Shraddha, or fundamental trust
   by Peter Holleran

   "Faith is the ability to believe what we do not see. The reward of faith is to see what we did not believe." - BJ Palmer

   "To consider God equally good in things that are petty and ordinary as in those that are great and uncommon is to have a faith that is not ordinary, but great and extraordinary." - Jean-Pierre de Caussade

   "The Higher Power knows what to do and how to do it. Trust it."
- Ramana Maharshi

   'You must have faith that the original mind that is realized and that which realizes original mind are not different."
- Zen Master Bankei

   "All the way from the aspirant's initial dream to his final achievement, he must resolutely resolve to stand or fall by his faith that this higher Self truly exists and that its realization is the hidden purpose of his incarnation."
- Paul Brunton  


   It is said that of all the qualities an aspirant after Truth may possess, shraddha, or unwavering trust, conviction, or faith in God, Guru, a higher power, or in the important but often forgotten aspect, one's very own self and its capacity, inevitability, and destiny for awakening, liberation, happiness - that is to say, its very rootedness in divinity even now, regardless of appearances or  turn of events - is perhaps the most important. It is firm, unshakable trust in the existence and benevolence of  eternal Reality, however one might conceive of it, whether that be as a divine parent, teacher, friend, father, mother, child, lover, or essence. Equipped with this virtue, liberating grace is a given in ones life, and the seeker can  relax in the  arms of “divine providence”, confident that his needs will be taken care of and that all is well. Sant Kirpal Singh writes:

   "A loving faith in the inherent goodness of God and complete self-surrender to the Divine Will will lead one on the high-road of spirituality without any great continuing effort on the part of an aspirant."

   deCaussade states:

   "Souls that have once and for all submitted themselves to the divine action, ought to interpret everything favorably. God and the soul work in common, and the success of the work depends entirely upon the Divine Workman, and can only be spoilt if the soul proves unfaithful."

   Yet there is more:

   "It is the mystery of mysteries, where all is so hidden, so obscure, so incomprehensible, that the more spiritual and enlightened one is, the more faith is required to believe it."

   and

   "...in the passive state of pure faith all that God communicates partakes of the nature of that inaccessible darkness that surrounds His throne."

   This article, then, will explore many facets of this invaluable quality. Our purpose is not to give absolute knowledge on this topic, it is much humbler than that: simply to "package and disseminate" some of it, as many souls with greater lights have already done much of the groundwork  for this task.

   The following is not a polished essay to be read quickly through from beginning to end; rather, it is a garland of quotes and excerpts from the wise that I have tried to weave together for the reader's (and author's own) pondering.

   Faith may be said to be "the pathless path of a crestfallen ego that has intuited truth." This may be contrasted with the belief of one who is still a seeker after truth but without a glimpse thereof (for whom it might be said, "Faith is the ability to believe what we do not see; the reward of faith is to see what we did not believe"). It may thus appear to be not a beginning stage of spiritual practice; much of what is presented in these pages will relate to this form of understanding. But, neither is it only as advanced as all that, and both forms are valuable, so do not fret if you feel you have yet to be graced with such a glimpse. One can still pray and yearn and, even, assume more and more that such faith is true of you - for it is really is. But, we can certainly always try practicing our way out of a mentally conditioned negative belief (i.e., "I am not, or will not likely be, realized," "I am separate and alone," etc., into a truer one - why not? "As you think, so you become," "you become what you meditate on," and so forth. It certainly does not hurt to begin such a process even as we wait for the "real thing" - and endure its unfoldment. For at some point Truth breaks through and helps us.

   To put the concept of true faith arising after a glimpse in another way, the Vipassana tradition of Buddhism, for instance, shraddha (or saddha), generally is spoken of not as an unexamined or unconditional trust, but rather a conviction and confidence in the truth and efficacy of the dharma or teaching of truth to purify and liberate. One could say that faith is a combination of the desire to seek truth, the perseverance while working on the path, and the firm conviction in truth's existence. It is more than just a belief, thus the importance of an initial glimpse of some kind, for most people. In Vipassana, shraddha is confirmed when one has attained the first of four stages of insight, or sotapatti, the 'stream-enterer' stage. In this particular tradition this is characterized by freedom from the first three 'lower fetters' to enlightenment, which are: belief in a separate self, skeptical doubts, and clinging to rites and rituals. [The next two lower fetters, sensuous craving and ill-will (i.e., lust and anger) are seriously diminished in the sakadagami (once-returner), and eradicated in the anagami (non-returner) stages; elimination of five higher fetters leads beyond craving for finer-material and immaterial existence to the arahant stage]. Thus, sotapanni is an important 'beginning of the end', and is marked by a glimpse of the unreality of the ego, and seeing beyond sceptical doubts of the path and its goal. In other words, true shraddha or faith is born. One can of course see that grace has already been in play at this stage; however, just because one has seen through the separate self and a definite shift or profound glimpse has occurred, the forces of egoistic habit tendencies are still active and will likely rear their head for some time. In other words, an awakening has occurred, but 'deliverance' is a long ways off. But, with faith or conviction having moved to the forefront of consciousness, grace rather than self-effort is able to become more of a moving force in one's path. [for more on the topic of 'stream-enterer', etc., see "Not a One-Shot" and "The Depths of This Thing" on this website].

   One can keep the model of this transition in mind, if it feels is useful to you - as well as the notion that it may not be as complicated as it sounds (!) - while a comprehensive understanding of faith in all of its forms may be helpful as one makes his way out of the jungle of conflicting views. So let us begin this exercise.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________

   Certain basic postulates apply.

   Faith in God or faith in oneself intertwine; there is no radical duality:

   "When the personal "me" stops the endless struggle for a while and remains quiet, inactive, and passive, the impersonal "I Who Am" arises and, little by little, gently suffuses it with new life and heals it with great love." - PB (Paul Brunton)

   One's own higher self is a loving being that responds to our entreaties and heartfelt longing; it is both "us" in the truest sense, and "not-us" at the same time. According to PB and some others, it is our personal link with impersonal divinity. Thus, it can be worshipped and communed with at heart. If at first a man feels this as God in him but separate from him, he will eventually realize this God as himself, transcendent and immanent.

   "Not only is the kingdom of heaven within us, but we ourselves are within the kingdom."

   Still, he will not lose the sense of reverence and mystery about it all. Is there a self or no-self? etc.. Some things may not be said in all finality.

   After passing, or not passing, through many states and conditions, what will he realize?

   "In contacting the Overself, he does not really sense a bigger "I". He senses SOMETHING which is. This is [usually] first achieved by forgetting the ego, the personality, the "I". But at a letter stage, there is nothing to forget for then he finds that the ego, the personality, and the "I" are of the same stuff as this SOMETHING."

   This is so here and now; to a great extent our doubt of this is for lack of faith that it could be true. "Grace is the Self. It is not manifest because of ignorance. With sraddha (faith), it will become manifest," said Ramana Maharishi. The excerpts chosen for this article were picked for their power in guiding us to this noble point.

   Faith, like all divinely human qualities, is not a water-tight compartment; it cannot be separated from patience, perseverance, endurance, devotion, and love. Nor from wisdom, hence in Christianity we find the two united as pistis sophia. Therefore, one will find some overlap in quotations and points raised here and elsewhere on this website.

   Having faith is intimately connected to learning to respond to ones intuition. Intuition is said to be the inner ruler of a spiritual man or woman, governing the intellect, feelings, and will. Reason (buddhi) is higher than intellect, and must often confirm our intuition, but intuition is closest to the nature or direct insight of the inner or truest Self, and its guidance. Much of the time sadhana or practice is fairly straightforward, but there are times when an important choice must be made and faith-derived intuition lead the way:

   "If one cultivates sufficient faith, out of the cosmic mind will come the response to his aspirations and, eventually, the answers to his questions. To receive this, one must learn to keep a constant vigil for the intuitive feelings and messages of the most delicate nature, and to trust his inner promptings. His attention should always have God as its centre."

   "It is the strength or feebleness of our intuition which determines the grade of our spiritual evolution. What begins a gentle surrender to intuition for a few minutes, one day resolves into a complete surrender of the ego to the Overself for all time."

   "He will have to maintain his loyalty tho the intuition against the cautions, the excessive prudence, of a frightened intellect."

   "When intuition guides and illuminates intellect, balances and restrains the ego, that which the wise men called "true intelligence" rises."

   "We may ardently want to do what is wholly right and yet not know just what that is. This is particularly possible and likely when confronted with two roads and when upon the choice between them the gravest consequences will follow. It is then that the mind easily becomes hesitant and indecisive. The search for the wisest choice may not end that day or that month. Indeed, it may not end until the last hour of the last day. This is how the aspirants are tested to see if they can humble the ego with the realization that they are no longer capable of making their own decision but must turn it over to the higher self and wait in quiet patience for the result. But when finally the intuitive guidance does emerge after such deep, sincere, and obedient quest of God's will, it will do so in a formulation so clear and self-evident as to be beyond all doubt."
- Paul Brunton (Notebooks, Vol. 14, 1.138, 135, 249, 163)

   So in learning to cultivate such intuition, a strong faith in the inherent rightness of things and the divine providence is important. We dare say this be the case even for those on a path such as advaita vedanta! There is a great transformation and many twists and turns on the path to truth, and all of the faculties of a man need to be equilibrated for a fruitful, lasting result.

   The length of this piece is not important, one may read it gradually or at random and still derive benefit.

