Faith Healing - Cradled in Faith
It was one of the more stormy passages of my spiritual journey. I had just understood that there could be no alignment between the value system I embraced and that of the magazine I then edited. And I had given in my resignation that morning. I was firmly set against ever working for mainstream media, which I discerned to be an instrument of capitalism, relentlessly promoting a materialistic lifestyle. My intuition had counselled me to opt for freelancing and resist moving into some other department of the publishing house I worked for. However, clear though I had been at that time, doubts now assailed me as I considered the perilous insecurity of the line I had chosen. I had, after all, a mother to take care of. Yet through it all, I clung to faith.
That evening, as I broke the news to my startled and dismayed mother, the phone rang. Parveen Chopra, the former editor of Life Positive, was on the line from Delhi. He was starting a new age magazine and needed someone from Mumbai…
I still remember the huge deep gasps of relief and gratitude that wrung out my lungs and kept me awake all night. I was saved. I was going to be looked after. I was to have a regular salary without compromise to my values. If I had walked out of a precipice and found heavenly wings spread out to carry me to safety, I could not have been more grateful or surer that faith had redeemed me.
Although faith has been the main plank of the path I walk, from that day onward it grew deeper, stronger, absolute. It gave me the courage and strength to take the decisions I needed for my further growth, no matter how risky. It taught me to trust my inner voice implicitly. It opened me up to the magic of the unknown, that domain of power and possibilities. Above all, it taught me to believe in miracles.
The path of those who walk in faith are strewn with miracles. Nandini M, a music impresario based in Mumbai, recalls her experience of the July 26 floods vividly. Says she, "When water entered my ground floor apartment in Vile Parle West, I was shocked. It had never happened before. Instinctively I set out to salvage what I could, which was difficult because most of my furniture is low-slung. I placed the portraits of my gurus, Sathya Sai Baba and Ramakrishna Paramahansa, along with an open katori of vibhuti I had got from Baba, on my bed, which was about 14" from the ground. Then I left the room to take care of other objects and before I could quite realize it, the water had risen up to my knees. My neighbor forced me to leave the house and I did so fortunately, for the water rose up to 5 ft and I would have drowned had I stayed on.
"On leaving, I looked back to see my slippers and sandals floating on the filthy water. All night, I was agonized at the thought of my gurus' portraits floating like that, besmirched and sodden. The next day, my husband and I returned home to a dreadful mess. Everything had fallen to the ground and was submerged in slush and muck. Everything that is, but a 2' by 2' space on the bed, holding the portraits and the vibhuti, which was dry and snug, pristine.
"It was unbelievable. At that moment I felt such a deep sense of being blessed and protected. I told my husband, 'He is with us, no matter what. Why do we need to fear?' I feel so blessed that the floods happened to me. Nothing can shake me now."
What is Faith?
What, after all, is faith? The dictionary calls it rather blandly, trust or confidence. But those who experience it know that it is a living thing, a flame that lives in the heart, a connection with the Source of all life, a certainty of being loved, cherished and taken care of, and a strength that sweeps away all fear and doubt. Those who are robed in faith are unshakable, invulnerable, immovable. No disaster can confound them for their faith tells them that all that comes from the Creator is good. In bad times they stand steady as a rock, nothing daunted. In good times they are miracle workers, alight with energy. In touch with the invisible, they can do the impossible. And as their faith deepens and strengthens, they attract miracles, good fortune and deep impenetrable peace. For faith is akin to surrender and through surrender one penetrates the bastion of Godhead.
The seeker, journeying through unknown territory, experiencing the confusion and disorientation of opposing desires and mindsets, steers by the seat of faith, trusting the urge that has moved him, and learning to recognize the signs that indicate that he is on the right track.
Says Nandini M, "Nothing is deeper and stronger than faith. Faith is like love, it is above expectations. Nothing can match the connection that you feel when you experience faith."
Sages often compare those who live in faith and those who do not to the kitten and the baby monkey. The kitten submits in entirety to its mother who seizes it by the scruff of its neck and takes it where it will. The baby monkey, on the other hand, clings to its mother with all the strength of its tiny paws, unwilling to let go even for a minute.
