The other day I was delighted to receive a lovely email, and even though I am not quoting the rest of this email, I want to address the writer’s thoughtful question on my blog post:
“I absolutely loved the Belief vs Faith blog story. It brought me to tears and later I had to reread it several times to understand the conclusion.
Belief looks for reasons and outcomes.
Faith is already where it seeks to be.
The question that occurs to me is that if Faith is already where it seeks to be, and we have experienced such moments of serenity and tranquility, then why does the restlessness and in turn, the seeking returns? The feeling of faith is so elusive and transient, yet powerful and addictive.”
Dear Reader, thank you for reading my blog. To answer the question as it deservers, I will draw on various scriptures and spiritual writings.
To answer the first part of your question:
In Hindu metaphysical lore, Brahman is the creator of the Universe (similar concept as Allah or God or Enlightenment in other religions). In some cultures, faith has to be ‘in’ something. I think Buddhism (the non ritualistic meditation type) is unique in that enlightenment or nibbana is self-explanatory. Buddha makes no attempt to tell people what is what. Instead he says, ‘here is what you do to attain enlightenment.’ Ok, so back to Hindu lore.
Brahman is “unchanging reality” in contrast to Maya, “the changing, illusory world of appearance”. Thus, Faith shows us unchanging reality of who we are. It is elusive and transient, because our journey is in Maya or the world of senses and appearances. In the world of Maya, truth changes all the time. We can see how science is always coming up with a new concept or idea of physical reality. Thus much of what science finds out changes, and thus it is (metaphysically speaking) maya or illusion. You are, therefore, in good company if you disconnect, because the /journey of maya is meant to be a bit disconnected/. You are supposed to have a sense of self, because we are sent here for the experience of being here, to struggle against difficulty. Both Faith and Restlessness are ok!. Neither is better than other, and I think part of any person’s human struggle.
The next part of your question says that faith is powerful and addictive… but I wonder if what you are actually asking is, ‘can I trust the addictive and powerful quality of faith–more than the restless searching?’
I will meander a bit before I get to it. Imagine this like a walk in garden.
People can cross the world of illusion, for direct realization of the world of unchanging reality. History gives so many examples of people who do that, they receive guidance from the other side to help with the journey in illusions. They transcend the illusion of Maya to ‘see’ what is. Whether they cross it for a few moments or for years, depends on the soul’s purpose here. For the rest of us the purpose is not to stay in the place of faith, but to visit as needed. Thus I do not promote it as ‘a goal in itself’ or a ‘moral virtue’ or something that all of us must do!, because it can become an addiction. We have an Earthly life purpose in addition to a spiritual one. We are in good company if we are restless.
In a letter estimated to be from 1961, Mother Teresa wrote: “Darkness is such that I really do not see—neither with my mind nor with my reason—the place of God in my soul is blank—there is no God in me—when the pain of longing is so great—I just long & long for God. … The torture and pain I can’t explain.”
Yet, she carried on. Perhaps something that many of us assume is negative regarding our journey of faith, may be part of it. She was emotionally authentic. She wrote many thousands of letters expressing her struggle and her loss of connection to Jesus. But, what if she had said to herself, ‘I am Mother Teresa, I must know what’s what?” I wonder if she would have been as successful as a modern day saint who saved thousands of slum children. When we stop the process –—i.e., if we don’t allow the possibility of dissent, or internal searching, we run the risk of becoming hypocrites, and unfortunately that feels pretty awful inside. It is too much pressure for the human mind to stay fixated in one place!. It is a monkey mind!. Let me express this idea in theistic’s terms, ‘maybe God forgives skepticism more easily than hypocrisy.’
So, my advice is to let go of the pressure to know faith all the time or to stay in faith vs non-faith. It is ok to feel whatever you are feeling. Then, you will have power over faith, rather than faith having an addictive power over you or vice versa. Neither faith is /right/ nor is restlessness /right/ You see, both your ego and your faith are part of it. The separation or sense of duality is an illusion.
“Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field….I will meet you there”…Maulana Jelaluddin Rumi Balkhi.
Then, I am assuming here that you will ask, but why meditate? if both are ok, than why not choose the restlessness? and give up the faith?
Because it is greatly useful. If meditation were easy—or if prayer became an unfeeling ritual, it would not be so useful. We need the silence, we need the practice to reconnect to our deepest selves and follow our life path. When we see our feelings with equanimity, not judging our inner experience, ultimately as we grow, “happiness follows like a shadow that never leaves”…(Dhammapada, Buddha).
A distinction that’s important to remember is that faith is yielding and soft. Belief is uncompromising and rigid. Faith is softer. It has a yielding quietude to it, it is felt in stillness. No name can do it justice, thus it is content without a name….
The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
The named is the mother of myriad things
Thus, constantly free of desire
One observes its wonders
Constantly filled with desire
One observes its manifestations
These two emerge together but differ in name
The unity is said to be the mystery
Mystery of mysteries, the door to all wonders
–Tao Te Ching
Belief, on the other hand can be more rigid and sometimes hasty, before fully understanding. Thus, there is suffering when the belief is disproved or humiliated. For example, Galileo was persecuted and put into prison for suggesting that the Universe is not Earth centric, and in time dogma broke the power of the Church and its place as a source of spiritual faith. Science and spirituality were separated, until then they co-existed as one philosophy.
The wise person, chooses non-attachment, both from faith, and from restless searching. When we are kind to ourselves and don’t strive to reach faith or vanquish restlessness, but only witness what we are aware of, it gets easier to have faith. It is a subtle faith in the way of life itself.
I hope that the above helps answer your question.