Swami Sivamurti Saraswati, Greece

The greatest power that you could possibly have is faith. Swami Satyananda has said that there is no greater love than faith. The greatest enemy of faith is the intellect. Only if one has faith can one connect with the inner guru. Without faith we cannot reach that inner part of ourselves. Swami Niranjanananda says we need to have the faith of a child. A child knows; he or she does not need proof. Some people are born with faith, others acquire it along the way, and some lose it. Our greatest power is faith, but maya works very hard through the ego and the intellect to destroy that faith or to cover it up. So when our faith is wavering we need to remember the process of maya. We need to recall the times when we experienced faith. We need to work on it. If we lose our faith, we lose everything of great value. We lose our power; we lose our love; we lose our peace of mind; and we lose sight of the truth. We may gain in many material ways and acquire all sorts of material success, but we will realize at some point that this is nothing if we don't have faith.

It says in the Bible that faith can move mountains. This is an expression to help us understand that if we have faith we can do anything. Faith in ourselves and the guru or God makes us feel oneness. This understanding of unity enables us to achieve what we want to achieve and do what we want to do. Of course, it is very difficult to maintain one's faith and there should be no complacency about it. We should not rely on the fact that we have faith. Sometimes if we have something, we can take it for granted and we don't see the signs coming up that can take away what we have. Complacency is like that, and so is taking things for granted or being over familiar with them. One day we may wake up and find that our faith is not there and we don't have that power any longer.

We say we have faith in God. However, when the trials and tests come, maybe the faith that we assumed we had intellectually is not actually there and we become disillusioned and feel betrayed. Faith is not mental. What we think of as faith mentally is actually belief, and it is our beliefs that are tested and shaken. Faith comes from the inner spirit. If we are in contact with the inner spirit, this gives us faith. People without faith are not in contact with their inner spirit or guru and substitute a belief in dogma and institutions for faith. Some place their faith in other human beings. However, it is difficult to have faith in another human being. Unless they are a guru, with that degree of enlightenment and divinity, we will be disillusioned and disappointed. A guru is not only a human being, he or she is also a divine being. When an avatar incarnates in a human body, then that avatar faces a certain conditioning and we see this and become disillusioned. We cannot see the divine being any longer within the physical frame. It's a law of nature, like karma is a law of nature.

Certain karma we must face. The karma that is fixed in our natal chart is difficult, if not impossible, to change. We have decided to face that in this life, or it has been decided for us by the lords of karma. We are born with it; we are stamped with it. Only when we can act on our intuition can we bring about any change in our destiny.

What we can do is become non-attached to our karmas by developing our awareness, so that karma doesn't affect us in a way that it would affect us if we were attached. This is another reason for the development of non-attachment and awareness.

When a divine being, or a realized soul, or a guru comes into an incarnation, such a person carries some form of karma. Even after realization one faces karma. It is just that one is no longer influenced or affected by it in the same way. The spirit, Shiva, does not undermine Shakti, his consort. The pure consciousness does not undermine pure energy. Shakti is part of Shiva and they are, in essence, one. However, within the game of creation they become two. All manifestation is part of Shakti. She is matter and Shiva is the underlying spirit or pure consciousness. Like an ideal husband and wife, there is a mutual respect. When Shiva (consciousness) incarnates he comes into Shakti's realm of energy and nature. It is a conditioned realm, which he respects and lives by. This concept is part of tantra, and is beautifully expressed in the children's stories of the kingdom of Narnia by C. S. Lewis.

When we see the guru in the incarnated form as a human being, unless we are people of faith, we think the guru is not any different to us. The intellect tries to destroy our faith. At such moments we must remember that point and protect our faith. If we lose faith, we lose power, love, peace of mind and truth. Or course, when we meet the guru we must consider very carefully if he or she is an enlightened being. When we meet our guru and have decided to become his or her disciple, then we have to be aware of the machinations of our intellect and ego, and trust ultimately in our faith and intuition which reside in the heart, rather than the left side of our brain.

There is a story of two men walking through the sands of life. One was the master and the other was the disciple. Throughout his life the disciple acted as best he could towards the circumstances in which he found himself. In most incidents he was aware of his master, as he could usually see a second pair of footprints in the sand, which showed his master was accompanying him. However, sometimes there was only one set of footprints in the sand. This concerned the disciple very deeply, as at those times he was experiencing great trials and suffering. Because he saw only one set of footprints he thought he was alone and that his master had deserted him. When he died, the disciple asked his master about the footprints, and why it was that he had left him in times when he most needed his guidance. The master said, "In all the circumstances of your life I was with you. When you saw only one set of footprints in the sand, that was when I carried you." This story illustrates the relationship between the guru and disciple, and the role of faith in our connection and relationship with the guru.

Once we have encountered our guru, then it is faith in him which keeps the connection that sustains us and guides our life. This relationship is known deeply within us, and it is not knowledge that can be proved through data or analysis. It is subjective and experiential knowledge. It is the fuel which enables us to live our life with purpose and understanding. Through faith we grow in strength of character and wisdom. We are enabled to serve others, and understand and accept ourselves and others with more compassion and insight. Faith is the contentment and serenity that lies underneath the vicissitudes of life, be they pain or pleasure. It develops non-attachment and it deepens our awareness.

Yoga philosophy is a living philosophy. We don't just have a theory which sounds nice. We live this yoga philosophy daily and face the difficulties of life with its techniques and attitudes. We ask ourselves, "What does my philosophy teach on this? What does it say? Am I living it?" Our philosophy tells us to try and learn from every situation. In every situation we can learn something. We have to look, search and discover what there is to learn in it, otherwise we are just reacting and living without control. We do not learn anything through reactions and we are not in control of our lives through reactions. We need to understand why we are reacting and what is causing us to react. Then we can act rather than react in life. We learn through the awareness that yoga develops. Yoga cannot just be lived intellectually, it must become a deep experience. And this deep experience is the hallmark of our faith.