FAITH & REASON

                                                                        

 

(Interactive session on 21.9.2013)

Keynote address by Mr. Ranjan Chatterjee

(Other participant speakers: Mr. R. K. Gupta, Dr. Kalyan Kumar Chakravarthy, Ms. Valsa Abraham, Mr. Asim K. Banerjee, Ms. Manimala Das, Dr. Suhas Majumdar, Mr. A. K. Sengupta, Mr. Paritosh Bandopadhyay, Mr. Somnath Sarkar, Mr. Debashis Bhattacharya & Ms. Sumana Bhattacharya)

[Opening song by Ms. Sikha Majumdar]

Anchor, Introduction & Conclusion: Asish K. Raha

 

INTRODUCTION

Is faith always blind? If not, and if it is driven, moderated or regulated by reason, can it be called faith? Is faith conditional? Suppose that a person has faith in God in the belief that God will always protect him from all adversities, and his belief is belied and, therefore, his faith in God disappears. The above example can be extended to one’s faith in an institution, system, one’s spiritual master and/or individuals, which may become non-est for reason of adverse experiences. Can such variable and conditional faith be called faith? Is blind faith desirable? Is reason antithetical to faith? Should faith be preceded and accompanied by reason? Since reasons are also variable and never infallible, should it be allowed to predominate faith?   Just as reason can be prejudiced, convoluted, motivated, fallacious and illogical, faith also may be destructive, hate-mongering, superstitious, unscientific and anti-growth. The question is how do we reconcile faith to reason and vice versa. These are the questions that often torment the mind of a seeker of the Truth.

So far as faith is concerned, there are following two popular dictums of universal application. First, God is attained through blind faith only. Second, before you repose your absolute and unconditional faith in a spiritual master, put him to test. From the first dictum, it follows that God is beyond the precinct of reason and cannot, therefore, be put to test. The second dictum, oft-quoted by no less a person than Sri Ramakrishna in approval, suggests that a person appearing to be a spiritual master may be deceptive and, therefore, ought to be tested by the one who seeks to repose faith in him for spiritual advancement. What if a person is fundamentally an atheist or an agnostic? Is the word ‘faith’ a taboo for such person? Is the questioning mind antithetical to spiritual quest?

Before we seek answer to above posers, we need to look into the dialectic history and genesis of the concepts of faith and reason. 

Historic perspective:

Since time immemorial, there is an ongoing issue regarding Faith and Reason.  Faith and reason are interrelated concepts as far as theology is concerned. The systematic and reason based study of religion also suggests that there is co-relation between the two.  In theology, there are proven facts that are further backed by faith and reason.  Reason is the power that is a condition precedent for thoughts.  Reason is a faculty of human mind that has characteristics to study, analyze and explore the things and ideas and its dimension is the perspective of right and wrong.  Reason, therefore, gets transformed into the prejudice but only for the ignorant.  These prejudices could easily be seen in the conflict between the church and Galileo Galilei.  Reason is thus the catalyst to stay away from prejudice.

The key aspect is that “Reason” depicts the use of logic and logical principles to current and available facts and information.

From the days of Greek Philosophers, the relationship between faith and reason has been hotly debated.  Plato argued that knowledge is simply memory of the eternal.  Aristotle set down rules by which knowledge could be discovered by reason.

Rationalists point out that many people hold irrational beliefs, for many reasons. There may be evolutionary causes for irrational beliefs.  For instance, faith may promise infinitive reward, while the rewards of reason are seen by many as finite. One more reason for irrational beliefs can be explained by conditioning.  For instance, road accidents are very often caused by the rich and young.  There is faith in the father’s ability to bear them and consequently there is less faith in the rule of law.

Believers in faith often believe that salvation is through faith alone. And that every one holds beliefs arrived at by faith, not reason. The belief that the universe is a sensible place and that our minds allow us to arrive at correct conclusions about it, is a belief we hold through faith. Rationalists contend that this is arrived at because they have observed the world being consistent and sensible, not because they have faith that it is so.

Beliefs held “by faith” may be seen existing in a number of relationships to rationality:

  • Faith as underlying rationality: Here, knowledge and reason is seen as dependent on faith: faith in our senses, faith in our reason, faith in our memories, and faith in the accounts of events we receive from others. Accordingly, faith is seen as essential to and inseparable from rationality. According to René Descartes, rationality is built first upon the realization of the absolute truth “I think therefore I am”, which requires no faith. All other rationalizations are built outward from this realization.
  • Faith as addressing issues beyond the scope of rationality: Here, faith is seen as covering issues that science and rationality are inherently incapable of addressing, but that are nevertheless entirely real. Accordingly, faith is seen as complementing rationality, by providing answers to questions that would be otherwise unanswerable.
  • Faith as contradicting rationality: Here, faith is seen as those views that one holds despite evidence and reason to the contrary. Accordingly, faith is seen as pernicious with respect to rationality, as it interferes with our ability to think, and inversely rationality is seen as the enemy of faith by interfering in the minds.
  • Faith and reason as essential together: This is the papal view that faith without reason leads to superstition, while reason without faith leads to nihilism and relativism.

Marriage of faith & reason is the overall object of faith & act of faith which means all things believed.  The ultimate object of faith is God Himself. The act of faith is more than a mere act of belief.  Some theologists believe in a hierarchy of faith that is:

i)              Emotional faith includes trust and hope;

ii)             Intellectual faith is belief.  This is stronger than emotional faith in that it is more stable and unchanging, like an anchor.  My mind can believe while my feelings are shaken.  This belief, however, is held tight, unlike a mere opinion.  The old definition of intellectual faith was “the acct of the intellect, prompted by the will, by which we believe everything God has revealed on the grounds of the authority of the One who revealed it.”  It is this aspect of faith that is formulated in propositions and summarized in creeds;

iii)            Volitional faith is an act of the will, a commitment to obey God’s will. This faith is faithfulness, or fidelity.  It manifests itself in behaviour, that is, in good works.  Just as a hope deeper than a wish is central to emotional faith, and a belief deeper than an opinion is central to intellectual faith, so a love deeper than a feeling is central to volitional faith.  For the root of volitional faith is the faculty or power of the soul that is closest to the pre-functional root and centre called the “ Heart.”

iv)   Faith in Heart is actually the sole of scriptures as per Christianity.

Protestants & Catholics differ in matter of faith.  The object of reason is all that reason can know. According to Aristotle, it includes three kinds of things, corresponding to the “three acts of the mind” in classical Aristotelian logic.  It means all the truths that can be (a) understood by reason (That is, by human reason alone without faith in divine revelation), (b) discovered by human reason to be true and (c) proved logically without any premises assumed by faith in divine revelation.  

Vedanta & Bhagavad Gita 

Unlike Abrahamic tradition, the Vedanta does not believe in sin or evil/Satan. The essence of Vedantic philosophy which has been summed up in Bhagavad Gita, is that God resides in every living being and we can be one with God by following one of the various paths of Yoga as have been delineated in Bhagavad Gita. Only a self-realized Yogi can pronounce to the world – Sohoham (I am He) and Tat Tvam Asi (Thou art That). In other words he exclaims: I find God not only in me but in you as well.

In Chapter 17, verse 1, of the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna asks Lord Krishna, “What is the state of those who, endowed with faith, adores you by ignoring the injunctions of the scripture?” The Lord replies in following verses that the faith of such person born of his own nature could be either Sattvic, Rajasic or Tamasic (verse 2, ibid). He is verily what his faith is (verse 3, ibid). Thus the acts done with faith in Sattva lead to supreme blessedness, with faith in Rajas lead to material prosperity and with faith in Tamas lead to delusion.

The word Sat is used in the sense of ultimate reality and also of goodness. The opposite of Sat is Asat which implies impermanence and delusion.

Buddhism

In Buddhist philosophy there is no mention of God. Therefore, faith in God is a misnomer in Buddhism. What is emphasized instead by Lord Buddha is to follow Dhamma (path of Truth). For the householders he has prescribed middle path while for the monks it was austerity aiming at Nirvana (blown out or liberation). The essence of Buddhist philosophy is that we all are potential Buddhas as the Buddha lies within us. The faith in Buddhism at the highest level is this faith in our innate Buddha nature which is enveloped by the fire of ignorance and desire which need to be extinguished (through Nirvana) to attain Buddhahood.

Christianity

As per Christianity, faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth – in a word, to know himself – so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.  Both faith and reason are tools that God has given us to find Truth – to find him.  “Reason and faith cannot be separated without diminishing the capacity of men and women to know themselves, the world and God in an appropriate way.” There is no conflict between faith and reason.

 

Sufism

In the Sufi sect, just as in the Hindu and Islamic traditions, the disciple reposes absolute and blind faith in his spiritual master and the spiritual bonding between the master and his disciple is one of love. The essence of Sufism in a single word is love for God as also for all living beings and the Sufis have abiding faith in that essence of their spiritual pursuit.

Thomas Carlyle, 1795-1881

Thomas Carlyle was born in Scotlant, 1795 and taught mathematics in university in 1819 where he had a crisis of faith, losing his Christian faith but not his Calvinist values.  His powerful and satirical writing was appealing in Victorian era England and his work was influential in New England transcendentalism. Following are the famous quotes of Thomas Carlyle :

i)              A man cannot make a pair of shoes rightly unless he does it in a devout manner;

ii)             A man lives by believing something; not by debating and arguing about many things;

iii)            A man with a half volition goes backward and forward, and makes no way on the smoothest road; a man with a whole volition advances on the roughest, and will reach his purpose, if there be even a little worthiness in it;

iv)           A mystic bond of brotherhood makes all men one.

v)            A person usually has two reasons for doing something: a good reason and the real reason;

vi)           All greatness is unconscious, or it is little and naught; and

vii)          All work, even cotton spinning, is noble; work alone is noble….A life of ease is not for any man, nor for any god.

Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda was more on the side of rationality and less on blind faith.  He who dogmatically believes in his own religion or faith, is inclined to reject or dismiss other’s religion or faith as untrue or false and thus take the path of conflict. Such approach fetters reason and entirely blinds our perceptions of anything outside our own particular faith, which in fact is no faith at all, but a temporary belief, the delusion we labour under, at some particular time of life.   As per Swami Paramasukhananda, a monk from Ramakrishna Math, Ulsoor, Bangalore, faith, trust, belief and devotion are all taken to be synonymous terms.  In Sanskrit it is called Shraddha.  The entire natural world rests on faith and trust, though man often betrays it in every relation.  Faith is the creative power in man which, in ordinary life, he exercises unconsciously, sometimes producing extraordinary phenomena which are regarded as “miraculous”.  “There is a weird and formidable potency in human will and imagination, whether exercised consciously or unconsciously.  Faith is a quality endowed with most potent creative power”. Adepts exercise the power consciously and intelligently with a premeditated end in view, while we unconsciously and blindly, mistakenly attribute results, if extraordinary, to some god or saint in whom we may have faith.  Faith in itself cannot save us unless it is founded on the right knowledge of what is true and real.  Faith is blind when something is believed in without knowledge and accepted on the authority of an individual.  Both these kinds of faith produce physical, mental and moral results of far-reaching consequences widely different from each other – one tending to darkness and retrogression and the other to enlightenment and true progress.  Organized religions have over centuries, mostly become crystallized into sets of beliefs and dogmas, resting on dead-letter interpretation, enforced by priestly authority, and blindly accepted and followed by the masses.  The idea of God, for instance, has fallen from the grand philosophical conception of ubiquitous Absolute Deity and Law into anthropomorphic god of the churches and temples, who is to be feared and propitiated for obtaining personal favours or salvation or to save one from misfortunes.  Belief in such a personal god is repugnant to logic and the moral effect of belief in such an outside god, according to the Swami, kills self-reliance in the believer, accentuates his selfishness and makes him morally irresponsible. In his words,

“The old religions said that he was an atheist who did not believe in God. The new religion says that he is the atheist who does not believe in himself.”(‘Practical Vedanta’, Part I – vol. 2 of the Complete Works).

Abdu’l- Bahà

As per Abdu’l-Bahà, man is distinguished among all creatures because of his reasoning power and his intelligence. The man uses these faculties even in the study of religion.  Thus the balance of reason and science weigh carefully and presented as religion.  If it passes the test (reason and science) it is worth accepting as the truth.  If, however, it does not conform, it is worth rejecting it as ignorance.  The independent investigation of truth is the cornerstone of the Bahà’ i faith. So many of the problems in the world come from the blind adoption of the patterns of thought and practice of our society or community.  These lead to prejudices which are accepted because someone else, such as a parent, a spouse, a friend they trust, believes in them.  It is only when we investigate reality for ourselves, when we reflect, that we are able to find truth for ourselves.

In the early years, many people see religion through the lens of faith, and at that time, faith is separated from the rational mind.  Even if they did not have answers to the questions they may have, they closed their eyes and trusted in love and power.  Abdu i Baha, the son of Baha u llah and the interpreter of his words, said “if religion were contrary to logical reason then it would cease to be a religion and be merely a tradition.”  Thus if religion must not contradict reason then faith constitutes conscious knowledge and practice of good deeds.  Faith, therefore, first becomes conscious knowledge. The mind and the heart do not have to be separated but be embraced. Faith is something that compels us to act, to play our part in making this world beautiful.  It is the practice of good deeds. In the words of Abdul Baha:

“All religions teach that we must do good, that we must be generous, sincere, truthful, law-abiding and faithful; and this is reasonable, and logically the only way in which humanity can progress”

Pramahansa Yogananda

Sri Paramahansa Yogananda asks for experimentation in religion.  He says” “Why should we merely read and hear discussions about god, and know nothing from personal experience?  It is possible to put religion into practice, to use it scientifically.  Without practical application, religion is of little value”.  The first experiment with religion ought to begin with silence.  This is the first step towards meditation.  As Yogananda says” “If you make a supreme effort in the silence of the night or early in the morning, then after a little while you will see a glimmer of god’s light or feel a ripple of his joy coming to your consciousness.”  Experimentation with religion is very different as the results take place right inside you.  Truthfulness is another spiritual principle recommended for experimentation. Yogananda says that truth is always wholesome. Giving happiness to others is vital to one’s own happiness.  The world outside is an extension of the world inside.  So we ought to practise self-control, forgiveness, and communion with god in our day to day life.  Prayer is surrendering oneself to God completely.  It does not demand intelligence or eloquence.  Swami Sivananda says that one should pray for god’s grace, not for earthy goods or for heavenly pleasures.  Selfless faith and prayer and patience can work wonders.

Bertrand Russell

Russell, who was a staunch atheist and a rationalist, brought up the issue which comes first – faith or philosopher’s prod? He pointed out the fallacy of declaring God as omnipotent while at the same time envisaging a Satan who constantly opposed and defied God. According to Russell’s logic, if God is omnipotent, nothing can happen against His will. Yet Satan or Devil is supposed to be the one which always acts against the will of God. Obviously, therefore, God cannot be omnipotent. Hence, according to him, faith in God is entirely misplaced inasmuch as there is no existence of God. His conclusion, however, appears to be sweeping, though his premises are apparently logical. 

Faith in question

Faith in what we term as Gospel Truth has come under critical scrutiny of rationalists from all walks of life, and in all religions. Let us first take up the case of Adam and Eve in Genesis from the Old Testament that describes the first ever sin committed by the above two humans created by God in His image. The sin they committed was by eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Wisdom that God had forbidden them to eat as the same would make them distinguish good from the evil and would make them mortal. It is stated that upon eating the fruit at the instance of the Serpent (Satan), both became conscious of their nudity and hid themselves from the sight of God. The rationalists have questioned the validity of the statement that Adam and Eve committed a sin by eating the forbidden fruit which had made them conscious good and evil and also of their nudity and eventually led them to apply their mind and intelligence. If getting dressed was sinful in Old Testament, becoming nude became sinful in New Testament. Thus the rationalists among the Christians admit that even the concept of sin has undergone change in course of time, as we progress, and so has the Gospel Truth.

In the Rig Veda it is stated that from the Brahman (God) came out the Virata Purusha (the cosmic being). The Brahmin, the Kshatriya, the Vaishya and the Shudra emerged from his head, the arms, the thighs and the feet respectively. The above narration in the Rig Veda was interpreted by some Brahmin scholars during later Vedic period to give pre-eminence to Brahmins as a class as they originated from the the cosmic being’s head. The claim for predominance was founded on the ground that since the head directs the body, so should the Brahmins direct the society. The Kshatriyas representing the arms, the most active limb, occupied the second rung, and the thighs the next. The Shudras representing the feet occupied the lowest rung in the society. Thus an irrational interpretation of the Vedic text which had nothing more than a symbolic connotation, marked the beginning of a rigid caste system that led to exploitation of the Shudras.

The blind adherence to faith has led to several conflicts, battles, wars, massive destruction of historic monuments and innocent lives.

CONCLUSION

Let us, in the light of the foregoing discussion, revert to the original posers made in the Introduction.

The question that has been addressed in particular by a number of participants during interaction is whether faith is blind. The consensus is in the affirmative and to the extent that if not blind, it is no faith. In other words, if a person subjects his/her faith to constant scrutiny, his belief at best may qualify to be termed as hypothesis and not faith. As for example, a scientist or a researcher may begin his/her research with a hypothesis, subjecting the same to necessary scrutiny till he/she comes to a positive finding. When such finding is of the nature of unimpeachable truth, such as the speed of light, Newton’s Third Law of Motion, or Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, we call it postulate and have unshakeable faith in it. In the spiritual domain as well, we take the existence of God as one such postulate. However, when we take a fragmental and sectarian view of God, and call it a postulate, we commit an error. The error is in delimiting God Which is without limit. The proposition that my God is real God and your God is not and, therefore, my faith is divinely ordained while your faith is satanic is ex facie fallacious. As long as my God is the same as all others’ God, and we all are connected as children of God, my faith would pass the scrutiny of spiritual inquest.

The finding of the Quantum Scientists and ‘M’ Theorists is converging on the postulate that not only we, the human beings, but also the photons, electrons, molecules etc. that constitute our bodies, are connected, despite distances that may range from few millimetres to several light years. All these are ultimately connected to their source which in scientific term is described as the cosmic egg of microscopic dimension that exploded 13.7 billion years ago into trillions of universes. The spiritual dictum also postulates our inter-connectivity and connectivity to God, and that God resides not only in every living being but also in the minutest particle. Thus there is apparently no contradiction in having faith in God and rendering self open to scientific researches as to the creation of the universes, life and consciousness.

Faith, as has been posited by the Bhagavad Gita, is threefold, viz. Sattvik, Rajasik and Tamasik (refer verses 2 & 3, chapter 17), depending on one’s state of mind. We may grade it into three different levels of our spiritual status. At the lowest level, our faith deludes us into observing irrational rituals causing harm to self and other beings. At the middle level, we observe austere rituals to satisfy our ego and to achieve material gains and domination over others. At the highest level, we treat all fellow beings with utmost respect as embodiment of the Divinity and feel a sense of identity, empathy and inseparable bonding with them.