By their very helplessness and trust, the faithful trigger divine intervention. Just like the parent, who is so moved by the faith and trust of his child in him, that he will either kill or die to protect it, the Divine too will move mountains to respond to the faith reposed in him.
But how does faith begin? Says Father Lancy Pereira, educationist and author of The Enchanted Universe and The Enchanted Darkness, "Faith begins in the family. If you have a trusting childhood, it is easier for you to extend that faith to others and to God. If you have not developed trust as a child, it is very difficult to cultivate it later."
Paulo Coelho tells the story of a village struck with terrible drought. Finally, the vicar gathered everyone together for a pilgrimage to the mountain, where they would pray together and ask for the rain to return. At the mountain top his eye fell on a young boy, clad in a raincoat. "You foolish boy," he chided, "don't you know that we have not seen a drop of rain for years?" The boy replied, "I have a cold, father. If we are going to ask God for rain, can you imagine the way back from the mountain? It's going to be such a downpour that I need to be prepared." At that moment, a great crash was heard in the sky and the first drops began to fall. Oh, for the absoluteness of childlike faith.
Faith may come more easily for those whose childhood experiences have afforded a positive world view. But even for those whose lives have been overshadowed by doubt and despair, there comes a time when faith breaks out like the sun from behind dark clouds and irradiates the life. Mostly, this happens through a direct experience of God or when a prayer uttered from the very depths of our heart is answered beyond our wildest dreams. Then we cannot but believe.
Here, for instance, is such an experience culled from The Varieties of Religious Experiences by William James narrated by one S.H. Hadley, a former alcoholic who became a rescuer of drunkards in New York "I halted but a moment, and then, with a breaking heart, I said, 'Dear Jesus, can you help me?' Never with mortal tongue can I describe that moment. Although up to that moment my soul had been filled with indescribable gloom, I felt the glorious brightness of the noonday shine into my heart. I felt I was a free man. Oh, the precious feeling of safety, of freedom, of resting on Jesus. I felt that Christ with all his brightness and power had come into my life; that indeed, old things had passed away and all things had become new."
The moment that faith enters into lives formerly ignorant of it is a glorious one, and with transformational potential.
But how do we distinguish between blind faith and the true faith that burnishes our lives and supports and strengthens us? Perhaps the single most defining characteristic is that true faith is based on personal experience, while blind faith arises from a belief system, or through various ego-based convictions. The belief that God is only on our side and not on that of those from differing faiths is an example of blind faith.
Observes Swami Kriyananda, founder of Ananda Sangha, "True faith is quite different from reason. But is it different in the sense that it is unreasonable? No. True faith is simply experience; it rests on one's experience of reality. To be able merely to define a truth, is not to know that truth, really. One must experience it. Only by such experience may one say that he has achieved true faith. Certainly, reason is above blind faith. But enlightened faith, like any experimental test, is far, far above ordinary reason."
It is only when we are willing to leave behind the comforting security of blind faith and take a step into the unknown that real faith dawns.
Dr Rajan Bhonsle, a relationship counselor and passionate follower of Osho, talks of his own somersault into faith.
"From childhood I yearned for an experience that would give me an experience of faith. But being a rational logical individual, blind faith did not appeal. Although I went to temples and pilgrimages, I was not drawn to the idea of having faith in an idol simply because I was meant to. I wanted an authentic experience. That happened when I got in touch with Osho through his books and tapes. His words started doing something to me. I was questioning many things in my life, and whatever I read seemed to be directed right at me. Moreover, he spoke so much about faith that it gave me faith in faith. His passages from Ek Omkar Satnam or Shanilya's Bhakti Darshan moved me so much that I would literally cry. And I had always longed to cry with genuine feeling."
For Chennai-based IIT professor, Devdas Menon, a personal experience triggered off his baptism into true faith."Faith in a deep sense entered my life around the age of 25, when I had a glimpse of a firsthand realisation that the core of my being was indeed a quiet and imperturbable peace, a 'coolness' that had a joyous warmth about it, and a sense of absolute harmony with everything in the universe. That first mystical experience, reinforced by several others in rapid succession, completely transformed me in a kind of irreversible way. Not that I was always at peace and harmony; my interactions with the real world would disturb me now and then… But there has always been an abiding faith ever since that this is just the illusory dirt of a phantom ego-self covering up the true Self."
