The Power of Faith
have all heard the old clichu ‘faith that moves mountains’,
yet we know that just believing in something does not necessarily
make it true. Real faith is based on truth, and it has tremendous
power. Sri Ramakrishna says that during his sadhana he went
through a period when everything he even thought about would
just come true. One time he thought, ‘If this vision is true,
the rock in front of me will jump three times.’ He says the
rock did jump three times. (This is really hard for our Western
minds to accept.) Even Mathur Babu once had an argument with
Sri Ramakrishna, when Mathur said, ‘Oh, come on. You can’t
go against the laws of nature. You can’t have, for example,
a red and a white flower growing on the same branch.’ Sri
Ramakrishna said, ‘Anything is possible for the Divine Mother.
She makes the rules and she can also break them.’ Sure enough,
in a little while he presented Mathur with a branch on which
was growing a red and a white blossom. Jesus walked on the
water and others saw it. It is said that Mohammed did not
need to go to the mountain. The mountain came to him. What
makes the faith of a Ramakrishna or a Mohammed different from
the faith of other men? The words and actions of God-men are
surcharged with power, because they are directly in touch
Faith Hath Made Thee Whole’
the case of a student and a teacher, much also depends on
the shraddha, or faith, and earnestness of the disciple. Shraddha
evokes a great power; it calls it forth as it were. In the
Bible a story is told of a woman healed by faith. The incident
took place when Jesus was travelling with his disciples near
the seaside. He was teaching and healing people, and a great
multitude of them were following him. Jesus had been asked
to go to the house of an official of the synagogue. His daughter
was dying and he wanted Jesus to heal this girl.
can picture it in our minds: Jesus was walking, on his way
to the official’s house, his disciples and a crowd surrounding
him. There was a woman in the crowd who had been suffering
for twelve long years with a bleeding illness. She had gone
to all the physicians and had spent all her money on medicines
and diet, but nothing helped her. She was desperate. And somehow
in her was born the idea, if she could just see Jesus, just
touch the hem of his garment, she would be healed. She pushed
forward in the crowd, reached out and touched his robe. Immediately
she felt herself healed. Imagine her joy. It is said she knew
immediately she had been healed. And Jesus also knew. He turned
and asked, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ The woman was afraid.
Imagine the scene: here was this God-man, surrounded by his
disciples, and suddenly he stops and says, ‘Who touched me?’
The woman came forward, trembling, fell sobbing at his feet
and told him what had happened to her. And Jesus blessed her
and said to her, ‘Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole.’
made Jesus turn back? Did he feel somehow the power that was
in him go out to this woman? Who can say? But what a sweet
picture: his turning, her confusion and fear, and yet also
what must have been her wonder and joy. And what did he say?
‘Thy faith hath made thee whole.’ Something in her, her faith,
drew the healing power to herself. But where did that power
come from? From within her, yes, but also from the Master.
It is as though that which was blocking the vital force in
her was knocked down as it were, removed by the power of purity
and love that was coming from Jesus. Then the woman’s own
prana healed her. Swami Vivekananda says that in the case
of faith healing the dormant prana in the sick person is awakened
by the healer and heals the person.
Meaning of Real Faith
an even more subtle level, faith is essential for spiritual
progress, for only then, when one believes that God exists,
does one strive to be free. One must have tremendous faith
in religion and God. Sri Ramakrishna once told Swamiji that
not one in twenty million in this world believed in God. Swamiji
asked him why he said this, and Sri Ramakrishna told him,
‘Suppose there is a thief in this room, and he gets to know
that there is a mass of gold in the next room, and only a
very thin partition between the two rooms; what will be the
condition of that thief?’ Swamiji answered, ‘He will not be
able to sleep at all; his brain will be actively thinking
of some means to get at the gold, and he will think of nothing
else.’ Then Sri Ramakrishna said, ‘Do you believe that a man
could believe in God and not go mad to get Him? If a man sincerely
believes that there is that immense, infinite mine of Bliss,
and that it can be reached, would not that man go mad in his
struggle to reach it?’ ‘Strong faith in God and the consequent
eagerness to reach Him constitute Shraddha [real faith]. (2)
to Exertion to Achievement
English dictionary says that faith is the ‘confidence or trust
in a person or thing - belief which is not based on proof’.
