The Question of Faith
The Radha Soami faith is purely for the uplift of souls…. Please try to understand that when a soul is initiated – and if after that it keeps in faith and does not fall into bad habits and do foul deeds, but for certain reasons had not the opportunity of doing the spiritual exercises and progressing – it is, after death, stopped at the first or second stage, according to its karma and desires. There it takes to the spiritual practice and then in time it is taken upward. Rebirth in this world is only for those who have lost faith, do foul deeds and have very low desires. The second birth in this world is then given in such a place that they have the opportunity of meeting the Satguru of that time and doing the spiritual exercises.
Maharaj Sawan Singh, The Dawn of Light
This letter from The Dawn of Light shows strikingly the significance of faith in Sant Mat. But what does the Great Master mean here by the word “faith”? In fact, he uses the word in two different senses: the first time it denotes a spiritual way of life; but when he talks about keeping or losing faith he means trust or confidence in the Satguru and his teachings.
Maharaj Charan Singh used to quote Jesus Christ’s saying that “to sin against the Holy Ghost can never be forgiven”. Hazur Maharaj Ji would explain that the “holy ghost” is the Shabd, an aspect of God that permeates the entire creation and with which we have lost touch during the long ages we have been incarnating down here. He would then go on to describe how saints are sent by the Supreme Lord into this creation to reach out to those souls who will be receptive to them, with the aim of reconnecting those souls to the Shabd or Holy Spirit within. This reconnection gives the soul the nourishment, indeed the life, that it has been missing for so long, and it takes place when the Master gives the soul initiation. A soul thus blessed is urged to turn this gift to practical use, by devotion to meditation as taught at initiation.
Hazur Maharaj Ji used to emphasize that meditation should be the post-initiation cornerstone of every satsangi’s life. Yet when satsangis confessed that their efforts at meditation were neither as ardent nor as successful as they would like and expressed anxiety that some awful punishment would befall them, he would reply that there could hardly be any greater punishment than missing the company of the Master through lack of effort at meditation. He said that it was not a matter of reprimand or chastisement but rather of a missed opportunity that would never come again. So that “sin” could never be “forgiven” because one could not turn the clock back and do what one had once failed to do. Our Masters frequently remind us that having a human life is a rare privilege, does not last as long as we imagine it will when we are very young, and is an opportunity not to be squandered.
Yet although we hear this advice and believe it intellectually – we know it makes sense – being able to live in accordance with that advice is not so easy. Quite simply, our attraction is still mostly for this world: we perceive it with all the senses and it is what we are used to; even if life here is hard, we cannot picture existence on any other level. We have no “evidence” for it. The Great Master understood this, for in letter 68 in The Dawn of Light he wrote: “Faith, unsupported by direct evidence from within, should not be put to very severe tests, for it is shaky.”
A little later in the same letter, he says: “I am glad to learn that in your illness … you had no dread or fear of going out of life and bore the disease with unshaken faith in His goodness. It is one of the signs of devotion that the mind should remain steady in pain and pleasure.”
This provides an insight into how crucial faith is in the life of a satsangi – trust in the Master is core to our devotion to the Master and to our meditation, and Masters say that meditation should be at the centre of the satsangi’s life. The present Master has sharpened our awareness of this spiritual duty by explaining repeatedly that we must first establish a clear goal in life and then set our priorities, so that we shape our lives to ensure we never lose sight of that goal. The immediate target is to reach the eye centre, in order to come to the place where we may meet the inner Master and thus obtain some “direct evidence from within”. This is not just a meeting: it is a reunion that will give us, at the eye centre, complete peace and bliss.
This life goal must be clearly set, because it may feel elusive and we may appear not to get the kind of direct reward for our efforts that we are used to in earthly life. The Great Master recognized this in letter 66 in The Dawn of Light:
The determination and faith should be so strong that even if nothing comes out of it until the last moment of life, there is no wavering of faith. There is no other way to rise up besides this. Let one seek and inquire as much as he likes – he will have to come to this conclusion. It is a natural process, and effort must bear fruit. If a labourer receives wages all right from his employer, will the Creator then keep back the reward from one who is seeking Him?
