The Importance of Faith during the Covid-19 Pandemic
In an era of analytics, machine learning, and algorithms, and of using technology to pinpoint exactitude in a manner so far unheard of, Covid-19 brought in uncertainty, chaos, and disruption in a way unprecedented in its devastation of life and livelihood.
While over time, researchers figured out what is the cause of the virus and how it spreads, for a long time it was completely the “silent stalker,” much as we think of “bad karma.” Where it came from, how it evolved, and whom it was going to hit was as much an unknown as the gods themselves.
The numbers are staggering. People affected: 60 million and counting. Deaths: 1.4 million and mounting each day. Countries and continents shut down. Lockdowns are like wartime curfews. No movement is allowed at all except for essential services. Although we expected this to be short lived, like SARS and Zika, the months went by, and lockdowns and isolation have remained the norm.
The increasing feeling of loneliness and isolation from the loss of social interaction – not being able to meet family, friends, and colleagues; from the fear of catching the virus even with the best of precautions, and also from serious financial uncertainty, have led to massive psychological and mental stress. Are we equipped to face the unknown? The answer to that question takes us to the basic foundations of faith.
Do we have faith? Do we believe in the Almighty? As the Bible says: “Thy Will be done.”1 Do we believe His Will will be done, and do we have the faith to believe and accept his constant care and love?
Faith, it is said, can move mountains. Is this pandemic the mountain? The belief in faith is the biggest single weapon in our arsenal which can take us through these times. The faith that we need to have is an unshakeable faith in the Almighty, which helps us face all difficulties and troubles with a deeper spiritual strength. The dictionary definition of faith is: “a strong belief or trust in someone or something; belief in the existence of God; strong religious feelings or beliefs.” As F. F. Bosworth, an early 20th-century American evangelist, once said: “Faith begins where the will of God is known.”2
Either we are privy to the mind of God or, by his grace, we evolve to a spiritual level where his mind and our mind have merged and we have become one with Him. This is the purpose of meditation. Individuals who have reached this stage of spiritual evolution by meditation and his grace are unlikely to be adversely affected by Covid or by other worldly drama.
As Maharaj Charan Singh said in response to a question about faith:
You see, faith actually is built by meditation, faith comes by meditation, faith comes by experience. Otherwise the mind always remains shaky. Meditation will be able to create that faith. It generates faith, it creates faith, it strengthens faith. Faith grows by meditation.3
As we examine the concept of faith, we can look at three different types of individuals. The first may not have undergone a deep spiritual evolution but may have a strong faith in the heavenly design for our destiny. They just believe that whatever happens reflects the will of the Creator and can't be altered by anyone. They accept that everything that happens is happening according to the deeper scope of destiny, for their good, and happens by the will of God. Such individuals may not be as steadfast as those with direct understanding of the Lord's will, but they manage to weather the storms with equanimity.
Then there are those who have no concept or conviction of divine design or God's will. They think of God only when in trouble and question his wisdom and intention when visited by adversity of any kind. They pray to Him for relief immediately. They never consider the possibility that they create their own destiny by their actions. They have little interest in changing themselves as they always perceive the problem as having been created outside of themselves.
Finally, a third group are those with no concept of divinity or a Creator. They see problems only from a physical or material point of view. They hold others responsible for their inconvenience, be they scientists, doctors, or the government, and accuse others of incompetence. Expecting quick resolutions to all problems, this group is the most vulnerable when faced with any uncertainty or unknown. If the situation doesn't change or improve, they feel frustrated and helpless and may go into depression.
The next influencer and, arguably, in many the cause of acute activity and anxiety is ubiquitous social media and the access to information available through the internet. Based on algorithms, technology companies seek to shape what you see and what you hear and the choices you make, constantly mining data that is available and is being generated at an estimated pace of 1.7 MB per person per day. While much of it adds to our knowledge and growth, in many people this can be a source of confusion and chaos – facts vs faith; knowledge vs intuition; and the battle rages. However, it is a losing battle for technology. The fluidity of nature is not an exact science, is not binary and quickly realizes the limitlessness of the Infinite. And it concludes that, in contrast, the world and God’s bounty, piety, and will are infinite; and even with all the learning, the horizons remain what they really are and what they always will be – just horizons.
It is faith that puts to rest these questions that plague the mind. A triumph of soul over mind is a constant battle, and that war is the only war we have to win. Hazur Maharaj Ji responded to a question about the importance of faith:
Actual faith comes by experience, and faith comes from within, it doesn’t come from outside at all. The faith which we build by seeing other people doesn’t have much depth at all; it’s very shaky. The faith that comes from within by meditation – which strengthens our faith, rather it creates faith – that is unshakeable faith. Faith is very essential before we can put forth an earnest effort to practice.4
And in Quest for Light, he wrote to a disciple:
Faith is the foundation on which the whole superstructure of religion and spiritual progress stands. It is the root of the tree of godliness. Without faith there can be no achievement in any worldly art or spiritual matter. Faith is the most precious of gifts that the Lord can confer on a devotee. If one has little meditation to his credit but has full faith and love, his future is assured.5
However, faith does not come so easily. The analytical nature of the mind encourages us to question, to have faith only in that which can be proven. In fact, Sant Mat and the RSSB way of life ask us to explore the teachings, so that we might experience the truth within ourselves. True faith, therefore, is not blind. Faith is based on our experience, which we receive through sincere practice. We have faith, therefore, when we courageously dedicate ourselves to proving truths beyond our grasp, following the lead of our Master.
To quote Saint Augustine, “Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.” 6 It is our deep faith that will keep us steady and steadfast with the conviction that we will overcome this and all future pandemics.
- Bible, Matthew 6:10
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, Beas: Radha Soami Satsang Beas, Punjab, 2011, Q 173
- Ibid, Q 174
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Quest for Light, Beas: Radha Soami Satsang Beas, Punjab, 2002, Letter #12
- Saint Augustine, Creeds of Faith and Inspiration, quoted in Spiritual Link Magazine, RSSB,February 2011, “Having Faith” (https://rssb.org/2011-02-09.html)