Once we step into the path of faith life changes dramatically. We sense what has so far seemed impossible to us, that we live in a friendly world, that our lives are overseen by a benevolent force and that there is a purpose to life. For those of us who have grown with the old materialist and fragmentary worldview, this is a paradigm shift of profound dimensions.
I, for instance, was an agnostic who nevertheless pined for the absolute faith I saw in the lives of my mother and a close friend. However, I was unable to access it until a spiritual awakening showed me that true happiness lay in focusing on the happiness of others. Only cresting the ego with its self-centred needs and thoughts would bring us to that zone of harmony and peace. It was then that I discerned the design of life, which meant that there was a divine designer. This insight opened my path to God once again and I rejoiced in the safety and security, the joy and faith, it gave me.
Living by Faith
The life of one who lives in faith is extraordinarily different from one who tries to control her life through planning, cast-iron guarantees, astrological forecasts or through the external security of money, status, power and control of others. Says Dr Rajan Bhonsle, "Faith makes you less critical and more accepting. I liken the life of faith to a video game where you have to make the moves that guarantees success or failure, but you know that all these moves are pre-planned. Someone out there has already created the program, which we are expressing through our actions. Secondly, one is no longer insistent that life should work according to fixed ideas. While you act as vigorously as you can to achieve your goals, you surrender the outcome."
Observes Cyrus Khambatta, a Mumbai-based trainer and close devotee of Meher Baba, "After coming in contact with Meher Baba, I have never seen anything as a problem. I have gone through trying situations, but I tell Baba, 'I know that you are there in the problem too, hence the solution must be an integral part of the problem'. So I let Him search it out like a search engine."
Living in this fluid open-ended way, one experiences being part of a flow that operates with mysterious purpose. The people and opportunities we need for our greater growth, materialize; coincidences abound. You call someone and they say they were thinking of you; you express an idle wish for an opportunity and behold, it comes to you. Your path is paved for you before your eyes and all you need to do is to walk on it unfalteringly. It is thrilling to be in such close contact with and in co-operation with a Higher Power that seems to delight in giving us what we need, sometimes even pampering us silly. Dr Rajan Bhonsle narrates an experience that all those who live in faith will resonate with.
Says he, "I often used to long to write a book, but did not want to chase publishers. I always felt that if I wrote a book that was worthwhile and deserved to be read, then it ought to find its publishing avenue. Sure enough, one day a patient came to meet me. It turned out that he was a publisher and he told me that he would publish anything that I wrote. I asked him how he could have such faith in a perfect stranger and he said that my conversation with him convinced him that I could write. So I wrote a book in Marathi which was a best-seller for the next three years. Then a Gujarati newspaper decided to reproduce my book chapter by chapter. When the entire book was translated I mused that it would be wonderful if the book could be published in Gujarati. But I didn't know any Gujarati publishers, all of who are in Ahmedabad. Again, the scenario repeated itself. A publisher met me and said that he wanted to publish it in Gujarati and the book got published."
Cyrus Khambatta has a similar experience to narrate. Says he, " In 1983, I wanted to go to the Meher Spiritual Center at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. But I didn't have the money to go. At that time, I worked with the Central Bank and suddenly they decided to send someone to London. Although in all honesty I didn't have the merit to go, I was chosen and sent. From there it was easier to go to Myrtle Beach, but the whole journey continued to be riddled with signs and coincidences that showed me I was being led. For instance, someone told me that I should go to Washington too in addition to Myrtle Beach. 'If Baba wishes it, I will go,' I replied. When I boarded the plane to South Carolina, it turned out to be overbooked, so the authorities announced that anyone who chooses to get down and take a later flight will get a free ticket to anywhere in the US. I didn't get up because I felt it was the devil tempting me. A man got up and went. Then I felt as if a kick had been administered to me, as if Baba was saying, 'Idiot, here I am trying to arrange your Washington trip, and you are not cooperating.' Contritely, I begged Baba for a second chance and sure enough, they made the announcement for a second time. But before I could get up, another lady got up and left. I felt really cast down by this, but you know what, the lady returned. You can be sure I was out in a jiffy."