Often it is referred to as ‘blind faith’ because it is not
based on rational thought. People are directed to have faith
and not to question. This is not what is meant by the Sanskrit
word shraddha, although this word sometimes is translated
in English by the word faith.
defines shraddha as ‘a firm conviction based upon intellectual
understanding, that the teachings of the scriptures and of
one’s master are true. It leads to realization of the Reality.’3
This type of faith is not just a blind or unquestioning acceptance
or belief. According to Swami Nikhilanandaji, it is rather
‘an affirmative attitude of mind’. The mind is open and the
will is directed towards a higher reality. So the mind that
has faith is both receptive and also directed, but in a very
focused way. This means that the aspirant who has faith is
willing to make effort and sacrifice because he believes it
is necessary. Belief is translated into action. Shankara says,
‘Without faith there is no exertion, and without exertion
there is no achievement.’ (4)
Ramakrishna says that one should have faith in the holy name
given by the guru and with it practise spiritual discipline.
He said that the pearl oyster makes itself ready for the rain
that falls when the star Svati is in the ascendant. Taking
a drop of that rain, it dives into the fathomless depths of
the ocean and remains there until the pearl is formed. (5)
In fact, he says that if a person’s faith is deep enough,
he will have the vision of God the minute the mantra is given
by the teacher. It is almost as though shraddha attracts grace
to a person, or perhaps it is just that shraddha clears the
way for grace to act in the person.
is based on certain fundamental truths or principles. First
we must be convinced in the existence of God. It is said that
one does not have real faith until one has some spiritual
experience. This is true, but before that, if we are seekers
after truth, we can have a working faith in the existence
of God and in the words of the guru. It is not just blind
credulity. We will gradually know that God is real.
also need to believe that God can be realized. We get this
conviction from reading the scriptures, where others have
told their experiences and, mainly, from meeting spiritual
teachers, those who, we know, have experienced God. I was
reading a letter of Swamiji written to Balaram Bose in 1890.
At that time Swamiji had gone to visit the holy man Pavahari
Baba. He said that seeing saints like him gave one real faith
in the scriptures. The quote is, ‘Unless one is face to face
with the life of such men, faith in the scriptures does not
grow in all its real integrity.’ (6) If one is fortunate enough
to have met an illumined teacher, then by the grace of God
one really sees that realization of God is possible for a
human being. It is no longer just talk: it is a living reality.
This is the turning point in the lives of many, because this
is when real faith awakens in the heart. When we see a person
who has realized something higher, suddenly we find that our
own spirituality begins to awaken. We see that what we have
been reading about in the scriptures is really true. And we
understand that if the person we have met has realized God,
then it must be possible for another also to do so.
we have the first two convictions, that God is real and that
He can be realized, then we really begin to yearn for God.
We become convinced that God-realization is the supreme goal
of human existence. It becomes our goal, and more and more
other things lose their attraction for us.
Ramakrishna says, ‘You must have heard about the tremendous
power of faith. It is said in the Purana that Rama, who was
God Himself - the embodiment of Absolute Brahman - had to
build a bridge to cross the sea to Ceylon. But Hanuman, trusting
in Rama’s name, cleared the sea in one jump and reached the
other side. He had no need of a bridge.’ (7) A person with
faith has a determination and intensity that nothing else
Vivekananda says, ‘If this [God] is true, what else could
matter? If it is not true, what do our lives matter!’
(8) This is the intensity we need. Suddenly the goal of life,
God-realization, becomes real to us. We must have faith that
He really exists.
speaking, because of our materialistic background, we have
faith only in what we see with our eyes or what can be proved
in a scientific way, perceivable by our senses. It is very
difficult for us to accept anything as really true because
we see falsehood all round us. Where is absolute truth in
this relative world? Where is even a relative truth when everything
is always changing and everything is mixed, good and evil,
transitory and illusory? Where can we ever see a person truthful
in speech and action? It is very difficult to have faith and
real trust in anything or anybody in this changing world.