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48 Responses to FAITH & REASON

  1. RKGupta says:

    At the outset, it was an outstanding an erudite, well researched talk by Mr. Chatterji and an excellent summing up by Mr. Raha. My comments on the subject are on an earthly level, dealing with faith in the spiritual context.
    In that context it is important to understand what do we mean by faith? For most of the persons, faith means blind faith, where they would tend to believe in something without examining the truth of the same. In my humble opinion, faith means “firm belief in the truthfulness of one’s own experience”. Thus in my opinion, faith emanates from experience, it is not something based on hear-say or on presumption or assumption. Faith not based on one’s own experience has no or very weak foundation, which may be shaken on the slightest jolt. This experience, however, can be at different levels, say in the state of awakening, in dream or in meditation. In Sufi terminology it is also called ‘vision’. For example, as some people mentioned, the experience John of Arc and Swami Vivekanand had for the cause of France and for visiting America resp. I am aware some people mentioning faith preceding the experience, but in such cases there is always a possibility of a doubt, the belief (right or wrong) manifesting itself as the experience. The truth of the experience, however, cannot be judged by mind, it is the heart that knows the truth of one’s experience, and in my opinion the heart does know what truth is and what is not.
    A lot of importance is given to having faith, i.e. blind faith, leaving little or no scope for reasoning. This in my opinion is not correct. When for the smallest things in life we attach great importance to reason, how it is that in matters of religion or spirituality we find no place for the reason. Religion and spirituality are at a much higher platform and, therefore, in my opinion they cannot be devoid of reason. It is said following a blind, would lead one to fall in a pit and conversely a lighted lamp can light millions of lamps. Firm faith, however, should not be confused with blind faith. True seekers would have firm faith, which is not the same as blind faith. Their faith is based on their realisation of the Glory and Excellence of their Beloved. This reminds me someone mentioning the faith a child has on his father that he would not let him fall. This faith, however, comes from the experience of the child that every time his father throws him up, his arms are waiting to catch him. Same is the condition of the devotee and the Lord, the devotee’s faith is based on the experience of his Lords arms waiting for him and gives him the firm faith in his Lord.
    One has the right to question, test and judge for himself whether one should have faith on someone. But having crossed that stage, one then needs to surrender to receive the knowledge. If the faith is still shaken, the transmission of knowledge would be imperfect. Take for example the case of a tailor. One has every right to find out whether the tailor is good enough to stitch a suit. One may make enquiries and look at his previous work, but once having given the cloth for stitching, if one keeps on raising doubts or keep on giving his advice to the tailor the suit is bound to be spoilt. Similarly, one has the freedom to choose the doctor after satisfying oneself about the competency of the doctor. But having chosen the doctor, one cannot argue with him what medicine to administer? If that is done, the patient cannot be cured.
    Same is true with spiritual Masters. A seeker has the freedom to thoroughly enquire about the teacher and to satisfy himself about the character and capability of the Master, but having done so, he has then to surrender his ego and his self at the feet of the Master. It is the Master, who knows how to mould the character of his disciple. The disciple may not have the proper understanding of the ways of the teacher and if he keeps on doubting, he would reach nowhere. A beginner can question the Master, but not the one who has traversed some distance on the path.
    I remember someone else mentioning Sanskrit equivalent of faith as ‘Shraddha’. Shraddha to my mind is “believing that whatever is happening or shall happen is for the good”. Faith can also be translated as “Vishwas”, which in my opinion means “whatever is happening or shall happen is according to Devine will”. Both Shraddha and Vishwas, are essentially based on the foundation of self conduct having no prejudices towards anyone. The perpetrators of 9/11 neither had any self-experience nor their conduct was good or without prejudice. They, therefore, cannot be said to have acted with any faith (good faith), rather out of prejudices and false notion of doing good to Islam.
    And lastly faith is given, given by the Master to the fortunate ones. They are divinely blessed to be given such a faith. Such a faith is not shaken and establishes the link through which the disciple receives the spiritual nourishment from his Master. Such seekers are taken to a different plane. There are two well known examples to my mind: one relating to Arjun, when Lord Krishna shows him the Vishwaroopa. Arjun is baffled, awe-stricken, all his reasons, all his arguments and intellect are lost, it is the state which shows him that he is a part of that Whole, which is all pervasive all encompassing and he is told that Drona, Bhishma etc. are all bound to be killed by him. If he fights as duty, he would not be responsible for their killing, otherwise he would kill them out of the hurt caused to his pride (ego) and in that case he would be responsible for his deeds. Arjun then is rooted in firm faith, which was thus given to him. The second example is Swami Vivekanand, who is directed to visit Maa Kali repeatedly to pray before her and then firm faith is given to him. Both of them were given firm faith by their Masters, in one case Lord Krishna and in the other case by Thakur Ramkrishna Paramhansa.
    In the self acquired faith, unless it is deep rooted by the grace of the Master, there is a possibility of faith getting shaken. For example till the child holds the hand of his father, there is a possibility that he may leave the hand and be strayed. But when father holds the hand of the child there is no possibility of the child getting lost. How-so-ever difficult or stormy be the path, the Master would see him through; this is my belief-Inshaallah.
    RKGupta

  2. akraha1948 says:

    Guptaji, you have lucidly brought out the essence of the faith that is firmly rooted in experience and not hearsay or blind belief. You are very correct in observing that Arjuna’s faith in Sri Krishna and Swami Vivekananda’s faith in Sri Ramakrishna, despite their initial doubts and lots of questioning became eventually established only after their personal experiences. In Arjuna’s case, it was the vision of Sri Krishna’s cosmic form when in a mode of absolute surrender, Arjuna prayed with folded hands:
    “Disho na jane na labhe cha sharma
    Praseeda devesha jagannivasa.”
    [I’ve lost the sense of direction and peace of mind. O the Lord of the universe, be merciful to me.]
    Swami Vivekananda also had somewhat similar cosmic vision by a simple touch of his Master, more than once. Agnostic and fiercely argumentative in the beginning, the transformation in Vivekananda happened only after he experienced those visions and was satisfied that it was not hypnotic effect or psychic disorder. Interestingly in both the cases, neither Sri Krishna nor Sri Ramakrishna was evasive in resolving the doubts and/or in answering the questions of Arjuna and Vivekananda respectively, before and after their visions. Those two instances exemplify juxtaposition of faith and reason.

    However, your example of a patient having faith in a doctor, or of a person in his tailor, or of a child in the holding arms of his/her father, based on past experiences is not comparable with the spiritual experiences of a disciple in relation to his/her master. The faith of the patient, the consumer, or the child can be easily shaken when their expectation on the next occasion is belied. Let’s assume that the doctor fails to save the life of the patient’s nearest relation; the tailor does a bad job with the next suit piece; and the father un-mindfully slips the child through his hands. Surely, the erstwhile faith in them will be shaken. The difference in spiritual experiences of Arjuna and Vivekananda vis-a-vis material experiences of the other three persons lies in the fact that in the former case the faith was absolute and unconditional, without any expectation, while in the latter case, faith had an underlying expectation of repeat performance. I am, therefore, not inclined to call it faith. In reality, it is nothing more than trust which is based on performance and is also dependent on continued performance and, therefore, fragile.

    In spiritual sphere, the master often tests the solidity and intensity of the faith of his disciples by causing sufferings and adverse circumstances. Only those whose faith remains unshaken through all adversity and sufferings pass the test. Unless faith is deeply rooted in higher spiritual experiences, not necessarily vision, and without any expectation of material gain, it is not possible to pass the test. Higher faith is always accompanied by higher reason; and faith and reason at its highest look upon lives as manifestation of Divinity. Faith that drives man to take away innocent lives is faith at its worst, sans reason. In the parlance of Gita, such faith is Tamasik and condemnable.

  3. RKGupta says:

    The examples of tailor and doctor are only to illustrate the point that the seeker has all the right to test them but having tested them not to pose his own wisdom on them and believe in their competency. A spiritual Master is not like them that ‘at the next occasion he may not be able to deliver the desired results’; in fact there is no question of any next occasion with a “Kamil Guru” (accomplished Master), as in the case of both Arjun and Swami Vivekanand, they did not have to wait for next occasion, they were guided to their destiny, full and final. A competent Master does not leave that vaccum.
    Further, a competent Master, like a pot-maker puts his hand inside the pot and strikes it outwardly, just to shape the pot. His test of the seeker is like refining the gold in fire. I believe in their extreme mercy and benevolence, all their actions being in that direction.
    RKG

  4. akraha1948 says:

    Guptaji, when you say “A spiritual Master is not like them that at the next occasion he may not be able to deliver the desired results”, you envisage a result which is desired. In other words, it’s your firm conviction that the result as desired by the disciple would always be delivered by a competent Master. My submission in this regard is that it’s the Master who decides whether to satisfy the desire of the disciple. The desire may be materialistic, unreasonable, unrealistic and self-centric, not worth satisfaction/delivery. The desire may be wholly spiritual but yet may not be worth delivery for the reason that the disciple is not yet worthy of it. Hence the Master may instead inflict upon him sufferings to test his faith & tolerance level, or even to get his Prarabdh burnt off through suffering. He may not also grant his desire in his present life time, like it happened with Shyama Charan Lahiri who had to be re-born and re-initiated by his Master Babaji for his liberation (refer Autobiography of a Yogi, by Swami Yogananda). given the fact that it’s the Master who decides whether or not to deliver the result as desired by the disciple, a disciple having abiding faith in his/her Master has no right to judge the Master based on delivery or non-delivery of the desired results.

  5. RKGupta says:

    I did not say that the Master is to fulfill the desire of the disciple. That reference is in the context of the tailor and the doctor. I agree with you, as I mentioned in my first comment, that it is the Master, who knows how to mold the character of his disciple.
    RKG

  6. Manimala Das says:

    I again pick up the thread from Mr. Raha’s writing that “faith and reason at its highest look upon lives as the manifestations of divinity”, This is a very good viewpoint that leaves no scope for arguing. Further, what we call divinity in Hinduism can be described as the Buddha nature in Buddhism. Buddha stands for immense wisdom,, courage and compassion. Buddhism is reason as Buddha’s main concern was welfare of the Humankind. Buddha preached that everyone of us has innate Buddha nature and one must continually ‘ strive to develop oneself, overcome hardships, contribute to others and society and become a beacon of light to illumine the world.’ To have faith that one can achieve that highest life state as the Buddha, does not fall short of reason. But why should an ordinary person will be interested in achieving that state of life? The answer is .Buddha’s concern was to free society from evil and everyone can do that by striving for the flowering of the highest potential that lies dormant under delusion in oneself. Buddha’s teaching was fully practical. He clearly told us to be rational,, “Do not be misled by report or tradition or hearsay. Do not be misled by the proficiency in the collections of scriptures, nor by mere logic and inference….But when you know for yourselves:that these things are not good, these things are faulty, then you reject them,”( Anguttara Nikaya ). One has to use his own judgement and reach to the deep of one’s heart to realise the immense compassion and wisdom one possesses. This realization is conducive to happinesss for the iondividual as well as the whole society.
    Thanks,
    Manimala Das

  7. Sarada Ranjan Das says:

    Faith and Reason

    For a learner or seeker there could be three approaches
    1. Architecting self generated plan of action based on one’s own acquired knowledge. This is a rational approach. Sufficient understanding of the subject of interest is a must. A researcher, working on an innovation, utilizes his knowledge based on his past studies and experimentations. The creation of a writer is based on his own thinking, imagination and perception.
    2. When a seeker is ignorant about the subject he is seeking, he has to find a guide and follow him faithfully. The guide need not be necessarily a human being; it could be a scripture, life story of a person and so on. The success of this path is essentially depends on (a) selection of a suitable guide and (b) intensity of faith and regards on the guide. At least for a spiritual path, intensity of faith, some time called blind faith, is essential. Why? Because it is said that spirituality comes only by the grace of God. God acts through the Guide referred as Guru. If one is a true spiritual seeker, rest is taken care of by God Himself. Sri Ramakrishna used to say that one should stay like a dry leaf which gets tossed here and there in the midst of a storm – a state of complete surrender. In fact, faith makes one strong as one always feels protected .If one starts analyzing “what is that protection”, it means one does not have faith in Him. It is a pathetic mix of faithless faith and reasoning with ignorance.
    3. In a mixed mode, faith and reasoning can either go together or they can be contradictory to each other resulting in weakening of the seeker’s faith. The real faith is not to be associated with any particular wish fulfillment which is not in line with the final goal. Faith is never to be evaluated with reasoning. Very fact that one has put faith in one’s guide, means one does not have the capability to achieve the goal so with what capacity reasoning could be applied to assess the guide? However reasoning can be used to know the progress of a seeker for taking any corrective action required. This is a positive approach.
    Some time we mix spiritualism and fulfillment of our earthly desires. Sri Saradadevi once mentioned that one can seek spiritualism and also one can seek fulfillment of worldly desires. God can give both if faith is kept on Him. However in the same breath She also mentioned that spiritualism alone would give mental peace, while earthly desire keeps on generating one after another and there is no end so mind is never peaceful. So she said faith in God and nirbashana (relinquishing earthly desire) is key to a blissful life.