How does it happen that God takes such good care of the faithful? Is he guilty of partisanship? It may look that way but the truth is that God is the constant, it is we who move closer or more distant, depending on our relationship with Him. The closer we are, the more powerfully do we feel the Divine presence and guidance in all that we do. Just as the sun remains constant but the earth swings closer to it in summer and therefore basks in its warmth, and moves away in winter and therefore endures bitter cold, it is our movement that determines the proportion of God's presence in our lives. Those who live in faith, move ever closer and consequently find their lives more blessed. Says Swami Kriyananda, "To live by faith is the most practical thing a person can do. Most people, in the name of being 'practical,' put God last in their lives. They wonder, then, why nothing ever goes quite right for them. The devotee, on the other hand, and also in the name of practicality (since his dedication is to truth), puts God first in his life. He attains fulfillment on every level of his existence. To his continued amazement, he finds himself protected in adversity, saved from the jaws of disaster, and guided in every crisis in ways that often leave his worldly friends shaking their heads in wonder and muttering, 'Fools' luck!'"
At the same time, the devotee is no fair-weather friend. His love of God is not based only on the certainty of having God on his side. Such is his faith that he accepts everything that comes his way as a gift - even the sharpest adversity or disaster. Indeed, it is the bitter times and tides that most test and hone his faith. Recalls Lipa Rath, a Delhi-based young divorcee who went through the agony of having her daughter, Ria, taken away by her ex-husband to a foreign land: "I was not allowed to see or talk to her for three years. Family astrologers told me I was not destined to get her back. Even the top lawyers I consulted advised me to give it up as a lost cause as the matter was beyond Indian jurisdiction. My heart would squeeze at the thought of not being with her ever again. But I was determined to defy the astrologers' predictions by using my God-given willpower. Each time I would come out of a lawyer's office feeling dejected or hopeless, I would find a picture of Sai Baba smiling at me from the windshield of an auto rickshaw or from a little corner of a telephone booth, as if to say, "Why fear when I'm here?" God spoke to me through friends. I never gave up. I kept praying and sending her light. All through the experience, I had a wonderful sense of feeling so connected to God.
"Eventually, although it was no easy matter, I did get her back. It was a miracle. Ever since then I have ceased to plan my life. I only ask for direction."
Swami Ramdas, founder of Anand Ashram in Kerala and an ardent devotee of Lord Ram whose name he repeated endlessly, wrote a book about his year of wandering through India, simply allowing the Lord to lead him where He wished. Called In Quest of God, it is an inspiring testimony to the power of faith and surrender. Becoming aware that he was meant to do a pilgrimage of all the holy places, soon after he left home with scarcely any money (even that he gave away to further augment his faith), he boarded trains at random and left them when irate conductors, in whom he always saw the will of God, threw him out. He allowed passersby to guide and support him and to lead him to his next destination. He endured all manner of suffering with utmost willingness for he saw the hand of God in it all. At one point a ticket clerk asked a group of sadhus, including Swami Ramdas, to get down from a train and vented his rage by pulling the hair of one of them. Here is Swami Ramdas's quaint account of it (he refers to himself in the third person throughout the book): "The Sadhu seemed to enjoy the treatment. He was calm and contented. Ramdas, wishing also to taste the pleasure, requested the Sadhu to exchange places with him and thus offer him also the unique opportunity of receiving the attention of the ticket clerk…Now the clerk… approached the other Sadhus, of whom Ramdas was the second, with the object of handling them roughly one by one.
"Ramdas felt much relieved to see that his turn had at last come. The clerk coming up, caught his hand in a firm grasp and looked on his face in which he discovered a most welcome smile, bright and beaming. At once, he let go his hand and drawing himself back a few steps seemed to have given himself to some thinking. It was Ram who was at work. For, next instant, he asked all the Sadhus to go out of the station."
As one walks along the path of faith and sees the hand of God in all that comes our way, the fair and the foul, we move more and more into surrender. Every experience only strengthens our conviction that whatever happens is for our express good and that one must on no account resist it.
Observes Paramhansa Yogananda in his book, The Autobiography of a Yogi, "The divine order arranges our future more wisely than any insurance company. The master's concluding words were the realized creed of his faith. 'The world is full of uneasy believers in an outward security. Their bitter thoughts are like scars on their foreheads. The One who gave us air and milk from our first breath knows how to provide day by day for His devotees."