   At the outset we have it from no less an authority than the great Sankara, that it is altogether proper and true to believe in and have faith in a benevolent creator-God, even while we are told that our true nature is that of an unqualified Absolute. This form of faith - which is more than just an uninspected belief, of little value perhaps to those who respect reason - is not merely an expedient or ignorant position to be later discarded for of the real thing, but an intermediary disposition with enlightening power of its own. So for those who feel that faith is merely a thought, or a belief, to be discarded in favor of contemplation of the source of one thought ‘I’, or another such ‘pinnacle’ practice, we will just say that they are welcome to their approach, if they are truly up for it. There is no argument here with such a choice, it may indeed be the fastest way to truth. On the other hand, inquiry into the root of the 'I' can be so much nonsense and self-absorption without an actual practice of living faith and cultivation of the virtues. Such a practice, honestly undertaken, has the power to undercut the habitual self on a daily basis - a 'self' that saps one's energy to pursue real inquiry.

   The "fastest" way, according to the masters, is that practice that is most appropriate for each individual at any given time. We agree in principle that there ‘is no difference between Buddhas and sentient beings’, but, as Sogyal Rinpoche reminds us:

   “All the Buddhist teachings are explained in terms of “Ground, Path, and Fruition.” The Ground [of Dzogchen]  is this fundamental, primordial state, our absolute nature, which is already perfect and always present. Patrul Rinpoche says: “It is neither to be sought externally, nor is it something you did not have before and that now has to be newly born in your mind.” So from the point of view of the Ground - the absolute - our nature is the same as the buddhas’, and there is no question at this level, “not a hair’s breadth,” the masters say, "of teaching or practice to do."

   “Yet, we have to understand, the buddhas took one path and we took another. The buddhas recognize their original nature and become enlightened; we do not recognize that nature and so become confused. In the teachings, this state of afairs is called “One Ground, Two Paths.” Our relative condition is that our intrinsic nature is obscured, and we need to follow the teachings and practice in order to return us to the truth....The.. masters are acutely aware of the danger of confusing the absolute with the relative. People who fail to understand the relationship can overlook and even disdain the relative aspects of spiritual practice and the karmic law of cause and effect. However, those who truly seize the meaning of Dzogchen will have only a deeper respect for karma, as well as a keener and more urgent appreciation of the need for purification and spiritual practice. This is because they will understand the vastness of what it is in them that has been obscured, and so endeavor all the more fervently, and with an always fresh, natural discipline, to remove whatever stands between them and their true nature.”
(Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying (San Francisco, California: Harper Collins, 1994), p. 155-156)

   For those who have already sweated enough, thought enough, cried enough, or suffered enough, the direct path is open before them. Those, we might say, are those whose karma is ripe for them to be among those who, as Christ said, “are the more blessed who believe who have not seen.” They have done the work, endured, hung in there, or availed themselve of all their options and now have but one left: abject surrender, or direct seeing and ‘non-abiding’. In such a case, the understanding that faith, or Faith, capitalized, is the essence of “Ground, Path, and Fruition’. Just as are Hope, Love, Doubt, Grace, and almost any divine quality one might choose to focus on. Each is a way of appreciating and abiding in that which is All-Good (the meaning of Samantrabhadra, the naked, unclad, sky-blue Buddha who is the embodiment of the Dharmakaya, our true absolute  nature). That being said, and it had to be said to ‘prepare the ground, we shall proceed.

   There is more to the deeper meaning of the term faith than what has been said so far. It is traditionally in the east been one of several qualities the prepared aspirant will need to acquire to proceed deeper on the path. In this case, faith comes after meeting the teacher, studying his teachings, and then coming to have firm faith, or Shradda.

   Shraddha is traditionally one of the six virtues that are part of the four-fold set of qualifications laid out by Sankara for the study of Vedanta, which are: first, the ability to discriminate between the permanent and  impermanent (Nitya-Anitya-Vastu-Viveka), second, non-attachment to the fruits of actions in this world and the next (Iha-Amutra-Phala-Bhoga-Vairagya), third, the six virtues (control of  the mind (Shama), control of the senses (Dama), satiety in the enjoyment of sense-objects (Uparati), endurance (Titiksha), faith (Shraddha), balanced concentration (Sama dhana)), and fourth, the sustained desire to achieve Moksha (Mumukshutva).

   No matter how talented or qualified one may be, it is said that  the Vedas can be understood only with the help of a Guru, who also transmits through his words and his being the realized state. Hence, for the seeker of Moksha, according to the Vedantists, there is no way other than the Guru and the Vedas. Therefore, we should have complete faith in the words of both the Vedas and our Guru. This faith is known as Shraddha. In Buddhism, faith is complete faith in the sutras and the guru. Faith in the teacher is gained by study and proximity until confirmation of the truth of the scriptures is attained. The word itself is made of two components: Shrat mean truth, and Dha, means bearing it. Therefore, the faith necessary for bearing the truth is known as Shraddha. The Gita says: ‘shraddhavan labhate jnanam’ (4.39) - A man of faith can attain knowledge.

   Any form of religious fundamentalism is not faith, but blind belief. True faith is much more, well, ‘fundamental’. Swami Paramananda writes from his translation of the Katha Upanishad:

   “Shraddha. There is no one English word which can convey the meaning of this Sanskrit term. It is more than mere faith. It also implies self–reliance, an independent sense of right and wrong, and the courage of one’s own conviction.” ( Swami Paramananda trans., Katha Upanishad, Part One, Verse Three,)

   The accompaniment of this is that to be considered a person of faith means that one is also himself faithful, reliable and trustworthy - a true man, or true man of God, in biblical language.

   How does one acquire such an important trait? And how does one become such a person? Obviously, a glimpse into ones true nature is the most effective way. Some are naturally born with deep faith, gained in a succession of past lives, and nothing can shake it. For others, it is generated with the help of others. An instruction is given for the first time by a good teacher, or a transmission of grace, and faith is awakened. Faith in what? - the existence and benevolence of our Absolute Principle or Reality, of ourselves, really. Moreover, as a Zen verse affirms:

   “A thought of faith once awakened is the basis of the way forever.”

   Or it may spontaneously arise. Santideva says:

   "The thought of Enlightenment has arisen within me I know not how even as a gem might be gotten by a blind man from a dunghill."

   It is this initial glimpse into ones eternal nature that gives one the strength, the endurance, to go through with the enfolding process to its natural conclusion, whatever it takes. Such faith, once awakened, can be never entirely be forgotten. To try ones best to ignore it and blot it out of ones mind would be spiritual suicide: a painful, indefinite postponement of ones journey. It must remain firm and protected  at all costs, like a precious jewel.

   A.H. Almaas on Objective Optimism:

   "The difference between Holy Faith and Holy Hope is that faith is a trust in the fact of the presence of Being, while hope is trust in the creative flow of the functioning of that presence. So faith gives you the sense of being supported and taken care of by the universe, while hope gives you the sense that as things unfold, everything is and will be fine. Holy Hope, then, is an openness, a curiosity, a receptivity, and an optimism about how things are going to reveal themselves, because you are certain that the optimizing thrust of reality moves toward harmony and fulfillment. Even putting it in this way makes the hope sound too specific—it is just an open optimism about life.

   It is obvious how this kind of hope is helpful and necessary on the path, since it is needed to allow the unfoldment of the soul to progress without feeling the need to interfere with it or direct it. We know that it is inherently guided, and this knowing is not an idea in our minds, nor the result of reasoning, nor a logical certainty. It is an experiential transformation of the soul that makes the soul progressively more open and happily optimistic, trusting that everything will transpire in the best way, beyond our preconceived ideas of what we think is best. It is not a hope for something specific, as we have said. If it were, it would be egoic hope based on judgments and preconceptions about what we think ought to happen, and on rejection of the present. It is, rather, the growing and deepening certainty that whatever happens will be part of the optimizing thrust of reality and its guidance. It is complete openness to the unfoldment.”


   One ‘block’ against having this faith is our inability or unwillingness to surrender to things as they are: to our feelings, to the world, fearing ‘doing it wrong’. Thus, we miss out on a deeper initiation and, subsequently, a deeper faith. He adds:

   “Most of us don't let ourselves deeply feel [our] helplessness because we think it is a bad thing—that it means that there is something wrong with us personally. So we judge it, are ashamed of it, and don't let our-selves feel it. But when you recognize that the helplessness is not about you personally, but is just the human condition, and that if you completely accept it, it becomes a positive state since it ushers you into Being, then you will welcome it whenever it arises.” A.H.Almaas Facets of Unity, pp 282

   Paul Brunton offers the following words of hope to bolster such faith:

   “Why create needless frustrations by an overeager attitude, by overdoing spiritual activity? You are in the Overself’s hands even now and if the fundamental aspiration is present, your development will go on without your having to be anxious about it. Let the burden go. Do not become a victim of too much suggestion got from reading too much spiritual literature creating an artificial conception of enlightenment.”  (Notebooks, Vol. 15, Part 1, 5.232)

   “One must not take the intellectual approach too seriously. The Quest is really simpler than the books suggest.” (Vol. 3, Part 1, 4.70)

   “Only if a man falls in love with his soul as deeply as he has ever done with a woman will he even stand a chance of finding it.” (Vol. 3, Part 1, 9.67)

   “The very fact that a man has consciously begun the quest is itself a manifestation of Grace, for he has begun to seek the Overself only because the Overself’s own working has begun to make it plain to him, through the sense of unbearable separation from it, that the right moment for this has arrived. The aspirant should therefore take heart and feel hope. He is not really walking alone. The very love which has awakened within him for the Overself is a reflection of the love which is being shown towards him.
   “Thus, the very search upon which he has embarked, the studies he is making, and the meditations he is practising are all inspired by the Overself from the beginning and sustained by it to the end. The Overself is already at work even before he begins to seek it. Indeed he has taken to the quest in unconscious obedience to the divine prompting. And that prompting is the first movement of Grace. Even when he believes that he is doing these things for himself, it is really Grace that is opening the heart and enlightening the mind from behind the scenes.”
(Vol. 3, Part 1, 9.67)

