Today, in this age of science and logic, when everything is questioned unless supported by evidence and reason, people of faith often have a hard time convincing others that they are as sane as anyone else. They either have to give arguments in support of their faith or they have to conceal it.
The holy books of all religions, on the other hand, extol faith as a virtue and are full of examples that establish faith as an essential part of success in any field. The modern-day motivational speakers too say that in anything if you want to be successful you propose to undertake, it is necessary to have unquestioning faith in your own abilities and in your right to succeed.
Here is an example from Indian folklore, which illustrates the effectiveness of faith. Swami Shankaracharya was once standing on the bank of a river opposite from where a close disciple of his was standing. With a quiet smile, he called to the disciple, “Come here!”
The disciple stepped forward unhesitatingly onto the water, and a lotus leaf arose and supported his foot! With every step, another leaf appeared until he had crossed the river, where he cast himself at the Master’s feet. From that day on he came to be known as Padmapada or Lotus Feet. Padmapada had no prior experience of his guru’s power to create lotus leaves to support people’s feet. He had, however, experienced his guru’s spiritual power in other ways, and so, he drew on those experiences rather than blocking them out with rational doubts and mental reservations.
We often hear that we have latent powers within us, and if these were developed, new vistas and abilities would manifest. This is because, like any other part of the human body, the brain becomes stronger with use and training. There are also many areas of the human brain, the functions of which are not yet fully understood, and much that has become dormant through disuse. The connection between specific parts of the brain and their impact on thought processes that constitute the mind is a rapidly growing area of research. However, the gaps in neurological sciences would indicate that the mind, with its possibilities, is yet to be fully understood.
Faith does not mean blind belief or closing the mind to the possibility of something being outside the realm of rationality. Rather, faith involves keeping an open mind, a certain willingness to accept the possibility that our own knowledge and information about a given phenomenon could be less than the whole truth.
Faith accepts the possibility that there can exist truths out there which we don’t even know about, which are way beyond even our imagination. If these truths ever present themselves to us, they can be used exactly as the scientists use a hypothesis: try to try out the hypothesis and prove or disprove it in the process.
The open and receptive quality of faith, its wide-eyed acceptance of unknown possibilities clears the obstacles which come from too much questioning and opens the mind of a man of faith to the development of these possibilities.
For instance, in the Bible, a woman who had been suffering from a haemorrhage for many years touched the garment of Jesus Christ and was cured. Jesus did not consciously heal her by touch or by look or even by a blessing. She was healed by her own faith in the power of Jesus, and her conscious touching of the garment, with the faith that such healing was possible.
Faith enables us to expand our intuitive awareness without having to rely on reason as our chief means of understanding. It helps us to feel our way to the truth.
On the spiritual journey, where we seek to expand our vision and perception beyond the sphere of matter, a certain openness is necessary, mental permission to accept the possibility of that which may not be immediately knowable by the five senses.
With the current pandemic, I once found myself feeling very stressed despite my lifetime practice of faith and hopefulness. I had retired, my daughter was in an uncertain profession where earnings are not assured, and my son was unemployed. Reading about the economic crisis all over the world only reinforced thoughts of the lack of possible solutions. The more I tried to reason with myself, the more my logical mind would bring to the fore the reports of the worldwide economic depression.
It was like contemplating a flight across the Atlantic. There is never a guarantee the flight would land you safely on the other side, but we still take flights to cross the ocean. Faith keeps us going.
So, through meditation and consciously reinforcing my faith in God, I was one day able to somehow shake off the pall of impending disaster from my mind and to gather enough mental and spiritual energy to send out a focussed prayer for help, with the assurance that God is in charge, and He has enough in his treasures, to help float a small family. With all my energy, I continued to keep my faith high and unclouded by doubt, telling myself that our dharma is to keep putting out the right thought and keep our competencies and willingness in readiness, not letting ourselves be assailed by fears.
What were my joy and surprise when we suddenly received a letter that my son had been selected for a position in the government. The position itself was not very high but the work was exactly what he wanted and there was the assurance of a regular income. In fact, the employers virtually pulled him out of the house and got him working, despite the restrictions of a city lockdown!
So that was that.
We need to have faith at least for our own sakes. Why? Because faith increases our magnetic quality and helps us to attract what we want. Even a little faith is like an investment that gives growing returns over time.
As they say, Faith is seeing light with your heart, when all your eyes see is darkness.
As Paramhansa Yogananda has said, “So long as we believe in our heart of hearts that our capacity is limited and we grow anxious and unhappy, we are lacking in faith. One who truly trusts in God has no right to be anxious about anything.”