Belief vs Faith!


How can a believer or a skeptic save himself from superstition? For an atheist it is easy to do so because he only believes what is apparent whereas a believer or a skeptic comprehend that there is something more to this world than we can see from our bare eyes.There are some believers who follow Vastu etc. and keep on changing and renovating their house or keep on consulting astrologers. So where the line must be drawn between believing and superstition?

—Purnendu, India


Dear Friend,

Intuitive “knowledge” of the realm of intangible realities is called faith. St. Paul said “faith is the ‘evidence’ of things unseen.” By contrast mere belief, including superstition, could perhaps be also called “blind” faith. In the common use of these terms in the English language “faith” and belief” are often considered synonymous (having the same meaning), but this is not correct.

And yet, how does one acquire faith without at least starting with belief? Let’s say you read the Bhagavad Gita or your spiritual teacher or guru gives to you a mantra or technique. Because of your trust in him or her, you begin practicing that technique with hopeful expectations. Sometimes our faith is tested such that we have to persevere past our own doubts or lack of will power until we achieve sufficient results to then say we have true faith (“shraddha”).

Ignorant people tend to become superstitious because they don’t question or they don’t think through what they are told or taught. We have to start somewhere, however, on the journey of life and growth (both towards maturity and towards Self-realization).

This is where prayer and meditation can help equip a person with calm, intuitive “knowing.” By deepening our intuition we will gradually become better and clearer about what practices, people, truths are helpful to our growth and which ones are not: thus avoiding mere superstition.

Finally: experiment! Try something and see if it works. We say: “The proof of the pudding is in the eating!” Don’t be afraid of superstition if you use your God-given intelligence, reason, and trust in the source of your information to try something. If it is taught by a trusted authority; if it is in tune with universal teachings and higher qualities of consciousness; if it is not obviously harmful to you or others; then, you may at least try it!

On the other hand, there are countless spiritual teachers and techniques, books and workshops. You can’t take all of them and certainly cannot practice all of them. It is natural to investigate, experiment a bit but eventually, as in marriage and career, it is equally natural to make a choice and a commitment. One should not be a butterfly forever just tasting and running away from the nectar of truth.

Slavish dependence on astrologers or other intuitives is of course unhelpful. I have had various astrology readings and I accept those things that resonate deeply with me and hold in question (remaining open but wanting to test them) other statements or counsel that does NOT resonate with me.

I hope these thoughts are helpful to you! Blessings of wisdom and intuition to you. Deepen your daily meditations and by degrees, the truth shall make you free!

Nayaswami Hriman