   “At the end we have to be like little children and leave our Enlightenment to the Father and give up our lives to him. On the Long Path the aspirant tries to improve himself. He experiences successes and failures, ups and downs. When he is disappointed, he gets melancholy. On the Short Path such a situation cannot arise, because he has faith like a little child. He has given up all his future to Overself-God and he has enough faith to trust to it. He knows he has made the right decision and therefore is always happy. He depends on this GRACE, he knows It, that It comes from the wisest being behind the world. Whatever will come, it will be the best. He is always relying on the Overself and having the joy in it....It is quite important to have living faith in the Overself and to become like a child and to have as much dependence on the Overself as a little child has on its parents. This faith should be in the power of the Spirit itself, not in any other human being.” (Tyrolean Talk)

   "The glimpse is the beginning; recognizing it for what it is, is a further and extended operation......For us who are philosophically minded, the World-Mind truly exists. For us it is God, and for us there is a relationship with it - the relationship of devotion and aspiration, of communion and meditation. All the talk about non-duality may go on, but in the end the talkers must humble themselves before the infinite Being until they are as nothing and until they are lost in the stillness - Its stillness." (The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 14, 8.99; Vol. 16, Part 2, 1.72)

   Ramana Maharshi similarly advised:

   "The Higher Power knows what to do and how to do it. Trust it." (Talks with Ramana Maharshi (Carlsbad, California: Inner Traditions Publishing, 2001), pp.182

   By long-standing tendency we do not do this. A change in our thought patterns is needed. Yet we resist that, for which some basic trust is also needed:

   "Faith is needed to make the basic change in your thinking, the change which takes you out of the past's grip. A new life is possible if you take up new thoughts...Holding on to the future in anxiety and apprehension must be abandoned. It must be committed to the higher power completely and faithfully. Calmness comes easily to one who really trusts the higher power. This is unarguable." - Paul Brunton

   "You show your faith in the higher when you reject the thoughts that the ego is preferring you to identify with. Every time you push away the thoughts and you refuse to identify with it, you are showing your faith in the higher power." - Anthony Damiani

   * * *

   The first of the famous ‘Oxherding Pictures in Zen is called the “Awakening of Faith.” The verse reads:

   “One thought of faith is the basis
   which leads one to the way through many a rebirth.
   Pitiful indeed am I who know nothing of the Enlightenment
   piling up one heap of dust over another wherever I go.
   Wild grasses grow green when the season comes,
   the flowers bloom in mad profusion day after day.
   Longing for the Home and yet not knowing how,
   the tears flow and the kerchief is wet.”


   Abbot Zenkei Shibayama tells us of the depths through which our faith must be able to carry us:

   “The first step in pursuing the way to religion is to “empty oneself.” But this “emptying oneself” does not mean, as ordinarily understood, merely to be humble in one’s thinking or to clean out all from the self-deceived mind so that it can accept anything. It has a much deeper and stronger meaning. One has to face the “ugliness and helplessness” of oneself, or of human life itself, and must confront deep contradictions and sufferings, which are called the “inevitable karma.” He has to look deep into his inner self, go beyond the last extremity of himself, and despair of himself as a “self which can by no means be saved.” “Emptying oneself” comes from this bitterest experience, from the abyss of desperation and agony, of throwing oneself down, body and soul, before the Absolute.”

   “It is the keenness with which one realizes one’s helplessness and despairs of oneself, in other words, how deeply one plunges into one’s inner self and throws oneself away, which is the key to religion. “To be saved,” “to be enlightened,” or “to get the mind pacified” is not of primary importance. Shinran Shonin, who is respected as one of the greatest religious geniuses in Japan, once deplored, “I am unworthy of any consideration and am surely destined for hell!”. This may help explain why those who are in adversity are more accessible to religion than those who are in prosperity....When one goes through this experience, for the first time the words of the great religious teachers are directly accepted with one’s whole heart and soul...” Unconditioned gratitude bursts out as ones spiritual power....Faith also means complete entrusting. To entrust is “to empty oneself.” How could one expect to  awaken to the true self and attain the basis of a new life without throwing himself away and emptying himself? A light of faith thus lit will encourage devotion, will stimulate the longing for good teachers, will increase the understanding. The longing and understanding will then, in turn, deepen the faith and devotion. Devotion is by understanding, and understanding is by devotion.”
(Abbot Zenkei Shibayama, A Flower Does Not Talk (Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1970), p. 170-173)

   James Swartz writes:

   “Consciousness is All; it is absolute Intelligence and Power as well as being Self-Aware; it has the power to veil itself from itself as well. As infinite Intelligence it has  the wisdom and power to create or evolve the conditions and practices, persons, places, and things necessary in order for it to realize Itself. Consciousness already knows what one needs. Thus, guru, bhakti or devotion, karma yoga, meditation, as well as self-inquiry are all Consciousness in different forms.Therefore, if one has firm faith his spiritual future will inevitably and naturally take care of itself. Maya will turn into Lila, ones seeking will end, and the Self will be revealed to Itself.” (How To Attain Enlightenment< reference misplaced)

   One can take this to mean that it is really Consciousness that provides Itself-as-the-apparent-ego with the ideas, teachings,  and motivation to seek Itself. Or as the scripture reads:

   “All things work together for the good for those who love God.”

   As PB said:

   “The ego to which he is so attached turns out on enquiry to be none other than the presence of the World-Mind within his own heart. If identification is then shifted by constant practice from one to the other, he has achieved the purpose of life.” (Vol. 6, Part 1, 1.127

   It is so near that we miss it so easily.

   “He is happy even though he has no blessed consciousness of the Overself, no transcendental knowledge of it, but only secondhand news about it. Why, then, is he happy? Because he knows that he has found the way to both consciousness and knowledge. He is content to wait, working nevertheless as he waits; for if he remains faithful to the quest, what other result can there be than the attainment? Even if he has to wait fifty years or fifty lifetimes, he will and must gain it.” (reference)

   But also:

   "If the Overself did not lead him into and through the final dark night, where he becomes as helpless as an infant, as bereft of interior personal possessions as a destitute pauper, how else would he learn that it is not by his own powers and capacities that he can rise at last into enduring illumination?" (40) (Vol. 15, 3.54) 

   Bernadette Roberts writes:

   "I realize that no contemplative path wants to advertise the cross or the suffering entailed in the crossing over. On the other hand we must not be naive about this or in any way mislead others. The truth is that getting to the other shore will stretch the human limits to the breaking point, and not once, but again and again. Who can take it? it is not for nothing that the cross is the central Christian symbol." (reference)

   Fenelon says, "One does not begin to know and to feel one’s spiritual miseries until they begin to be cured." 

   Sant Darshan Singh tells us:

   "We are people of little faith and fail to recognize and appreciate the hand which guides and which sustains. Hazur (Baba Sawan Singh Ji) used to say that once a saint has taken a soul under his wing, he is keen to compress the progress of twenty births into a single one. And if we desire to pack the accomplishments of twenty lives into a single one, we must pay for it." (Darshan Singh, Streams of Nectar (Naperville, Illinois, 1993),, p. 407-408)

   Jah Jae Noh (Edwin Smith), in the marvelous Do You See What I See?, describes how one comes to what he variously calls the life of faith, the cessation of the search, the unravelling of the "form of ones fear", and the willingness to allow oneself to "be done by reality":

   “Among truly sincere students, any “method” will serve to promote spiritual realization. Among the insincere no method will serve...Methods are illusory, serving only to pacify and gratify the mind. That which accounts for the realization of some and not of others is readiness..It is best that each person try every conceivable method of redress, avenue of change, discipline of self-improvement, before he attempts faith...For whatever reasons, the fact remains that true conviction comes only after the lack of meaningful alternatives have been vividly, and intensely experienced. The entire structure of one’s existence must necessarily be dramatically questioned and undermined. It is not that the mind is being convinced in this affair, it is being destroyed. This insight is not a mindful one, but an intuitive one, and incredibly deep grasp of the idea of non-alternative, hopelessness, death. One must vividly see the absoluteness of his fear, his avoidance..This crisis is the heart informing the mind..It is not an insight of wisdom, but of profound ignorance, an insight of darkness, of death. There is no place to go. It is the ‘bottom of the pit’; end.” (Jah Jae Noh, Do You See What I See? (Wheaton, Illinois: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1977), p. 66, 152, 155

   "How, then, does the student finally come to truth? Since everything a student does is unconsciously aimed at avoiding truth, it is only through constant confrontation with truth that the student finally understands, accepts. In effect, truth simply outlasts the student. No matter what the student tries to do, truth keeps on  coming at  him until he finally wears out and surrenders. But this process obviously requires that the student persists. It requires that the student be dedicated, sincere...Since everything he does only avoids truth, he surrenders to That Which Is, Reality, Truth, God. He allows himself to be  done  by Reality. His activity is to not inhibit the process of Truth..He does all this in the faith that it is alright...Among sincere students, any  method  will serve to promote spiritual realization. Among the insincere no method will serve. Thus, methodology is irrelevant to realization. Methods are illusory, serving only to pacify and gratify the mind. That which accounts for the realization of some and not others is readiness. Readiness is the activity of surrendering at each moment to the flow of guidance, until that form appropriate for realization is presented....It is the dedication and sincerity of the individual which acounts for even the possibility of realization..All methods are merely activities performed while waiting for divine presence to make itself known to you." Ibid, p. 59, 66, 56

   "The mind can be lead countless times into the heart, yet it can refuse to believe or accept what is experienced. To this extent no learning takes place. So faith is the vehicle, the mode of learning. Understanding, which is the mind's acceptance of the heart, is the activity of faith." (Ibid, p. 146 )

   PB offers us this promise:

   "Indeed, the hour may come when, purified from the ego's partiality, he will kiss the cross that brought him such agony and when, healed of his blindness, he will see that it was a gift from loving hands, not a curse from evil lips. He will see too that in his former insistence on clinging to a lower standpoint, there was no other way of arousing him to the need and value of a higher one than the way of unloosed suffering. But at last the wound has healed perfectly leaving him, as a scar of remembrance, greatly increased wisdom." (Notebooks, Vol. 12, 5.239

   Finally, after this ordeal has been brough to fruition (perhaps countless times, for one's 'death' is not a one-shoot affair) the enigmatic words of sages like Ramana Maharshi can become clear:

   "If the longing is there, Realization will be forced on you even if you do not want it...Sadhanas [spiritual practices] are needed so long as one has not realized it. They are for putting an end to obstacles. Finally, there comes a stage when a person feels helpless notwithstanding the sadhanas. He is unable to pursue the much-cherished sadhana, also. It is then that God's Power is realized. The Self reveals itself...There is no greater mystery than this: ourselves being the reality, we seek to gain reality. We think there is something hiding our reality, and that it must be destroyed before the reality is gained. That is ridiculous. A day will dawn when you will yourself laugh at your previous efforts. That which will be on the day you laugh is also here and now."

