THE NEED FOR FAITH
Swami Chidananda Saraswati
Divine Life Society
The differences in views and opinions in matters like politics and
economics are understandable. But it is surprising that such
differences of opinion and approach exist in the spiritual field
also, even though the seekers have one common end as their aim, viz.,
the realisation of the Supreme Being. What could these differences be
due to? One reason advanced is that different facets of the Ultimate
Truth are presented to different seekers. Suppose a pillar is made of
gold and silvergold on one side and silver on the other. Viewed from
one side the pillar appears to be nothing but silver, and viewed from
the other, it appears to be only gold. The second explanation given
is that different people have got different capacities of grasping or
understanding. Each one is able to grasp according to his capacity.
So there are differences in the method of approach, like absolute
monism, qualified monism, etc., to suit different men of different
capacities. Therefore, there are no inconsistencies in the scriptures
and they deserve our faith in them. Even with a grain or a mustard of
faith you can do what is seemingly impossible.
Where is the need for faith? Cannot man use his intellect and know
things? No, because of the limitations of the mental process
(Antahkarana). Great people both in the East and the West, after
having experienced the Highest, have stressed the need for faith, and
they could not have made a mis-statement, for they had no purpose to
do so. In all our experiences of external objects, there is the
person who experiences, the process of experience and object
experienced. Without these triune factors one cannot live. Every
moment of one's life they are present. These triple factors have to
be annihilated for attaining the Supreme Experience. Triputi Laya has
to be achieved. And then Consciousness alone remains. The Supreme
Experience alone is present.
The nature of the Supreme is existence. This can be illustrated by an
example. You go to a jungle and see a tree there. The tree is.
Suppose a wood-cutter cuts the tree; it is then called `log'. Though
the tree has changed its form and name, its existence has not
disappeared. It exists in the name and form of the log. If the log is
then made into planks of wood, then the log is not there, but the
planks of wood are, or each plank of wood is, there. The existence
aspect continues. Suppose these planks are converted into tables or
chairs; then the planks are not there, but still the tables and
chairs are there. If after some years the tables and chairs become
useless and are reduced to pieces of wood, then the tables and chairs
are not there. If these pieces of wood are burnt, then the ashes
remain. The wood now exists as the ashes. And if the ashes are also
annihilated, according to the scientists, they still remain as atoms.
Thus existence continues. The ultimate Truth is Existence, Eternity.
But, we are not able to experience the Truth with our senses and the
mind, for they are limited in their scope. One sees an object at
night as long as there is light. But if the light is put off, in
spite of his having his eyes opened he cannot see anything. So, the
eyes depend on an external object for seeing, viz., the light. But
suppose there is too much light, the eyes cannot see. The eyes will
be dazzled or even perpetually blinded by excessive light, as for
instance, of an arc-light. Again if a curtain hides an object, the
eyes cannot perceive it. If a crystal-clear glass tumbler is filled
with pure water, from a distance it cannot be said whether it
contains water or not. If you are affected with cold, you cannot
smell an object. You cannot hear a very low sound, and a powerful
sound may deafen your ears. When you are absorbed in some thought,
you cannot hear the external noises. However delicious it may be, a
third or fourth cup of milk ceases to be delicious. If the milk was
really delicious it must have been delicious always. Then, how is it
that a fourth cup of milk is not delicious, and a fifth cup causes
vomiting? So, our senses are limited in their scope. We cannot have
uniformity of experience through the senses. You cannot remember what
all dishes you took yesterday. You cannot remember the past nor can
you foretell the future. However intellectual one may be, when
something goes wrong with his brain, he has to consult a psychiatrist
or go to an asylum. One dose of opium is sufficient to make him lose
his consciousness. Such are the limitations of intellect and senses.
Further, jealousy, anger, prejudice, depressionall these cloud man's
vision. If a man is cheerful, everything is beautiful to him.
Otherwise, everything is ugly to him. If a man is filled with hatred,
everybody becomes an evemy to him. If his mind is filled with love,
everybody becomes his friend. Thus knowledge derived through the mind
can never be dependable.
