Thursday, 13 October 2011

Faith versus Universal Compassion - Part I


P L Rao
 

Recently in a temple, a famous speaker in his discourse on subject “Divinity, Ethics and You” was extolling virtues as man’s innate goodness and need of belief in God and compassionate treatment of others. Suddenly, there was interruption–an announcement: “Will the owner of car number xxx kindly move it aside as it is blocking passage?” Secondly that as some thefts had occurred of late management has declared the manned footwear stand at gate as free service. Even before his sentence was over, there was a hustle around. Everyone was rushing out to deposit his worn sandals in the main stand. Such is our etiquette and the chasm between the noble ideals we hear and then practice in lives. The preface applies more aptly to the subject of this article.          

Definition and meaning

Faith or belief is the unique faculty that prompts proper decisions and knits into harmonious working all the energies of our person. It helps to bind men together and directs them into common action, thus it is more relevant for others. It is a mental bond that develops after deep examination and total acquaintance. In material world, it is seen between aged couple, kid and mother, parents and child, siblings and friends. Faith is not momentary, transient and sentimental feeling.

It is wrong to believe on insufficient evidence or to nourish it by suppressing doubt and avoiding investigation. That which develops after a visit to a crematorium, listening to harikatha or performing a pilgrimage can kindle it for once, but true faith is much beyond that. The ‘belief’ one claims from half knowledge boosts up ego, vanity and develops as pestilence. Every time one is led into believing for un worthy reasons, his self confidence, capacity of inquiring, doubting, judiciously analyzing and taking right actions vanes.

As per Milton, “If one believes things that his pastor or elder said so without knowing reason, the very Truth he holds becomes his heresy”. An aphorism of Coleridge says: “He who begins by loving Christianity better than Truth, will proceed by loving his own sect of Church better than Christianity and ends loving himself better than all”
      
If one was loaded with a pattern of belief in childhood, which he persuaded later, his tendency is to push away any doubts arising in mind, avoid questions, reading books and company of people who are likely to disturb his belief. Result is he looses confidence in self and needs some crutch for survival for ever. The power earned by faith is highest when it is derived after deep self introspection.. It will then apply as well to others as common property. For this, discussion with others has very limited role. In fact when belief is complete, one never need ask for help. It does not demand commonality in outlook. One is accepted simply as he is. That demands generosity and mutual tolerance.  
  

Worldly examples                         

Meerabai
In Worldly relationship, there are many positive examples. But in theology, how can one positively states that he believes in Lord Rama, Almighty or a Gospel? Is he ready to surrender before that entity at real point of disaster?  If his faith is an abstraction without any material or heavenly expectations, it matters not. But it is rarely the case with the “believers” around us. Incidentally, this is the main topic of ongoing debate: – Whether the Absolute involves itself with the day to day micro level administration of Earth or is everything self destined? My feeling is that it is a fallacy to assume that  micro level management of all creations on earth, whose interests clashes with each other, is handled by Almighty, which has endowed instrument of large brain to man. Secondly, despite all strides made by Science and technology, much of the worldly events are incomprehensible. If there is something called Divine justice, how do we explain the greatest tragedies befallen on the most pious community of people of Tibet and now cloud burst in Ladakh?

Again, just as a visually challenged person cannot read printed script, Power (if it exists,) which is without form and quality, can not be experienced by physical faculty of brain. This being the case, how does a man, who takes many precautions before striking a simple financial deal, bestows his destiny into the lap of a Power of which everything is enigma?

Prophet Mohammed receiving his first revelation 
An image from the book Jami' al-tawarikh 
published in 1307 AD 
(Courtesy: Wikipedia)
In this subject, we hear of Meera bai, Kabir, Thyagaraja, Ramakrtishna and Prpphet Mohammed etc who claimed intimacy with Divinity. The fact is that they meditated for decades attributing a particular form to their Deity, sang, danced and worshipped this form day or night in forest or desert, went mad with “devotion”, to such an extent that is believed in medical circles as trance, disabled mind or dream. When attention of one is continuously focused in single object, losing rest, sleep, hunger, seeking prolonged solitude, he looses sense of realism and turns out to be victim of deranged brain as hallucination or delusion. Now, if s/he sincerely ‘believes’ that s/he ‘saw’ God, the statement has to be measured with our yardstick. Please note that Kabir did not see Allah, nor Meera find Rama even though all are Deities at par.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa
Like wise, Swami Vivekananda, a great rationalist ( 1863 – 1902 AD)  hailing from an educated back ground, was not highly impressed with all the talk of Ramakrishna’s regular ‘communion’ with Goddess. But concurring with his sincerity and humility, lead Ramakrishna Mission, redirecting its focus from metaphysical towards humanism and dispassionate intellectual inquiry of all religions.      

Now ask any theist which is the focal Power of his faith. A reply in plural exposes him as faith in tens or thousands of Gods is as good as in none. Secondly compartmentalized Powers can never solve all crises. One does not start testing Doctors after falling ill. Sincere theist however will get perplexed at the question, wonders why this did not occur to him earlier. Please note that no two people (even seers) will answer alike with straight forward answer if asked to define faith and explain what lies beyond life. But majority are sheep in a flock, simply taught to “believe”, not knowing what to believe. Any next query will provoke an arrogant reply and annoyance for exposing their hollowness. It is obvious that this belief in term “Belief “can not carry one far. This “Theist” deprived of thinking capacity is doomed to suffer.                       
Swami Vivekananda

This World of faith is built around us by Society in connivance with the priestly community (seers, sages, Popes and Imams) from collective imagination with explicit objective of reining in the common man. Despite knowing its futility, society carefully preserves this myth as a tool to tame the occasional skeptics and rebels.

Is Faith accumulation of knowledge?

Faith is usually described as product of knowledge of religious texts. One who is capable of reciting chapters of Gita or Veda extempore is held in high esteem and repeated recitation of words”Rama“, ‘’Shiva” or “ Om” would elevate him. The truth however is that the words “Holy”’, ‘Sacred” “Bliss” and ‘Super conscious state” are all simple words, in no way different from word “Food“ which would not satisfy your hunger however earnestly you utter the word a hundred times. Accumulation of knowledge in physical or metaphysical world only enhances one’s ego. In today’s fast growing world of science and technology, one can never be abreast with latest developments. Likewise, in metaphysical field, reading for spirituality is accumulation, which develops as a fad with no end to it. Wisdom lies in denying knowledge in transcendental field. This only can ignite faculty of constant awareness and Inquiry. .

This calls for a fresh look around at all moments of one’s life. It does not demand a brain of super potential, but simply awareness that it is conditioned (that is, deprived of natural state as of a child) and then a resolve to come out of this influence. Gifted with the largest brain of all species, man has to use it to its full potential. One is as great (or worse) as he behaves with humility and sincerity towards betterment of others. Instead, running after any abstractions or shunning rightful responsibility is escapism. 

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