    Thanks
    Sarada Ranjan Das

  8. RKGupta says:

    I fully endorse the comments of Madam Manimala Das-” “Do not be misled by report or tradition or hearsay. Do not be misled by the proficiency in the collections of scriptures, nor by mere logic and inference….But when you know for yourselves :that these things are not good, these things are faulty, then you reject them,”( Anguttara Nikaya ). One has to use his own judgement and reach to the deep of one’s heart to realise the immense compassion and wisdom one possesses.” Yes, this is where the faith gets firmly rooted, when one experiences the truth of something and it is the ‘ heart’ that realizes the truth.
    Further, as in mathematics, to solve an equation, one needs to often presume x =…. and when the equation is solved, one knows the truth of the presumption. Same is the case with a Master. One is free to presume x =…, whatever he wishes, but if he chooses something irrelevant, the equation would not be solved. This presumption requires some insight, some training of mind and so on. This is what the reason is, or in other words the choosing of the right Master with due care and after fully satisfying oneself. If one falls in the trap of a wrong Master, often one may not be able to solve the equation of life. Having taken the shelter of a true Master, one needs to proceed with full faith and realize at the end that it was the right course.
    Mr. S R Das has rightly mentioned “earthly desires keep on generating one after another and there is no end so mind is never peaceful”. He is also right that it is the surrender of ego at the feet of the Master that gives the peace of mind. Once the ego is truly surrendered, the root of desires is surrendered at the feet of the Master.

    • Sarada Ranjan Das says:

      Guptaji very rightly commented “….in other words the choosing of the right Master with due care and after fully satisfying oneself. If one falls in the trap of a wrong Master, often one may not be able to solve the equation of life.” Sri Ramakrishna also said to one of his disciples that he should observe his Guru’s lifestyle both in day and at night…. but after you have chosen him, just follow his guidance faithfully.
      However, in spiritual arena, most of us are ignorant, novice. Do we have always the right kind of capability to judge who would be our Guru? If we make a mistake in choosing our Guru, shall we be doomed?
      My personal feeling is NO. If we are sincere seekers of God, He will take care of us. In this context only I had mentioned that be like a dry leaf under a storm. Let God decide where He would drop or take us. Now who is true seeker? He is that person, who has a longing for God leaving behind strong earthly desires. ( Sri Ramakrishna : “Purity of mind is an essential condition for the attainment of the Ultimate Reality; real purity is freedom from lust and greed. External observances are only of secondary importance.”). I challenge if we can find a person who has been ignored by God due to his inability of choosing a so called right kind of Guru. (Sri Ramakrishna : “Through spiritual practices man can overcome his evil tendencies, and divine grace can redeem even the worst sinner. Therefore one should not brood over the past mistakes, but should develop a positive outlook on life by depending on God.)
      Here we can remember Sri Ramakrishna’s words “The breeze of His grace is blowing day and night over your head. Unfurl the sails of your boat (mind), if you want to make rapid progress through the ocean of life..”
      Thanks

  9. akraha1948 says:

    Ms Manimala Das and Mr Sarada Ranjan Das have taken our discussion on Faith to a new height with reference to spiritual masters like the Buddha, Sri Ramakrishna & Ma Sarada.

    Ms. Das has aptly pointed out that the Buddha’s emphasis was on the development of one’s innate Buddha nature. It’s possible only for a Buudha to see potential Buddhas in other beings. In that state of realization, surely, there is no place for evil as potential Buddhas cannot be evil. They may, however, be under delusion till they reach the state of Buddha nature or wisdom. The Buddha had immense compassion for such deluded people and in order to help them out of delusion, he had warned them against evil thoughts and deeds. But the fact remains that the Buddha had shown enormous respect to fellow beings by calling them potential Buddhas, in which state his fellow beings needed no compassion. It’s pertinent to point out in this regard that young Narendra Nath (Swami Vivekananda) got a mouthful from his master Sri Ramakrishna for using the word ‘compassion’ in a Bengali poem composed by him that read as follows”:
    “God is in varied forms right in front, where are you searching for Him?
    One who shows compassion to beings, serves God.”

    After the reprimand, Narendra Nath substituted the word ‘compassion’ with ‘love’. The message underlying the reprimand was clear, that in reality every fellow being was divine and, therefore, none had the right to show compassion to a divine being. Bhagavad Gita has revealed this reality in a number of verses, notably in verse 27 of chapter 13, which reads as follows:

    “Samam sarveshu bhuteshu tisthantam parameshvaram I
    Vinasyatsu avinasyantam yah pashyati sa pashyati II”
    [He only sees who sees the supreme Lord as existing equally in all beings, and as the imperishable among all the perishable]

    Mr. Das has cited Ma Sarada to make a loaded statement that God can dispense both spiritual realization as also fulfillment of worldly desires, but faith in God and nirbashana (relinquishment of earthly desires) is the key to blissful life. While there is no doubt that earthly desires cause pains and sufferings and the key to blissful life is the renunciation of material desires, or in short the ‘Ma faleshu kadachana’ dictum of the Gita, the first part of the statement of Ma Sarada that God dispense both spirituality and fulfillment of material desires has its validation in verse 22 of chapter 9 of the Gita which reads as follows:

    “Ananyahschintayanto mam ye janahparyupasate I
    tesham nityabhiyuktanam yoga-ksemam vahamyaham II”
    [For those persons who are ever attached to me, I secure what they lack and preserve what they have.]

    Therefore, the key to the fulfillment of the spiritual mission of our higher self or the material desires of our lower self is the abiding faith in God and/or our spiritual Master.

  10. RKGupta says:

    Thanks for beautifully summing up the comments.
    Lankaltara Sutra says-
    KARUNA HI BUDDHIMANI HAI.
    BUDDHIMANI HI KARUNA HAI
    This translates to-“Compassion is wisdom and Wisdom is compassion”. It needs to be reconciled with what you mentioned about Swami Vivekanand’s poem. I understand, Swami Ramkrishna Paramhans knew the potential of Swami Vivekanand and the height to which he wanted to take him. So, while ordinarily compassion is a noble trait, for those to be lifted to greater heights, the place of compassion is to be taken by love.
    RKGupta

    • Sarada Ranjan Das says:

      Sri Ramakrishna in this context said “Since God dwells in all people, helping the needy should be done not out of compassion (which is an attitude of condescension) but as humble service to God.”

  11. Manimala Das says:

    Buddha Is known for his KARUNA , a quality which was so boundless and all embracing that the English word ‘compassion’ cannot convey the depth and profundity of Buddha’s feelings. Generally, by compassion I meant to say both love and sympathy for our fellow beings ,,it is never meant to be DAYA or mercy.
    Thanks,
    Manimala Das

    • Sarada Ranjan Das says:

      Karuna, sympathy, Daya, Love etc have been said. I feel one tries to say the feeling that comes from Oneness. There is no giver or taker. Your pain is my pain so I treat it with that feeling. Only Bramhagyanee people have that Oneness feeling. Love for the fellow beings start flowing with the opening up of Heart Chakra.

  12. akraha1948 says:

    Guptaji, the Sutra you have cited has very correctly described wisdom and compassion as not merely complementary but mutually inclusive in Buddhist philosophy. In fact the cornerstone of Buddhist enlightenment consists of Pragna or wisdom (‘panna’ in Pali) and Karuna (compassion) which, as you have pointed out, are one and the same at the highest level of realization (of ‘anatta’ or no self) and complementary at a lower level of understanding when Pragna and Karuna appear to be two distinctive concepts. The Dalai Lama in his ‘The Essence of the Heart Sutra’ has explained the concept of compassion as follows:

    “According to Buddhism, compassion is an aspiration, a state of mind, wanting others to be free from suffering. It’s not passive — it’s not empathy alone — but rather an empathetic altruism that actively strives to free others from suffering. Genuine compassion must have both wisdom and loving kindness.”

    Ms. Das, you have put it succinctly when you say that the Buddha’s Karuna was so boundless and all embracing that the English word ‘compassion’ cannot convey the depth and profundity of the Buddha’s feelings. The practice of ‘Tonglen’ prevalent among Tibetan Buddhists explains to a large extent the essence of karuna, according to which, in order to have compassion for others, we have to have compassion for ourselves. To be precise, instead of fending off pain and hiding from it, the practitioners of ‘Tonglen’ open their heart and allow them to feel that pain as something that will soften and purify them and make them far more loving and kind. The core of the practice of ‘Tonglen’ is as follows.

    The Karuna for a person who has been hurt physically or mentally, ill or dying or in great pain, would induce the practitioner to breathe in the wish to take away all the pain and fear of that person. Then, as they breathe out, they send that person happiness, joy or whatever would relieve their pain. In the process, the Tonglen practitioners begin to feel love both for themselves and others and opens up a far larger window of reality – the unlimited spaciousness that Buddhists call shunyata.

