What is Faith?
Sri Ramana Maharshi explains: (D is Devotee; M is Maharshi)
A visitor asked: Sri Bhagavan said last night that God is guiding us. Then why should we make an effort to do anything?
M.: Who asks you to do so? If there was that faith in the guidance of God this question would not have arisen.
D.: The fact is that God guides us. Then what is the use of these instructions to people?
M.: They are for those who seek instructions. If you are firm in your belief in the guidance of God, stick to it, and do not concern yourself with what happens around you.
Furthermore, there may be happiness or misery. Be equally indifferent to both and abide in the faith of God. That will be so only when one’s faith is strong that God looks after all of us.
Mr. Chopra asked: “How shall I secure that firm faith?”
M.: Exactly. It is for such as these who want instructions. There are persons who seek freedom from misery. They are told that God guides all and so there need not be any concern about what happens. If they are of the best type they at once believe it and firmly abide by faith in God.
But there are others who are not so easily convinced of the truth of the bare statement. They ask: “Who is God? What is His nature? Where is He? How can He be realised?” and so on.
In order to satisfy them intellectual discussion is found necessary. Statements are made, their pros and cons are argued, and the truth is thus made clear to the intellect.
When the matter is understood intellectually the earnest seeker begins to apply it practically. He argues at every moment, “For whom are these thoughts? Who am I?” and so forth, until he is well-established in the conviction that a Higher Power guides us. That is firmness of faith. Then all his doubts are cleared and he needs no further instructions.
D.: We also have faith in God.
M.: If it had been firm no questions would have arisen. The person will remain perfectly happy in his Faith in the Omnipotent.
D.: Is the enquiry into the Self the same as the above mentioned faith?
M.: The enquiry into the Self is inclusive of all, faith, devotion, jnana, yoga and all.
A visitor asked Sri Bhagavan: People give some names to God and say that the name is sacred and repetitions of the name bestow merit on the individual. Can it be true?
M.: Why not? You bear a name to which you answer. But your body was not born with that name written on it, nor did it say to anyone that it bore such and such a name. And yet a name is given to you and you answer to that name, because you have identified yourself with the name. Therefore the name signifies something and it is not a mere fiction. Similarly, God’s name is effective. Repetition of the name is remembrance of what it signifies. Hence its merit.
But the man did not look satisfied. Finally he wanted to retire and prayed for Sri Bhagavan’s Grace.
Sri Bhagavan now asked how mere sounds assuring him of Grace would satisfy him unless he had faith.
Both laughed and the visitor retired.
In the effort to overcome birth and death man looks up to the Supreme Being to save him. Thus are born faith and devotion to the Lord. How to worship Him? The creature is powerless and the Creator is All-powerful. How to approach Him? To entrust oneself to His care is the only thing left for him; total surrender is the only way. Therefore he surrenders himself to God. Surrender consists in (mentally) giving up oneself and one’s possessions to the Lord of Mercy.
D.: Is an intellectual understanding of the Truth necessary?
M.: Yes. Otherwise why does not the person realise God or the Self at once, i.e., as soon as he is told that God is all or the Self is all? That shows some wavering on his part. He must argue with himself and gradually convince himself of the Truth before his faith becomes firm.
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj explains: (Q is Questioner; M is Maharaj)
Q: The repetition of the name of God is very common in India. Is there any virtue in it?
M: When you know the name of a thing, or a person, you can find it easily. By calling God by His name you make Him come to you.
Q: In what shape does He come?
M: According to your expectations. If you happen to be unlucky and some saintly soul gives you a mantra for good luck and you repeat it with faith and devotion, your bad luck is bound to turn. Steady faith is stronger than destiny. Destiny is the result of causes, mostly accidental, and is therefore loosely woven. Confidence and good hope will overcome it easily.
Make your entire life an expression of your faith and love for your teacher — this is real dwelling with the Guru.
Q: When I was at Sri Ramanashram, I felt Bhagwan all over the place, all-pervading, all-perceiving.
M: You had the necessary faith. Those who have true faith in Him will see Him everywhere and at all times. All happens according to your faith and your faith is the shape of your desire.
M: If you want words, I shall give you some of the ancient words of power. Repeat any of them ceaselessly; they can work wonders.
Q: Are you serious? Would you tell a Westerner to repeat ‘Om’ or ‘Ram’ or ‘Hare Krishna’ ceaselessly, though he lacks completely the faith and conviction born of the right cultural and religious background. Without confidence and fervour; repeating mechanically the same sounds, will he ever achieve anything?
M: Why not? It is the urge, the hidden motive that matters, not the shape it takes. Whatever he does, if he does it for the sake of finding his own real self, will surely bring him to himself.
To begin with, trust me, trust the Teacher. It enables you to make the first step — and then your trust is justified by your own experience. In every walk of life initial trust is essential; without it little can be done. Every undertaking is an act of faith. Even your daily bread you eat on trust! By remembering what I told you you will achieve everything.
I am telling you again: You are the all-pervading, all transcending reality. Behave accordingly: think, feel and act in harmony with the whole and the actual experience of what I say will dawn upon you in no time. No effort is needed. Have faith and act on it. Please see that I want nothing from you. It is in your own interest that I speak, because above all you love yourself, you want yourself secure and happy.
A Guru can show the way back home, to your real self. What has this to do with the character, or temperament of the person he appears to be? Does he not clearly tell you that he is not the person? The only way you can judge is by the change in yourself when you are in his company. If you feel more at peace and happy, if you understand yourself with more than usual clarity and depth, it means you have met the right man. Take your time, but once you have made up your mind to trust him, trust him absolutely and follow every instruction fully and faithfully.
The point when the mind accepts the words of the Guru as true and lives by them spontaneously and in every detail of daily life is the threshold of realization. In a way it is salvation by faith, but the faith must be intense and lasting.
However, you must not think that faith itself is enough. Faith expressed in action is a sure means to realization. Of all the means it is the most effective. There are teachers who deny faith and trust reason only. Actually it is not faith they deny, but blind beliefs. Faith is not blind. It is the willingness to try.
Q: We were told that of all forms of spiritual practices the practice of the attitude of a mere witness is the most efficacious. How does it compare with faith?
M: The witness attitude is also faith; it is faith in oneself.
Q: Why is my faith weak?
M: Desires and fears have dulled your mind. It needs some scrubbing.
Q: How can I clear my mind?
M: By watching it relentlessly. Inattention obscures, attention clarifies.
Q: The words of the Guru, when merely heard, have little power. One must have faith to obey them. What creates such faith?
M: When time comes, faith comes. Everything comes in time. The Guru is always ready to share, but there are no takers.
Q: Yes, Sri Ramana Maharshi used to say: Gurus there are many, but where are the disciples?
M: Well, in the course of time everything happens. All will come through, not a single soul (jiva) shall be lost.
Words alone cannot take you beyond the mind. There must be the immense longing for truth, or absolute faith in the Guru. Believe me, there is no goal, nor a way to reach it. You are the way and the goal, there is nothing else to reach except yourself.
Q: I admit it is courage that I lack.
M: It is because you are not fully convinced. Complete conviction generates both desire and courage. And meditation is the art of achieving faith through understanding.