   “He who has earned the Grace of the Guru will undoubtedly be saved and never forsaken, just as the prey that has fallen into the tiger’s jaws will never be allowed to escape.”

   “Let one not doubt whether God’s grace, the great support, has been bestowed on one or not, for the fact that one’s mind is very interested in enquiry, having a great liking for release from bondage, is itself proof.”

   “God, Guru, and Self are all synonymous and also eternal and immanent...These questions arise because of the feeling that having been here for so long, heard so much, tried so hard, one has not gained anything. The work proceeding within is not apparent. In fact, the Guru is always within you.”

   “It will all come right in the end. There is the steady impulse of your determination that sets you on your feet again after every downfall. Gradually all the obstacles are overcome...Everything comes right in the end. Steady determination is what is required.”

   “Why do you say that you are a sinner? Your trust in God is sufficient to save you from rebirths. Cast all burden onto Him. In the Tiruvachakam it is said: “Though I am worse than a dog, you have graciously undertaken to protect me. This delusion of birth and death is maintained by you. Moreover, am I the person to sift and judge? Am I the Lord here? Oh Maheswara! It is for you to roll me through bodies (by births and deaths) or keep me fixed at your own feet.” Therefore have faith and that will save you.”
(Talks with Ramana Maharshi , op. cit., pp. 182, 101-102, 497)

   It is not always easy to hang on during the darkest hour. St. Therese of Lisieux, the “Little Flower, confessed during her most extreme physical and mental suffering:

   "What a grace it is to have faith! If I had not any faith, I would have committed suicide without an instant's hesitation." (LastConv 22.9.6).

   But the great Santideva assures us:

   ”For myriads of ages, measureless, uncounted,
   Your body has been cut, impaled,
   Burned, flayed - for times past numbering!
   Yet none of this has brought you to buddhahood.

   The hardships suffered on the path to buddhahood
   Are different, for their span is limited,
   And likened to the pain of an incision
   Made to cure the harm of hidden ailments.”
(Shantideva, The Way of the Boddhisattva (Boston, Massachusetts: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1997), p. 101

   "The life of faith is nothing but the continual pursuit of God through everything that disguises, disfigures, destroys, and, so to say, annihilates him," says Jean-Pierre deCaussade, in his wonderful Abandonment to Divine Providence. He continues, agreeing with Brunton on the transcendent nature of the divine:

   "This complete deprivation which reduces us to acts of bare faith and of pure love alone, is the final disposition necessary for perfect union. It is a true death to self; a death very inward, very crucifying, very difficult to bear, but it is soon rewarded by a resurrection, after which one lives only for God and of God...After the soul has mounted the first steps in the ladder of perfection, it can scarcely make any progress except by the way of privation and nudity of spirit, of annihilation and death of all created things, even of those that are spiritual. Only on this condition can it be perfectly united to God Who can neither be felt, known, or seen....." (Book Six, Letter VII)

   "It is indeed a great secret, for by this way and by this way only are pure faith and pure hope established in the soul...Everything one does seems the fruit of chance and natural inclination. Everything that happens humiliates the soul...Others are always admired, but we feel miles below them and put to confusion by their every action....The divine action seems to keep us far from virtue only to plunge the soul into a profound humility. But this humility does not seem to be such to the soul, it thinks it is suffering from the rigours of pure justice."

   "The most remarkable thing about this is that in the eyes of those whom God does not enlighten concerning its path, the soul seems animated by quite contrary feelings such as obstinacy, disobedience, contempt and indignation that cannot be cured, and the more the soul tries to reform these disorders, the worse they become, for they are the most proper means to detach it from itself and fit it for divine union. From this painful trial comes the principal merit of self-abandonment. In the duty of the present moment everything is of a nature to draw the soul away from its path of love and simple obedience. It needs heroic courage and love to stand firm in its simple, active fidelity and sing its part with assurance, while grace sings its own with different melodies and in different keys which do nothing but convince the soul that it is deceived and lost."

   "Faith does not doubt. The more unfaithful, uncertain, and rebellious are the senses, the louder faith cries: "all is well, it is the will of God."

   "The divine actions by one and the same stroke kills and gives life...It is for God, who gives life to all things, to revive the soul with regard to His creatures, and to give a different aspect to all things in the eye of the soul."


   Of course this is not always an easy disposition to realize. As he continues:

   "Faith, abandonment, confidence, hope, against hope; these are the most powerful aids you can have. However if God should deprive you the consolation of feeling these virtues, nothing remains but to abandon yourself entirely without limitation, and even without any help that you can feel or perceive. Then will God sustain you the depth pf your soul in an incomprehensible manner, but the poor soul, being unable to feel any kind of support, and imagining itself completely forsaken, experiences a kind of grief that makes this state a kind of hell."


   Fenelon writes similarly on the life of faith versus experience:

   "This attachment to sensible delights, is the fruitful source of all our illusions; souls are earthly in desiring something tangible, as it were, before they can feel firm. But this is all wrong; it is these very things of sense that produces vacillation; we think, while the pleasure lasts, that we shall never desert God; we say in our prosperity that we shall never be moved (Ps. 30:6); but the moment our intoxication is over, we give up all for lost, thus substituting our own pleasure and imagination in place of God. Naked faith, alone, is a sure guard against illusion. When our foundation is not upon any imagination, feeling, pleasure, or extraordinary illumination; when we rest upon God only in pure and naked faith, in the simplicity of the gospel receiving the consolations which He sends, but dwelling in none; abstaining from judging and ever obedient; believing that it is easy to be deceived, and that others may be able to set us right; in short, acting every moment with simplicity and an upright intention, following the light of the truth of the present moment, then we are indeed in a way that is but little subject to illusion."

   "Experience will demonstrate, better than anything else, how much more certain this path is than that of illuminations and sensible delights. Whoever will try it, will soon find that this way of naked faith, rightly followed, is the profoundest and most complete death of self. Interior delights and revelations indemnify our self-love for all its external sacrifices, and cherish a secret and refined life of nature; but to suffer ourselves to be stripped within and without at once, without by Providence, and within by the night of pure faith, this is a total sacrifice, and a state the farthest possible from self-deception."


   Thus, throughout all forms of tribulation the disciple needs to have faith in the divine presence, its omnipotence and sufficiency in effecting his realization, and it being his Ultimate Principle Itself.


   Adyashanti reminds us that a corollary aspect of this is belief:

   "Enlightenment depends to a large extent on believing that you are born for freedom in this lifetime, and that it is available now, in this moment." (The Impact of Awakening, p. 8)

   This is not blind belief, but deep trust or faith - shraddha. But it also shows itself in our efforts to counter the habitual and long-standing beliefs to the contrary. We reject such thoughts, either by not letting them in, throwing them out, or replacing them with other, more positive ones. This is a practice, a necessary complement to effective self-inquiry.

   PB likewise, in this oft-quoted verse, offers these words of comfort and assurance:

   "..the Overself is with him here and now. It has never left him at any time. It sits everlastingly in the heart. It is indeed his innermost being, his truest self. Were it something different and apart from him, were it a thing to be gained and added to what he already is or has, he would stand the risk of losing it again. For whatever may be added to him may also be subtracted from him. Therefore, the real task of this quest is less to seek anxiously to possess it than to become aware that it already and always possesses him." (The Wisdom of the Overself)

   The Bhagavad-Gita unequivocably proclaims:

  "I am always with all beings
  I abandon no one
  However great your inner darkness
  You are never separate from me."


     PB adds:

   "He is in the Stillness of central being all the time whether he knows it or not..he has never left and can never leave it. And this is so, even in a life passed in failure and despair." (Notebooks, op. cit., Vol. 15, Part 1, 1.8)

   Sri Ramakrishna ecstaticly proclaimed:

   “He who has faith has everything, and he who lacks faith lacks everything. It is faith in the name of the Lord that works wonders; faith is life and doubt is death...Have faith. Depend on God. Then you will not have to do anything yourself. Mother Kali will do everything for you...God Himself will think about your morrow if you completely surrender yourself to Him. You can exert force on Him!” (Sayings of Ramakrishna)

   Bhai Sahib, the guru of Irena Tweedie, spoke in the same interesting language:

   "The one who becomes a Wali (saint) through his own effort is not complete. Complete, one becomes only through the Grace of the Guru (Guru Krepa). Either the Guru loves so much or there is complete surrender...Of course, if there is complete surrender, the Guru must do it; he cannot help doing it...I think it was St. Augustine, if I remember well, who had said that the Kingdom of Heaven must be taken by storm. God must be forced; such must be the attitude that he cannot help to grant His Grace to the Devotee." (Daughter of Fire, The Golden Sufi Center, 1987, p. 569)

   He said that there is a kind of faith that is necessary in the beginning, and a kind that the Master must give to the Disciple.