    I find a striking similarity of the Buddhist concept of Karuna to the Vedantic concept of yoga as represented in verse 32 of chapter 6 of the Gita that states as follows:

    “Atma-aupamyena sarvatra samam pashyati yo Arjuna I
    sukham va yadi va duhkham sa yogi paramah matah II”
    [ O Arjuna, the greatest yogi is he who feels for others, whether in grief or pleasure, even as he feels for himself.]

    Given the fact that Yoga means union, the Buddhist Karuna and the Vedantic Yoga aspire to achieve the same goal – the union – the union with all beings, and the Infinite, to bring about cessation of individual identities. From the above perspective, Karuna of the Buddha is the Yoga of the Vedanta.

  13. Bhupinder Singh. says:

    Question of faith on god arises from the requirement of ‘Naam jap’ or to remember him. In almost every religion, the need to remember the god is highly emphasized. This is because they say that you should not forget the one who has created you. And that the creator will be pleased with you if you remember him. But I can remember somebody or something if I have seen him or her or it or at least I fully believe in its existence. This brings in the question of faith. I can believe in some incarnation to be the god, and start ‘jap’. But at the back of my mind a fear or doubt can hangs on. What if my belief is not correct.
    ‘Guru Granth Sahib’ gives a definition of God, that is very simple to accept and it does not interfere with any other faith, that somebody may have,

    ” God is very much in existence,
    He is creator of everything that exists,
    and is controller of all natural phenomenon.
    He loves everybody equally, and is not
    a thing to fear to.
    He was there in the past,
    also in the distant past (billions of years).
    He is there today, and will always be there in future.
    This life is his gift to us, so we ought to thank him,
    as much as possible.”

    Bhupinder Singh.

    • RKGupta says:

      Dear Singh Sahab,
      Fortunately God has created a simile in the physical world of everything that is there in the spiritual world. The very existence of our own selves proves the existence of the Almighty by whatever name one may call. If there is something, there has to be a cause or creator for that. The cause of all causes is the Creator-the God Almighty whether one accepts it or not. It does not defy logic that nothing can be created from nothing. So, if there is our existence, it proves His existence and in fact it is He, Who has manifested as everything and we because of our ego (the feeling of separate existence) feel that it is we, who are different from Him. The fact is everything, living or inert, it is all His manifestation and this is what is called realization or enlightenment.
      The example of the Sun and its rays is apt. Sun-rays emerge from the Sun. They have no independent existence. Sun-rays appear only so long as the Sun. They have all the qualities and characteristics of the Sun, the light and the warmth. They are visible only when they associate with dust. Similarly the soul is like the Sun-ray and the Almighty like the Sun.
      I would also like to submit for your kind consideration that one remembers something, which is away, but once this realisation dawns that it is He, who is all and everywhere, then this remembrance also turns very subtle. This is my understanding.
      RKGupta

    • Sarada Ranjan Das says:

      So nicely written in easy language.I am totally in synch (agreement) with this. However if I may add few words here.
      We like to take name of God not only with thankful attitude but also this is a simple way to purify ourselves.It is said that Name of the God and God himself are one and the same.So by uttering His name we make His presence within us and that would purify us.Only we have to have some urge, longing for Him. Japam should be both physical and mental activity. Initially it is based on faith then it would become self driven.

      Let God Bless us all…

  14. Bhupinder Singh. says:

    Sir, what you say is very very true. My understanding of god is exactly the same.
    Bhupinder Singh.

  15. akraha1948 says:

    Bhupinderji, I would like to add a few things to what Guptaji has said. Naam Jap that you have mentioned is the first lesson for an entrant to spiritual world like ABC or 123 happen to be the first lesson for a nursery student. As the child grows up, he learns that ABC are not restricted to just Apple, Bat & Cat but extend to vast vocabulary that inter alia cover Astro-physics, Biology & Chemistry. Similarly, through Naam Jap the initiate experiences vast expansion of his inner/spiritual world.

    The first question that an initiate struggles with is ‘WHO AM I?’ Am I Bhupinder Singh? What becomes of me after I am no more? Do I continue to live after I die. With the blessings of the spiritual Master & through naam Jap, he realizes that he is not just his mortal self. There is another being within him, his astral self, that is nameless, deathless, without beginning & end. That astral self has gone through several transitions & experiences, and has been constantly growing with experiences. So our first attempt is to know and become one with our astral self which does not die with our death.

    Our understanding or realization of God is a step farther, when we are able to go further deep within us through naam jap. In that super-ecstatic state we realize that our astral self or what we call soul is nothing but part of God and that God is immanent within us. In that state of realization the seeker feels oneness with God. But this is still not the end of the road.

    When the seeker reaches the highest state of spiritual experience, he/she finds God in every being and non-being. The distinction between God as the creator and we as His creation disappears. In that state of realization God is seen as both evolved and involved.

    The books of religion, meant for general masses, are like books for nursery and primary students. These are invaluable for the beginners in spiritual field. Further progress of seekers of the Truth comes through spiritual experiences. Naam Jap is the key that can open the locked door of our inner world and enable us to have spiritual experiences.

  16. In the above statements, one has been reading about the teachings of the great spiritual Masters—Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Buddha or the Super Consciousness Himself, Lord Krishna, and how they helped their disciples in the latters’ spiritual quest—Arjuna saw viswaroop, Swami Vivekanada had a vision of the Divine Mother and Ananda became the Buddha’s attendant. But one must remember that the Masters had disciples of the order of Swami Vivekananda, Arjuna or Ananda—a daunting task in itself to walk the path of these disciples, leave alone following and practising the preachings of the Masters!
    So, what do these disciples have in common—absolute Faith beyond REASON or foolproof REASON to instil FAITH? For a lay person such as me—reasonably aware, yet to be awakened, generally initiated—to rise to the level of these disciples, would need tremendous amount of self-discipline which perhaps is the stepping stone to embarking on a spiritual journey. But still the problem at hand remains—when or how to start believing and have FAITH and be done with the search of REASONs; or is it that FAITH comes when one tires of REASONING; or better still is REASON embedded in FAITH? Where does one begin, when does one seek, how does one discern and what does one accept?
    All the religions cited or preachings quoted above, do not ask one to have blind FAITH; on the contrary encourage the seekers to investigate the veracity of their teachings and propagate unconditional love towards one and all. They have stood the test of time, and thereby REASON and thus have given rise to FAITH. This would lead us to believe that REASON is the gatekeeper for arriving at the doorstep of FAITH. So essentially one persists with the search for REASON as long as there is even an iota of doubt, but rests once the answers quench the thirst completely and finally rests in FAITH.
    As rightly pointed out by Mr Raha, FAITH cannot be the product of study of any book or an array of scriptures; they can at best throw light on the road to be taken, the belief system to be followed, the behavioural changes to be sought. FAITH is an act of will, has to be evolved experientially and can be achieved by serving humanity unstintingly—the essence of every religion. Unless one has experienced the effects of FAITH, it stands to reason that one cannot accept its existence. I too was a victim of this perception till a decade ago—being a student of Science, having been taught to question and though I had been reading voraciously a decade prior to that—till I personally experienced REIKI, SANJEEVANI and SHAMBHAVI. I did not accept, nay, did not have the FAITH that healing comes from within; all ills are a manifestation of my mind; and in Brian Weiss’ words ONLY LOVE IS REAL. This is borne out by all those seekers and Masters who were unlettered yet wisdom poured forth from them and touched humanity from all walks of life… irrespective of their caste, creed or colour…
    I shall rest my case with—FAITH has its REASONS…but not blind faith.

  17. RKGupta says:

    Dear Madam Abraham-You have mentioned a very important fact in your comments-I quote-“a decade ago—being a student of Science, having been taught to question and though I had been reading voraciously a decade prior to that—till I personally experienced REIKI, SANJEEVANI and SHAMBHAVI. I did not accept, nay, did not have the FAITH that healing comes from within…”. This gives the answer. It is the experience which gives faith. All the great names mentioned, i.e. Arjun, Swami Vivekanand and so on, their faith came from the experience they had with their Masters. I firmly believe faith is given; given by the Master. When one encounters the right Master for him, the faith flows from the Master to the seeker and he (his heart) experiences this faith. Only such a faith is rooted as firm faith.
    RKGupta

  18. AKB- Faith and Reason

    I have read with great interest the views expressed by Shri R.K Gupta,
    Sri A.K.Raha, Shri Sarada Ranja, and Smt. Manimala Das. I am now joining
    the band wagon to express my views on the subject and also some portion outside the subject, but within the parameter of ‘Spirituality and us’.

    There are several faiths and their followers. The worst part is when a group of one faith starts attacking/criticizing against others faith which results unrest in the society. In this respect Swami Vivekananda in his speech ‘At the World’s Parliament of religions, Chicago, 11th September 1893’ had said, “Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization and sent whole nation to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now.”
    Has the situation changed, if not why? Here arises the importance of reasoning.
    In this respect, Swamiji quoted the following two verses:
    1. “As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee”
    2. “Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form , I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to me” ( From Gita)

    What he forecasted more than 100 years ago, it is still in existence in virulent form. It is worth quoting here recent incidences took place on this very planet, and they are: (1) Destruction of World Trade center in USA
    (2) Terrorist attack in Mumbai and the latest is the communal riot in
    Muzaffarnagar in UP. From these incidences, one can conclude that faith without reasoning results in the rise of fanatic forces and killing of innocent people. Therefore ‘Reason and Faith’ must be complimentary to each other.

    Leaving aside this, let us look into Hindu’s age old cast system in our society. The cast system was evolved 1000 of years ago, as division of labor in the human society, and passing on the skill from father to son. It was essentially required for a healthy growth of the society. There was intra dependence and a mutual respect between the different cast has all gone. In due course, one cast started thinking that they are superior to others, and divided the casts in terms of Upper cast, Lower cast, Scheduled cast, OBC, etc., followed by infighting, hatred. With the growth of public institution, is it necessary to stick on our age old cast system? Here ‘Faith and reason’ can play a decisively role to maintain harmony and peace in the society.

    Another aspect of Hindu faith is the rituals practiced for social events and for worshipping images of various Gods and Goddesses. Have we tried to reason out
    any need for following these rituals? Well, my impression is that we are by and large God fearing and hence we are observing these rituals to seek God’s blessings especially related to social events such as birth of a baby, marriage, and death. We think it is our culture and tradition, and we don’t like to give it up.
    As regards rituals followed in the worship of images of Gods and Goddesses, is a preliminary step towards spirituality. Here too priests, and most of the devotees follow only rituals, and end up observing them only. But there are very few
    worship God with the idea that a vision of God or realization of God within himself is the ultimate goal of life. They strive to develop love for God and establish a relationship with God, like God is my Mother and I am Her Child.
    Ramkrishna in His life followed this, considering Ma Kali as His mother, and he is her child. This is called Bhakti Path/Yoga. Ramkrishna very much recommended this path for the present age.

