Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Some thoughts on faith and the practice
"The faith waiting in the heart of a seed
promises a miracle of life
which it cannot prove at once."
In my previous post, Megan left a very thought-provoking comment about the relationship between faith and the practice. I think her comment brings up some interesting issues that are worth pondering a little about. Megan writes:
"It seems to me that faith would be detrimental to the yoga practitioner who seeks truth. Faith is a reason to stop asking questions. Faith is an easy way out. Why have faith in a method of practice that is wholly, by its very nature, experiential? My practice is an experiment, both in daily application and in the grander scale. I do this practice and, more specifically, follow THIS method because I am curious, not faithful, about its effects."
I responded by saying that it is quite possible that Megan and I understand very different things by the word "faith". My understanding of faith is based on the Sanskrit word Shraddha, which is usually translated as "faith." B.K.S. Iyengar defines Shraddha as
"trust which comes from revelation, faith, confidence, reverence."
More recently, Kino, in the video above, defines Shraddha more colorfully as "faith to believe in yourself as a divine spark held in the world."
On either definition, faith as shraddha does not preclude inquiry or asking questions. Quite the opposite, in fact: Shraddha encourages active questioning and experimentation based on a spirit of love and trust in the practice, serving as a firm foundation upon which we can freely explore the many joys (and pains) that the practice has to offer.
On a somewhat different note, Megan's comment has also caused me to wonder if many yogis and yoginis in the west are somewhat apprehensive and hesitant about embracing the concept of faith in the practice, because of the connotations with organized religion and its excesses that the word often conjures up (Note to Megan: I'm not saying this is where you are coming from. I'm just using your comments as a starting point for my neither-here-nor-there musings...). Perhaps the hesitancy has something to do with associating faith with unquestioning belief in a greater power or authority. But I do not think that faith as Shraddha asks us to believe unquestioningly. Rather, my sense is that Shraddha acts as a sort of counterweight to the natural human impulse to explore, expand and experiment; by grounding our minds and spirits in an attitude of love and trust for the process, it protects us from the excesses of ego, which often rears its ugly head when we are preoccupied only with acquiring more knowledge and things.
These are my two cents', as always. If you have any thoughts on any of this, I'll love to hear them.