Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5: 5)
It is perhaps difficult to understand this statement. But we can get some insight from Lao Tze’s teachings. He said, “The softest in the world can conquer the hardest.”(Tao Te Ching, Chapter 43) He also taught that “supreme good is like water.” Water can leave marks on rocks.
There is a strong connection between meekness and faith. But I seldom see meekness among the Religious Right. The Religious Right tend to be hooked on triumphalism. They always try to win and dominate. Meekness is the last thing on their minds.
I grew up with Christian fundamentalists. I have listened to evangelical Christians’ sermons many times. I have been to their evangelical events where they try to recruit new members to join the army of Christ. Evangelical preachers are very adept at capitalizing on people’s sense of insecurity. The Billy Graham organization, for example, talks about the “how to be sure of your salvation.”
But genuine faith is not about certainty. Father Richard Rohr says that the very notion of faith is in stark contrast to the mindset which constantly demands certitude. If there is certitude, then we don’t need faith. It is faith which allows us to live at ease with uncertainty.
Korean Zen master, Seung Sahn, wrote a book titled “Only Don’t Know.” As a Zen teacher myself, I have encountered people who tell me that there is no faith required in Buddhism, Taoism, etc. They are wrong. Faith is a key element of any spirituality. It is through faith that we cope with the existential uncertainties of life — risks of job loss, illness, marital failures, rejections, aging, and ultimately death. Surely, Zen people have faith. Taoists have faith. Faith is what gets us through life. The non-theists just don’t have personal deities who intervene in human events.
The life of a genuinely faithful person requires much humility (to admit that one does not really know) and tolerance (to make space for uncertainty and doubt). It also requires much gentleness, which is in contrast with spiritual violence. In my book, The Zen Teachings of Jesus, I wrote that gentleness is a key element of Zen. Gentleness means going with the grain of things and not forcing things to happen. It is the Judo mindset — using the gentle and the soft to overcome brute force.
Spiritual violence is to demand definitive answers in a world of great uncertainty. It cannot be done. Such attitude of spiritual violence often leads to physical violence. It is those who lack faith who cannot tolerate different opinions and demand uniformity in belief. Violence done to “infidels” and heretics is a reflection of lack of faith. Similarly, the attack on science and the intellect is driven by fear — the fear that one is wrong in the face of facts.
Faith is the acceptance of what IS. It is the joyful and fluid surrender to Reality. The practice of faith requires a tremendous sense of meekness — the tolerance of uncertainty and the possibility that one may be wrong. To have faith is to behave like water. It adapts to its environment.