That is why it was such a wonderful thing when Swamiji asked
Sri Ramakrishna if he had seen God and Sri Ramakrishna answered
with such conviction, ‘Yes, I have seen God more clearly than
I see you.’ Hearing that statement directly from such a teacher
would certainly stop the doubting, fluctuating mind in its
Quintessence of Vedanta tells us, ‘To the extent to
which one speaks the truth, one inspires faith.’ The Vedas
are to be trusted because they constitute the word of God.
(9) Not just because they are Vedas, but because they are
revealed truths, that is, realized by men and women. The words
of an illumined teacher are trusted because they are also
true, experienced by him. Something in us tells us they are
true and he is speaking from experience. If he has realized
it, then it is also possible for us to realize it. By his
very existence, he is telling us that we can also realize
A Glimpse beyond the Senses
real awakening of faith in the heart of a person takes place
when he gets a glimpse of something beyond the sense world.
One can intellectually accept that there may be some higher
reality, since so many scriptures and spiritual teachers have
said so, but real faith will not come until the heart opens
a little and one gets a glimpse of that higher reality within
one’s own self. Then one really knows that there is a higher
reality. And once this glimpse comes, it is never forgotten.
It may get covered up, but it is never really forgotten. Swami
Brahmananda says, ‘Real faith cannot be had at the beginning.
First realization, then real faith - at the beginning, blind
faith it may be - in the words of his guru or some great soul;
but only then can he advance toward the goal.’
we start out with a working faith in the words of scripture
or in the guru and we make that our own. We are not just to
accept blindly, we must realize it. Swamiji says, ‘If any
one of you believes what I teach, I will be sorry. I will
only be too glad if I can excite in you the power of thinking
for yourselves. …You have to realise truth and work it out
for yourself according to your own nature.’ (10)
is said that one should first hear about the truth, then reason
about it. We must make this truth our own. It is ours; it
is with us all the time, but it is covered up. By thinking
about it, by questioning a teacher, our reason can become
satisfied that what is said in the scriptures must be true.
We can accept a lot by inference, by accepting what others
tell us. We cannot, however, really grasp the higher truth
with our intellect, but we do need to question before we are
really able to settle down to serious spiritual practice.
For some people this intellectual questioning and searching
seems to take longer and seems to be more intense than for
others. Swamiji says, ‘I fought my Master for six years with
the result that I know every inch of the way!’ (9.411)
the end the mind itself must become our friend. It can help
us tremendously if we watch it, understand it, discipline
it, maybe even cajole or humour it. Somehow we must convince
it that this is really what we want to do. Ultimately, the
mind must be turned towards the goal. It must be made our
friend. This task can be daunting. As Arjuna says in the Gita,
trying to control the mind is like trying to control the wind.
of the Mind
we watch our mind we often find that it is carrying on a constant
conversation within us. In his book How to Know God,
a commentary on the yoga aphorisms of Patanjali, Swami Prabhavananda
gives us a picture of how a normal mind works. He says we
flatter ourselves that ‘we spend our time thinking logical,
consecutive thoughts’, but our mind is more like a ‘fog of
disconnected sense-impressions, irrelevant memories, nonsensical
scrapes of sentences from books and newspapers, little darting
fears and resentments, physical sensations of discomfort,
excitement or ease’. The swami says further that the thought-pattern
in eighteen or nineteen minds out of twenty is irrational,
maybe something like this: ‘Ink-bottle. That time I saw Roosevelt.
In love with the night mysterious. Reds veto Pact. Jimmy’s
trying to get my job. Mary says I’m fat. Big toe hurts. Soup
good.’ (12) When I first read that I just laughed out loud,
because I could certainly recognize that it was like what
my mind was feeding me, and I simply had never stood back
and really looked at it before, never really listened to what
was going on inside my mind.
the Mind with Holy Ideas
about other people or circumstances, worries, anxieties -
they all seem to come to the surface in words. We know that
in the end words must stop. We don’t have to go on listening
to all this. It is said that when one realizes Brahman the
mind turns back along with speech. (13) So this talking mind
has ultimately to turn back. But for a long time we have to
work with this mind to make it our friend instead of our enemy.