   Deep faith and sacred earnestness, when things look their worst, is a sine qua non on the spiritual path. Dag Hammarskjold wrote:

   “The Dark Night of the Soul - so dark that we may not even  look for faith. The night in Gethsemane when the last friends left you have fallen asleep, all the others are seeking your downfall, and God is silent, as the marriage is consummated.”

   Thomas Merton spoke on the true meaning of the kind of faith required for those on this quest for self-knowledge:

   ”How many people there are in the world today who have “lost their faith” along with the vain hopes and illusions of their childhood. What they called their ‘faith”  was just one among all the other illusions. They placed all their hope in a certain sense of spiritual peace, of comfort, of interior equilibrium, of self-respect. Then when they began to struggle with the real difficulties and burdens of mature life, when they became aware of their own weakness, they lost their peace, they let go of their precious self-respect, and it became impossible for them to “believe.” That is to say it became impossible for them to comfort themselves, to reassure themselves, with the images and concept they found reassuring in childhood.”

   “Place no hope in the feeling of assurance, in spiritual comfort. You may well have to get along without this. Place no hope in the inspirational preachers of Christian sunshine, who are able to pick you up and set you back on your feet and make you feel good for three or four days - until you fold up and collapse in despair.”

   “Self-confidence is a precious natural gift, a sign of health. But it is not the same thing as faith. Faith is much deeper, and it must be deep enough to subsist when we are weak, when we are sick, when our self-confidence is gone, when our self-respect is gone. I do not mean that faith only functions when we are potherwise in a state of collapse. But true faith must be able to go on even when everything else is taken away from us. Only a humble man is able to accept faith on these terms, so completely without reservation that he is glad of it in its pure state, and welcomes it happily even when nothing else comes with it, and when everything else is taken away.”
(Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation)

   Fenelon says:

   "Happy is the soul that is faithful equally in conscious abundance and in the most severe privation. That soul will be "like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever"...Such a soul eats the daily bread of pure faith, neither seeking the enjoyment of anything that God denies it nor the sight of anything he conceals."

   "If we were strong enough and fruitful enough to trust ourselves entirely to God, and to follow him simply wherever he wished to lead us, we would have no need of great application of mind to labor in the work of our purification. But because we are so weak in faith that we wish to know where we are going, without trusting in God, our way becomes much longer and spoils our spiritual affairs. Abandon yourself as much as you can to God, until your last breath, and he will never forsake you."

   "There is nothing that the eye of faith does not penetrate, nothing that the power of faith does not overcome. It passes through the thick darkness, and, no matter what clouds may gather, it goes straight to the truth, and holding it firmly will never let it go." "


   Hubert Benoit argues, via the traditions of psychology and of Zen, for faith in a "Liberating Principle” that will effect the process of enlightenment  quite naturally through sincere cooperation on the part of the seeker. In other words, it occurs naturally in response to our faith and 'letting go'. This is a long series of quotes, requiring an acuteness of attention, but well worth absorbing. It will appeal to those with a dislike for gurus or talk about "God", but in my opinion it has something important to offer to all. And this is so because faith is not only 'faith in' an I or thou, self or other; it is not solely a matter of dependence or independence. Rather, faith, truth, is about something else, something mysterious and wonderful that one dissolves/dies and is reborn into, call it by any name:

   “All my apparent ‘trouble’ derives from the sleep of my faith in the perfect reality; I have, awakened in me, nothing but ‘beliefs’ in what is communicated to me by my senses and my mind working on the dualistic plane (beliefs in the non-existence of a Perfect Reality that is One); and these beliefs are illusory formations, without reality, consequences of the sleep of my faith. I am a ‘man of little faith’, more exactly without any faith, or, still better, of sleeping faith, who does not believe in anything he does not see on the formal plane. (This idea of faith, present but asleep, enables us to understand the need that we experience, for our deliverance, of a Master to awaken us, of a teaching, of  revelation; for sleep connotes precisely the deprivation of that which can awaken)...The sleep of our faith in the Perfect reality that is One (outside which nothing is) is the primary phenomenon from which the whole of the entangled chain depends; it is the causal phenomenon; and no therapy of illusory human suffering can be effective if it be applied anywhere but there.”

   "To the question ‘What must I do to free myself?’ Zen replies: ‘There is nothing you need do since you have never been enslaved and since there is nothing in reality from which you can free yourself’...In this sense Zen is right, there is nothing for us to ‘do’; everything will settle itself spontaneously and harmoniously as regards our ‘doing’ precisely when we set ourselves to modify it in any mannner and when we strive only to awaken our sleeping faith, that is to say when we strive to conceive the primordial idea that we have to conceive...One can and one should say that to awaken and to nourish this conception is not ‘doing’ anything in the sense that this word must necessarily have for the natural man, and even that this awakening in the domain of thought is revealed in daily life by a reduction (tending towards cessation) of all the useless operations by which man subjects himself in connexion with his inner phenomena.”

   “...Work which awakens faith in the unique and perfect reality which is our ‘being’ falls into two movements. In a preliminary movement our discursive thought conceives all the ideas needed in order that we may theoretically understand the existence in us of this faith which is asleep, and in the possibility of its awakening, and that only this awakening can put an end to our illusory sufferings. During this preliminary movement the work effected can be described as ‘doing’ something. But this theoretical understanding, supposing it to have been obtained, changes nothing as yet in our painful condition: it must now be transformed into an understanding that is lived, experienced by the whole of our organism, an understanding both theoretical and practical, both abstract and concrete; only then will our faith be awakened...What he has to do is indirect and negative; what he has to understand, by means of work, is the deceptive illusion of all the ‘paths’ that he can seek out for himself and try to folow. When his persevering efforts shall have brought him the perfectly clear understanding that all that he can ‘do’ to free himself is useless, when he has definitely stripped of its value the very idea of all imaginable ‘paths’. then satori will burst forth, a real vision that there is no ‘path’ because there is nowhere to go, because, from all eternity, he was at the unique and fundamental centre of everything.”


And

   “According to Zen man is of the nature of Buddha; he is perfect, nothing is lacking in him. But he does not realize this because he is caught in the entanglements of his mental representations...”

   “Man believes in the utility of his agitation because he does not think he is anything but that personal ‘me’ which he perceives in the dualistic manner. He does not know that there is in him something quite different from this visible personal ‘me', something invisible which works in his favor in the dark...”

   “My body is maintained by processes whose ingenious complexity surpasses all imagination. After being wounded, it heals itself. By what? By whom? The idea is forced upon me of a Principle, tireless and friendly, which unceasingly creates me on its own initiative.”

   “My organs appeared and developed spontaneously. My mediate dualistic understanding appeared and developed spontaneously. Could not my immediate understanding, non-dualistic, appear spontaneously? Zen replies affirmatively to this question. For Zen the normal spontaneous evolution of man result in satori.”

   “I do not know that my esssential wish - to escape from the dualistic illusion, generator of anguish - is in the process of being realized in me by something other than my personal ‘me’; I do not believe that I can count on anyone but on myself; I believe myself therefore obliged to do something.”

   “This manner of thwarting the profound spontaneous process of construction is the work of mechanical reflexes. It operates automatically when I am not disposed to have faith in my invisible Principle and in its liberating task. In other words, the profound spontaneous process of construction only makes progress in me in the degree in which I am disposed to have faith in my Principle and in the spontaneity, always actual, of its liberating activity.”

   “My participation in the elaboration of my satori consists, then, in the activity of my faith; it consists in the conception of the idea, present and actual, that my supreme good is in process of being elaborated spontaneously.”

   “One can see in what respects Zen is quietist and in what respects it is not. It is, when it says to us: ‘You do not have to liberate yourselves.’ But it is not in this sense that, if we do not have to work directly for our liberation, we have to collaborate in thinking effectively of the profound process that liberates us. For this thought is not by any means given to us automatically by nature.”

   “At moments when outer and inner circumstances lend themselves to it we reflect upon the understanding of our spontaneous liberation, we think with force, and in the most concrete manner possible, of the unlimited prodigy which is in the process of elaboration for us and which will some day resolve all our fears, all our covetousness. In such moments we seed and re-seed the field of our faith; we awaken little by little in ourselves this faith which was sleeping, and the hope and the love which accompany it. Then when we turn back to life we go on living as usual. Because we have thought correctly for a moment a portion of our attention remains attached to this plane of thought although this plane penetrates the depths of our being and is lost to sight; a portion of our attention remains there while the remainder goes where it always goes.”

   “Each progression of our faith in our liberating Principle weakens our egotistical imaginative film without weakening our imaginative film based on the real present; the appearance and the growth of our faith establish by themselves a discrimination between our two imaginative films. Thus we go little by little towards a state in which deep sleep and the waking state are reconciled. There again let us affirm that this astonishing conciliation is established by itself; our inner manipulations are powerless to establish the slightest real harmony in us. For our Principle, which is the only artisan qualified for the Great Work, to operate in us it is enough that we think correctly, or more exactly that we cease to think wrongly.”

   “If I observe myself I see that I struggle incessantly and instinctively in order to succeed; whether my enterprises are egotistical (to win, to enjoy, to be admired, etc.) or altruistic (to affirm others, to become ‘better’, to uproot my ‘faults’, etc.) I struggle incessantly, instinctively, to succeed in these enterprises; I struggle unceasingly ‘upwards’...All my upward-tending exertions are only gestures of ignorant resistance opposed to the happy spontaneous transformation that my Principle is always ready to bring about. Perfect Felicity does not await me above, but below; it does not await me in that which I see actually as a triumph, but in that which appears to me actually as a disaster. My perfect joy awaits me in the total annihilation of my hopes.”

