Faith is a word that has been so little understood, and often it is considered to be a religious term. Really speaking faith is not only something which is required in religion, but in all aspects of life it is the one thing that is required most. It is the misinterpretation of faith that has taken away the value that could be attached to the word. Otherwise, if I am to say one word, the sense of which is most valuable in the world, it is faith. In the Orient they call faith yaqin and another Arabic word used for it is iman.
There are many things sacred in the world, but faith is the most sacred; not faith in something, but faith in itself. Faith comes from above, doubt rises from below, from the earth. Therefore one is heavenly, the other earthly. When a person is more worldly he is more doubting; the less worldly he is the more faith he has. You may find a person who once had a great faith and then lost it, and you will observe that at the same time his life went from a less worldly condition to a more worldly one. Being more absorbed in the life of this world makes one void of faith. This shows that faith is innate in human nature; doubt is something of which man partakes.
The sun is light, the light which always is light; clouds may cover it, but they do not really cover the sun, they only cover the sun from our eyes. When a person has no faith, it does not mean that in the depth of his being there is no faith. There is faith, but that sun is covered by clouds. When the heart is exposed to the things of the world, there are always doubts rising from the earth, and they will cover the heart.
Doubt gives a pessimistic attitude. One questions, "Will it be, or will it not be? Do I think rightly, or do I think wrongly? Am I on the right path, or on the wrong path? Shall I succeed, or shall I fail throughout life? Will conditions be better, or worse?" When there are two possibilities the earth impresses a person with doubt against the good one. He wants to conquer the good one, to have it, he desires that things should be better, but what he finds, rising from the earth, is doubt, and for his faith therefore he does not get proper support from the earth. As man does not see God, he does not look up, he only looks at the earth and wants support from there. The great lesson that the blessed ones have taught to humanity was to raise one's vision upwards and to find faith in something which is free from all doubt. Pessimism and optimism, therefore, are two different attitudes: the one looks downwards, the other looks upwards.
Very few of us know what miracle is hidden in faith, what power and inspiration. We only think, "I can believe in some things, and in some things I cannot believe". But for what we believe we want proof from the earth. In order to sustain our faith we need sustenance from an unlimited source, but we look for sustenance to the earth which is a limited source. When a person looks at a tank full of water and says, "Oh, what a small supply, what shall I do for next year?", he is right - but he is looking at the tank. When he looks above he will see that the source from which the rain falls is there and can fill many such tanks, and even rivers. Blessing of all kind is there, if only we prepare our heart to receive it. If the heart is small like a glass, it can only fetch a glass of water even if it is taken to the sea. But if the heart is larger then it will bring that much more water.
No doubt, patience is the first lesson to learn in the path of faith, because it is patience which gives one strength to hope. My spiritual teacher used to say as his benediction, "May your faith be strengthened". As a youth I thought that he would say, "May you live long, may you be happy, prosperous, may you gain wisdom". The meaning of this blessing I realize now more and more every moment of my life, for in faith there is all. All that one wants, all that one needs, all that one wishes to attain through life - it is all hidden in one's faith.
It is most interesting and sometimes laughable to see how easy it is for a man to fix his faith on small things, while on large things he cannot fix it: he fixes his faith on an object, not on a person. For instance if one says to somebody, "Here is a medicine for you, a medicine that will cure you", it is easy for him to have faith. And when one says, "Well, I will think of you for your cure; you will be cured"(12), the first thing that will come to his mind will be doubt. What is the reason? The reason is that he sees the object, he does not see the thought ( i.e. he can see the medicine, he cannot see the thought of the healer).
I once met a very great healer who had much success, and I asked him the secret of his working. He said, "The secret of my way of working is first that I have taken a religious shrine where people come and sit; they certainly come with faith in this particular shrine. Then I give them some kind of mixture of powder. Really speaking I heal them by myself, but they have no faith in that; so I give them some powder or something to drink, and then they feel better." The whole effort of different religions has been to make man see what is hidden in a human being. Rituals, ceremonies and all different forms teach the same thing: find the secret and the mystery of life not only in the objects but, when you have passed through them, in the human being.
