Faith in God is the first step to God-realisation. Not an iota of progress is ever possible in the path of spirituality without faith. The faith must be a living faith. It must be unwavering faith. Lack of faith is a stumbling block in the path of realisation. Faith develops into Bhakti or devotion to God. Faith is the gateway to the Kingdom of God. It is the threshold to the Knowledge of God. Faith gives strength and removes anxieties and uneasiness of mind. Faith is therefore a powerful mental tonic.
No faith, no devotion. No faith, no Jnana. The Sanskrit equivalent of faith is “Sraddha” or “Visvas.” The whole world runs on faith only. The Raja has faith in his Diwan. The husband has faith in his wife. The shop-keeper has faith in his customers. The patient has faith in his doctor. The client has faith in his lawyer. The engineer has faith in his head-clerk.
The student should have faith in the existence of God, in the teachings of his Guru, in the Vedas and his own self.
Even Patanjali Maharshi, the exponent of Yoga philosophy lays much stress on faith. He says: “Sraddha veerya smriti samadhi prajna-purvaka itaresham – to others (this Samadhi) comes through faith, energy, memory, concentration and discrimination of the real.” (I-20.)
Let me repeat the words of the Gita here. “He who is full of faith obtains wisdom, and he also who has mastery over his senses; and having obtained wisdom he goes swiftly to the Supreme Peace. But the ignorant, faithless, doubting self goes to destruction; nor this world, nor that beyond, nor happiness is there for the doubting self.” (IV, 39-40)
Bad company, lust, greed, infatuated love for wife, son and property, and unwholesome food are the enemies of faith. They spoil the intellect, cloud the understanding and destroy memory. They produce wrong Samskaras or impressions in the mind and render the intellect gross and impure.
Study of Bhagavata, Ramayana, Gita, Upanishads, Yoga Vasishtha; the elevating company of Sadhus and Mahatmas; service of saints; stay at Prayag, Rishikesh,
Ayodhya, Vrindavana, Gangotri, Badrinarayan; prayer; Japa or recitation of Mantra; Kirtan or singing His Name; meditation; remembrance of saints and sages who have realised God and study of their teachings; fasting; pilgrimage; personal contact of a Guru can sow the seed of faith in a man and increase it also till it becomes quite firm and unshakable.
Faith can work miracles. Faith can work wonders. Faith can move mountains. Faith can reach a realm where reason dare not enter. There is nothing impossible under the sun for the man of faith to accomplish. Have therefore absolute and unshakable faith in God, in the power of Ram Nam, in the Vedas and the scriptures and in the teachings of your Guru and, last but not the least, in your own self. This is the master-key for success in life and God-realisation or attainment of Divine Consciousness.
Excerpts from “Practice of Bhakti Yoga” by Swami Sivananda