Volume VII - In an Eastern Rose Garden
When the question of faith arises, the orthodox always think that it is their religion which is being spoken of. To have faith in a religion, in the priests or clergy, in a certain dogma, ceremony, principle, or in a certain form of teaching, this is what is usually understood by the word faith. On the other hand, those who are intellectual and look at life from a different point of view say, 'Faith is blind, why should we believe blindly?'
To a mystic, faith is the unique power that works through the whole of creation. He does not mean by faith a belief in a certain religion or dogma or ceremony or book or teacher; he means trust, a trust even in the absence of reason.
Many people possess this quality naturally, while others do not seem to possess it. We may think that one person has brought faith with him and another has not, because he has or has not that quality. But when we study life minutely we find that there is no soul which does not possess faith. How true it is as the Prophet says, 'Every soul when born is a faithful follower, it is afterwards that he turns to the contrary.' This really means that every soul is born on earth with a simple faith, and it is only afterwards that he doubts. If it were not so, we should never have been able to learn the language we speak. Was it not learned by faith, from infancy? When the mother says, 'This is a tree', the child says 'tree'; when she says, 'This is water' the child calls it 'water'. And there are many things which the parents speak of apart from ordinary every day matters, and the child believes them, as they want him to believe. Whether the names given to the things are right or wrong, the child takes them as his guardians wish him to take them, for that is his natural tendency.
In the beginning every soul has faith. Then how is it that man loses this quality which nature has bestowed on him? He loses it by the knowledge of names and forms. As he grows he covers up his faith with the knowledge of names and forms, calling that 'learning'. At every step in his progress towards knowledge he compares things and considers some things better than others, saying of one thing, 'This is true', of another, 'This is false', 'That is what I can believe and rely upon' and 'This is what I cannot believe and rely upon'. The one thing he calls true, the other false; but in reality neither is true or false. It is only at the beginning of knowledge that man passes through this stage. Later, when a person has raised himself above ordinary knowledge, he arrives at a stage when he is able to say, 'All that I have called true is not true, and all I have called false is not false.' He finds that whatever difference there is, is only a difference of comparison. This point of view is difficult and vague, and everybody does not perceive it.
The course of human life involves so many disappointments, so many failures, so many heartaches, that no one can avoid doubting. There is a peasant saying: 'He who has once burned his tongue with hot milk tries to cool even buttermilk by blowing on it.' When a man has been deceived by one person, he distrusts ten people; when he has found one person unreliable, he may perhaps consider a hundred others to be so too. After failing in one thing he suspects he will fail in a thousand things. So many things take away that natural and powerful quality which was at first present, that faith which is the secret of the whole creation, the secret of all success that can ever be attained in life. This faith is broken by life's discouraging experiences. When confidence in others is lost, then confidence in self is lost also; and the more it is lost, the more failures one meets. A doubting person considers himself to be wise and one of simple faith to be a fool. Whoever he sees he suspects; whatever he hears he questions whether it is right or wrong. He will doubt even his friend in business, waiting for the time to come when he can trust him. But that time never comes. His very doubts create doubts in the mind of the suspected person; and often the doubts come true as the effect of the doubter's thought; or at least it creates an illusion which for the moment shows the picture of his doubts.
How truly the story of Othello demonstrates this! The more he doubted Desdemona, the more proofs for his doubts life created. His belief was fed more and more by the illusory proofs, until in the end he could not possibly believe the least thing contrary to his doubts. So it is with our own lives. We doubt, and by that very doubt that which we fear happens, because it is created by us in the other person's heart. Whether the actions we see support our doubt or only seem to support it, yet our suspicion creates the desire in the doubted person.
We can experience the same thing with dogs. If we have the least fear of a dog barking or biting, He will bark and come up to us and bite us. If there is no fear in us, the dog will not come towards us. The fear which makes us suspect that that a dog will bite is enough to give the dog the desire to bite, because we are looking for it to do so.
If we could only develop the quality which is called faith, about which so much is said in the scriptures, in the Bible, in the Quran, we should find what power it would carry. It is the secret of all success.
We are here to fulfill the purpose of our life. What is that purpose? Our desire, our inclination which is constantly at work in our mind, that is the purpose of our life. If we are unable to fulfill that inclination, we go from this world without accomplishing our purpose. As Omar Khayyam says, 'Heaven is the vision of fulfilled desire, Hell is the shadow of a soul on fire.' If the desires are not fulfilled the soul is naturally on fire. But there is no reason why the desire should not be fulfilled; the very existence of a desire promises its fulfillment. In the heart of man is the desire of God. The Quran says that without the will of God not even a single atom can move. This shows that every wave of thought and feeling, every motion and action is from God. Every thought that comes to our mind is God's thought, even if it appears to be a thought of everyday life in the world.