It is the same thing to see that one can easily have faith in a man, while it is difficult to have faith in God, for the reason that one can see a human being before one, but one cannot see the greatest Power and Perfection, which is in the abstract. Faith is as a substance: if one does not possess that substance, one cannot raise it to the highest ideal which alone merits faith.
Medical science is now coming to the realization of the importance of psychology, although it is as yet only considering the thought waves and thought power. Faith is still something else to be considered and studied. My experience with numerous students in this line has shown me that a person may be able to concentrate and maintain a thought, but often is not capable to do it fully, because there is no faith at the back of it. Faith, therefore, is not something which may be called a thought; faith is the ground itself it is a ground from which thoughts spring up as plants. If the land is not fertile the plants cannot come up. And so,
if there is no faith at the root of a thought, the thought is not beneficial. Besides this there is another thing: something that can be accomplished by the power of thought in a year's time, is accomplished with the power of faith behind it in one day.
Someone said to a Brahmin who was worshipping an idol made of stone, "God is formless. He should not be worshipped in an idol of rock". The Brahmin answered, "It is a question of faith. If I have faith in this stone, God who is everywhere will speak through this stone. But if one has no faith, even the God of the abstract, of heavens, will not be able to speak". If this is so, is there anything that cannot be accomplished, that cannot be realized by faith?
When we look at it from a metaphysical point of view we shall find that the secret of the whole creation is faith, and the perfection of faith is attained when it has risen to that ideal, that height, where it can hold itself without any support. Faith therefore after having accomplished all that is to be accomplished, will be the one thing - and that will prove to be all things.
Question: How do we gain that faith?
Answer: By fighting doubt. It is a continual fight, because doubts are the inheritance of the earth. We are walking on the earth, so it is a continual fight.
Question: But faith can be mastered?
Answer: Of course faith can be mastered. As one will fight doubts, so one will gain one's victory over doubts.
Question: Can there be a religious faith without being attached to any religion?
Answer: Certainly. The religion of every soul is his own. Outwardly one may belong to a religion, but inwardly everyone has his own religion, and that is his true religion. By faith I do not at all mean faith in a particular religion or gospel, or idea. I say that faith is within a person.
Question: Can one obtain the spiritual plane by an earthly fight?
Answer: We say in the East that a teacher is most helpful for that. A person, who in his scientific attainment has arrived for instance at the stage of Edison, is there already; he only has to turn his face and he is already there. There is perhaps a businessman who all his life has done nothing but gain wealth. A religious, orthodox, or pious person will look upon him as most materialistic, but he does not know what fight this man had to go through in his life in order to gain that much money, and what sacrifice, what struggle and consideration he had to give to it. It is not always easy to become a man of wealth. Therefore if he has struggled along and has arrived at a point where he can be called rich, he just has to change his attitude and he is there already.
Question: Can the wrongdoer come to right one day?
Answer: Right is the might, and right is the depth, and right is the ideal of every soul. A person who tells a lie, who deceives people, who is treacherous, will do so to others, but he does not want his friends to do the same to him. This shows that he prefers it to be different.
Question: Can faith have an effect on things that are not religious?
Answer: Oh yes, faith can be used in every direction, just like light. By light you can study religion and fare forth to heavens and do anything. No one in the world has been able to accomplish a great thing without the power of faith, whether he was a general, a businessman, an inventor, or a religious man. The power that faith gives is beyond words. The weakness and the poverty that exist in the absence of faith are most deplorable. A person may have everything in life, youth, wealth, comfort, position and power - if faith lacks he is poverty-stricken.
Question: So if our object is right we are bound to get it unless our faith fails?
Answer: Yes, that is true. It depends upon our attitude - if our heart, just like a compass, is always seeking the right direction. The heart is just like a compass: you can take it to any side, it always points in the same direction. So the heart, wherever one turns it to, will always point to the same direction. In other words for him who does right it is most difficult to do wrong - and for the wrongdoer it is most difficult to do right.