You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : June 1995

Responses to Questions of Faith

Date: Fri Jun 09 1995 - 08:29:54 PDT

Here's sort of a 'digest' of the responses I recieved. I thank all
the readers for their understanding and their responses. 
Especially in light of a new member's interest in reviving 
faith in others, in a universalist spirit, I feel that this
discussion  may be beneficial not just to me but as a 
forum for all of us.

One main thread that runs through most responses - the fact
that faith is an issue of grace.

"The whole issue of 'faith' - both getting it and losing it - is 
not up to you. you get this only  by His Grace.-- N. S. Vishwanath

"It is probably our encounters with these knots that causes the 
annoying moments of loss of faith and doubts and spiritual
 anguish; but do we have much choice  except to wait for that
 magician- our ishta devatha? - Murali Manohar

With all due respect - and a request for correction if this flies
in the face of recieved wisdom =) 

I do think that we, as sentient beings, have a responsibility
to strive for faith, and to strive for moksha. Our spirituality 
is such that it is founded in faith, and built with further 
insight and reasoning based on faith. Here I am merely restating
what Parthasarathi Dileepan said =)

The picture I am getting is how an uncle of mine explained the
mudra of Sriman Narayana, with an open palm outwards, fingers
facing down ( varada hasta I think ? ). " Here are my feet, your
only refuge" . Now it is up to us to reach those feet, hold on
to them. And it is His infinite grace that once we have done that,
he takes care of us. But to reach them in the first place, if
something gets up within you and says " non sum dignus" - I
am not worthy of even this, I have too little faith and too many
imperfections - then what do you do ?

Murali put it really well when he talked about the anguish of
spiritual destitution,  and asks can there be a way out. Also 
he reminds us of viraha bhakti, which is a definite tradition of
ours. Thank you, I had quite forgotten that much better people
than I have undergone more intense experiences. Now this 
to me seems a wonderful place to begin contemplation - because
it is very emotional, and speaks to the heart entirely - by this
I mean the music and poetry of meera, Aandaal, and Bhadraachala
Ramadasa, who composed "paluke bangaaramayena".

Allow me to digress a while on this last song.. "paluke bangaaram
aayena" - he complains, a word from you has become as 
precious as gold ? I have not heard from you for so long ! - 
and states his grief - " kanalo nee naama smaraNa maravatsakkani
tanri" - " O my Father, not even in my dreams have I been able
to forget reciting your name always " ...

The humdinger of a reply comes from Vaidehi who pretty much 
puts me through the wringer =)

"What is it that you have wavering or questionable faith in: the 
religion or the existence of God or your faith to God? It sounds
 more like the existenceof God himself to me. 

Not that. I have been through the "fashionable atheist" and
"fashionable agnostic" phases fairly early in life, and found
myself wanting too much more to honestly be either. To 
believe in God's existence is not the question for me, I think.
It is more a question of how the pieces of the puzzle fall into

" I have no idea how much you know about God, philosophy etc., 

Very little, believe me =) 

"but I think the more deeply you understand the various qualities
 of God and atleast a fair bit of Vaishnavite (or whichever you
 wish to understand more) philosophy, by a very gradual process, 
your faith in God will become more and more unshakable

Maybe then the question is one of impatience with the graduality
of the process ? This is an interesting thought.

And then again, she throws in a challenge later that I think a
lot of us may not spend enough time considering, or maybe I am
the one frittering my time away thinking about it while the
rest of us go on in blessed assurance ? However, the validity
of the questions remain.

" What you want to experience can be a lifetime pursuit - the 
question then will be: are u willing to spend your life in this
 search? Are u ready to make the sacrifices that it may demand? 
And finally are u capable of absorbing the immensity of what you
may find?

The capability - that is definitely in question in my mind. As for
willingess to sacrifice etc., I used to have this beezy assurance
that I would never be asked to give more than it was in my
capacity to give - i.e., any challenges thrown my way were
thrown there with forekowledge that I had it in me to overcome
them, and if i didn't the first time, I'd go back and do it again
till I got it right. This attitude used to help with the question
of faith too, until lately.

She then illustrates with the example of her father, how one can
fortify faith with an excellent knowledge and exploration of
the scriptures, and by sambandham with wise people and
"torch bearers of our religion" I think is the way she put it.
Excellent. However, I think there must be a part in the grand 
scheme of things for us idiots too =) So far I thought I'd get by
on faith. It is when that begins to get shaky that i start worrying.

More discussion please, this is really helpful.

- Sundar