We can be encouraged that the Great Master describes our path of devotion as a natural process and that the Master will look after us. The Saints explain, for instance, that our life here is a mixture of good and bad, and that all our actions bring consequences. We shall all definitely leave here one day, by the process of death. Since people have such different destinies in this life, it is more credible to suppose that this variation is the result of the sum of all past actions than to ascribe it to divine whim.
We go where our heart is – or, as Hazur Maharaj Ji used to say, we go where our attachments are. For most beings, this means that the end of one life is followed by a return into a physical body soon after, as the attachments to Earth are still strong and a mountain of accumulated karma remains to bind us to this creation.
We are by no means totally happy here. As Hazur Maharaj Ji explained, this is the nature of life here on this plane of creation, since we “take birth along with our karmas,” and the appropriate karmic balance to earn life here is a mixture of good and bad. (If we had all bad karmas, he used to say, we would be in a hell, and if we had all good we would be in a heaven.)
The saints offer us a way out of this endless cycle of births and deaths. They offer us some rational insights: we are what we eat; as we think so we are; as we sow so shall we reap. If we live an unethical life, this damages others and ourselves, and attaches us yet more to the world’s processes. Saints advise that we live as total vegetarians, avoid alcohol and mind affecting drugs, and live as moral a life as we can. Common sense tells us that this is the path of right living.
We need to realize, though, that these bases of good living are but the foundation of spirituality; the next step is to become active spiritually. Just as we take worldly instruction from someone more knowledgeable on a subject, so equally in spirituality it makes sense to follow someone who knows the spiritual path.
This world is not our home, and indeed cannot be since we have to leave it (by death), so it makes sense to want to find our real home. The Masters say that we are descended from the true Lord himself, and so our real home is with him. Anyone away from home desires sooner or later to return, and the saints say that our underlying dissatisfaction in this world is because deep within we want to go to our real home.
It is also true that a teacher can take us only as far as he has himself progressed. So if we want to be shown the way back to our true home, we need to be guided by someone who knows the whole journey, and who therefore belongs to that level himself. If we search around in this world we fail to find anyone who fits the bill, unless we find a living Master. He will not say explicitly who and what he is, but it will be implicit in the steadiness of his life and behaviour and the total consistency of all his teachings.
At this point the seeker has to take a leap of faith. Although there is no outer proof of the Master’s inner teachings, there is a credibility in the sheer good sense of everything he tells us. He does not require us to suspend rational judgment and rely on credulity or gullibility, but rather to satisfy ourselves by observing him and absorbing all he has to offer us. Then once we are satisfied that the balance of probabilities is in his favour, he says, we should take what he tells us on an initial or provisional trust (i.e., faith) and be willing to apply ourselves to the practical course of meditation. If we accept this, he invites us to apply for initiation and then put into practice all he teaches us and so find out the truth for ourselves.
The present Master has said that there is nothing so convincing as our own experience. Sardar Bahadur Jagat Singh described this human body as the laboratory in which we should carry out the Master’s experiments. Hazur Maharaj Ji often urged us to keep up our meditation practice despite the ups and downs that occur during our lives and not to try to force the pace or expect rapid, definable results. We do not do meditation for the results but because he has told us we must do it, and it is a chance to have some peace from the restless activity of our mind and be in his (inner) company.
All saints agree on the vital importance of meditation and following as closely as we can the guidance of our Master. He has no doubt about what he tells us, as he speaks from his own devotional practice and experience. The present Master also says we should have confidence in ourselves, and realize that because the Lord has marked us for initiation, it means he has confidence in us that we can follow successfully the path of devotion and meditation. There is thus no question of any justification for a lack of faith. This is summed up in Soami Ji Maharaj’s Sar Bachan (Prose), aphorism 116, which is the only such paragraph to be printed entirely in capitals:
LEAVING EVERYTHING ELSE ASIDE, ONE MUST
IMPLICITLY OBEY THESAT GURU OF HIS OWN TIME,
AND FAITHFULLY FOLLOW HIS INSTRUCTIONS.… THIS
IS THE LONG AND SHORT OF EVERYTHING.
When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possest,
Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, – and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings,
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.