A lament one often hears is that today’s generation is not religious, that it does not share the same beliefs of an earlier generation.
I personally wish there were more youth who did not believe! It is an unfortunate situation in the world when the youth believe what their fathers say. Youth are only youthful when they don’t believe anything. They should be willing to explore; they must want to know for themselves. If that longing vanishes, how can you call them young anymore? They are old!
Let us first understand the distinction between a religion and a spiritual process. When you belong to any form of organised religion, you’re a believer. When you are on a spiritual path, you’re a seeker.
Now, what is the difference between the two? When you say ‘I believe’, you are fundamentally saying, ‘I am unwilling to admit that I do not know’. The seeker is willing to admit he doesn’t know. The believer is unwilling to make this admission. He draws conclusions about what is not yet within his experience.
Seeking means you have realised that you do not know the essential nature of your own life, or the source of this creation. You do not know who you are, where you came from, where you will go. When you are in a state of ‘I do not know’, you are alive, responsive, childlike, incapable of conflict. Human intelligence is such that it makes you wonder about life. The moment you replace this deep sense of wonder with certainty, you have destroyed all possibilities of knowing. In belief, you have a new kind of confidence, but certainty without clarity can be dangerous, both for yourself and the world.
A spiritual process means that you are absolutely straight with yourself. It doesn’t matter who said what—whether Krishna, Jesus, Buddha, or God or his messengers. Maybe they are telling the truth, but you have not experienced it. You can listen with all due respect, but you still don’t know.
When you see that you don’t know, you can walk a path that starts from where you are. But, unlike a believer, you don’t make assumptions about the final destination. Because you have placed at least one foot on the path, you have some understanding of what it is; you can see whether it’s working for you. So, there is still room for your intelligence to function. But if you make conclusions about your destination, there is no room for intelligence; the result is stagnation.
The conflict in the world is not between good and evil, as is so often projected. The conflict is always between one man’s belief and another man’s belief, whether it is within the family or between nations. The moment you believe something, you are in conflict with the opposing belief. You can postpone it with moderate talk. But conflict is inevitable.
You need some faith to walk the spiritual path, but not belief. Faith arises out of a deep inner experience. There is no calculation involved here, no agendas, no indoctrination, no guarantees. From day one, at Isha, I only put doubt into people’s minds. I feed them on doubt because all indoctrination has to go away if the real thing is to happen. I deliberately structure my personality in a way that makes people uncomfortable. I never ask people to ‘trust’ me, because the word is badly corrupted. If people hang on, it is only because of an inner experience. This is not psychological. This is faith. Their very life energies are involved in the journey.
Faith is not about being senseless. It is recognising that there is an intelligence in the universe that is beyond our limited logic, and seeking ways to access that. But right now, unfortunately, faith has been misunderstood to mean rigid dogma.
If one day, your experience rises beyond the limitations of your mind, faith will happen by itself. Belief is cultivated; faith is a happening. Or to put it another way, belief is brainwashing; faith is about washing the brains!
Once you have a questioning mind, learn to employ that to grow. Don’t try to discard the mind; it is impossible. Faith and reason do not have to be mutually exclusive. Immature reason is atheism. When reason matures, it turns to faith.
VOL. 8, ISSUE 1 | April | 2014