Is Faith Enough to Achieve Enlightenment?
In Vajrayana Buddhism faith is very important for achieving enlightenment. Nonetheless, only those with mature wisdom and strong aptitude, like Milarepa, can achieve enlightenment merely through devotion to the guru, something that is the fruit of great endeavor in spiritual training during their past lives. For most people, the best way is to practice a step at a time without expecting instant realization.
I heard that, in order to realize the nature of mind, one needs to study Madhyamaka. But I also heard that to realize the nature of mind is actually very easy sometimes—you just need an unshakable faith in your master. There are a lot of examples, like the attendants of some masters, after many years serving their master very loyally, suddenly one day they realize the mind just like “bingo.” So could you elaborate on that?
Concerning your question, since the capacities of sentient beings vary from each other, it’s very possible for someone with a strong devotion to realize the nature of mind within a short time. Among the five spiritual faculties leading to enlightenment, faith is very essential in Vajrayana while wisdom is more emphasized in Sutrayana.
In terms of Sutrayana, practitioners firstly go through long-term learning on the teachings of Madhyamika and Yogachara, then gradually develop their wisdom and faith, and finally attain enlightenment. While in Vajrayana, practitioners such as Milarepa and many other great practitioners achieved enlightenment completely through their sincere devotion to the Guru. Of course, this devotion must be extremely strong and it should be combined with the empowerment and pith instructions given by the Guru, all of which must be completed properly step by step. Otherwise, it’s really difficult for ordinary people to get enlightened by hearing only one sentence of teaching. However, for those whose wisdom is almost mature, everything comes easily at the right time.
In recorded history, there are a lot of practitioners with sharp capacities who attained enlightenment through their devotion to the Guru. This is reasonable for individuals with sharp spiritual faculty of faith. However, for normal people, it would be safer to practice step by step accordingly.