   “One must thoroughly understand that the total disaster in the middle of which satori awaits us does not necessarily coincide with a practical exterior disaster. The realizing disaster, the satori-disaster, consists in an understanding, an intellectual intuition of the radical absurdity of our natural ascending current, in the clear vision of the nullity which is at the end of all our hopes. The realizing despair does not consist in the practical ruin of hopes which would continue to exist in us (this would lead to suicide, not to satori), but in the annihilation of the hopes themselves. The man that one habitually calls ‘desperate is definitely not desperate; he is filled with hopes to which the world opposes a flat refusal; therefore he is very unhappy. The man who has become really desperate, who no longer expects anything from the world of phenomena, is flooded by the perfect joy which at last he ceases to oppose...The bad moments, the moments of anguish, are the best for this work; the suffering felt by the organism-as-a-totality curbs the illusions which show us satori in the opposite direction from that in which it awaits us. On the condition that all our essential hopes have been more or less fulfilled in the past our actual hope, recidivist, is the more readily annihilated as it is thwarted by the world. It is easier for me to let go when my muscles are very tired. Zen affirms: ‘Satori comes to us unexpectedly when we have exhausted all the resources of our being.”

   “One perceives how much the ‘progressive’ doctrines which invite man to climb up an ascending hierarchy of states of consciousness, and which more or less explicitly conceive the perfect man as a Superman, turn their backs on truth and limit themselves to modifying the form of our hopes. Zen invites us on the contrary to a task which, up to the satori exclusively, can only appear to us as a descent. In a sense everything becomes worse little by little until the bottom is reached, when nothing can any longer become worse, and in which everything is found because all is lost.”
(Hubert Benoit, Zen and the Psychology of Transformation (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International, 1990), p. 3-5, 105-116)

   Thus, rather than the often misunderstood metaphor of ascending a spiritual “ladder” (misunderstood because the ego or self as we know it does not itself ascend or attain higher states, but must first die), here we find one of the dropping away of the “bottom of a bucket”, or the “popping of a balloon”, equalizing one with all space.

   Satori is thus achieved in part through  “faith in things unseen,” rather than a quest for certainty.

   Jesus said:

   “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. herefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?...Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature?” (reference)

   [But remember also, to place this in proper perspective, that the same spirit that spoke these words also gave us the parable of the talents. There is an unavoidable paradox involved in the matter of self-improvement and growth: both effort and grace are necessary, and assume different forms at different stages of the path.]

   “Put full faith in God's providence. Have faith and patience. Then I will be always with you wherever you are. I will take you to the end. Surrender completely to God. If you make me the sole object of your thoughts and aims, you will gain the supreme goal.” ( Shirdi Sai Baba)

   Ch'an poet Seng ts'an wrote his wonderful, often translated verses on 'faith mind' called Trust in the Heart”. These verses are worth their weight in gold. Savor them again and again.


   Reiterating an idea introduced earlier, Anthony Damiani states:

   “You show your faith in the higher when you reject the thoughts that the ego is proffering you to identify with. Every time you push away the thought and you refuse to identify with it, you’re showing your faith in the higher power...If you have faith in the higher, you do not pay attention to the stream of thoughts that is constantly transforming itself from one into another, the senselessness that goes on and on ad nauseam. You just reject all that, and you keep your mind still...I’m not saying that every other moment you’re going to be inspired with illuminating thoughts that will remake the world. I’m not saying that. But there will occur to you moments where the intelligence will spontaneously respond to whatever the situation calls for. That spontaneity of intelligence is the divinity within you, and right then and there you’ll be experiencing that higher power within you. You don’t have to have a world-devastating illumination and the light of a million suns shining to be in the Overself. It’s so close, but we fail to recognize it all the time. That’s our problem...If we think about it practically, then that means that instead of looking at the images which are going on all the time in my mind, I ignore them but lie in a state of quiescence. What will attention do if it’s not going to identify with the images..It remains self-absorbed...Now to the extent that I dis-identify with the images, try not to live in the ego-consciousness, I get closer to the Source, to my own consciousness, which is more than the ego-consciousness.” (Standing In Your Own Way, p. 96-97, 104-105)

   Again PB writes:

   "He who knows and feels the divine power in his innermost being will be set free in there most literal sense of the word from anxieties and cares. He who has not yet arrived at this stage but is in the way to it can approach the same desirable result by the intensity of his faith in that being. But such a one must really have the faith and not merely say so. The proof that he possesses it would lie in the measure with which he refuses to accept negative thoughts, fearful thoughts, despondent thoughts. In the measure that he does not fail in his faith and hence in his thinking, in that measure, the higher power will not fail to support him in his hour of need. This is why Jesus told his disciples, "Take no anxious thought for the morrow." In the case of the adept, having given up his ego, there is no one left to take care of him, so the higher Self does so for him. In the case of the believer, although he has not yet given up the ego, nevertheless, he is trying to do so, and his unfaltering trust in the higher Self is rewarded proportionately in the same way. In both cases the biblical phrase, "The Lord will provide," is not merely a pious hope but a practical fact." (Vol. 13, Part 2, 3.97)

   And further

   "The Oversell's power to alter circumstances, create opportunities and uphold persons is available to anyone who fulfills the requisite conditions. These include some amount of mental preparation and moral purification, some clear perception of the fact that the Overself is present here and now, an instant and constant remembrance of this fact, and finally a willingness to trust completely to its providential help, supply, and support no matter how undesirable or intolerable a situation seems to be." (Vol. 14, 3.61)

   Thus faith is put forth as an active trust in our supporting and liberating principle, call it higher Self, God, Master, the Way or Tao, etc.. Benoit suggests how this works from an organic perspective:

   “My attention, in the measure which it detaches itself from my imaginative world, returns spontaneously, following its normal orientation, towards the source of my being, towards the informal energy which is the reality of my life (and no longer towards the formal images which represent the continual miscarriage of my life). This movement of conversion is unconscious, since my attention is without an object in the measure in which it operates in the active mode. All that I observe is a progressive diminution of the apparent reality of my inner imaginative world (the evolution towards the satori-occurrence is, as we have said elsewhere, an apparent descent, an apparent involution).

   “We find here an idea that we have already expressed above, the idea that the ‘reflexive’ consciousness, psychological, intellectual, mental, is not a consciousness properly speaking, and that the organic consciousness alone is real in us. When the attention functions in the active mode it is without an object, unconscious, and its mental manifestation is abolished; then what I call my mental consciousness disappears, and the male mental principle which was behind it (the Buddhi) is linked to the female mental principle of my organic consciousness, in the trinitarian unity of No-Mind of Fundamental Unconscious...A moment arrives at which the male functioning of the mind equals in importance the female functioning; there is as much incredulous lucidity as credulous blindness. It is the ‘Great Doubt’...The satori-occurrence is the instant at which our dualistic being, such as it is from now on, discovers at last its normal method of functioning by awakening its attention to an autonomous, unconditioned activity.”
(op.cit., p. 192-193)

   We are exercising faith in our ‘fundamental principle’, according to Benoit, when we ignore our inner mental or imaginative film, leaving our attention free to rest on the real mental film corresponding to the objective world [i.e., the World-Idea’s image]. However, we don’t like to do that because, out of age-long habit not to do so, keeping us entranced in our personal interpretation or creation of the real world, allows the  root conflict between Self and Not-Self - the basis of all our anguish - to be kept in the dark. By ignoring our imaginative film, we become increasingly vulnerable, to the point of feeling a treat of annihilation. We must not let up, but, rather, face humiliation after humiliation when our personal claim to exist-as-a-distinct-being (the psycho-somatic organism) meets frustration when it comes up against the real world, or the Not-Self. Benoit explains that our actual condition is as if we are continually ‘on trial’, our case being heard constantly; that is, our ‘case’ of the inherent opposition of the Self and the Not-Self. This conflict is shown to be non-existence at the point of satori. Our task is to keep seeding the faith in our ultimate principle, as previously mentioned. He writes further:

   “Satori can be understood as a letting-go which lasts. In this instant there is established a definitive double decontraction. The machine opens itself to the active mind which is united with it, and the couple so formed opens itself to the Principle which is united with it, in a trinitarian Unity. Only then man sees with evidence that there has never been separation between machine, mind and Principle.” (Ibid, p. 208)

   And:

   “My ‘mental’ pseudo-consciousness is that to which Zen alludes when it says that satori  is ‘withdrawing the spoke’. This pretended consciousness designates the ensemble of inner phenomena by which is revealed the fact that my organic consciousness, before satori, is not fully operating as No-Mind.” (Ibid, p. 185)

   ‘Withdrawing the spoke’ is what Plotinus meant when he said to gain realization of the Soul was to “cut away everything.”

   Further, Benoit states:

   “For lack of Faith in my Principle I still believe that I ought myself to achieve my salvation, realise by a personal activity my total accomplishment. As long as this belief operates in me I cannot prevent my state of spasm [i.e., contraction] from releasing a new imaginary film, and that is a vicious circle of agitation.” (Ibid, p. 141)

   Benoit calls this aggitation and belief in needing personally to achieve satori or liberation as ‘the idolatry of salvation’. In other words, one lacks faith that anything other than oneself, egoically-defined, will complete the work.

   One might take from Benoit the idea that while mere belief is a psychological compensation, Faith is an attribute or quality inherent in ones true nature.