    There are many learned scholars of philosophy and they can deliver very good lectures on religious scriptures, but rarely they assimilate and practice
    the teachings of scriptures in their own life. Swami Vivekananda has said that a donkey can carry a bag full of sugar on his back, but he is not aware of the taste of sugar. Ramkrishna has said that the knowledge of a learned scholar
    has no value as long his mind is attached to fulfill all the worldly desire.
    He is like a vulture soaring high in the sky but the mind is in search of dead carcass. Thus, knowledge of philosophy alone cannot help to have vision of God,
    unless one starts reasoning within himself to reject all the desires which are obstacles for ‘self –realization’.

    Swami Vivekananda says that you must have faith in yourself and set a goal
    and strive to achieve it. Here, I am limiting goal to ‘Self-realization’ and the term ‘faith’ to self-confidence. We need a teacher or a Guru to guide the spiritual seeker. A similarity can be drawn of a mountaineer interested to scale Mount Everest. He will look for a guide who has already reached Mount Everest.
    If such a person is not available, he will join Mountaineering school for training.
    Under the guidance of the experienced teacher as well as his own determined effort may or may not help him to scale Mount Everest. There is no certainty that he will succeed in one attempt. It may require several attempts to improve oneself from the past mistakes. Similar is the situation in the spiritual journey too with some difference. Remember the difference between a spiritual seeker and a mountaineer is one of disciplining the mind and the other is focused on disciplining the physical aspect of ones body.

    A spiritual seeker must renounce all his worldly aspirations, and devote his heart and soul for ‘Self- realization’. It requires tremendous courage and mental strength. Here Swami Vivekananda says, “’Live for an ideal, leave no place in the mind for anything else. Let us put forth all our energies to acquire that which never fails-our spiritual perfection. If we have true yearning for realization, we must struggle, and through struggle growth will come. We shall make mistakes, but they may be angels unawares.” After reading this one can judge the difference between the efforts of a “Mountaineer’ and a ‘Spiritual seeker’, while both have a goal, both have a teacher/guide but one is an external journey more concern about physical fitness and another is an internal journey, more concern about mental fitness.

    A spiritual seeker too needs a teacher or a Guru, a self- realized soul who can guide the aspirant. Swami Vivekananda says, “The possibilities of the soul are always quickened by some help from outside, so much so, that in the vast majority of cases in the world, help from outside is almost absolutely necessary. Quickening influence comes from outside, and that works upon our own potentialities, and then the growth begins, spiritual life comes, and man becomes holy and perfect in the end. This quickening impulse, which comes from outside, cannot be received from books; the soul can receive impulse only from another soul, and nothing else.—————– The soul from which the impulse comes is called the Guru, the teacher, and the soul to which the impulse is conveyed is called the disciple, the student. In order to convey this impulse, in the first place, the soul from which it comes must possess the power of transmitting it, as it were, to another and in the second place; the object to which it is transmitted must be fit to receive it. The seed must be living seed, and the field must be already ploughed, and when both these conditions are fulfilled, a wonderful growth of religion takes place.”

    The million dollar question is where to find such Guru, and how to verify capability of the Guru? Ramakrishna says, if you have intense desire to look for a Guru, the God comes down to help the disciple to locate an appropriate Guru. The other way is to contact established religious institutions pursuing to help spiritual seekers towards ‘Self-realization’. Here comes your power of reasoning to evaluate the capability of the Guru. One can feel it only after a sincere effort. If there is no tangible progress, either the Guru is fake or there is inadequacy in one’s own effort. Ramkrishna says, people in search of water starts boring a well.
    After boring to some depth when he finds no water, he shifts to another place for boring in search of water. Therefore, one should not end up only after hunting Guru’s without self-evaluation of his own effort.

    At the end, Mr. R.K Gupta, Ramakrishna Paramanhsa is never addressed as Swami Ramakrishna Paramanhansa. He is addressed as Shri Ramakrishna Paramhansa only. The reason might be His disciples and a large section of His followers consider him as incarnation (Awatar) of Rama and Krishna. As a matter of fact, He himself declared that in this body Ram and Krshna both are residing.
    During His last days, He was residing on the first floor of a rented Garden house, at Kashipur, (Kolkata). He was suffering from Cancer. His disciples were in the ground floor of the same building, including Swami Vivekananda (at that time Naren) for nursing Him. Sitting in the GF, Vivekanada one night mentally questioned Ramkrshna, ‘If now you can say that you are an incarnation of Rama and Krishna, I will accept it’. No sooner this thought arose in his mind, Ramkrishna summoned him on the FF and He said, ‘Still you have doubt? Yes, Rama and Krishna both are residing within me but not in accordance to your ‘Vedanta philosophy.’ Then Vivekananda’s doubt vanished and he felt ashamed. But, why He said not according to your Vedanta philosophy? He knew Veda recognizes only ‘nirgun- nirakar- brhaman’. Veda don’t recognize worshiping of God in any form, while Swami Vivekananda was an ardent follower of Veda.
    Pardon me for this long explanation.

  19. RKGupta says:

    Thank you, Sir.
    RKGupta

  20. akraha1948 says:

    Ms. Sharmila’s poser with reference to illustrious devotion of Arjuna to Sri Krishna, Ananda’s to Lord Buddha and Vivekananda’s to Sri Ramakrishna – whether absolute Faith beyond REASON or foolproof REASON to instill FAITH? – is easy to comprehend but difficult to explain.

    Sri Krishna in Bhagavad Gita has classified faith as threefold, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas with a rider that the man imbibes faith according to his nature (ref. verses 2 & 3 of chapter 17). Logically, therefore, a tamasic man will look for a Master who will answer/meet his tamasic requirements, the Rajasik man will have faith in a Master who satisfies his Rajasic ambitions and the Sattvik man will repose faith in a Master who enables his spiritual advance. It is important to remember that even though every man is a mixture of above three qualities or Guna, the classification referred to above is based on predominance of a particular quality or Guna. Sri Krishna has classified intellect also according to above-said threefold qualities/Guna of a person (refer verses 29-32, chapter 18).

    As to how a man’s reasoning power is governed by above three qualities, we may refer to the proverbial anecdote of three dacoits narrated by Sri Ramakrishna to his disciples. The three dacoits looted a passerby in a dense forest and were debating what to do with him. The Tamasic dacoit suggested that there was no use keeping him alive, while the Rajasik one recommended that he be tied to a tree and left to be eaten up by beasts instead of killing him. The Sattvic dacoit acquiesced to the second suggestion, but set him free in midnight and escorted him up to the end of the forest. From this illustration, it can be seen how one’s reasoning is influenced by one’s inherent nature. Further, even the Sattvic man was dubbed as a dacoit, understandably because all three Gunas eventually bind the soul to this world.

    Let us now dwell upon Arjuna’s reasoning with Sri Krishna. When Arjuna’s mind was over-powered with pity and distress, Krishna called his reasoning for withdrawal from the battle as Tamasic. Arjuna’s questioning of Krishna’s wisdom and credibility can be called Rajasic. His intent to see Krishna’s cosmic form was Sattvik as it emanated from his reasoned conviction that Krishna was the Divinity incarnate. What followed was absolute surrender to Sri Krishna, i.e. unqualified faith in the Master.

    Similarly, Sri Krishna developed his reasoning according to the mental state of his disciple. Initially, he coaxed Arjuna with mundane logic such as victory would make him enjoy the world, while death on battlefield will take him to heaven; withdrawal from battle would be a sign of cowardice and make him a subject of ridicule, etc. Slowly, the reasoning progressed qualitatively into the domain of Sattva with the concept of Niskam karma (work sans desire) and various kinds of Yoga being introduced. In the end, Sri Krishna transcended even the Sattva when he urged his disciple to give up his ego or Aham and take shelter in him (Sarva dharman parityajyam mamekam sharanam braja).

    Swami Vivekananda like Arjuna tested his Master in various ways till he was convinced, after spiritual experiences, of his Master’s superiority and competence to guide him to his goal. Ananda’s conviction about Lord Buddha’s superiority and ability to guide him came through his personal experiences. Here I go with Mr. R.K. Gupta that “It is the experience which gives faith”.

    Ms. Sharmila’s reference to Brian Weiss’s ‘Only Love is Real’ assumes its significance in the above context. In the above three examples of Master-disciple bonding we find presence of love of a different sort, overwhelming, all-encompassing and ever-lasting.

    Mr. Asim Banerjee in his erudite reflection on the topic ‘Faith & Reason’ has very aptly cited Sri Rama Krishna to say that “if you have intense desire to look for a Guru, the God comes down to help the disciple to locate an appropriate Guru.”

    Mr. Banerjee has correctly pointed out that Sri Ramakrishna was not called Swami. The word Swami, meaning Master has originated in the time of Adi Sankara to denote those who have been initiated into monkhood or Sannyas. Sri Ramakrishna was not a monk. Sannyas is a derivative of the word samnyasi (renunciate or ascetic) which originated from samnyasyati. Sam means together, ni means down, and asyati means he throws. Thus Sannyasi means he or she throws down personal identity, nationality, religion, work or family connection, i.e. everything of the material world. Even though Lord Buddha was a monk, he was not called Swami, as the word came in vogue in the time of Sankara only.

