Sunday, August 15, 1999
OF all our beliefs, the most important are our core beliefs. They shape our present and determine our future. Most people find that if they have faith in themselves, their abilities and in their ideas, they usually end up winning. Great men and women have set out on perilous and uncertain journeys to follow their dreams armed only with their convictions and faith. If one tries to find out what makes successful people achieve and succeed, one undoubtedly finds that they are talented and gifted. But one also finds that they have worked hard to chase dreams, actualise their potential, market themselves and were also lucky. However, what transformed their talent into success was their indomitable faith in their inner self which allowed them to doggedly persist in their quest for excellence.
It is said that life is an inner game, and all causation is mental. We succeed from the inside and become what we think. According to Aurobindo, "Faith is not confined to just believing in dogma, religion, or teachings of the Master. Faith is all about understanding ones own possibilities, the certitude that whatever the obstacles, imperfections and negations in the Self, one will not forget that one was born for realisation and that one will realise, come what may." This is why it is imperative that the will must never falter, the effort must be continuous and the faith must be unshakable. But building such reservoirs of unfailing faith can be difficult.
There are some things one unquestioningly believes in, like having faith in ones parents or in the fact that night follows day or that the rose bush in ones garden will soon bloom. However, one can only gradually learn to believe in some other things like a friends loyalty, a siblings value system, or a spouses fidelity.
To a large extent the readiness with which we place our faith in others and, in turn, are faithful ourselves depends on how much confidence and respect we have for ourselves in our own eyes. If we suffer from low self-esteem, we are likely to cling to those who are sympathetic. This is when we could make an error of judgement and end up placing our faith in the wrong people. People who have a healthy self-esteem know that thought plus faith creates form. They know that deep down they possess strengths that even they did not know existed in them. That is, if they could actualise their strengths, while not losing sight of the single most important fact that they have it in them to do it! When Rabindranath Tagore said that "faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark", he was talking of mans ability to do what he has to do in spite of fears, difficulties, risks, embarrassments and set-backs.
There could be times when faith in ourselves or in those who are close to us, stands diminished and, in some cases, hopelessly crushed. Anyone who has experienced a breach of faith knows how much it hurts. It is not the physical pain but the fact that one blindly trusted someone when all the time he wasnt worth a dime. It is, therefore, important for the sake of self-preservation to train ones sense of judgement, trust ones intuition and be selective about the people one pledges oneself to. In the event of being let down, one would have to hone ones coping skills and bounce back without nursing grievances or an impaired view of life.
It is also said that faith and fanaticism are first cousins. Fanaticism is indiscriminate faith that excludes scepticism. It often flourishes in the domain of faith. While both are prompted by devotion, one is guided by love and the other by hatred. When the Jews killed Jesus it was not because they hated him. He had not harmed them. He wasnt their enemy. He used to heal the sick, feed the hungry and spread goodness all around. But the Jews, who were earlier indebted to him and even considered making him king, found their feelings of love and respect being replaced by hatred, anger and rebellion. They believed that he was a threat to their religion. From singing his praises, they went on to crucify him thus traversing the destructive journey from faith to fanaticism. Faith has to be preceded by logic and reason without diluting devotion or loyalty.
Traditionally, faith is supposed to be the souls witness to something which has not yet been achieved or realised but which must be acknowledged. At times the pull toward this blind faith could be so strong that we stop questioning ourselves. There is no bargaining, no ifs and buts, no logic and no assessment of consequences. Its an unshakable certainty of the very existence of God. Faith here seizes the whole being. However, what we must be cautioned against is not to turn our faith into an excuse, a cloak or an occasion for surrender to our own desires and egos.
In the modern context, it is difficult to convince the thinking generation to place their unstinted support and blind faith in a doctrine, political leader, movement or relationship. With individual gratification being the motto, everything has to be measured by the yardstick of what- do- I- gain and what- do- I- lose? Also, since there is so much unhappiness in relationships, youngsters are more wary when it comes to trusting and having faith in others.
Faith must, therefore, follow reason and common sense. If we place our faith in a person who was incorrect in the first place, no one is going to sympathise with us. We are expected to know whom to trust. If we make an error of judgement, we must be ready to face the consequences. In a modified version of the Panchtantra tale of the cock and the fox, there are two ending one which fits into the traditional mould and the other which is more contemporary. A famished fox saw an robust cock sitting on a tree. Using guile and sweet talk, he made the cock come down. He told him about a new order from Heaven which laid down that all animals should live together in peace and harmony. Since foxes were now not allowed to eat cocks, they might as well be friends, he said. Falling hook, line and sinker for every word the fox uttered, the cock came down in good faith and was promptly gobbled up by the wily fox. In the other version, the modern cock, who had trained his basic instincts to smell both opportunities and dangers, instead of coming down told the fox confidently, "The order from Heaven is indeed welcome. Maybe that is why from this height I can espy a pack of hounds coming your way. Perhaps, they want to befriend you".
Management gurus feel
that when one has to have faith in something but finds it
difficult to do so, rather than giving up one should try
cultivating it. According to motivator and professional
growth expert Walter Staples, "Act as if you have
the faith, even if it amounts to pretending for a short
while, then move forward. But understand that whether you
believe you can or cannot, you have to choose to proceed
as if you did and then build on that belief following it
up with action". The fail-proof formula for success
would then entail a three-step plan--- know what you
want; believe you can get it by having faith and,
finally, take the plunge.
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