This week’s WOW prompt asks what is faith? In my mind, faith is an incontrovertible belief on a person or an event. A believer is ready to go to any length to prove that his belief system is correct.
In Hinduisim, Bhakti Yoga is a prominent path to god realisation, along with Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga and Raja Yoga. In Bhakti Yoga, the disciple believes in the existence of his personal god. He has complete faith that his god is around him always. Several stories of such immovable faith have percolated to us since time immemorial.
- Story of Bhakta Prahlad, son of demon King Hiranya Kashipu. Prahlad worshipped Lord Vishnu, who was a mortal enemey of Hiranya Kashipu. Enraged Hiranya Kashipu asked Prahlad where is Lord Vishnu. Prahlad answered, “he is every where.” Hiranya Kashipu kicked a pillar in his palace and asked, “is your lord here?” Out came the Lord in his Nara Simha avatar, half man and half lion, to slay the demon king.
- Similarly, there is story of Nachiketa in Kathopanishad. Nachiketa was given the god of death, Lord Yama, by his father Vajasravas. Nachiketa could not see his father being called a liar, decided to visit the lord of death. That was his faith.
- More recently, hardly two hundred years before in the present day Dakshineswar in West Bengal, Sri Rama Krishna has shown the power of his faith when mother Kali appeared before him.
- In present day clinical trials, beneficial effect seen in patients receiving placebo, a tablet containing no medicine, can be attributed to belief that a patient is receiving a medicine.
A true believer can perform miracle by reposing faith on his object of belief. In Bengali it is said, “Biswase Milaye Bostu, Tarke Bahudoor.” Loosely translated, it comes out as it is easier to attain god by believing in him than by arguing over him. So faith has a strong place in Indian psyche.
Problem with faith based system is that there may be crisis of faith if basic pillar of the belief system is attacked or destroyed. In present day and age, things that come close to faith are trust and credibility. A child may trust his parents, a husband or wife may trust his / her partner, citizens may trust their political leaders etc. Once we realise that the person we started trusting is dishonest, then our belief system, our respect for the person is shaken. It is important to choose the right person or system to repose faith on, alternative is being taken for a ride. In the United States of America, it is said, “in god we trust, rest we verify.” Even Sri Rama Krishna would advice his disciples, “you may be religious, but you need not be fools.” Swami Vivekananda also emphasised importance of logical arguments over faith based systems. Because, at least one may test an argument, but a faith cannot be tested. Once the edifice crumbles, it may be too late.
Personally, I have not faced any crisis of faith. Partly because in this day and age, when it is very difficult to take person on face value, one is always prepared to be made a fool of, crisis of faith does not come as a shock. In my life I have come across situations, where I had felt enormous confidence about certain things occurring. I do not know the basis of such happenings. Is this what is called faith? I do not know.
On a Saturday afternoon, two months after my college examination, I heard a strong rumour that only seven students, out of a total of fifty, had passed outright in all subjects. Rest of the students would have to appear in a supplementary examination. I was disturbed and depressed, because I had doubts on three tests that I wrote. I came home and switched on cricket commentary of England – India Test match. All of a sudden, someone inside me announced, “if one person passed the exam, it will be me.” My mind became peaceful. I forgot everything about the problem Next day, I went to college to find out that I was the seventh person who had cleared his exams in first attempt.
I don’t know if this was faith? Why was I blessed. Then on before every major event in my life, I had tried to explore what is emerging out of my mind. Several times, when I wanted certain outcomes in my favor badly, I would read my mind in a certain way. They never came true as per my expectation. I guess, it is important to discern false positive from false negatives when one is looking for signals.