First: great faith; second: great doubt; third: great determination. These are like the three legs of a tripod. It is uncertain whether we can accomplish the dharma if one of these three legs is missing. If all three are present, however, we would be more likely to miss the ground with a hammer than we would be to miss enlightenment.

The first condition, great faith, means believing, without any doubt, that you are intrinsically awake, that “all beings are intrinsically awake.” You also believe that seeing into your own nature means discovering something that you have already been using from morning to night without even realizing it. Because seeing into your own nature is you discovering yourself, you cannot fail to experience it. Great faith also means believing that every person is in the process of eventually achieving supreme enlightenment, and trusting that if we ask for help from the three treasures [Buddha, dharma, sangha], we will definitely get it. Lastly, great faith means that we believe in the teaching of our Zen teacher.

This great root of faith is not just a tepid faith. It is a thoroughgoing belief that will settle for nothing less than complete awakening, and is rooted firmly in the ground like a huge tree, immovable in the face of even the strongest gale. When the root of faith is present, there is nowhere for demons to get a foothold.

Now, what is great doubt? The type of doubt being referred to here is not intellectual doubt, such as we have when asking about the meaning of a koan. Instead, we can think of great doubt as utterly becoming one with our practice—whether we are counting the breath or practicing with the koan “mu”—to the point that our entire body and mind are like a single mass of inquiry. When practicing with mu, for example, as long as we think that there is something called “ourselves” that is practicing, we have not quite achieved great doubt. When we become truly meditatively absorbed in mu, then mu itself is practicing mu. But if we are still aware of this, it is still not fully great doubt. Harada Roshi used to say, “mu mu-s mu.” We shouldn’t think about the meaning of the word “mu”; just the sound is enough: “mu-u-u, mu-u-u, mu-u-u.” Nothing else—no thought of becoming enlightened or of not becoming enlightened—there is only mu, completely naked and exposed. We must continue to practice like this, urging ourselves on, asking ourselves why we can’t understand it, even though it’s plainly in view. Our whole being must completely become a single moment of mu. We must become a ball of mu, our spiritual energy solidified into an immovable mass of questioning.

The great root of faith naturally activates this great ball of doubt. If the root of faith appears, the great ball of doubt will arise without fail. Spurred on by great doubt, we continue the practice of mu, without seeking or expecting awakening. The quickest way to awaken when completely absorbed in mu is to throwaway all thoughts about it. Awakening has nothing to do with any kind of intellectual knowledge or discrimination.

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