"I am sure you’ve noticed by now that I’ve been talking about Zen as a religion, and yet some of you may have heard that all of Buddhism, and especially Zen, is atheistic. It is not. You’ve heard this due to the fact that the Christian missionaries who brought back the Scriptures from the Far East either did not know of, or deliberately steered clear of, one particular Scripture spoken by the Buddha. In the Udana Scripture He says very clearly, “O monks, there is an Unborn, Undying, Unchanging, Uncreated.” This is what He found in meditation and which gave Him His enlightenment. In other words, He found That Which Is. What the Christians call “God” and Mohammedans call “Allah”, the Buddhists call variably: That Which Is, the Lord of the House, the Cosmic Buddha, the Eternal, Amida Buddha, the Immaculacy of Emptiness, Vairocana Buddha, the Unborn, etc....
Now, if you would study Soto Zen, or for that matter any form of Buddhism, you need three things. You need perfect faith in That Which Is, the Eternal. You need to know, to have the faith in and the willingness to go hunting for, that which will tell you about the Eternal. And you need to know that when you can’t get the answers, there are people whom you can trust to help you. In other words, when you yell, “Help! I’m stuck”, there are people who are willing and able to help. These three things are what we in Buddhism call the Three Refuges: “I take refuge in the Buddha; I take refuge in the Dharma; I take refuge in the Sangha.” These three things are absolutely essential: perfect faith, the willingness to study, and to trust someone who says, “Well, let’s talk; maybe I can help; maybe we can help each other; maybe I have a bunch of experience which I am willing to put at your disposal and see if it’s any use.” Those are the three things you’ll need if you are to study Soto Zen or any other form of Buddhism.
All the rest are beliefs which you have to prove true for yourself. The Buddha said very clearly, “Do not believe anything because I tell you. Only believe it when you have made it true for yourself.” Therefore, enlightenment is the making true for oneself of the reality of the existence, and the experience of the existence, of the Unborn. Again, remember that the word “enlightenment” has got muddled as a result of not understanding the importance of the Udana Scripture. When that scripture was first translated, incidentally, a number of people tried to pull it down saying, “Oh, it couldn’t possibly be that the Buddha had found the Eternal!” You read a bit more, and if you do, you discover that this is the only interpretation that makes sense in Buddhism. He definitely did, and it makes it into a real religion and not just a way of life.
Faith, study, and trust: if you think of the word “refuge”, what does it actually mean? To take refuge in something that you can neither see nor grasp nor feel, you have to have faith in it. When you start, perhaps you believe it, but you have to go on beyond belief: belief does not go nearly far enough. So often in religion people get stuck with belief. They think that is enough: it’s not. It has to go on to the certainty of faith, which is an absolute certainty but one which leads not to absolute belief and the hard-fisted type of certainty; it leads to perfect faith, which can allow everybody else to have their beliefs and not interfere with them, and know that when those people find perfect faith, whatever they happen to call the Eternal will be all right."