Just watching it and noticing what it says can help a lot.
It is almost as if it gets shy and embarrassed if we watch
it, and sometimes it quiets down. Again, if we watch the mind
we find that it is feeding us negative thoughts, blaming others
or doubts about what is to be done or about our capacities.
We don’t have to go on listening to these negative or random
thoughts. We can feed the mind good thoughts. Of course, one
of the best practices here is to substitute the constant mind-talk
with the mantra. Give the mind something to talk about. Underneath
this talking mind there is a substratum where there are no
doubts and no words, a substratum that is Knowledge itself.
If we can somehow open up to this inner truth, the battle
is won. Real faith can do this in one stroke. It directly
opens the pathway to truth. This is going to sound very simplistic,
but we can pray that we have faith. Sounds too simple, doesn’t
it? But this is exactly what Sri Ramakrishna says we should
do: pray for devotion and faith. Truly, a simple faith can
unite the mind and make it concentrated, and a sincere prayer
can do wonders.
in the Guru
to Vedanta, faith in the scriptures is not enough. We believe
in the scriptures because they are revealed truths; they come
from saints and sages who realized the truths written there.
But we need to receive these truths directly from a living
guru. They are quickened by the teacher. They become living
truths in the heart of the student. It is said that when the
disciple is ready the guru comes. We cannot really understand
the truths of the scriptures until we are taught by a living
teacher who has experienced the truth himself. He ignites
the spark already present in us and urges us forward on the
spiritual path. We must have faith in his words. Everything
is realized according to one’s faith. Shankara says, ‘One
should therefore cultivate supreme faith in the guru, and
in what the Vedanta says. It is by faith alone and by no other
means that the earnest seeker attains liberation.’ (14)
does that faith in the words of a teacher come to us? For
some it is a slow process of questioning and watching and
testing what they are taught. What the teacher says must agree
with the scriptures and should not contradict reason. But
here again, real faith comes only when one gets a glimpse
of something higher. Often, it is the power of love that draws
us in and gives us faith. We find that no one has ever loved
us before with the kind of love that comes from a really pure
illumined soul, because in that love there is no selfishness.
When we come in contact with that type of love, something
in our own hearts awakens and responds. Love awakens in us,
and it is so sweet that we want nothing else. Everything else
fades out, becomes shadow-like, and our faith grows.
to the Divine Impulse
is the teacher anyway? The teacher is a conduit for Truth
to reach the soul. The more faith one has, the more one is
able to receive, because the more open one is. It seems that
real faith or belief implies openness to that divine impulse.
There is no doubt blocking it and the will is directed towards
receiving truth. Real faith is like yearning for God, for
in both cases the fact that God is and can be reached is intrinsic.
A man doesn’t have to work hard if he has real faith, faith
in his guru’s words. Sri Ramakrishna used to tell the parable
of the milkmaid and the brahmin priest: A milkmaid used to
supply milk to a brahmin priest on the other side of a river.
Owing to the irregularities of the boat service, the woman
was sometimes late. One day the priest rebuked her for the
delay, and she explained that sometimes she had to wait a
long time for the boatman to ferry her across. The priest
said, ‘But my good woman! People cross even the ocean of this
life by uttering the name of God. Can’t you cross even this
little river?’ From that day onwards she was never late with
the milk. One day the priest asked her how it was that she
was never late any more, and she said simply, ‘I take the
name of God and cross the river just as you told me!’ The
priest was astonished and wanted to see for himself, so he
went to the river with the woman and watched her as she uttered
the name of God and started to walk across the water. Halfway
across, the woman turned and saw the priest following her,
timidly holding his skirt up out of the water. She said, ‘Why
is it, sir, that you are repeating the name of the Lord and
at the same time holding up your skirt to keep it dry? Have
you no faith?’ We do this. We are constantly trying to hedge
our bets. It is really very hard to fully believe anything.
a man has real faith, the moment the teacher tells him ‘Here
is God’ or ‘Thou art That’, he will realize the Truth. A less
evolved aspirant will really begin to search for realization,
because he will believe it is possible. Even in a more worldly
sense, one with faith will progress more rapidly.
is a story in the Mahabharata about Arjuna’s student
days in archery that illustrates this point. When Arjuna was
young he was educated in archery with his brothers and cousins.
