Friday, November 10, 2006

Faith - again

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

''O Faith, give us faith.''
Not something to be overlooked or underestimated, this thing, called faith. Not in life generally and certainly not in the context of sadhana, any kind of sadhana. Why? Why does one need faith? Is it a state of mind or an idea, a mental concept or is it an emotion of the heart? What has the ever free and aloof atman got to do with faith? A torrent of questions that beg an answer and yet the very mention of faith in a conversation and people think you are a born again evangelist! In the Lalitha sahasranama Sri Hayagriva mentions to Agastya - '' Na shatAya na dhushtAya navishvAsAya karhachit '' - that is, (this mantra) must not be revealed to one who is crooked/deceptive, nor to one who is full of hatred and violence, neither should it be revealed to one devoid of faith. The faith there signifies the faith in the guru and his words, the devata or the deity, and faith in the tenets and philosophies of the sampradaya that we follow. There are innumerable instances in the many texts of the Hindus which detail the glory and importance of faith and the need to cultivate it. Some feel that its a very strange concept, that of 'cultivating' faith. you either have it or you don't, they say. That the object of faith must 'draw' that faith out of us is their reasoning. Maybe it will if we can see it properly, but even to do that we need faith!

''Faith is composed of the heart's intention.''
Ah, so it is something to do with the heart, faith. An emotion of some kind maybe? But the use of the word intention indicates Will, something that is not an attribute of the heart. Will is something connected to the ego (aham) identity and the mind intellect complex. And intention or willing of any kind indicates effort, effort of a very conscious nature to be exact. There you have it, faith is a state of mind that is reached through conscious effort (cultivated) and wherever it might originate from, this faith is perceived or anchored in the heart. It is the heart's longing to be near,wrapped in a tight embrace, the object of its desire. The longing and yearning (to believe) when excited and strengthened intentionally opens the gates to this wonderful thing called faith. And in here, there are no believe it or not believe it conundrums. Not here, in this city of Faith there is no such duality - and it actually feels like an empowerment, to believe in something so completely and whole heartedly. It is like being united with your beloved in a sweet embrace - perfection and completion.
Having established (somewhat) the nature of faith, we must look at where to place that faith. As we do not know the truth about most things (as all our conclusions are drawn from a standpoint tainted by the notion of duality), we need to look towards the pramanas or the words of authority. Even though there are many schools of thought that fall under the wider umbrella of Hinduism with often contradictory thoughts and practises, one common thing among all systems is the acceptance of the Vedas as eternal and true. In fact all these separate systems try to emphasise their views in the context of the vedas for them to gain popularity and faith among the masses. So it is important to have faith in the pramanas of the vedas and of the tantras - some might be of the view that the tantras are contrary to vedas, but that is a false understanding. The great master Adi Shankara accepts the tantras to be valid pramanas as do many other great men, so we will not deliberate that at this juncture. It is enough to say that until we have a clear and bias free vision of the nature of this world by ourselves, it is important to follow the pramanas as they are true and have been true and will remain true eternally. That is after all why the vedas are eternal - sanatana. Truth is always true.

''Light comes through faith''
When we develop and hold the faith, things start becoming clearer and simpler. Clarity, of thought, word and deed ensues. But if that faith was instead of or was an alternative to free thought, no clarity comes as a result - rather we are left with confused fanatics. Who hold on to the dogma with very little or no awareness of the various processes that the above mentioned pramanas establish. Light comes through faith if that faith is applied fully and with proper awareness. It is not something that is developed to comfort those who are weary of the struggles of life, it has to be an active energy, something that will very visibly change the person from the inside and continue to bring forth that change in the world around the person. There is no injunction (religious or otherwise) that confirms that this faith should put a stop to the individuals critical thinking or his other god given faculties of thought and perception. Faith becomes confusing and veiling if it insulates the person from his environment which is the external world. But it becomes the lamp in his hand to find his way around the world if that faith enabled him to 'connect' to the world better and with a clear heart. Faith is not the same as 'blind' faith - faith doesn't blind, it illuminates. It is the light which makes the invisible visible, the intangible tangible.

'' Through faith men come to prayer''
A very self evident statement, needs no further exposition. The great sage Sri Mahaperiyava of Kanchi once remarked '' I feel it is better to be an atheist than one who is a doubtful believer''. We, the modern Hindus of today fall into this category. We follow many rites and rituals half heartedly as we do not have the discipline to take it to its highest degree of practise. We follow them as our forefathers did so, not because we have attempted and have found them to be true and thus useful to transform the inner avidya or darkness into an inner light or pure consciousness. Is that not what all prayer is about? Transformation of this (seemingly) all pervasive darkness into the pure light of the atman (which is real) that is the job of the various rites and rituals we perform. And that end will be attainable only when the magic ingredient of faith is thrown in the mix. Without belonging to a wider faith we will forever be alone; free maybe, but alone. And it is a choice we have to make.

''Faith in the morning, faith at noon and at the setting of the sun''
The lamp of faith is to be lit and attended to at all times, throughout ones life. Once lit through the grace of ones guru, this light called faith is to be kept safe, more than that one has to always strive to make this lamp into a mighty blazing fire. It might be a difficult process and a long one, but that doesn't make it a less important one. Wisdom takes courage as knowledge is responsibility. The time of the morning before the sunrise, the time of noon when the sun is directly overhead and the time of the evening when the sun is about to set, during these times the entire world is at peace. The tides are of rest and equipoise and all energy flows in accordance to this. This perhaps is the main (or only?) reason why the practise of sandhyavandana has long been held in such high esteem, as it is to be performed during the times mentioned above where the mind is naturally at ease and at peace. When practising meditation or japa or any thing else which requires the mind to be steady (without its natural state of agitation and activity), the calmness and fixedness of mind is of utmost importance. And the 3 sandhyas are the periods when all energy is calm and without much agitation. Why don't we then use this natural opening to give ourselves the momentum and strength needed for our sadhana?

''O Faith, give us faith.''
For that is the first step on this journey. For, without that (faith) it might not be possible to appreciate the light that we see. For, without faith that all important transformation never manifests.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Faith is composed of the heart's intention.

Light comes through faith.

Through faith men come to prayer,

Faith in the morning, faith at noon and at the setting of the sun.

O Faith, give us faith!

- Rig veda.