in Original Faith to engage in the fullness of Bodhisattva Life for the mutual benefit of self and all sentient and insentient beings. By his example Shakyamuni demonstrated to us that the life of a Bodhisattva is nourished through the daily meditative embodiment of Original Faith and its lived compassionate expression of Oneness and Interdependency amidst the relationships and activities of everyday life. He revealed to us that it is by practicing daily zazen that we can experience the actual felt texture and tangible bodily meaning of being Original Faith. This felt embodiment of being Original Faith gives us the confidence to arise and live the Bodhisattva Way with courage and trust in our felt experience and in our daily life just as it is. Our felt experience of Original Faith in the midst of the ever present demands of daily living and social interactions would not be possible without the daily embodiment of that Faith Mind as exactly zazen meditation. This felt embodiment of Original Faith in zazen meditation and the sincere practice of that Faith in the world of our daily experience and relationships is no other than Shakyamuni Buddha living the Bodhisattva Way of Enlightenment in and through our very bodymind.

May All Beings Embody Original Faith, Live Original Enlightenment,
Sit Down Completely, Embrace Peace as Their True Nature,
and Arise in Bodhisattva Way for the Mutual
Benefit of Self and Others.

Copyright 1995 Andrew Shugyo Bonnici, Ph.D.

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