Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan

The Meaning of Faith
Book 2, chapter VII
(A lecture given in San-Francisco, le 14 April 1926)
Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan


Often people use the word faith in the sense of a particular religion which they follow, whether a person belongs to the Jewish faith, the Moslem faith or the Buddhist faith. In this way they obscure the meaning of faith which is light itself. Faith is not necessarily belief, but faith is the culmination of belief. Belief is a conception, a conception which one has made oneself, or a conception which one has taken from another by hearing it from him, or a conception of a certain idea one has made by reading something. A person will hold and believe this as long as his reason is not strong enough to root it out, or as long as he has not met someone who will dig it out, or as long as he has not met with that experience which destroys it entirely. How many do you see in this world counting spiritual words on the rosary, sitting in churches with closed eyes, observing every Sunday to worship. And at the same time, if someone meets them who is more intellectual, who is argumentative and whose reason is more powerful, he changes them entirely. From an orthodox he may become a practical man, from a dreamer he may become wide awake. At the same time, whether he has become a heathen or a Christian is a question to solve.

No doubt, one belief can be stronger than another belief. A sheep-like belief is a belief that everyone believes, although no one admits that. Every person thinks, "What I believe I have reason to believe". But it is not always so. The religious question apart and coming to the political question, a man who is raised by one man, the whole country follows him. He becomes the man of the day; everyone follows him with closed eyes. Once he is despised by one man, the crowd goes and despises him. That is the crowd's psychology. Yet everyone says, "I am intellectual. I always tell the truth for I know what I say". But is it so? It is not so. When I went to Russia I saw in every little shop the picture of the Czar and the Czarina. Do you think they did not have an adherence to them and feeling for the Czar? Was it all hypocrisy? It cannot be so. And what happened the next day? They broke the crown in the street with hammers and carried it in their procession. Where was that belief which was one day so great that they thought it was sacred to expose the picture of their king? Next day the belief was changed, it took no time. Do not think, "That happened in Russia". You will see it in every country just by studying the psychology of the crowd.

Therefore, wise people never depend upon the praise of the crowd; they always knew what it is. It means nothing. With all the worship and praise given to him Buddha did not look at it. He had his work before him, his service to humanity. And so the sages and prophets, seers and thinkers never believed in the praise of mankind, in their love and affection. What is it? The man who has not reached the realm of faith is not living. He does not know his mind. One day he believes someone, the day after he believes another thing. Therefore, faith is not only adherence to a certain religion or belonging to a certain church. Faith is much greater than that.

The second step in the path of belief is that one does not believe because the crowd does believe, but because it comes from an authority. It is a child's belief, but at the same time that is the way one has to go. One progresses when the mother says, "This is called water" and the child says "water". It does not argue and say, "It is not water, it is bread". It just listens and believes. That is the way the child begins to learn.

Then there is the third step: when the belief has a reason. "Why do I believe? Because I have a reason to do so. I can explain my belief. Therefore I believe that it is so and so". This belief is more dependable. And at the same time, is reason always dependable? Reason sometimes proves to be so tricky that one day a person may reason out a certain thing, and the next day he has a reason to root it out. For is there not a reason that makes the evil-doer do evil? No one does anything without a reason. One day a person reasons out just how to do something, and after three hours or one day he may discover that the reason was not the right reason, that it was quite wrong. But at that time it was his reason.

Then there is a fourth belief which alone can be called belief, a belief which does not even depend on reason, a belief which is a natural belief. You cannot help believing it. Nothing can root it out, no argument, no reasoning, no study, no practice, nothing can take it away from you, for it is a natural belief. That is faith. A person who has not reached to that belief is still on the way and he cannot say, "I have a faith that is certain".

Faith is such a great virtue. Even in our everyday life we cannot value enough a companion, a relative, a servant, a friend who is faithful. There is no price for it, it is beyond price to have someone who is faithful. One cannot have a greater fortune than having a faithful soul near to one at home or outside home; as a friend or master or servant, as a partner in life, someone in whom one can have confidence, whom one can rely upon with closed eyes, so that one could say, "I can always feel that this person will never change his affection, his love, his kindness, his feeling". And if one has someone like this, it is to be most thankful for. It is more precious than any treasure in the world to have one person in the world who is faithful.

If I had to describe the meaning of faith I would say: faith means self-confidence. Faith is the secret which can be used as a medicine, and better than medicine; as wealth, and greater than wealth; as religion, and greater than religion; as happiness, and greater than happiness. For nothing can pay for faith nor can it be sold. If there is anything that can be called the grace of God, that is faith and self-confidence. It is something you cannot teach, you cannot develop. It must be in you and it can only be developed by loving it, enjoying it; it develops by itself. If a person comes to me and says, "I believe in you so much that anything you say I will believe, but I do not believe in myself", I will say, "Thank you, but I will not believe in you either. You had better believe in yourself first; then I can depend upon you". What is his belief? One day he will say, "I believe in you", and next day, "I do not believe in you", for he does not believe in himself.