  21. RKGupta says:

    Shri Banerjee mentioned about Vedanta philosophy and ‘nirgun- nirakar- brhaman’.
    On the subject of ‘Aakar (Form) and Nirakar (Formless)’, I am posting a Zen Poem for our esteem readers to contemplate:
    Zen Poem:
    “AAKAR HI NIRAKAR HAI,
    NIRAKAR HI AAKAR,
    AAKAR KUCH NAHI HAI AAKAR KE SIVAY,
    AUR AAKAR KUCH BHI NAHI HAI NIRAKAR KE SIVAY,
    NIRAKAR KE BAHAR KOI AAKAR NAHI HAI,
    AUR AAKAR KE BAHAR NIRAKAR NAHI”- NAGARJUN
    Roughly translated as below:
    ‘Form is Formless,
    Formless is Form,
    Form is nothing except Form,
    And Form is nothing except Formless,
    There is no Form beyond Formless,
    And no Formless beyond Form – Nagarjun
    (or)
    (Formless encompasses all forms,
    And Form encompasses all Formless) – Nagarjun

  22. Shri R.K.Gupta has given a good example of Akar and Nirakar.
    Ramkrishna quotes the example of water forms into ice and again ice melts into water.
    Asim K Banerjee

  23. akraha1948 says:

    Though slightly off-track, the Zen poem of Nagarjuna, arguably the greatest Buddhist philosopher of 2nd century A.D., cited by Guptaji, delineates the apparently conflicting concepts of form and formless as true, depending of course on our relative perspective. The underlying meaning of this beautiful poem is somewhat similar to the Vedantic concept of Advaita and Davita. The dichotomy and ambivalence in the expression ‘form is formless, formless is form’ are not unique and are known to exist in Vedanta and also in Lord Buddha’s discourses. A case in point is verses 4-6, chapter 9, and verse 27, chapter 13, in Gita where Lord Krishna says as follows;

    “This whole world is pervaded by me in my unmanifest form. All beings exist in me but I am not contained in them” – verse 4, chapter- 9

    “Nor do the beings dwell in me. Behold my divine yoga! I am the sustainer and originator of beings, but my self is not contained in the beings”. – verse 5, chapter – 9

    “Just as the wind moving everywhere is ever present in space, similarly all beings abide in me.” – verse 6, chapter – 9

    “He sees who sees the supreme Lord as existing equally in all beings, and as the Imperishable among the perishable.” – verse 27, chapter – 13

    Reverting to the question of form and formless, Sri Ramakrishna, an ardent devotee of Goddess Kali, once explained to his disciples in laymen’s language the inner meaning of a devotional song as follows:

    The song:
    ” Is my dark Mother really dark?
    People call Her dark, but my mind doesn’t accept that.”

    Explanation by Sri Ramakrishna:
    ‘In reality, my Divine Mother has no complexion, no form. The sky and the sea water look blue because of its depth. Just as neither the sky nor the water of the sea has any colour, my Divine Mother also has no colour. Because of Her fathomless depth, she looks colourful.’

    The philosophical enigma over ‘form & formless’ of yesteryear is now answered by modern science, notably by the ‘M’ theorists led by Stephen Hawking. According to the modern physicists, matters/particles are like bubbles originating every moment by the vibration in the strings that pervade all the dimensions, numbering 11 by latest estimation. As such, matters that are seemingly existent may not actually be existent in the form we see these. Therefore, from a strict scientific perspective as well, forms are formless and formless are forms.

  24. RKGupta says:

    Beautifully supplemented. Thanks.

    • akraha1948 says:

      We have quibbled a bit in semantics with ‘form and formless’. The above concepts call for serious introspection in the context of our faith in a Master or a system such as Yoga for our self-awakening.

      We all accept that God/Brahman is formless as God cannot be bound within a finite form. But when we pray to God, we generally visualize some form. While praying in a temple, church or monastery, we concentrate on the presiding deity, be it Shiva, Krishna, Ganapati, Durga, Kali, or Buddha, Jesus Christ, Mahavir, Sri Ramakrishna, Sai Baba, etc. While doing so, in our heart of heart we don’t make any distinction between God and the form on which we concentrate. An initiate may concentrate on his spiritual Master and the distinction between God and the Master disappears when the mind is filled with the form of the Master. As God is in every form, it is not much relevant in which form we worship God.

      We all know that form is short-lived in this phenomenal world. As for instance, with the demise of our parents, their human form ceases to exist. But whenever we remember them, their human form flashes in our memory. They pretty much exist in our mind in human form. In fact, mind is the canvas on which visual images are ingrained. Now, if I put my mother on the pedestal of God, which I do, and pray to her, does my prayer reach God, or to her only, in distinctive form as soul, invisible to eyes? It’s my conviction that if I envision God in form of my mother, my prayer to my mother becomes same as my prayer to God.

      The next question that comes up is whether we should meditate on a form, the formless, symbol, or just a dot in-between eye-brows, the seat of the Third Eye. To my mind, there is no hard and fast rule for meditation. Lord Shiva before embarking on a long meditation advised Parvati to focus on Him on the tip of her nose, should she ever feel distracted. Krishna advised Arjuna to concentrate his sight in-between eyebrows for meditation. Drawing on above two counsels from the two ultimate Yoga Masters, it will stand to reason to focus on the tip of our nose the form of the person that attracts us the most to stave away any harmful detraction, mostly fantasies. For a stable mind, the seat of the Third Eye, in-between eyebrows is the point recommended by Yoga Masters to concentrate upon. It is believed that Lord Shiva’s Third Eye had the energy to reduce the entire universe into ashes.

      Meditation is a spiritual journey of the mind from the grossest to the subtlest world of forms. In some exceptional cases the journey ends up in formless infinity where the mind does not exist anymore. Such state is known as Nirvikalpa Samadhi. The Yogi very rarely returns from this state. When the Yogi is immersed in the form meditated upon, it is Savikalpa Samadhi. Intensity of our concentration depends directly on the narrowing of our point of focus. Now the question is what we gain from Yoga. Simply stated, Yoga enables union of individual soul with universal soul. This happening, individuality disappears and the question of gain or loss becomes totally irrelevant. If this union does not happen, we have not yet reached the end of the road.

      It is, however, not necessary that our mission ought to be union with God. As a matter of fact, our first attempt through Yoga or meditation should be to know our own self. When we through meditation know our inner self, i.e. that we are not our mortal self but the soul that is immortal, without beginning and end, and when our mortal and illusory self becomes one with our indestructible soul, we have completed the first phase of our spiritual journey through Yoga. After self-realization comes God-realization, and the path ahead is much more tortuous and hazardous. In that state the yogi experiences God in him/her as also in every being. Union with God marks the end of the journey.

      If this is the ultimate truth that we have emanated from God and shall eventually subsume in God, a question may arise why we should waste our time in pursuing Yoga instead of enjoying this material life, for whether we pursue it or not, one day we are bound to unite with God.
      The answer to the above poser is twofold. First, pursuit of Truth out of self-motivation is its own justification. Second, following what has been said by spiritual Masters in whom we have faith, Yoga helps us achieve the bliss when our consciousness transcends the barriers of mind and is fixed in perfect balance, known as equipoise. In other words, the light at the end of the tunnel that the great spiritual Masters have experienced through Yoga and have spoken of, can be experienced by us as well, provided we follow the path shown by them.

      But the paths are manifold, and all the tunnels may not necessarily lead to light. Some may even lead to darkness. Therefore, we must apply our reasoning power to choose our Master before we enter a particular tunnel. Here the question may arise, does a novice have the capacity to judge a Master? In the process, can we not be duped? In my limited understanding, the best way to find out whether a person appearing to be a spiritual Master is actually so, and not a fraudster, is to put him to test of equanimity. Equipoise is a state of bliss and the person who is in that state transmits unbound joy to all those who come in his/her contact. If we put our faith in right Master, we can be hopeful of experiencing the light at the end of the tunnel when we end our journey.

  25. RKGupta says:

    The Holy Qur’an says: “Verily, We are the Creator of everything and everything would return to Us”. So what you say is correct. Whether one worships the God or not, it does not matter to Him, it is for ones own sake. He is the Creator and everything would return to Him-it is only the question of the time one has to spend “in returning to Him”. There is another aspect, being happy in whatever state He keeps us is the highest form of faith-“Razi mein raza” (Thy will be done), so one who has firm faith in Him, is not worried about anything. For him this life or many births or re-births make no difference. Yet another aspect is that the state of the wise and the fool is the same. The wise knows that he knows nothing (having taken a dip in the Ocean of wisdom, he knows that it is endless) and the fool really knows nothing, but there is a difference in their states of realisations, one has made a full circle and the other is standing on the same point. It is really strange that we exist because He wished so and all the time, we keep on thinking about returning to Him (Yoga-getting united). You are also right in saying what is required is equanimity or in other words becoming “SAHAJ AND SARAL” (i.e simple and straight forward with no complexes or prejudices).
    Regards and wishing a very happy Durga Pooja to everyone.

  26. akraha1948 says:

    Guptaji, thanks for bringing out the Quranic concept (which is in keeping with the Abrahamic tradition) that “We are the Creator and everything would return to Us.” Nothing could be more assuring to the mortals than this unconditional assurance of immortality. In Gita also, it is said that all manifested things emerge from the Unmanifested and they merge in the Unmanifested (verse 18, chap.8). The said inevitable return journey to God is, however, accelerated by one-pointed devotion (verse 22, chap.8). There is thus striking similarity in the essence of the Vedantic and Abrahamic traditions.

    Your statement that the fool makes a full circle and the wise stands on the same point is loaded and significant.

    However, the Yogic union with God envisages a concept of immersion and merger, somewhat similar to the state of standing on the same point with God-consciousness. Have you found similar concept in Abrahamic tradition?

  27. RKGupta says:

    Slightly different, Sir. It is the wise, who having made the whole journey comes to realize that in reality he knows nothing or that the state of highest knowledge is that all discrimination is gone. Knowledge comes through discrimination and the highest state of knowledge is to realise that there is nothing to discriminate since it is He, Who is pervading all and, then all discrimination is gone. The fool on the other hand makes no effort to move even a step in the direction of Truth.
    Whatever little I know of the Abrahmic tradition, they put the man and God in juxtaposition, the concept of ‘Advait’ I have not come across. In fact there is an Ayat in the Holy Qur’an which says to Prophet that if someone asks about the ‘Rooh” (Atman), you should say that it is a ‘Shan’ (glory or brilliance) of the God and that man has limited knowledge, not capable to know about it.

    • akraha1948 says:

      Guptaji, your interpretation of the fool and the wise does not change the situation substantially. As per my earlier understanding, I (and for that matter, most of us) was a fool because I was making the full circle and did not stand on the same point with awareness of the Truth. By your present annotation, I may be wise because I am aware that I am a fool. However, the term ‘fool’ is derogatory and I would suggest that it be substituted by the word ‘unwise’ if not ‘un-awaken’, given the flattering title by our ancient sages – ‘children of the Immortal’ (Amritashva Putrah).