Once man realizes that every activity and impulse that comes into his mind is really from God, from that time he feels that it must be fulfilled. If it is not fulfilled, it is man's limitation that is the cause of its hindrance; he has allowed his weakness to hinder its accomplishment. It is man's lack of faith that generally causes failures. In faith is the secret of fulfillment or non-fulfillment of every thought. There is no doubt about the fulfillment of a desire if man's faith works with it. But when one's own reason and doubt come and destroy the hope, one generally meets with failure.
What an important part faith plays in life! Can there be anything equal to it? In the Arabic language it is called Iman. The whole of religion is faith, however much people have called the separate religions faith. Faith itself is a religion.
Does this mean that one is to believe and trust anyone blindly? Would not that be a blind faith? Would it not be obscuring the reason, the power of discrimination between right and wrong, between possible and impossible? Suppose a person says you are going to be a king, and you believe it, this would be a blind faith, since there is no possibility of it being realized, still more impossible would it be to believe if he said, 'You are a king', when you see no sign of kingship in your life, but rather the contrary!
But the point is that the first lesson to be learned is to have faith in oneself. How many among us there are who have no faith in themselves. It is this very lack that makes them have no faith in others. Once a person has faith in himself, he can have faith in others also. For instance, if one feels a person to be good and spiritual, what does it matter if the whole world does not think the same? But if somebody says, 'I do not know, perhaps the other person thinks right, and I do not', then he has no faith. He does not know what faith is. He may have faith in a man, and yet as the days go on the time comes when he will lose it. A person who does not believe in himself cannot believe in anybody else, and is really an unbeliever. Faith must begin within. Belief in oneself should be so strong that even if a thousand people say 'no', one will say 'yes'. To look to others for every opinion, not trusting oneself to say whether it is day or night is to end by not only distrusting others but by developing a kind of insanity.
Faith means self-confidence. The secret of faith is that it can be used as a medicine, and it will be better than medicine; it can be wealth, and greater than wealth; it can be a religion, and greater than religion; happiness, and greater than happiness. For nothing can buy or sell faith. If there is anything that can be called the grace of God, it is faith and self-confidence. It is something one can neither teach nor develop; it must be in one, and one can only strengthen it by loving it, by enjoying it. It must develop by itself.
Faith is in fact a power operating all through our lives, and imparted to us from the time of our birth. This power is obscured as soon as reason is developed, which occurs during the process of acquiring the knowledge needed for merely maintaining life; and then one loses one's self-confidence as well as one's confidence in others. This is doubt, which is the greatest enemy of the soul it its progress towards self-realization. It is removed as soon as one perceives that faith is really a power from God, by which He seeks to express Himself through the individual.
Confidence is assured, not by blind belief but by careful insight into the life which surrounds us. The higher self is then able to be like the rider on a horse, and direct all the affairs and actions of the lower self. Faith defends the innate desire of the higher self, and the more faith develops, the greater is its influence, through us, upon our whole environment. Faith breeds faith. Also, faith must dominate the reason and direct the reason; and it will do this the more surely when we realize that every thought, desire, and impulse that comes to our heart is from God; to be accomplished for some great purpose of His own.
Sometimes a person will say, 'I had great faith once, but in the course of my life I have met with people one could never trust. They deceived me, and since then I have lost faith in everybody.' That person is much to be pitied; he has lost so much more than anybody else. The good quality which was in him has been killed by unfortunate experiences. How important it is that the heart of the faithful should be kept unbroken!
In India birds are made to fight as a sport. It is called Buttase. Two birds are brought together on a table, while all stand round to see the fun. As soon as the birds see one another they attack each other. The owner of each bird thinks that his bird will win, the prize will be his. But as soon as it appears as if one bird will be beaten, the owner takes it away, saying to the other, 'You have won, we will not continue the fight.' This is because he wants to save his bird from being disappointed. The bird would then be without faith.
Those who have no faith in themselves, those whose faith is broken, are like the bird which is allowed to be beaten. However strong he may become, there will always remain the impression in his mind of having been beaten, and this he cannot bear.
It is like this with the elephant too, giant animal that he is. Once it is beaten all his strength and power go. For years he will not forget it. In spite of all that power which is within him, he will never attack another elephant. The faith that really gave him his power has all gone.
