Faith, Doubt and Effort
Each of us has our own story about how we were brought to this path. Maybe we were born into a satsangi family. Maybe great suffering or a feeling of emptiness – of “is this all there is?”– drove us to seek something more. There are as many stories as there are satsangis. However, when we first come to the path, we all hope that the teachings and the Master will fill the emptiness in our hearts and give meaning to our existence. But beyond that hope, we find that the teachings make sense to us – on both an emotional and an intellectual level. About intellectual conviction, Maharaj Charan Singh says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II:
Without faith we don’t make any progress at all. But first we have to build intellectual faith in the philosophy. And in light of the philosophy, we have to weigh the Master.
When we come to the path, we have intellectual faith in the teachings, and we feel attracted by the Master – his words, his eyes, his voice, his way of explaining reality to us. We feel the Master’s love and that we are under his protection, as if our Master is holding us lovingly in the palm of his hand. So we receive initiation. We try to live the Sant Mat way of life and do our meditation as we promised our Master. We feel a sense of faith, and based on that faith, we begin our practice of meditation. Hazur says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II:
Faith has to start with the mind. Without faith in the mind you cannot experience the faith of the soul.… Soul always has faith in the Father. Soul is always yearning to become one with the Father.… It is the mind which is holding it back.
But while aiming to leave this world behind, we have to live here. While our goal is high, our weaknesses don’t automatically disappear at initiation. So, we stumble. We get up. We get upset with ourselves because our meditation isn’t perfect. We may fall again. When we fall down, we can get up again. As a Chinese proverb says, “The glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time you fall.” Through it all, we try to keep our faith and keep going. But our faith will be truly validated by the Master’s grace and our meditation.
Masters tell us that the one constant that will help us develop faith is meditation because meditation will ultimately allow us to go beyond the mind. And what is meditation? In the simplest of terms it is focusing our attention at the point where the sound and light of the Shabd are ringing, while letting go of our awareness of the body and outer world. It is through meditation that we begin to see this world for what it is – an illusion. In Many Voices, One Song, Narhari says:
A painter strokes his brush on a wall –
this is the world, nothing real here.
Children build houses of sand,
then knock them down and go home.
Everyone does their work here –
they love it as their own
so they take it to be true.
If you really want
to achieve something real,
just repeat the Name, says Narhari,
and stay close to the mystics.
Narhari’s advice is that we should “stay close to the mystics” and “repeat the Name.” This means we must take some action if we want to experience reality and thereby grow our faith. And these efforts, which are inspired by the mystics, evoke the grace of the Lord. Maharaj Charan Singh says in Quest for Light:
The more we strive on the path, the more help we receive from the Master. Those who do not make an effort of their own have no idea of the blessings that are being showered on us every day in our life. The rewards that are received by a disciple are far greater than one could ever expect or even dream of, and this realization comes only when we are doing our part of the duty.
The saying goes, “Slow and steady wins the race.” When we think of how huge the journey is that we have undertaken, it’s no wonder it takes such a long time. Some of us may have thought that once we were initiated, that it would be a simple and quick matter to reach the eye centre. We had no idea! But the Masters are always encouraging us, letting us know that they are always with us and will never desert us.
If there is any doubt in our minds, it usually shows up as fear or worry. Life is uncertain, so we all have fear – fear that something will happen, worry that something won’t happen. Fear and worry are huge weapons in the mind’s arsenal. Although the mind is basically powerless, by conjuring up fear we think it wields tremendous power. We become afraid of what is going to happen and create all sorts of scenarios of what will go wrong. Most of the time these things never come to pass. Sometimes we become so paralyzed with fear or worry that we feel we can’t do anything. When fear comes, when worry comes, we can work through these feelings if we hold on to meditation and just remember that we are not alone and that we don’t need to take all these problems on our shoulders. Hazur recommends in Spiritual Perspectives,Vol. III:
If we throw our worry on the Lord, live in his will, accept what comes and think that whatever comes is best for me, naturally we are happy and relaxed. When we take all the worries on our shoulder, we will never be able to solve those worries…. Only when the mind relaxes can we become happy. And the mind will relax only when it is attached to the Shabd and Nam and when we learn to live in the will of the Lord.
Hazur is advising that we “accept what comes and think that whatever comes is best for me.” Acceptance means looking at all that comes to us as the Lord’s gift to us. He knows best. Our ability to accept what comes to us depends a lot on how we define ourselves. If we think we are the body, then acceptance is difficult. Masters tell us that we are spiritual beings, housed in this body, but we are not this body. Staying true to the discipline of meditation is vital, because it is only through meditation that we can know who we really are. And it is through meditation that we can develop this attitude of acceptance.
Until we go beyond the realm of mind we have some doubts. In a way those doubts are an honest acknowledgment that we don’t have firsthand knowledge of reality – that we are still perplexed by life. That perplexity, in a way, is what drives us to find a spiritual path – so that we can find the truth. That puzzlement about life is his gift to us. If we embrace that feeling in a positive way, it can energize us to put in more effort in order to find the truth within. And then that effort will bring faith. All we need is the strength and determination to keep on the path, to never give up. We can’t fail as long as we are putting in the effort.
Hazur says, in Legacy of Love: “In Sant Mat, there are no failures – because you are trying to follow it. So even if we lose in this battle of love, we still win.”
By his slightest glance
the bound are liberated;
on meeting him
one knows the Knower.
He ignores both high and low
in giving the gold of liberation;
he is the guide to vision
for those who see within.…
With the cool touch of his grace
the day of realization dawns
in the darkness of ignorance.
By the gentle drops of his grace
the poison of ignorance is transformed
into the nectar of infinite knowledge.
Dnyaneshwar, in Many Voices, One Song