By Suma Varughese December 2005 Faith is the sole sustaining power of those who walk the spiritual path. It is faith that gives them the courage and strength to take risks and follow hunches, the trust that they will be looked after, the power to do the impossible and the willingness to surrender. 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. True FaithBut 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
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