There is a Hindustani saying, 'Failure and victory are both in the mind.' If there is failure it is in the mind; if there is victory it is also in the mind. As long as the mind has not failed a seeming failure may be a victory, but if the mind has failed a seeming victory becomes a failure. That great power which the mind has is nothing but the power of faith. People who have done great works have not done them because of their worldly heritage, for instances occur in which people began life without a penny, and yet have ended their lives the possessors of millions. They have had no help to encourage them in life, or to raise them in life, they have raised their position themselves.
So we see that reason has no part in faith. People may be called fanatics because they work only by faith, their critics thinking that faith only enables them to imagine things. But there are numberless people who are thinking and reasoning all their lives, asking themselves, 'Shall I do this? How can I do that? How can I overcome these obstacles? And all the time they are thinking of the hindrances, or waiting for suitable circumstances to arise, and they never do. Their whole life may be spent in the pursuit of something which reason prevents them from attaining.
It is quite otherwise with faith. When there is faith there is no thought about whether there are any means of accomplishing the desire that has entered one's mind, or whether there are no means. This does not matter when faith is there, to care for and to defend the thought, to rain upon the thought and make the plant grow and bear fruit, so that one day one may see its realization.
Ask those people who have led wonderful lives in the world. See what they have to say about it. What does Christ say? What does Muhammad say? Christ said to Peter, when he walked on the water, 'O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?' If Peter had had faith, he could have conquered the waters.
In the different wars that the Prophet of Arabia had to face throughout his life, what do we find? From the beginning to the end there were wars. He was born an orphan, for his father was no longer alive and his mother died in giving him birth. There were no resources, either of money or of influence when the message was given, later the whole community rose against him; even his relatives were against him. What stood by him? It was his faith. His call to his people was to have faith.
It once happened that when the army of the Prophet's enemies had been successful one among them by chance caught the Prophet alone. He was kneeling on his chest, and wanted to kill him. But before doing so, he said, 'O Prophet, all your life you have taught the name of God. Now tell me where your God is. Where has he gone? And the Prophet called on the Name of God, on whom he called night and day; and as soon as that Name came to his mind, the strength of the whole world came into the Prophet. With one bound he brought the man down, took his sword in his hand, and said, 'Who will save thee now, since thou art again in my hands?' And he answered, 'Thou, Muhammad.' And Muhammad said, 'O man of little faith, till now thou has not learned the lesson. Now thou has seen that my faith in Him saved me. He has just saved me. If thou takest the Name, He will save thee too. Ask Him!'
The strength of that faith and the hope it imparts, the power it gives, the might that faith can give, is there anything like it?
One person may doubt and doubt, one moment he believes that things will come right, and then he fears that perhaps they will not. Another person will trust, and he will be watching, and his trust will become bigger with every experience.
There is a story of a Sufi who was traveling with a caravan through Arabia. Among the travelers were some who had money with them for their expenses. They came to a place where it was said that robbers were likely to be and that everybody should take care of his own purse as many caravans had been robbed in that area. This young Sufi also had some money, but he thought to himself, 'I have no place to keep my money. I will find some man with whom I can leave it. To whom can I give it for safety?' He was wondering if there could be any village or habitation, but he could see only a tent some distance away from where the caravan had come to a halt. So he went and found a man sitting smoking his pipe in the tent. He went up to him and said, 'I do not know you, sir, but I have heard there are robbers here and that many caravans have been robbed, and I am a poor man. I thought I should protect my money, if I could only find someone to whom I could trust it, having found this tent, I feel I should entrust it to you. He left the purse, and returned to the caravan. When he arrived he found that the caravan had been robbed, and all had lost their money. He was very glad he had escaped. They were all moaning and lamenting about their losses. He thought that he at any rate was safe. Then they described the robbers, saying how many of them had come, how many had been there.
He returned to the tent to fetch his money again. He found the same man smoking there, but he was surrounded by many men, for he proved to be the chief of the robbers. The others were all sitting there, fighting and disputing what share each should take, and the chief was helping them to divide their spoil. So the young man was afraid to go nearer; and at the same time could not help thinking how foolish he was not to have kept his money, for while he was bringing it the robbers had come, and so he would have escaped anyway. The others had lost everything, but he had fooled himself. While he was thinking this, and was about to turn away, the chief called out for him to be fetched. He approached the chief trembling, because he believed that now even his life was in danger.