They had the great Drona as their teacher. When Drona was
reaching the end of his instruction to the young princes,
he devised a test to see which one had learned archery well.
He constructed a stuffed bird and had it placed high at the
top of a tree almost out of sight. Then he called the young
princes and told them to try to shoot the target.
he called Yudhishthira, the eldest, and told him to aim at
the target. Yudhishthira put an arrow on his bow. Drona said,
‘Aim at the bird,’ and asked, ‘Do you see the bird?’ Yudhishthira
said, ‘Yes. I see the bird.’ Then Drona asked, ‘What else
do you see?’ Yudhishthira said, ‘I see the bird, the tree,
the sky, and I see you.’ Dronacharya was not pleased. He said,
‘Put down the bow. You will not be able to hit the target.’
Then Drona called Duryodhana and his brothers and also Bhima
forward, one by one, and asked them to aim at the bird. When
each one aimed his arrow, Drona asked, ‘What do you see?’
Each one replied, ‘I see the bird, the tree, the sky, and
I see you.’ Each one was sent away. Finally, Drona called
Arjuna forward and asked him to aim at the bird. Arjuna aimed
his arrow. Then Drona asked, ‘What do you see?’ Arjuna said,
‘I see only the bird.’ Then Drona said, ‘Aim at the eye of
the bird.’ Arjuna aimed his arrow. Then Drona asked, ‘What
do you see? Arjuna replied, ‘I only see the eye of the bird.’
Drona then said, ‘Shoot.’ Arjuna shot his arrow and it pierced
the eye of the bird, and the bird fell at his feet.
faith or shraddha is said to be something like this. The teacher
points the way. What the teacher says to concentrate on, that
and that alone the student sees. This excludes a whole lot
of extraneous thoughts and scattered energies, and results
in real concentration of the mind.
the Mundaka Upanishad realization is described in terms
of archery: ‘Om, the mystic syllable, is said to be the bow;
the self within, the arrow; and Brahman, the target. One should
hit that target with an undistracted mind, and like the arrow
become one with it.‘ (15)
says, ‘These [great souls] are signposts on the way. That
is all they are. They say, “Onward, brothers!' (16) They point
Grace of Our Own Mind
we read in the Gospel: ‘As is a man’s meditation, so
is his feeling of love;/ As is a man’s feeling of love, so
is his gain;/ And faith is the root of all.’ (17) Everything
can be attained through simple faith! But our faith must be
practical. Belief must be put into action and it must be based
on reason. The intensity of our striving is actually based
on our faith in the existence of God. We may be able to quote
all the scriptures, but that won’t help us at all if we don’t
really believe that it is possible for us to realize the Truth.
One must have the grace of one’s own mind. That is, the mind
should not be divided against itself. One must be directed
and open to the Truth, and have patience and endurance to
carry on one’s spiritual practice. We must know that it is
possible for us to realize God.
must have faith in ourselves before we can have faith in God.
ideal of faith in ourselves is of the greatest help to us.
… Throughout the history of mankind, if any motive power
has been more potent than another in the lives of all great
men and women, it is that of faith in themselves. … Faith
in ourselves will do everything. … The old religions said
that he was an atheist who did not believe in God. The new
religion says that he is the atheist who does not believe
in himself. But it is not selfish faith, because the Vedanta,
again, is the doctrine of oneness. It means faith in all,
because you are all. Love for yourselves means love for
all, love for animals, love for everything, for you are
all one. It is the great faith which will make the world
Faith, faith, faith in ourselves, faith, faith in God -
this is the secret of greatness.’ (3.190)
to Swamiji, religion is a matter of fact; we are not to believe
in it just blindly. ‘We have to analyse our own souls and
… find what is there. We have to understand it and … realize
what is understood. That is religion. No amount of talk will
make religion.’ (2.163)
first we must cultivate faith. It is listed as one of the
great virtues and must be nurtured with all the other qualities
that perfect our character. It is only when our character
becomes really pure and stable, when our nature is perfected,
that true shraddha dawns. Until then all our belief in God,
in the guru and in the scriptures vacillates. Our aim in life
should be to have firm unshakeable faith.