It is told that during the life of Fuzeïl ben 'Ayaz there was a man travelling in the desert in a caravan. They came at a place where there was danger of thieves. He thought that he should go and entrust his money to someone who would take care of it. He saw at a distance a man in a tent smoking his water-pipe. He greeted this man and thought, "He looks very dignified. He is someone to whom I can entrust my money". He said, "I heard that there are robbers in this place and I would like to entrust my money to someone". The man said, "Yes, put it here. I will keep it for you". So he went back and when he came near the caravan he found that the robbers had come and taken away all the money the people had. He was very thankful that he had saved his money. He went to the tent and as he approached the place he saw many robbers sitting there dividing their shares. The man to whom he had given his money was the chief of the robbers, sitting in the midst of them. He looked on and became very frightened. The chief saw him and sent for him. He came trembling. The chief asked, "Why did you come and why were you going away?" He replied, "I came, as you know, because I entrusted you with my money, and now I see you where the robbers are sharing the money". The chief said, "You did not give it to me because I am a robber. Then how can you expect that your money is robbed? It is safe. You trusted me with it". The robbers were so impressed by this act of their chief, a chief who was so inspired and elevated. That what was entrusted to him was much greater than all the money taken. He could have robbed it, but it was the virtue inspired by the faith of this simple man which gave faith to the robbers. From that day all of them gave up robbery in order to follow the path of the faithful. This chief of the robbers is mentioned to be one of the great thinkers and wise men.

Faith can be seen in five different aspects: faith in one's impulse, faith in one's reason, faith in one's principle, faith in one's ideal, faith in God.

It is a mystical temperament when a person has faith in his impulse. When a mystic thinks, "I must go to the north", he goes there. He does not reason, he does not ask why. He takes it as a divine impulse and he walks toward the north to meet what he will meet. If there is an impulse, "I must do this business, I must take that profession, I must accomplish this or that", and a person does it, there is something wonderful about it. You see that example in Columbus. He had the impulse, "I must seek for India", and he came here in America. The outer form of the impulse was wrong, the inner was right. There was this country to be found. It was a mystical impulse. He followed his impulse and came here. The mystics of all ages have believed in this, they cannot help it; it is the mystical temperament. If a thousand persons say, "No, it is not right", he says, "Yes, it is right, I must do it". And it is not necessary that everybody, in order to have this, should be a mystic. Impulse is temperament. There is a person who has it, and another one who is perhaps very intellectual thinks, "Is it right, or wrong? Shall I do it or shall I not do it?". Then the time has past, the chance is lost. Out of a hundred persons one will follow, ninety nine will wait, whether it is light or heavy, right or wrong.

Then the other aspect of faith is faith in reason. For great inventors, such as Edison, their success depends upon faith in reason. If they had not that faith, they would not have been successful in creating. With that faith they made these wonderful inventions.

The third aspect of faith is faith in one's principle. Principle makes one strong, if only one has faith in it. There is a story of the Prophet who when young took care of the cattle in a farm. A young man of his age came and asked him, "Muhammad, come along, we shall go into the town and have a good time. Or I could take care of your cattle and you can have a good pastime". Muhammad said, "No, I shall take care of your cattle but I shall not leave my cattle". With that principle the Prophet began, and one day the same principle made him what he was. Thousands and millions of people for fourteen centuries have the name of the Prophet as their strength and power.

And then there is faith in the ideal. Those who had a high ideal for the welfare of their nation, of their race, of humanity, have kept their lives cheap. To give their life was nothing to them, their ideal was always greater. He is not the ordinary man, this one who has faith in his ideal. It gives a great power and upliftment and raises a man from earth to heaven.

Then there is faith in God. You may ask, "Is it not imagination that I have this faith in God?" But the one who really has faith in God can work wonders. Someone said to a Brahmin, "How foolish, O Brahmin, to worship an idol calling it God". The Brahmin answered, "If you have no faith and you worship the God of Heavens, He will not hear you. But if I have faith, I shall make this God of stone speak to me".

A preacher was once preaching, saying, "When you say the name of God with faith you can walk on the water". There was a farmer who was very pleased to hear this. He went home pondering upon it. The next day he came to the preacher and said, "I could not understand all the dogmas and morals you preached, but one thing impressed me much. Will you give me the great honour to have dinner with me tomorrow?" The preacher accepted and the farmer came and took him with him. They came at a river and they had to cross it. So the preacher asked, "Where is the boat?" The farmer said, "Boat? You have taught me that if we said the name of God we could walk on the water. So I did not take my boat, I walked on the water". The preacher was afraid that he would have to walk on the water also, for he had never experienced it. He said, "Will you do it, please". And he farmer did it; the preacher could not do it.

Such is the phenomenon of faith. We may say, "We have so much to do, so much to think of". But to have faith is beyond it all. It is something which words cannot explain, something which springs up from the heart, which elevates man raising him from the earth to the sky.



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