The chief said, 'Why did you come here, why are you turning back?' The young man asked, 'Are you not the head of the robbers? Then why should I not wish to go? What use can it be to come?' The chief answered, 'Man, I received your money to keep; I did not rob you of it. You trusted me. The money is therefore in my trust. Even if I am a robber, I am not dishonest. I gain by robbery, not by breaking trust. You trusted me with your money, and your money is safe. Here it is for you to take back again.' So the young man was delighted, reflecting what a good thing trust is, inasmuch as one may have faith even in a robber, for he had proved himself trustworthy.
We can see this in our everyday life. A servant, a helper, an assistant, a co-worker, a partner, can be made either trustful or distrustful, trustworthy or unworthy of trust; this we do ourselves by our own faith. How true it is that when faith is beginning to fail, when doubts begin to come, the loss of faith goes on until a person begins to doubt his nearest and dearest friends. Husband can doubt wife; wife can doubt husband, brother can doubt sister; parents can doubt children. One can doubt one's nearest friend, and in the end one doubts oneself. That is the utmost limit; from then on life can be nothing less than torture.
The question arises, is it right to cover up our reason and act according to our faith? The answer is that it is not right. Reason is the servant of faith, and faith is the king of reason. But failure comes when reason becomes the king, and faith the servant. Success comes when faith is king and reason is the servant. If faith says, 'I wish to open a factory', reason replies, 'Yes, you can proceed with your factory in this way. You will be successful.' Reason is the servant; faith is the first thing. Faith says, 'I will succeed; Reason says, 'These are the different paths you will have to take'. This is how faith is helped by reason.
It is very different when reason is king. When reason is king, it says, 'Open a factory? Why, just look at yourself, without a single penny in your pocket.' Faith says, 'Yes, you are right.' Reason says, 'You don't know anything about a factory; how can you pretend to carry on such work?' And faith answers, 'Yes, I will not think about it any more.' When reason is the leader of faith, the result is failure, it is when faith is the leader of reason that success comes.
With regard to trusting people a person may think, 'Is it right to believe in anything a person says? Is it right to trust everybody? There are many people who are not worthy of trust; shall we then trust everybody in order to develop our trust?' The answer is yes. Perhaps we will have failures, but we will only trust another person when we trust ourselves, when we have faith in ourselves then we will have faith in another. Without faith in ourselves we can never have faith in another; to have faith in another is to have faith in ourselves. It does not matter if once or twice we are disappointed, but if we are afraid of being disappointed even once in our lives, perhaps we will doubt all through life, and so there will never come a time when we will be able to trust anybody, even ourselves. There are many things that can develop our trust. Sometimes an unworthy person can become worthy of trust.
The Hindus say that if one has faith in an idol-god that god will listen and grant one's desires, but if one has no faith in the God of Heaven, even He Is helpless to do anything for one. The Bible says that faith like a grain of mustard can remove mountains.
There is a story that a preacher was once speaking in a little village in India. The peasants he was preaching to could not understand philosophy or mysticism or the great problems of life. What the preacher taught was: Have faith in God; faith is such a great virtue; and he told them that if a person repeated the sacred word he would be able to walk on water.
Everyone was delighted to hear this, saying, 'What a great thing! He is always talking about the same thing.' Next day an old man came and said, 'Sir, I cannot understand the deep problems of life, but I was very delighted with your idea last evening.' The preacher answered, 'What was that?' He said, 'I was very much surprised. Will you come and dine at my home? It will be such an honor.' The preacher said, 'Yes, with great pleasure.' A day was appointed. When the day came, the man arrived to fetch the preacher, and they set off together. On their way there was a little river which had to be crossed. When they reached the bank, the preacher said, 'Where is the boat?' 'Why do you ask for a boat?' the peasant replied. 'The other day you said that when you use that sacred word you can walk on the water. And I was very much astonished to find that it is so. Why take a boat when it is only necessary to say that word? But the preacher could not do it' he was not a true teacher. So he said to the old man, 'You are my teacher. I have spoken, but you have acted; and if I had had your faith I should also have been able to cross the water.'
This shows us that things sometimes seem obscured, as if in a mist, as if seen through a dark glass. We fear beforehand that a thing will never come, that there will always be disappointment, failure, sorrow. Depression comes on; we begin to think the times will never alter, and the same conditions will always continue. The only remedy to clear these clouds away is to look for a better time, to hope for something better in life, to feel that every thought, desire, and impulse that comes to our heart is from Him. And that it is to be accomplished, with all that power, for some purpose. No circumstances in our lives, not even friends and advisors, nor our reason or our doubt should be allowed to prevent the realization of our thoughts. It is through that one thing, faith, that our thoughts are kept powerful and full of strength; it is by nothing but that one thing: faith.