   Returning to the comments of Damiani, we see the paradoxical nature of our task, of our active exercise of faith:

   “So we will go back to the practical thing that we’re talking about. I’m looking at my mind, and I’m watching all the thoughts. They’re always trying to draw me in: “Come here, come here! I want your attention, kid. I want you to be preoccupied with me all the time. Me, me, me, me, me.” That’s all ego. I keep fighting that tendency. You say paradox, the thief set out to catch a thief. I don’t like those kinds of words, because the truth of the matter is that I am interested in my own evolution. This little ego here, stupid as it is, wants to evolve and become a little better. So it has to fight and struggle with its own tendencies to become a little better. To say, “Well, the ego won’t succeed” - is just plain wrong. it will succeed; given enough time and raw circumstances, it’ll succeed. It will not succeed in crucifying itself and destroying itself; we know that. But the long evolutionary development is its business - of course in conjunction with the World-Idea - but it is its business. So the ego has to do these things. Nobody out there is going to come here and do it for me. So let’s stick with the paradoxical nature of the reality we’re confronted with so that we can deal with it.” (Standing In Your Own Way, p. 105-106)

   More emphatically, he states:

   “Try to get deeper into that inner being? That guy who’s full of lies, fairy tales, illusions?  Get rid of that inner being, and you’ll be one with truth..You disidentify or dismiss that inner being that you think you are so that you can be one with what you really are...Wouldn’t you say that by dismissing all those notions about your inner being you’ll become one with your soul? [S: But it seems that you’re saying the inner being can never become one with the soul.] You’re catching on!...In other words, you have to dismiss all these vagaries, fantasies, thoughts, memories, selections from your past, anticipations of your future, expectations - you want me to go down the list? You have to remove all that in order to identify with it” (Living Wisdom, p. 148-149)


   Patrick Kearney speaks about faith in arguing for the superiority of traditional Buddhism over modern Buddhist “therapy”:

   “What’s the alternative [to a mixture of Buddhism and therapy, the approach of Kornfield and others]? In one word, faith. Faith involves a surrender to the tradition, which in Buddhism is expressed as taking refuge in the three treasures of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. We began this paper with Jack Kornfield’s assertion that half the students who attempt the three month retreat at IMS cannot engage vipassanâ meditation because of the suffering they are undergoing. In the Nidâna-vagga of Samyutta Nikâya the Buddha in one passage expounds in brief the full path from suffering to liberation. He explains that suffering gives rise to faith (shraddhâ), faith gives rise to delight (pâmojja), delight gives rise to rapture, rapture gives rise to calm, calm gives rise to bliss, bliss gives rise to concentration, concentration gives rise to knowing and seeing phenomena as they are, knowing and seeing phenomena as they are gives rise to disenchantment, disenchantment gives rise to the fading of passion, and the fading of passion gives rise to liberation. Note how the process begins. From suffering we proceed to delight, and what turns suffering into delight is faith. Faith is the missing ingredient in the strange attempt to psychotherapeutise Buddhism. None of the therapists we have looked at here seem to have taken seriously the thought that what we need to do is cultivate faith in the three treasures of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Presumably they are far too sophisticated for that - or perhaps they just feel that faith won’t sell.” (Patrick Kearney, Still Crazy After All These Years:Why Meditation Isn’t Therapy ( http://www.buddhanet.net/crazy.htm)

   “In that moment of first meeting with his Higher Self the quest is laid open to him in reality. He has to see the opportunity and to take the first step by an act of intuition and a venture of faith. There will be many more succeeding steps if he is to continue the quest and most probably a number of missteps, but it all begins with this initial recognition and reaction.” (PB, reference misplaced)

   Padmasambhava, in appealing to our natural faith in things as they are, instead of how we sometimes imagine them, states:

   "This radiant and lucid awareness is itself referred to as ‘ordinary consciousness’, on account of those periods when it abides in its natural state in an ordinary way. However many pleasant-sounding names are applied to this awareness, those who maintain that these do not refer to this present conscious awareness, Nothing Special, but to something else, above and beyond it, resemble someone who has already found an elephant, but is out looking for its tracks (elsewhere)." (Padmasambhava, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, translated by Gyurme Dorje, 2006, London, p. 51)

   Centuries before, the sage Ashvagosha wrote in the important Buddhist text, "The Awakening of Faith"  about how this seed of faith is "the basis of the way forever." (http://www.sacredtexts.com/bud/taf/index.htm

     Sri Nisargadatta exhorts us to keep the faith, no matter what our minds may tell us:

   “The very facts of repetition, of struggling on and on and of endurance and perseverance, in spite of boredom and despair and complete lack of conviction are really crucial. They are not important by themselves, but the sincerity [i.e., faith]behind them is all-important.” (Sri Nisargadatta, I AM THAT (Durham, NC: The Acorn Press, 1982), p. )

   “Apart from keen intellect, the seeker must have faith to enable him to grsp the essentials of truth. And the faith should be of the kind that can accept the Guru’s word as God’s own truth. Faith is the first step, and no further progress is possible unless the first step is taken first.” 
(Ramesh Balsekar, Pointers from Nisargadatta Maharaj (Durham, NC: The Acorn Press, 1982), p. 19-20)

   Finding such a teacher has been considered an essential on all paths. Practice of the teachings will then turn doubt into true faith, and faith is

   "humanity's best wealth in this world, and through faith one is said to cross the flood of the world. It is..one of the five-fold requisites to the cessation of suffering." ((K.N. Upadhyaya, Buddhism: Path to Nirvana (Radhaspoami Satsang Beas, 2010), p. 197)

   Soamiji Maharaj, the Saint of Beas, said:

   "Into my own head have I taken thy worry; so do not thou worry but cherish thou love. Leaving all doubts, thy love do thou make firm, and have staunch faith. This practice I'll get done by thee myself; and into the Durbar (court) of the highest Absolute Lord shall I take thee." (Soamiji Maharaj, Sar Bachan Poetry, (Beas: India)

   Sant Kirpal Singh said:

   “The Master holds the disciple through thick and thin. It is the Divine Way. Never let faith and love in Him falter. There will of course be moments of doubt and questioning, but if you can pass through them with love and faith unscathed you will find the spiritual road within steadily unfolding itself before you and all things being added unto you...such moments are only tests to make our self-surrender more complete and more secure.”

   “When a disciple entrusts his all to the Master, he becomes carefree and the Master has of necesity to take over the entire responsibility, just as a mother does for her child who does not know what is good for him. Surrender..comes only when a disciple has complete faith and confidence in the competencyof the Master.”


   deCaussade concurs that there are many tests of faith on the path:

   "..for faith cannot be said to be real, living faith until it is tried, and has triumphed over every effort for its destruction. War with the senses enables faith to obtain a more glorious victory. To consider God equally good in things that are petty and ordinary as in those that are great and uncommon is to have a faith that is not ordinary, but great and extraordinary."

   Buddha promised:

   "Whosoever, Ananda, will have faith in me, I shall save him. Since they have taken refuge in me, they will be as my friends." (S.B. Shastri, Lalisavastara, Hindu tr., p.189)

   “If the noble disciple, Ananda, is possessed of faith in the Buddha...if he is possessed of faith in the Dhamma...if he is possessed of faith in the order, then that noble disciple may, if he should so desire, foretell his own future: “Hell is destroyed for me; as also rebirth as an animal or ghost, or in any place of woe. I am a srotapanna [one who is plunged into the spiritual current], never liable to be reborn in a state of suffering, and am assured of finally attaining enlightenment.” (Digha Nikaya)

   Clearing of doubts by the teacher and ones own persevering study and contemplation will increase ones sraddha (faith). The opposite of doubt, then, is not conventional certainty, but faith: freedom from doubt or the faith that awakening is true, and the way is true. Gangaji said that "doubt is the final obstacle"; Papaji commented that the final obstacle is believing that "there is an obstacle." (While we do not necessarily believe with some advaitins that this is necessarily the end of the path, it is certainly an important milestone.)

   [For more on “doubt” in its spiritual ramifications please see Doubt As A Doorway to the Divine].

   Faith, in turn, will lead to vigilance in practice and purification of buddhi, which when so purified will fully reflect the Atman, leading to the certainty of Self-knowledge. Which is to say, eventually something will give and one will be free, as free as he has been from all eternity, only he didn’t know it. Then he will recognize the inseparability of Faith and his True Nature.

   It will not always be easy, but, as “humanity’s best wealth in the world”, such faith will carry one through many a dark patch.


   deCaussade wrote:

   "This good Master always begins by making Himself known and loved in sensible devotion, and afterwards deprives the soul of these consolations to withdraw it from earthliness of the senses, in order to unite it to Himself in a far more excellent way, more intimate and solid, by pure faith entirely spiritual."

   And he continues:

   "To make this purification complete, suffering has to be added to privation, at least interior suffering, interior rebellion, diabolical temptations, anguish, weakness, and repugnance for all that is good which sometimes rises to a sort of agony. All this serves marvelously to deliver the soul from self-love....The more strongly self-love struggles against these blows the harder they seem and the more cruel the agony. Divine love is a two-edged sword, and strikes self-love until it is killed and destroyed. Great sorrow in these trials proceeds from the strong resistance of our cursed love of self which is loth to relinquish the empire it has gained over our heart and to allow the love of God to reign in its stead. This love produces only sweetness and delight as long as it finds no obstacles to its divine influence, nor any enemy to resist it."

   In sum,

   "God hidden in his veils gives himself with his grace in an altogether unknown way, for the soul feels nothing but feebleness under its crosses, disgust with its obligations, while its attractions are only to very commonplace exercises. The idea which it has formed of sanctity reproaches it internally with these low and contemptible dispositions. All the saints lives condemn it. It knows nothing with which to defend itself; it has light to see a sanctity which, however, brings it desolation, for it has no strength to rise to it, and does not recognize its weakness as divine order, but as its own cowardice...Experience shows us that nothing so much as this apparent loss inflames the desire of the soul for union with the divine will. What profound sorrow for the soul!...no consolation is possible...To ravish God from a heart longing for nothing but God, what a secret of love! “

   Sant Darshan Singh referred to this apparent spurning by the Beloved in the following verse,

   “What an irony, Darshan! In the tavern master’s presence, those parched with thirst gain no entrance.” Love’s Last Madness, p. 89]

   deCaussade continues revealing the mysterious infusion of pure faith in the humbled soul:

   "It is indeed a great secret, for by this way and by this way only are pure faith and pure hope established in the soul...Everything one does seems the fruit of chance and natural inclination. Everything that happens humiliates the soul...Others are always admired, but we feel miles below them and put to confusion by their every action...The divine action seems to keep us far from virtue only to plunge the soul into a profound humility. But this humility does not seem to be such to the soul, it thinks it is suffering from the rigours of pure justice."

