Faith and Trust

From Bhakti Sadhana, Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

On the path of bhakti, two pillars or supports are essential for the mind: faith and trust. In the Ramacharitamanas, faith and trust have been acknowledged as the foundation of bhakti (1:2):

Bhavaaneeshankarau vande raddhaavishwaasroopinau;
Yaabhyaam vinaa na pashyanti
siddhaah svaantasthameeshvaram.

Without shraddha and vishwas, faith and deep conviction, even great siddhas cannot achieve spiritual attainment.

Without faith and trust, even an adept cannot see the Spirit within, cannot understand, know, or recognize that. Therefore, faith and trust are considered to be the foundation of bhakti: faith in the higher power and trust in oneself. Have faith in God and trust in yourself.

Usually, people do not believe in themselves, they think they are weak and powerless, and they question their ability and capacity to do something in life. Even before beginning a task they feel defeated by it. There is a lack of sankalpa shakti, power of resolve; iccha shakti, power of will;and kriya shakti, power of action in life. If you are determined, you can accomplish anything in life. Resolve comes with trust: trust in one's own capacity and capability. Remember, God has not sent you into this world with anything less than the next person. The same power and energy in Rama or Buddha, Mahavira, Krishna, Jesus Christ or Prophet Mohammed are also within you. The difference is that they have realized it and you have not been able to realize it. God has given that capacity equally to all. No one has more or less; everyone has the same capacity.

From a psychological point of view, God is an expression and experience of the evolution of consciousness; that is all. When a child goes to school, he learns and acquires knowledge of the alphabet. In the process of intellectual development, gradually many things are learnt, the understanding grows, the consciousness grows. The child who could not even write 'ABC', can grow up to become the head of a country, a great scientist or even a great saint. For that, the consciousness needs to undergo the process of development, whereby the child expands his consciousness, mind, intellect and emotions. From this viewpoint, God is an experience of the maturity of your mind. Maturity of the mind results in attraction for God, knowledge of God, belief in God, and attaining a vision of God.

Trust and faith are the foundation of bhakti. Trust that you are capable of acquiring joy, comfort and competence in life. Have faith that you are not alone in the world, that there is someone with you who is your intimate friend, closer to you than your husband or wife, closer even than your children, someone who is inherent in you.

Constant presence of God

In ancient Sparta, newborn babies were left outside the house all night, regardless of snow, rain or heat. The baby faced the natural conditions outside all night long. If it lived until the morning, it was brought back inside the house. There was another custom followed there. When a boy reached the age of sixteen, he was blindfolded and left in the dense forest. There would be wild, ferocious animals all around. Sometimes a tiger roared, sometimes a cheetah called. The blindfolded boy would be petrified. In the morning he was brought home and said to have become a man.

Once, after having gone through this process, a boy asked his father, "Tell me, when a child is left in the forest to become a man, don't the parents worry that some ferocious animal will kill the child and eat him?" The father said, "Son, since you have passed the test I will tell you the secret. When you were blindfolded and left in the jungle, you were never alone. You thought that you were alone, but ten steps away from you I stood well-armed to protect you from dangerous animals. You did not know that someone was ten steps away from you, protecting you."

It is the same in your life. You think you are alone; however, you are never alone. Once, a devotee who was a dear friend of God said to Him, "Let us go for a walk." God said, "Fine. You walk in front, I will walk behind you." The devotee asked, "How will I know that you are walking behind me?" God replied, "Whenever you turn around you will find two sets of footprints: one set will be mine, the other set yours. By that you will know that I have been walking with you."

Happily, the devotee started to walk. He crossed a river, a jungle, a mountain. Many times he felt that God was walking behind him; he could hear the sound of footsteps. Many times he felt he was alone and upon turning around he would see only a single set of footprints. Finally, he felt dejected and said, "God, you are not keeping your word. You said that you would always be with me, but many times when I turn around to look, you are not with me, and I see only a single set of footprints on the ground. Why do you disappear?"

God said, "I do not disappear. When the path is difficult, I carry you in my arms. That is why you see only one set of footprints. When the path is easy, I put you down, we walk together again and you see two sets of footprints." When the path is easy God leaves one to stand on one's own feet, "Child, walk. There is no problem here, keep walking." The moment the going gets tough, God picks up His devotee in His arms and carries him.

You will find that all the great saints in history, no matter which culture or religion they belonged to, experienced God constantly in their lives, and the basis of that realization was faith and trust.