Our great masterminds have tried to show that anything that we try to
perceive is only appearance of a thing, and not the essence of a
thing. Take for instance, a piece of cloth. You say it is a piece of
cloth. Suppose you remove its warp and woof. You remove all the
threads. Then you get a heap of threads. It is no more the cloth that
it was formerly. It is now called a heap of threads. Again it can be
reduced to cotton, and cotton again to atoms. So in reality we are
wearing only atoms!
Then, are the senses and intellect not useful at all? They are
useful, of course but to a certain extent. Up to a certain stage
intellect is useful, but when that stage is reached, the intellect is
no longer useful. It is an obstacle thereafter. It should be
dispensed with. Even in Vedanta, which is mainly a process of
constant enquiry and analysis, the intellect has to be avoided when
one reaches the point of meditation, of drawing the mind inward.
Master-minds knew that mind was not the essential part of man and so
they gave a kick to the mind and intellect and boldly took a leap
into the Unknown. They had direct experience of the Truth and enjoyed
the Supreme Bliss which they wanted to share with others. So they
said, "Come ye, O seekers, we will show you the way to eternal
beatitude, where there is perennial bliss and lasting peace." So to
believe in their words is not blind faith.
Faith is Spirit responding to the Spirit. The ultimate essence in man
responds to the Infinite. Faith does not spring from the mind and
senses. Faith is the nature of the innermost Being of man. Faith is a
power. It is a great primal power which elevates man and lifts him to
the transcendental experience.
The giant intellect, Sri Sankara, himself has laid down `Sraddha'
(faith) as one of the six-fold virtues in Sadhana-chatushtaya which
consist of Viveka (discrimination), Vairagya (dispassion), Shadsampat
(Sama, Dama, Uparati, Titiksha, Sraddha and Samadhana) and
Mumukshutva (intense longing for Liberation). If everything could be
understood by analysis and enquiry, then why did he
stipulate `Sraddha'? Without faith, an aspirant cannot practise even
Sravana (hearing). If he has no faith in the teacher, if he doubts
that what his teacher says may be incorrect, how can he learn
anything at all. Even in our daily life, faith is indispensable.
Somebody cooks food and we take that food. We do not doubt, that the
cook might have put some poison in the food. We go to a doctor for
medicine and take the medicine that he gives, without doubting that
what he gives might be poison. In the spiritual realms also, the same
is the case. There have been sages who have plumbed the depth of
Truth and given out their experiences. We repose faith in the words
of persons who say that they have visited the moon. Similarly it is
reasonable to repose faith in the words of those who have seen the
Truth because they say: "We have experienced the Truth, so you can
also experience the Truth, provided you do what we have done in order
to experience the Truth. Experiment for yourself and then see whether
you attain the same result or not." The sages give us assurance that
we can also experience the Highest Truth by following the proper self-
Saint Tulasidas says that faith is like the hand-maid of a queen. If
anyone wants to see the queen, he cannot be led by the servants of
the palace to the innermost chamber in which the queen is. Only till
the gateway to the innermost chamber others can lead a visitor.
Thereafter, one of the hand-maids of the queen alone can take the
visitor to the queen. All our reasoning, theoretical knowledge, etc.,
will take us only upto a certain stage. Beyond that they cannot help
us, but only faith can help us in attaining the Supreme Experience.
Faith is necessary for all aspirants, be they Raja Yogins, Bhakti
Yogins or Jnana Yogins. May God bless you all with supreme faith to
experience the Bliss!
* * *
Towards the world, let our motive be one of goodness, friendliness
and selflessness. Let us live for the good and peace and happiness of
others, even of those who deceive us and inflict injury upon us. Mind
not dear Sadhaka! For this is not your lasting abode. You are a quick
passenger to your eternally shining original abode. So, on your way,
while you are here for a short while, try to bring about a little
happiness to others, try to lessen the discomfort, fear and anxiety
of your neighbours, try to wipe out tears from others' eyes. Try to
remove as far as you can the gloom, despair and sorrow of your fellow-
This should be the attitude for your Bahiranga Jivan (external life,