is simply sitting down and practicing everyday despite many doubts (whether it be about ourselves, the teachings, or both), a valid way to approach practicing? Or is already having strong faith beforehand required?
I think sitting down and practicing despite doubts is a good thing. As long as we are subject to dualistic vision, our attitude about practice (and about anything else) is going to be some mix of faith/doubt, hope/fear, etc. When I have observed feelings of doubt about my teachers, the practice, my circumstances, etc, I have always found that they are actually projections of my own self-doubt. When I face my own self-doubt, I realize that I have the option to practice with doubt, or not practice at all. In my experience, choosing to practice is better. At one point when I was feeling very hopeless, I just told myself that no matter what, I would complete 1,200,000 vajra guru mantras. Sticking to practice has turned out to be beneficial, and there are always ups and downs - but less and less often do I find myself in despair about practice.
Lhug-Pa wrote:In summary, the best that can be done at this point, is to abandon hope and fear; and pray for various aspects of success (which seems to contradict the abandoning of hope part) for the sake of all sentient beings (which makes abandoning hope not contradictory to praying for success), yes?
Well, you might not be able to "abandon hope and fear" at will. I would say, just observe your hope and fear, and realize that they are the blood and bones of samsara at work. . . and yes, pray for success, and for all the resources, circumstances, and relationships needed for your practice to be successful.