and Doubt Cannot Coexist
Sri Ramakrishna, ‘If a man has faith in God, then even if
he has committed the most heinous sins … he will certainly
be saved through this faith. Let him only say to God, “O Lord,
I will not repeat such an action”, and he need not be afraid
of anything.’ (19) There is no point in brooding over past
mistakes. They’re over. We can let go of them. In the song
‘Shakti samudra’ Swamiji calls Sri Ramakrishna a mighty
weapon that destroys the demon of doubt. Sri Ramakrishna is
very close to us. We can use this weapon to cut down the doubts
at their root. He can quieten the confused hubbub of the mind.
In the Gospel someone asks, ‘Sir, is there no help,
then, for a worldly person?’ ‘Certainly there is,’ says Sri
Ramakrishna. ‘From time to time he should live in the company
of holy men, and from time to time go into solitude to meditate
on God. Furthermore, he should practise discrimination and
pray to God, “Give me faith and devotion.” Once a person has
faith he had achieved everything. There is nothing greater
than faith.’ (87) We are back to that very simplistic idea:
one can pray to have faith.
a man was about to cross the sea. Vibhishana wrote Rama’s
name on a leaf, tied it in a corner of the man’s wearing-cloth,
and said to him: ‘Don’t be afraid. Have faith and walk on
the water. But look here - the moment you lose faith you
will be drowned.’ The man was walking easily on the water.
Suddenly he had an intense desire to see what was tied in
his cloth. He opened it and found only a leaf with the name
of Rama written on it. ‘What is this?’ he thought. ‘Just
the name of Rama!’ As soon as doubt entered his mind he
sank under the water. (87)
Saradananda says, ‘ … he who has taken refuge in the Lord,
has he anything to complain of or worry about? He knows that
he has surrendered himself to Him and the Lord has accepted
him. This is all that he need be aware of. … Like the kitten,
he knows only his mother. Wherever his mother places him he
is contented.’ (20)
of a Child in Its Mother
Ramakrishna tells us, ‘God cannot be realized without childlike
faith. The mother says to her child, pointing to a boy, “He
is your elder brother.” And the child at once believes that
the boy is one hundred per cent his brother. … God bestows
His grace on the devotee who has this faith of a child.’ (21)
we try to remember our very earliest memories, we can see
that we had total trust and faith in our mothers. There was
simply no question of anything else. We were held, fed and
cared for by our mothers. We were so dependent on them that
we never even thought who was going to feed us or care for
us. In fact, in the earliest times I don’t think a small baby
even distinguishes completely between itself and its mother.
I know that for a long time I never really distinguished the
face of my mother. She was more a presence, a warmth and a
love. If we try to remember this relationship even on the
human level, we can understand better what is meant by real
faith, because our human relationships are really mere reflections
of the divine. There is absolutely no doubt in the relationship
between the mother and her child. It is complete, open trust,
so much so that it approaches unity. Maybe it is because of
this inherent understanding that Swami Brahmananda says, ‘Women
generally have greater results spiritually in less time because
their faith is greater.’
Born of Realization
must have faith in our higher selves. Sri Ramakrishna has
a story to illustrate this:
Vyasa was about to cross the Jamuna, when the gopis also
arrived there, wishing to go to the other side. But no ferry-boat
was in sight. They said to Vyasa, ‘Revered sir, what shall
we do now?’ ‘Don’t worry,’ said Vyasa. ‘I will take you
across. But I am very hungry. Have you anything for me to
eat?’ The gopis had plenty of milk, cream, and butter with
them. Vyasa ate it all. Then the gopis asked, ‘Well, sir,
what about crossing the river?’ Vyasa stood on the bank
of the Jamuna and said, ‘O Jamuna, if I have not eaten anything
today, then may your waters part so that we may all walk
to the other side.’ No sooner did the sage utter these words
than the waters of the Jamuna parted. The gopis were speechless
with wonder. ‘He ate so much just now,’ they said to themselves,
‘and he says, “If I have not eaten anything …”!’ Vyasa had
the firm conviction [faith], that it was not himself, but
the Narayana who dwelt in his heart, that had partaken of
the food. (22)
the Bhagavadgita it is said that shraddha, devotion
and self-control are the necessary requirements for knowledge.
