Faith is a well baked loaf

A friend of mine has recently been on TV competing in the Great British Bake Off. Well, of course I’ve been watching the show and getting drawn into baking. Maybe it’s my age, but in the past few years I have become more drawn into cookery, and baking is an area where my skills have been admittedly woeful. Like most things in life I have approached baking from the ground up. As much as I would love to get stuck into complicated recipes, I figured the best place to start would be the humble loaf.

Perfect LoafI have had a couple of bread-making disasters, but I’m now able to produce a tasty fluffy loaf that won’t break my teeth or get stuck halfway down my throat. While meditating the other day I had a loaf in the oven and the smell was permeating the house as well as my mind – distracting, but not unpleasant.

Then I had an insight; not into bread making per se, but how our practice and study is the method by which we bake our faith. I had an image of my first loaf pop into my mind – a heavy little number with a dark black crust you could barely crack with a log splitter, and a chewy doughy centre you could stick bricks to a wall with. This was the result of not proving the dough properly, and too hot an oven.

Like unproven stodgy dough, if we try to rush into faith without gradually proving our practice, then we are going to remain heavy and small instead of expansive and fresh in our outlook. The oven, is like our approach to the world – too much study and isolation is like an oven that is not hot enough. Even the lightest dough will produce a dry, pale husk of a loaf that will not tickle anyone’s taste buds. On the other hand, dogmatic practice, including pious proselytising is like an oven which is too hot, creating a loaf with a burnt hard exterior hiding raw innards that will just give you a stomach ache when digested. Like ranting about one’s particular brand of Buddhism to all and sundry as being the “way” when one has only just begun practicing is to be a burnt loaf – dogmatic and impenetrable to other people’s hearts because it is hiding raw innards.

When the oven is just at the right temperature, a perfect combination of study (knowledge) and practice (wisdom) is applied over time to slowly cook the innards – consolidating the light texture – and creating a pleasant but not impenetrable crust that easily soaks up the soup of life! And of course, there are many recipes for a good loaf!

2 Responses to Faith is a well baked loaf

  1. Richard June 23, 2013 at 12:44 am #

    Great analogy! I too have been thinking about dogma & what it means. When I start mulling over something I don’t understand my first port of call is the dictionary. Here is what I found when I looked up dogma – doctrine or system of doctrines proclaimed by authority to be true. Next to dogma is dogmatic and as they were so close I couldn’t help but read up dogmatic too, dogmatic – forcibly asserted as if unchallengable. What these dictionary definitions mean in the wider context I’m unsure, but what I do know is that a dogmatic approach can easily creep into the most well meaning of organisations and lead to a pressure culture, llike you describe with the oven.

    We must remember we are human & nobody is infallible. All ideas & values can be challenged, which is one of the brilliant things about free speech & democracy We are free to discuss & debate so many wonderful ideas & teachings with each other in the search of truth.

    To use an open mind & rationaly discuss, learning from each other is a method I believe to be far wiser than blindly accepting someone else’s opinion because they are applying some dogmatic pressure and attempting to force home their own agenda, failing to employ due care or compassion for the other persons thoughts or feelings. This dogmatic approach doesn’t work as the person using dogma fails to listen to the most important part of your life, it’s Buddha potential.

    To prevent dogmatic cultures from continuing throughout society, I believe people in positions of authority must put aside their egos and use their inherent source of responsibilty and reason to communicate more effectively. When people begin to come from a place of care & compassion a greater form of dialogue emerges. One where people share on a much deeper & profound level. Both parties become more involved and come away feeling fulfilled and happier than when they arrived. In this manner I believe truth can be sought in a much calmer fashion, something which I believe will contribute to lower stress and anxiety levels throughout society.

    • steve June 23, 2013 at 7:36 am #

      Thanks Richard… I sometimes wonder if I lose people with the analogies. I have to read them back to myself days or weeks later sometimes to make sure they still make sense to me before I publish them. Like everything, it’s about balance. It’s one thing to become dogmatic and closed, but it’s also a danger to become too fluffy and open… Like Tim Minchin said, I think, you can become so open minded that your brain falls out :-) This is where practice comes in and is so important. I’ve never been sure about the faith study and practice trio as ingredients (or inputs). Sure, one needs a certain amount of teaching or study to understand what one is doing, but practice soon becomes the most important aspect of daily life. From practice comes proof and experience. Practice is the engine that consumes study and generates faith. This kind of practice is less prone to dogma, I think. Thanks for dropping by :-) It’s lovely to hear from my SGI friends.

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