One who has no faith is just like a cowhide which, prior to being softened [by being tanned] can be neither curled nor folded. A person who has faith is like a cowhide which, having already been softened, may be put to any use.
Then again, in the Sutras it says that faith is like one’s hands. If a person has hands, upon entering the bejewelled mountain, he is able to freely pick up jewels. The possession of faith is just like this. Upon entering the bejeweled mountain of the Buddha’s Dharma which contains the no-outflow faculties, the powers, the branches of bodhi, the [eightfold] path, and the
dhyÁna (meditative) absorptions, one is freely able to take whatever one desires.
Having no faith is like having no hands. When a person who has no hands enters the bejewelled mountain, he is unable to take anything at all. Having no faith is also like this. When one enters the bejewelled mountain of the Buddha’s Dharma, nothing whatsoever is gained.
[Lack of Faith-Withered Tree Simile]
The Buddha said, “If a person has faith, this person is able to enter the sea of my great Dharma, is able to obtain the fruit of the
srÁmaÜa, and has not in vain shaven his head and [donned] the dyed
kaçÁya [robe]. If one has no faith, this person is unable to enter the sea of my Dharma and is like a withered tree which produces neither flowers nor fruit. He will not obtain the fruit of the
srÁmaÜa. Although he [may have] shaved his head, donned the dyed robe, studied all manner of scriptures, and be able to pose and respond to difficult questions [on Dharma], [still], with respect to the Buddha’s Dharma, [his efforts are] in vain, and he gains nothing whatsoever.
It is on account of this that the purport of “It is thus...” is situated at the beginning of the dharmas set forth by the Buddha. It signifies [that this teaching is worthy of] wholesome faith.
Moreover, the Dharma of the Buddha is profound and far-reaching. Only another Buddha would be able to fathom it. If a person has faith, even though he has not yet realized Buddhahood, he is nonetheless still able, by virtue of the power of faith, to gain entry into the Dharma of the Buddha.
[The Gods Request Dharma]
[This point was alluded to] when the King of the Brahma Gods requested the Buddha to begin the turning of the wheel of Dharma. He used a verse to entreat the Buddha:
There first have appeared in JambudvÍpa
The many and varied impure dharmas.
I pray you will open the sweet dew gateway
Proclaiming [for beings] the Way that is pure.
The Buddha replied with a verse:
My Dharma’s profoundly difficult to master.
[But] able to sunder the bonds of the fetters.
In three realms of being, their minds are all love-bound.
Such people [I venture] cannot fathom [the Way].
[Lotuses & Sunlight Simile]
The King of the Brahma heaven gods addressed the Buddha, “Venerable One, the wisdom encountered in the world may be superior, middling or inferior. Those good people possessed of pliant and straightforward minds may easily obtain deliverance. If these people do not hear the Dharma, they shall retreat and fall away into dreadful adversity.
They are like lotuses in the water of which some are undeveloped and others more mature. If those in the water which have not yet come forth do not encounter the radiance of the sun, then they shall be unable to blossom. The Buddha is just like this [sunlight]. [Pray, may] the Buddha, out of great loving-kindness and compassion have pity for beings and proclaim the Dharma for their sakes.”
The Buddha brought to mind the Dharma of all the Buddhas of the three ages, past, future and present: “They all delivered beings and proclaimed the Dharma for their sakes. I ought to do so as well.” After reflecting thus, he accepted the entreaties of the King of the Brahma heaven gods and of the other gods that he speak forth the Dharma.
At that time, the World Honored One responded in verse:
I’ll open now the gates to the flavor of sweet dew.
If there be believers, then delight shall be theirs.
Among all the people I’ll speak wondrous Dharma.
To stay thus their torment, I speak for their sakes.
The Buddha did not speak in this verse of those who practice giving as being those who would gain delight, nor did he refer to those who are learned, who uphold the moral precepts, who practice patience, who are vigorous, who cultivate
dhyÁna absorption, or who are wise as being those who would gain delight. He spoke only of those people who have faith.
The Buddha’s intent was this: “Unless one is omniscient, one will not be able to fathom my dharmas which are supremely profound, subtle and wondrous, immeasurable and innumerable, inconceivable and ineffable, unmoving and nondependent, unattached and devoid of anything gained.”
Therefore, the power of faith is primary in the Dharma of the Buddha. It is by virtue of faith that one is able to gain entrance to it. It is not on account of giving, morality,
dhyÁna absorption, wisdom, and so forth that one gains initial entrance into the Buddhadharma. This is as noted in a verse:
The minds of people of the world all move
From love for blessings gained as an effect.
And yet they are not fond of blessings’ causes.
They seek existence and favor not extinction.
At first they hear the dharmas of false views.
Their minds attach and then they enter deeply.
As for my Dharma which is most profound:
If one lacks faith how can one understand?
To be continued