When My Faith is Weak
by Jayaram V
Having weak faith is not a sin, but trying to weaken others is. Jayaram V
If your faith is weak or wavering, do not expect others to solve it. It is not the right thing to do because it is your battle, and you have to deal with it. You cannot solve the problem of faith easily, unless you are clear about your values, beliefs, and purpose in your life. If you have deeply thought about it and settled with your disbelief, it will be even more difficult to restore your faith. By faith, I mean having the belief in your eternal Self or in God or in a higher purpose, power, or deity. No one can really help those who go through this churning. In the following discussion, I will explain why it is so, and what anyone can do when they are troubled by weak faith or lack of faith.
At the very outset, it is important to know that you are not meant to have faith in this world of duality, delusion, and ignorance. The world is made to make you disbelieve in God or in the transcendental reality rather than believe in it. You are meant to be an ignorant and deluded person who acts according to his desires and goes by his senses. If you are not, and if you are a person of strong faith, it is entirely due to your personal effort. You should consider it a true virtue and a great, personal victory. It is more than having all the wealth in the world.
Everything that happens here is meant to break your faith in a higher power rather than strengthen it. If the world is full of evil people and injustice, or if God does not easily answer your prayers and questions, it is because they are meant to shake your faith or put it to test rather than strengthen it. In the crucible of life your faith is tested, and so is your commitment to God and righteousness. For any human being with a strong conscience, it is a huge challenge to have faith in righteousness and eternal truths amidst all the mayhem and chaos that seem to negate them.
The world is full of suffering, and that suffering is also part of this design. Nature aims to keep the beings deluded and ignorant to ensure the order and regularity of the world and continuation of births and deaths. Liberation is not in its design. The idea of liberation has to manifest in a being by itself or because of past karma, after innumerable births, or by divine grace. Only then, his quest for liberation begins. Even then the problem is not fully solved. You may have to spend many lifetimes and undergo rigorous self-transformation before you achieve it.
Liberation is an escape of the soul from Nature. If you understand it, you will understand why faith does not arise easily or stay firmly in case of many people. If your faith is weak or wavering, do not be anxious. It is how you are meant to be. It means you are sane, and you are true to your nature. To have faith, you have to set aside reason and stop asking questions to overcome your disbelief. Faith does not arise from reasoning. Faith arises when faith chooses you.
The problem with faith is that it is entirely personal. No one can put faith in you, unless you are willing to have it and express it. Faith belongs to your ego, and unless it surrenders to faith it does not manifest. It is not anyone’s responsibility to tell you what you should believe in. Others can speak about possibilities and opportunities. Or they may tell you about their faith or their spiritual experience. You cannot totally rely upon that on face value because you are on a journey of your own. You have to let that happen by itself.
Your faith is a product of your worldview, and your lifetime effort. As we believe in Hinduism, it is also the culmination of all the lives that you lived so far. How can anyone neutralize all that experience and accumulated wisdom with just a few conversations or statements? Sometimes a mere touch or a glance from an enlightened master may trigger a great transformation in you. If it happens by any chance, you should know that it is because you made it possible through your good karma. You are the creator of your life, and you are also its preserver and destroyer. If God or anyone interferes with it, or participates in it, it is also because of you only. You make it possible through your desires, intentions, effort and expectations.
It is difficult to believe that anyone can live without faith of some kind, not necessarily the religious one. Faith is what keeps us alive, faith that tomorrow the sun will arise as usually and your life will go on normally, or faith that you can survive in this world and get on with your problems, or faith that the people you trust will not betray you, or faith that you have the ability and the resources to negotiate your way in the world. When that faith weakens, what happens? People may lose hope. They may feel depressed or so grief stricken that they may even end their lives.
Therefore, do not believe if you hear that someone does not have faith. Everyone has faith, faith in something, in Self, in another person, or in an institution, ideology, possibility, vision, hope, or opportunity. Begin with it. Flow with the life that flows out of it. Accept it as your natural dharma, what comes to you naturally, or in what you can invest your dreams and energies. It may be a talent, an ability, an aspiration, an exceptional skill, a deep interest, a serious pursuit, or something that consumes your thoughts and passions. Manifest the objective of that faith in your life. Consider that it is your destiny.
Some people may say, “I cannot believe in your religion. I do not think that your scriptures have any value. Yet, I want to give it a thought provided you can convince me. I will ask you questions and please you have to answer me. If your answers are convincing enough, I may change my mind.” Well, this is a laughable situation. It is as if that gentleman is doing you a favor by having faith in himself or his spiritual possibilities. That person wants to draw you into a game of egos in which he wants to play the role of a reluctant son or a student and you that of a father figure or an eager teacher. He does it probably to convince himself or release some suppressed emotions. In most cases it does not end well or may very well degenerate into a victim and victimizer scenario.
