The Cardinal Importance of Faith in Human Life

Mar - Apr 2003

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Faith is one of those foundational principles of human life, which enables a person to evolve spiritually. Without faith, he cannot attain happiness even though he may have succeeded materialistically. Faith is the basis of happiness. Goswami Tulsidasji has written in his epic work Ramcharit Manas:

"Parvati Shankarau Vande, Shraddha Viswas Rupinau"

Meaning, Lord Shankar is (the symbol of) trust and Goddess Bhavani is (the symbol of) faith. The realisation of God is possible only by the worship of both (trust and faith).

Lord Shankar, also known as Lord Shiva, signifies the elimination of ego-based undesirable, evil and hostile tendencies in the human psyche, thus laying the foundation for the emergence of our true self. Trust (Shankar) coupled with unshakeable faith (Bhavani) leads to self-realisation.

Faith makes life joyful. Normally, man fears death because it means transition to an unknown realm. Loneliness is the cause of fear. To the extant faith in our true immutable self is strengthened, the fear of death recedes. A person living in an uninhabited, desolate place, with faith and trust in the indwelling divinity, loves the cosmos and interacts with it as manifestation of the all pervading self-spirit of which he himself is a spark. He feels he is a part of the infinite cosmos. The happiness he experiences through this faith filled vision flows from deepest recesses from his Being, which is one with The Cosmic Being. From this happiness emerges the joy of atma jnana  the realisation that mans true identity is the soul that resides within the body and not the body itself.

It is like chasing a chimera to seek happiness through indulgence in the consumerist culture of the society. Happiness does not lie in any outside object or substance; it is an attribute of a living faith. Faith has the power to make any object lovable and a source of joy. For example, we experience joy by looking at the photographs of our beloved ones residing far away; devotees get happiness in worshipping their deity; etc. This is the result of faith. Faith makes a sculpture carved in a stone worthy of being worshipped as a living deity.

There is a famous story in the epic Mahabharata of a lowcaste boy called Eklavya. He wholeheartedly cherished wished to learn the art of archery from Dronacharya. Since Dronacharya accepted only the princes as his disciples, he refused to teach Eklavya. This did not discourage Eklavya. He made an idol of Dronacharya, gained inspiration from it as his guru and learned the art of archery to such perfection that even guru Dronacharya was amazed by his mastery.

In the modern times also, we find examples of people who, on the basis of faith, achieved wondrous success. One of the most notable examples is of Helen Keller, whose legacy inspires people even today. Helen was a deaf-dumb-blind American woman, whose faith in her capability to learn, speak and study was stimulated by her teacher Anne Sullivan Macy. She later went on to earn a university degree and scores of national and international awards.

In the absence of faith, mans life would be dull and depressive. Had man not been intrinsically compassionate and empathetic, his selfish instincts would not have been under control. His actions would have been propelled by excessive greed and would not have been merciful or kind hearted towards his own family. It is faith that has kept man and society alive. Faith in goodness inspires man to survive on minimal resources and face difficulties so that he can help the needy. Imagine a society in which people have no faith in goodness  there would be no joy in life. Faith inspires man to share and care.

Faith means self-confidence through trust in God. With the strength of the unwavering faith in the basic goodness of the cosmos, a person is able to gladly face the challenges, trials and difficulties of life. During times of adversity, faith acts as a bulwark of strength; and enables a person to keep to righteous path of self-realisation and self-fulfilment. Faith is a gift of divine grace.

Ancient seers, gurus, sages and teachers used to first assess the level of faith of their disciples/students and before initiating them into the profound teachings of Brahma vidya. If the disciples/students did not meet a certain criteria of faith, secret knowledge was not imparted to them. Only those who passed the test became eligible to gain the much sought-after knowledge of the spirit. Incidents relating to this fact are aplenty in scriptures. For example, disciples such as Jabali, Aruni, Upmanyu and Nachiketa were given initiation into spiritual Sadhana at a very young age by their gurus because of their intense single-pointed faith; such supreme wisdom would not have been otherwise gained even through most arduous sadhanas. King Dilip and his wife became beloved disciples of guru Vashishtha because of their faith. Guru Vashishtha had given them only one work to do  to take the herd of cows of the Ashram for grazing. For a couple raised in an atmosphere of royalty and affluence; this was certainly a challenging and humbling task. They were not acquainted with the difficulties they were to face in fulfilling their gurus wishes. Yet their faith gave them the courage to take up the challenge. They performed the task with utmost dedication, devotion, care and ego-effacing humility.

Faith is also the basis of love towards ones family members, religion, culture, nation and humanity. Man is bound by a co-operative culture, at the root of which lies faith. Students have faith in their teachers; they also have faith in the authors whose books they study. When we go shopping, we have faith in the quality of products we buy. We receive respect when we express our faith in others; this enhances our inner sense of happiness and well-being.

In Hinduism, faith is considered a fundamental attribute of nobility and occupies a prominent place in the Hindu culture. Faith has been the basis of mans all-round progress. Therefore we must cultivate faith in the basic goodness of the Divine Dispensation.

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