The Coming of Faith

Swami Satyananda Saraswati, given at the Zinal Conference in Sept.

Generally speaking, faith is a quality that belongs to bhakti yoga, but in yoga and tantra, faith means awakening of kundalini. Faith belongs to man's higher evolution. It is the inherent reality of man's understanding of the deeper nature. Faith is not belief; it is the hidden knowledge in man. Faith is that dimension of knowledge which exists in a person, but has not actually become conceivable to him.

The relationship between guru and disciple, as also between God and devotee, is linked by faith. If there is no faith, then there is no relationship. The presence of faith in the disciple makes him aware of the deeper and greater venues of his inner existence. Nothing in the world is difficult if one has faith. It is so spontaneous that if you have faith in your guru, your mantra or your sadhana, it works immediately. If faith is properly directed, you can heal sickness, transfer the power of magnetism to others, and even make an object move by the power of thought. Of course, this degree of faith is very difficult to maintain at all moments of life.

For most of us, faith is a very illusive subject. Faith in guru, what does it mean? Usually, it only means that you are intellectually convinced. But faith is more than this. Faith is a higher energy in a concentrated form. What most of us have is belief, and we always mistake this belief for faith. Belief can fail, and it does sometimes. Intellect fails, but faith is infallible; it will never fail. One is so sure because faith is not an expression of the mind. You understand it through the mind, but you don't express it through the mind. It has a different source and a different channel.

Faith is much deeper than thought; it is an expression of the inner spirit. As you progress along the path of your evolution, and leave behind you a trail of things - emotions, sentiment, memory, sense objects, and so on - there is a peak of experience where things that come within a certain range of the mind appear to be a reality. That experience is the basis of faith. You may have read many stories of saints, sometimes stories of miracle men, and also the lives of great devotees. Things have happened that cannot be explained in terms of human knowledge. This is due to faith. Therefore, we have to guard our faith. We have to protect it, because intellect and logic kill faith. But if the difference between faith and intellect is properly understood, then both can develop simultaneously in their own directions.

In order to protect faith, to increase and experience it more fully and intimately, the relationship between God and devotee, or guru and disciple, comes first. But this relationship is a matter of total faith. It has to be a living faith. You have to believe, even as you believe in your mother. How do you know that she is your mother? That is faith. In the same way, you have to have faith in God and guru.

What usually happens is that our faith in God is also intellectual, so it is not actually faith at all but an idea. Most of us believe in God. We love, respect and worship him, but nothing happens. Why? That is belief. That is what we have learned from our parents. They have taught us nice things, but these have not become a living experience in our life. There are many people who even kill that little belief in God, by which they have survived on the psycho-emotional level. People say there is no God, and they have arguments about it, thus further damaging their only link with the divine forces.

It is necessary to protect one's faith and belief. Therefore, the most important thing in life is the relationship between guru and disciple. We need it to fulfil the sublime aspect of our life, and yet it is so difficult to maintain. How can a man have faith in another man? When you are born on the human plane, no matter who you are, you are incomplete, imperfect. The body itself is a replica of imperfection. You are born and you die. You should be immortal, but the body is not.

When a guru is born in the physical body, he lives on the gross plane where he is subjected to imperfect laws. There are many imperfections - he eats, sleeps, talks in the same way as others do. Once you enter a human body, no matter who you are, you are conditioned. When the disciple sees that the guru is conditioned, his faith wanes, for he sees little difference between himself and the guru. He wants guru to exhibit some miracle so that he can have faith in him, but he never does. Any magician can perform miracles, so that is not necessarily an instrument for developing faith.

Faith must be protected and developed by your consistent, intimate, indivisible relationship with guru. The relationship between guru and disciple has been discussed for centuries. We have heard about it and we know that many times it has worked. For instance, you have read the story of Milarepa, the great yogi of Tibet. It is a perfect story of faith.

There was a young boy searching for his guru. One day he came across a married lama who had several disciples. As the boy approached him, the guru demanded:

- What have you come here for?

- I have come for initiation, the boy replied. The guru went inside and left the boy on the doorstep to ponder why he had really come there. Later, he opened the door and called out:

- Who is there?

- I am, the boy replied, and I have come for the teachings.

- What, you are still there? the guru shouted, and gave him one kick.

Even after Milarepa had given his initiation fees and had been accepted as a disciple, the situation did not improve, rather it grew worse and worse. Whenever Milarepa asked for the teachings, he received only rebukes and abuse. The guru never allowed him to take his place with the other disciples during any initiation or important event. He always had to remain at the back, outside, or down in the kitchen.

When the guru had finished his meals, he used to keep what little was left in the cupboard for two or three days, and when it had ail gone dry and hard, he would give it to his poor, young disciple. The guru's wife, being kind hearted, took pity on the boy, and often she would bring him some fresh milk to drink. One day the guru saw Milarepa drinking milk and he shouted in rage:

- You ungrateful cur, now I have caught you stealing my milk!

- I didn't steal it, the boy replied innocently. Your wife gave it to me.

- Then there must be something going on between the two of you. If you've done anything with my wife, I'll kill you, the guru shouted, and immediately dealt them both several hard blows. Now get out, he said to the boy, you are unfit to stay in my house any longer.

- But where can I go? Milarepa asked.

- Up on the mountain, the guru replied. You can carry stones and build me a house.

So the boy climbed up the mountain and began his arduous sadhana. Every day he brought stones from different purls of the mountain. He worked from sunrise to sunset, until his whole body was bruised and aching, and he could not hoist another stone onto his back. One day the guru came to inspect the work and he saw Milarepa collapsed in exhaustion after carrying a huge boulder from the other side of the mountain.

- So this is how you spend your time, you lazy good for nothing, he shouted at him. Why are you building here when I told you to build further up the mountain. You can't even follow such simple instructions.

So Milarepa had to dismantle the whole house, stone by stone, carry it all up the mountain and start again. This happened seven times. Each time the house was raised, the guru came along and said to pull it all down and build it in another way. But in spite of all the hardships, pain and anguish imposed on him by the guru, Milarepa never lost faith. He had unflinching, un-shakeable faith in the guru, regardless of his apparent cruelty and hard heartedness.

In most cases, gurus have never been like a kind mother, although they can play that role very well for an ordinary type of disciple. Only to the disciples with faith does the guru show his real nature. For they are made of a different material, and they can withstand the sharp chisel that cuts a beautiful form out of a crude piece of wood.

The story of Milarepa is a great revelation. Most disciples stay with the guru for a few years, until they find some fault in him, then they decide he is not their guru. This is the crisis which occurs in the life of a disciple when there is no faith.

Faith has always been a very important factor in my life, because I have to be with my disciples, and I have to be with my guru as well. In both cases my faith has to be very consistent and constant. If there is any breach in it, the whole show will collapse.

Faith is the greatest asset of man's personality. If you have faith, you have everything. Without faith, you have nothing. A good husband or wife, a nice house, and plenty of money can cause problems and give rise to doubts. Faith is not a result of external observances, it comes by constant inner awareness, not of the senses or the turbulence and disturbances of the mind, but of the soul, the atma. As you go deeper within and face the inner light, you become faithful. Where there is faith, there is power and enlightenment.