Transcending Fear and Doubt
Such implicit faith and acceptance are the perfect antidote to fear and doubt, the bane of every seeker.
Says Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in his book, God Loves Fun, "When you know somebody is really behind you, who loves you so dearly you can't even imagine, then your surrender has happened… when a cup of water feels, 'I am in the ocean' and the water in the cup knows that 'I am connected with the ocean', it gains strength. Belongingness happens. When there is belongingness, there is no fear. It cuts the roof of fear."
Like Swami Ramdas, we open ourselves unresistingly to life and surrender all fear of the unknown. In all things, good and bad, big and small we see only growth opportunities. Says Fr Lancy, "Faith is what sustains me. My faith in God has allowed me to weather failure and to be available even to those who have let me down. Faith sets me free to be my best self."
Says Cyrus Khambatta, "I firmly believe that only those issues come to me where I have to learn something."
In my case, I have invariably experienced that breakdowns lead to breakthroughs. My initial spiritual awakening came through the painful breakup of a relationship. Even a prolonged depression that I suffered from while young, has given me amazing dividends, which include a tremendous appreciation of the importance of happiness and a deep insight into the causes of suffering and misery. Those depression years were the equivalent of a university degree in understanding the minds of unhappy people anywhere on the planet, and I would not willingly exchange them for the happiness I then so much pined for. All the unhappy experiences I have subsequently gone through, be it illnesses - mine and of others - , the rupture of important relationships, or work upheavals, have come laden with so much learning that one has no option but to receive them all with gratitude.
Today, it is an article of faith with me that pain is the biggest and best teacher in the school of wisdom and increasingly, I am learning not to shun her. I look forward to the day when I can embrace her willingly in my arms as Swami Ramdas did, for only then is duality forded and reality can shimmer through.
Rahul Shah (30) recalls the day when his life crashed around him four years ago. "I got a call telling me that my 19-year-old brother had died of an accident. I rushed to the spot and saw his body, mutilated by the bus that hit him. It was a deeply traumatic experience, but the very intensity of the pain took me to the Brahma Kumari movement. Through them I learnt about the real meaning of life and its purpose. I understood that what had happened had a purpose, that he had to go and that something better lay ahead. Today, I see that as a very significant incident in my life, for it has made me more mature and moved me into spirituality. It has also given me a real appreciation of life and its transitoriness. All I can count on is the moment and I start each day afresh."
Madhukar Thompson, a German by birth and a Pune-based writer of spirituality and enlightenment, says, "I have had 28 brushes with death in my life. One night I suddenly had a revelation that I would not have survived all these accidents if a Higher Power had not wanted me to live." Today, post-50, Thompson is launching a brand new career for himself through inventions. He says, "I have total faith in the future that I'm crafting. And I have total faith that if it does not happen it's okay."
When we let go of outcome, and cease to resist anything that comes our way, we are in a zone pregnant with possibilities. Free of both craving and aversion, our channels to divine providence are wide open and all the abundance that our karma permits freely flows to us. Writes Eckhart Tolle in his book, Power of Now, "When you enter this timeless dimension of the present (by letting go of resistance), change often comes about in strange ways without the need for a great deal of doing on your part. Life becomes helpful and cooperative."
Life becomes more and more silken, conflict-free and harmonious for we have submerged our own will and found our joy in the will of the Lord. Our faith has delivered us to the sanctuary we sought, that zone of perfect peace, joy and life that some may call enlightenment.
Subject: I feel the same - 30 March 2007
After reading the article I am feeling as if my whole life has also been driven by same loving force as felt by varous persons. It is true that if we learn to let go of ourselves than we learn to live life and enjoy it to its fullest potential.
by: sanjeev Sharma
Subject: Cradled in Faith By Suma Vergese - 9 March 2007
A very inspiring article.I too have experianced the immense uplifting power of surrender.I am relaing to Lipa feelings about getting connected with Baba, I even have aterm for it *The BIB Factor the Bump into Baba factor!Whenever I have felt the longing to be connected or some situations seem More...
by: Anuraag Bhatnagar
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