An earnest teacher willingly instructs the one who has faith. It is doubtful, whether he would readily like to restore someone’s faith, unless he perceives a ray of hope or a possibility. Spiritual teachers do not undertake the duty of convincing those who lack faith. They would rather spend their time improving and reforming those who have faith and who are willing to change for better, than convincing the nonbelievers and cleaning their negativity. At least it is not part of the teacher tradition in Hinduism.
In Hinduism, spiritual teachers have no obligations to teach everyone or initiate them on the path. They may give public speeches, but that is only as part of their duty to society. The tradition upholds the practice of teaching knowledge (vidya) only to those who are earnest and curious and who have a deep interest and an unstoppable yearning to learn and overcome their ignorance and delusion. They know that ignorance and delusion are the natural states of mind. Therefore, they do not usually try to unsettle the minds of others. It is like any other medicine. They prescribe it only to those who are in dire need of it.
In ancient times, a spiritual teacher would not initiate anyone easily. He would let the novices wait and wait for years, working in the household, before he even allowed them to listen to his secret teaching. The waiting period was meant for testing their faith and their resolve. He selected them with utmost care, just as a farmer would choose the right soil and right conditions before planting the seeds. After their initiation, he allowed them to ask questions and clarify their doubts about their practice or liberation, but would not let them question his instruction. It has been the approach in Hinduism for millenniums, and it still holds well in many teacher traditions. Therefore, if you have weak faith or if you lack faith, do not pester the spiritual masters to convince you. In the battlefield of spiritual life, faith is the armor, and determination is the sword. How can you even qualify to be a soldier or participate in the battle of Dharma if you do not have them?
Hindu scriptures are not meant to inculcate faith in you. They are meant for the seekers of spiritual truths, not for atheists, secularists, and irreverent materialists who lack faith or who ridicule and criticize the faith of others. If you understand the true meaning and purpose of karma, you will understand why Hinduism does not place much emphasis upon converting other people or teaching those who are reluctant, insincere, or disinterested. Surely, spiritual teachers may oblige to spread the knowledge of the scriptures as a service to the humanity, but they do not take particular interest in teaching to reluctant people. If at all they do, it will be due to divine intervention, or some merit which they may perceive in someone.
Therefore, if you do not have faith do not rush to change it. Consider it to be a part of your destiny and go with whatever you believe in. If faith in God or in your own spirituality does not come to your naturally, it may be because you wanted it to happen for some mysterious reason. You probably decided to delay it so that you could focus upon resolving some other issues in your life. Hence, it may be even better to flow with your life and live in harmony with yourself, rather than feeling conflicted and guilty. It is better to be truthful and honest to yourself rather than pretentious and insincere.
Our scriptures equate those who lack faith to the misguided and deluded, but do suggest a solution to resolve the problem of those whose faith is rather weak, or tainted by the impurities of rajas (selfish desires) and tamas (evil intentions). However, it requires that you should believe in God and in the efficacy of prayers, right intentions, and positive expectations. They suggest that through earnest prayers, devotion, and direct supplications, you can earn the grace of God to change yourself or to strengthen your faith. If you have doubts and concerns, pray to God and seek his guidance rather than engaging in discussions and conversations with others. You may occasionally do it, but not to confuse yourself or others. Only God or your own eternal Self can help you. If you do not believe in either of them, there is no other solution but to wait for the karma to work itself out.
Therefore, if you are suffering from a crisis of faith and want to find a solution, try to find answers from within through self-study (svadhyaya) and introspection (vichara). Practice meditation or contemplation upon Self or God and wait for an answer. If you persist, most likely a solution will manifest and your faith will strengthen which will help you further in stabilizing your mind. It is better than engaging your ego to find solutions or indulge in intellectual combat with others to derive egoistic satisfaction.
Know that it is your ego which is solely responsible for your lack of faith because it has some rigid views, likes and dislikes about God and life. If you want to know the truth, you must silence your ego so that truth can manifest without its interference. If you keep asking questions and challenging other people for a discussion, you will keep it alive and will remain deluded. Sometimes, when you have a crisis of faith, silence is the best solution. In the silence of your mind and heart, all answers will manifest.
May God bless and protect you and…
May you always be
Safe and Comfortable
Seth Kelly Curtis