(23) In his commentary on this verse Madhusudana Sarasvati
defines faith as ‘a taste for the supreme Truth’.
describing the characteristics of a true devotee, Sri Krishna
says, ‘Those who fix their minds on Me and devotedly worship
Me steadfastly with supreme shraddha - they are the best of
all contemplative persons, the best of all devotees.’ (12.2)
Latu Maharaj once said, ‘He alone is fit to take sannyasa
who can throw himself, at the behest of his guru, headlong
from the top of a palm tree, with his hands and feet outstretched.
Such a man alone has developed a true dependence on the guru
and on God.’ Do we have that type of trust, that faith?
seems that real faith is like self-surrender because with
full trust one submits to the power of God, which immediately
fills one up. It is not a small thing to really surrender.
It is as though one is driving a car up a steep mountainside,
trying to get to the top, where there is an immense treasure
of bliss. We have an idea of the goal and of the way to get
there. One is concentrating on every turn, driving the car,
struggling upward, when suddenly, near the top, the road becomes
straight and smooth for a short distance. The car gains speed
and suddenly becomes airborne and heads for the sun. For a
second, one thinks ‘My God! What’s happening? Where am I headed?
I’m out of control.’ This was not what we planned,
not part of our agenda. Without real faith one grabs
the wheel and tries hard to get the car back on the familiar
road. We cling to our body consciousness, to our ideas
of what the goal is and what the path is, what our meditation
should be. With real faith one might say, ‘Yes, the sun! Yes!
Yes! My God the Sun! I’m not in control. This is what
I’ve been waiting for!’ One lets go and is lifted into that
Light of Consciousness. Otherwise, without real faith, we
may turn away from the Light in fear when it comes to us.
We may try to hold on to our little individuality, our ideas
of who we are, afraid that somehow we are going to be annihilated.
is the leap of faith. One gives up one’s sense of little self
and of agency. One dies as it were. And what does one experience?
After that experience there is no more doubt. Real faith is
born. We cannot realize Truth without that leap, without letting
go at some point, because we really don’t know what the goal
is until we experience it, become one with it. It is not whatever
we think it is, no matter how noble our idea is. We
are going to be surprised when we realize it. And we can’t
attain it by our own efforts. At some point we have to resign
ourselves and let the higher reality shine through. It takes
faith to let go, to make that leap. Once God is experienced,
the knowledge or belief that God exists never dies.
is the faith that moves mountains, real faith based on truth
and realization. The Gita says, ‘Established in realization
[and faith born of it], a man is not shaken even by the heaviest
sorrow.’ (6.22) We see this type of faith in those who have
realized God. All doubts disappear when one realizes the Self.
Those who realize God rest in faith as it were. And the certainty
of such men and women inspires faith in others. They are so
sure that the knots of their heart are cut asunder and they
are carried, as it were, by faith. This is the power of faith.
Swami Brahmananda is said to have remarked in his last days,
‘I am floating on the leaf of faith and knowledge on the Ocean
of Brahman.’ (24) What a blissful state!
St Mark, 5.34.
The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, 9 vols. (Calcutta:
Advaita Ashrama, 1-8, 1989; 9, 1997), 1.407.
The Quintessence of Vedanta, trans. Swami Tattwananda
(Kalady: Sri Ramakrishna Advaita Ashrama, 1979), verse 212.
M, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, trans. Swami Nikhilananda
(Chennai: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 2002), 244.
Quintessence, verse 216.
Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, How to Know
God (Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1975), 46.
Taittiriya Upanishad, 2.4.1.
Quintessence, verse 215.
Mundaka Upanishad, 2.2.4.
Swami Aseshananada, Glimpses of a Great Soul (Los Angeles:
Vedanta Press, 1982), 124.
Swami Prabhavananda, The Eternal Companion (Madras:
Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1981), 107.