      While on the concept of the Advaita, thanks for your explanation of the difference in the Abrahamic tradition with particular reference to the Holy Quran. However, Jesus Christ once said to a gathering: “I and my Father are One.” It may not be permissible to extend the scope and ambit of that Oneness to cover the whole of the mankind. Nonetheless, we find a trace of Advaita in that remark of Jesus. What’s your take on that?

  28. RKGupta says:

    Thanks. That way even the very statement: “Verily We are the Creator of everything and everything would return to Us” also connotes the same thing as the Jesus saying “Me and my Father are One”. But then the way these ‘scriptures’ have been given to us, it emphasizes more on the code of conduct or in other words, these are books concentrating on the human conduct aspects. In any case, the reality remains the same, whatever be the beliefs of individuals.

  29. akraha1948 says:

    “I and my Father are one” was told by Jesus to the Jews (refer John:30), following his claim that none could pluck his followers out of his hand, as his followers were given to him by his Father Who was greater than all, and none could pluck them out of his Father’s hand. Thereupon, the Jews started stoning him for blasphemy as he made himself God (refer John: 31-33). Then Jesus asked them, “Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?” (refer John: 34). When the Jews were still not convinced, he again urged them to believe that “the Father is in me and I in Him” (refer John: 38).

    The above passages from John are traditionally interpreted to mean that Jesus and God shared something in common and not that Jesus and God were the same, primarily because in about 9th hour on the Cross, Jesus was heard to cry “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” (“My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”). Nonetheless, the words: “I and my Father are One”, “Ye are gods” and “the Father is in me and I in Him”, have a striking similarity to the Vedantic concepts of ‘Sohaham’ (I am He), ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ (Thou art That) and Sarvam Khalvidam Brahman (All is truly Brahman). Even though, in all likelihood, above similarities may be co-incidental and not indicative of God-consciousness of Jesus, one cannot afford to miss the depth and gravity of the words that fell from his mouth.

  30. The discussions on faith and reason so far have been most illuminating and the contributors are to be commended for the time and trouble they have all taken to throw light on the topic. Without going into the relative merits of the points made by the previous contributors , my humble submission is that while faith is essentially subjective and its nature,form and intensity vary from individual to individual, reason is essentially objective and emperical. For instance,there is no way one can either prove or disprove the existence of a supernatural being overseeng the entire universe and to whom we, as intelligent beings possessed of a sense of what is morally right and wrong, are individually answerable. Indeed, from a historical perspective,there have been more wars fought and mindless suffering inflicted in the name of organised religions , primarily based on faith, than for any other cause. Of course, one can argue that perpetrators of these horrors were really motivated by greed of power and wealth and used religion as a subterfuge for their nefarious designs. But while this may have been true for the leaders , many of those who followed them were undoubtedly motivated by faith. This is not the problem with reason where through logical thinkiing, methodical observation or scientific experimentation that can be replicated a hypotheses can become a theory and with new findings even the theory can be modified or even replaced altogether. Whether or not one is a Hindu, a Christian , a Buddhist or a Muslim, one cannot question the law of gravity, the binomial theorem or the fact that a water molecule is made up of two atoms of Hydogen and one Oxygen. The argument that in faith we are dealing with the spiritual which lies beyond our five senses is so much sophistry calculated to silence debate.

  31. RKGupta says:

    Sir, for the sake of argument, even logic depends upon perception and conditioning of one’s mind. The scientific truths are also not absolute truth. Every now and then theories keep on changing disproving the earlier scientific beliefs and introducing new ones. Even the principles applicable at gross level are not applicable at subtle level in science. We tend to believe in them because we trust our senses and anything appealing to our senses, we take them to be truth of that moment. But then, we must realise that our senses have limitations. For example, today the science says that photons do not have mass. It is the truth of this moment but is it really true? I do not think it is true. There can be nothing without mass, not even the photon. If that be so, there would be no energy in photon, as per the formula E=mc2, because if m (mass) of photon were zero, energy would be zero. The fact of the matter perhaps is that at this moment we are not capable of reaching that level to realise that quantum of mass, it is beyond our senses. One cannot measure anything beyond the tolerance (zero-error) of the measuring instrument. And, we the measuring instruments, stand on the platform of relativity. We perceive the truth only according to our own state of evolution. This is not to say that faith means no questioning or no existence of rational. On the contrary, my belief is firm faith is based on self-experience and this faith is given by the capable Master.

    • Dear Mr Gupta,
      Thank-you for your comments. Nowhere have I said that reason leads to absolute truth. Reason is simply a tool and not an end in itself. However, it is a far more reliable and dispassionate method of arriving at a better understading of the universe and our place in it than blind faith. Even Swami Vivekananda has said that faith without reason is simply superstition which the tens of thousands of followers of the charalatan Asharam and his criminal son are learning to their cost. Also people do not go to war defendiing principles of physics or chemistry. If a theory is scientifically proved to be out of date, it is simply modified or even discarded. I am not going to die fighting for whether photons have mass or not. The Crusaders, however, did precisely that for their faith as did the destroyers of the Somnath Temple and of the Babri Masjid.Try differing with the views of the Spanish Inquisition or of the Taliban and you will pay such a high price that you would be better off agreeing to all their nonsense. Finally, if one accepts a truly omnipoltent, omnipresent, omniscient God why do you need a human Guru to expain His divine nature? The gap that separates the Guru from the Divine is so vast that compared to that any individual’s gap of knowledge from his/her guru is miniscule. Any educated person should be able to bridge that gap without human aid . I don’t need an Asharam or a Baba Ramdeb or even a Satya Sai to explain the Divine to me.

  32. akraha1948 says:

    Faith sans reason is unacceptable as it has often brought disaster to humanity, as has been correctly pointed out by Mr. Amitava Tripathi. The crusades in the name of faith have no doubt put back the clock of our civilization by several decades, if not centuries. Therefore, faith ought to be juxtaposed with reason, and there is no plausible second opinion in this regard. However, the problem arises when the champions of faith claim to have adequate reasons for their fights in the name of faith.

    The touchstone by which we may determine whether our faith is reasonable or otherwise is to find out whether the same promotes love and peace for all without discrimination. Our fight is essentially to conquer our own internal enemies, viz. selfish desire, anger, greed, delusion, addiction and jealousy, and not to conquer fellow human beings in the name of faith.

  33. RKGupta says:

    Thanks Tripathiji. I fully appreciate your comments and agree with you on some aspects. I also do not believe the ‘faith’ in the sense both you and Mr. Raha have mentioned-fighting in the name of religion and so on. In my opinion it is not faith-it is an expression of ego, given the name of faith to give sanctity to ones own misdeeds. It is the ego of belonging to a group, which in their opinion is superior in some way to others and, therefore, taking a pride in belonging to that group and taking upon themselves to subjugate others and so on. As I mentioned earlier also, in my opinion faith is based on experience. Even swami Vivekanand got this faith from his Master-Shri Ramkrishna Paramhans on gaining the experience.
    As regards the necessity of a Master, when for learning the letters and arithmetic one requires a teacher, how is it that there is no place for a teacher in the spiritual realm? Generally a teacher is required, but one in million case is like that of Lord Buddha, who did not require a formal teacher, though he also was motivated in different ways. And in higher realms, for example, Sufi Masters do say that the Master is also a ‘Vaham’ (presumption or supposition) like in maths, where for solving the equation one needs to presume X=something and once the equation is solved, the necessity of presumption is gone. And finally a true Master would never ask the seekers to close their eyes and not to exercise reason; the only thing is at times, we are not able to perceive things beyond our common understanding. For example, unless one has read science, it would be difficult for him to believe that water is formed by burning of hydrogen (with oxygen).

  34. Thank-you for your clarifications. Perhaps we may conclude as follows: “Reason without Faith is like the harsh reality of a desert without the solace of an oasis, while Faith without Reason offers the false distraction of a mirage and not the life-restoring power of an oasis.”

  35. akraha1948 says:

    However much we like or disapprove, our quest for Truth in both material field as also in spiritual domain shall continue ad infinitum. For this reason precisely, we have progressed and are progressing in both spheres, materially and spiritually, since the Stone Age up to the present day. Reason is the sine qua non for our progress as man is a rational being.

    There is no denying, however, that rationality admits also of duplicity, deception and convoluted reasoning, resulting in delusion on a mass scale, and also mass scale destruction such as what happened in both the World Wars. In Machiavellian terms, we call it raison d’etre in justification for
    devastating wars for supremacy or survival of the ruler. Advanced research in nuclear sciences has been misused to create and launch bombs for mass destruction. Chemical bombs have also been invented to spell disaster on mankind. Simultaneously, we have witnessed bloody crusades and numerous genocides in the name of faith, as if the honour of God is at stake and depends heavily upon the human saviors for its protection. These are the deviations which do not set our standard for the ideal.

    Our quest for Truth at the material level, both experimental and empirical, is called science. It is easily understandable, as its benefit in our daily life is enjoyed by one and all in varying degrees. Our quest for Truth in the domain of consciousness is as important, if not more, as it prompts us to inquire into the ultimate source of life and consciousness and is potentially, if not actually, a uniting factor, not divisive.

    Science does not deal with consciousness. Nor does the intent of the researchers, investors, political masters and the users of scientific inventions fall in the domain of science. It is only the adhesive property of spirituality that is capable of channeling scientific researches into constructive path and not destructive.

    The term ‘faith’ is rarely used or accepted in science. It is in use in religions only. In every religion, except perhaps Hinduism, Truth has been postulated by the scripture, and the followers are not permitted to question its validity. Anything stated contrary to what is postulated in the scripture is called blasphemy, and it devolves upon the champions of each religion to fight for the Truth and to demolish protagonists of blasphemy. Herein lies the seed of hatred and divisiveness among different religions or faiths.

    Spirituality is not the same as faith in religion. Simpliciter, it is search for Truth in one’s inner consciousness without being a conformist. It suggests, in other words, that the Truth must be experienced and internalized. To achieve this, one requires a Master or a guide in whom one can place faith. This is somewhat similar to faith in a research guide in a science research and not to the blind faith of a religious conformist. As one should be circumspect in choosing one’s research guide, so should a seeker of Truth be in choosing his spiritual guide. It is not necessary in either case to stick on to one’s guide if the mission is not achieved. And a rational individual is the best judge to determine whether he has been progressing satisfactorily under his guide/Master.

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