   "The most remarkable thing about this is that in the eyes of those whom God does not enlighten concerning its path, the soul seems animated by quite contrary feelings such as obstinacy, disobedience, contempt and indignation that cannot be cured, and the more the soul tries to reform these disorders, the worse they become, for they are the most proper means to detach it from itself and fit it for divine union. From this painful trial comes the principal merit of self-abandonment. In the duty of the present moment everything is of a nature to draw the soul away from its path of love and simple obedience. It needs heroic courage and love to stand firm in its simple, active fidelity and sing its part with assurance, while grace sings its own with different melodies and in different keys which do nothing but convince the soul that it is deceived and lost."
(Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence (Glascow, England: Collins, 1974), pp. 126-128 )


   In any case, “have no fear” is the message of the great ones; after all, what is the worst that can happen?

   “The game of love is God’s game: if you win, you get Him; if you lose, He gets you.”

   Question: How does faith in the Master-Power develop? Answer: By regular practice…Some people are in the make already, they have that grown already. Others have to form faith in due course, not all at once. So it’s better when you see you are helped by Master in all your affairs; when you see some improvement in your inner way. First, when you see quite impossible things are made very softened down, naturally faith arises. …The more you come in contact with Master, and the more you become receptive, the more faith you will have in Him...Look here, faith comes only as a result of the reaction of the past; or if you see something…So blind faith does not help you, only to a certain extent, not beyond...Sant-Mat does not ask for blind faith or acceptance on mere authority. It is purely practical. Any belief not based on personal experience and verification of facts has little value. One should therefore try to see with one’s own eyes and hear with one’s own ears rather than indirectly with the eyes and ears of others...This love and faith also come with the grace of a perfect Master. It is He who can help us to get both love and faith..." (Kirpal Singh)

   "Faith begins as an experiment and ends as an experience. (W.R. Inge)

   Faith expressed in action is a sure means of realization. Faith is not blind. It is the willingness to try." (Nisargadatta)

   "The principle part of faith is patience." (George MacDonald)

   "Faith is the belief in the unknown. Faith heals, faith creates, faith works wonders, faith moves mountains. Faith is the searchlight for God-finding." (Sivananda)

   "He who has no faith in himself can never have faith in God." (Vivekananda)

   "Faith…is the resolve to live as if certain things were true, in the confident assurance that they are true, and that we shall one day find out for ourselves that they are true." (W.R. Inge)

   "Faith must have adequate evidence, else it is mere superstition." (Archibald A. Hodge)

   "Faith is to believe what we do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what we believe." (Saint Augustine)

   "Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark." (Tagore)

   "God doesn't mind your imperfections: He minds your indifference." (Yogananda)

   "Despair is the absolute extreme of self-love. It is reached when a man deliberately turns his back on all help from anyone else in order to taste the rotten luxury of knowing himself to be lost." (Thomas Merton)

   “Ingratitude is the soul’s enemy…Like a hot, parching wind, it dries up the well-spring of
    holiness, the dew of mercy, and the streams of grace.” (Saint Bernard)

     “If the only prayer you say in your life is “Thank you,” that will suffice.”
(Meister Eckhart)


   What, after all,  then, is true faith (shradda)? Iyer writes:

   "1. The love of truth, the determination to get at truth, come what may; 2. A strong mind; 3. To be a hero in the face of God's wrath."

   "Truth may be as bitter as poison, but you must like it as nectar. Those who cannot do this are unfit for Vedanta...The right kind of seeker will accept and search for truth whether it brings bitterness or sweetness, whatever it tastes like, for its own sake. He must be prepared to find God as impersonal, and to lose his individuality for the sake of truth."
(V.S. Iyer, Commentaries, Vol. 1, ed. by Marc Scorelle, 1999, Vol 2, 80, 866)

   PB states:

   “There is no single pattern that an intuitively guided life must follow. Sometimes he will see in a flash of insight both course and destination, but at other times he will see only the next step ahead and will have to keep an open mind both as to the second step and as to the final destination.”
(reference unknown)

   The following is an interesting take on faith (at a certain stage) from Ed Muzika:

   “There is nothing to hang onto except faith in yourself or in a guide that can take everything away from you.” -

   This harkens to the teachings of St. John of the Cross, Fenelon, Molinos, deCaussade, and others of the Church, where spiritual life has two general stages: one, a beginning stage when one is courted by the divine with "sweets", or experiences of grace and joy; and a second, deeper stage when one is weaned from all this, and brought by grace into a night wherein the personal self is purified of all attachments, worldly and spiritual. The ramifications of this are explored in much detail the article The Dark Night of the Soul on this website. But consider that this spiritual night has been likened to a secret path. 'Secret' for these mystics means that which cannot be communicated but is directly revealed. Moreover, centuries before the young theosophist J. Krishnamurti disbanded The Order of the Star with his famous "Truth is a Pathless Land" speech, St. John wrote the following:

   "We shall quote that passage of David, wherein he clearly describes the great power which is in this night for bringing the soul this lofty knowledge of God. He says, then, thus: 'In the desert land, waterless, dry and pathless. I appeared before Thee, that I might see Thy virtue and Thy glory' (Psalm lxii,3). It is a wondrous thing that David should say here that the means and the preparation for his knowledge of the glory of God were not the spiritual delights and the many pleasures which he had experienced, but the aridities and detachments of his sensual nature, which is here to be understood by the dry and desert land. No less wondrous is it that he should describe as the road to this perception and vision of the virtue of God, not the Divine meditations and conceptions of which he had often made use, but his being unable to form any conception of God or to walk by meditation produced by imaginary consideration, which is here to be understood by the pathless land. So that the means to a knowledge of God and of oneself is in this dark night with its aridities and voids..." (Dark Night of the Soul, Book I, ch XII, 6)

   He continues to explain the means and purpose of this dark night (which, according to St. John, is twofold: of sense and of spirit - the aforementioned article to which the reader is directed):

   "When God leads the soul into this night of sense in order to purge the sense of its lower part and to subdue it, unite it and bring it into conformity with the spirit, by setting it into darkness and causing it to cease from meditation (as He afterwards does in order to purify the spirit to unite it too God, as we shall afterwards say)...The straight gate is this night of sense, and the soul detaches itself from sense and strips itself thereof that it may enter by this gate, and establishes itself in faith, which is a stranger to all sense, so that afterwards it may journey by the narrow way, which is the other night - that of the spirit - and this the soul afterwards enters in order to journey to God in pure faith, which is the means whereby the soul is united to God." (Ibid, 4)

   He summarize the condition of beginners who have not yet come into the secret way of faith:

   "These persons, in communicating, strive with every nerve to obtain some kind of sensible sweetness and pleasure, instead of humbly doing reverence and giving praise within themselves to God. And in such wise do they devote themselves to this that, when they have received no pleasure or sweetness to the sense [in Sanskrit indriyas, external or internal], they think that they have accomplished nothing at all. This is to judge God very unworthily; they have not realized that the least of the benefits which come from the Most Holy Sacrament is that which concerns the sense; and that the invisible part of the grace that it bestows is much greater; for, in order that they may look at it with the eyes of faith, God oftentimes withholds from them these other consolations and sweetnesses of sense. And thus they desire to feel and taste God as though He were comprehensible by them and accessible to them, not only in this,but likewise in other spiritual practices. All this is very great imperfection and completely opposed to the nature of God, since it is impurity of faith." (Ibid, ch. VI, 5)

   Michael Molinos in The Spiritual Guide (1675) wrote:

   "The Lord is calling you to walk by faith in His Divine Presence. With a simple vision of your Lord and with intense love toward Him - like a little child would have toward its mother - cast yourself into the gentle bosom of your Lord. The sport would have you become like a little child, and a beggar, in the presence of God."

   "Your Lord brings you dryness because He knows so well that it is not by any means of your reasoning, nor your efforts, that you are going to be drawn near to Him. Nothing you will do can draw you to Him or Him to you. NO Nothing! Your efforts will not bring you to understand His high and exalted ways."

   "As much as possible, then, be patient. Pay little attention to dryness or failures. Do not give up your pursuit of a deeper kind of prayer. Regardless of the amount of dryness and failure you encounter. Walk with a firm faith, dying to self and to all your natural efforts to know Him. Remember, He cannot err, nor does He intend anything toward you but that which is for your good."

   "There are many Christians abroad who have received from the Lord magnificent revelations, great visions and a great grasp of high mental truths. Yet for all this they do not deeply understand these hidden secrets that come to those who have gone through great temptations and trials."

   "Nor should you think the spiritual way is difficult...nor is it only for those of high mind...Your Lord made it clear this was not true when He chose His apostles. They were ignorant and lowly. He spoke to the Father saying,"I thank you Father, that you have hid these things from the wise; You revealed them to babes." It is so clear that we are not going to attain to those deep things, nor those deep places within us, by reasoning or by surface prayer."

   "Actually, it is a good thing when you find yourself deprived of the pleasure of the sense and therefore find you must journey by the help of faith alone - yes, even to journey to the dark, deserted paths that lead to...where? You are not certain. Without such an experience it would be very difficult for you to reach certain places in your spiritual walk. A painful way of arriving, but a certain one."


   And thus we return to the meaning of faith suggested at the outset, as "the pathless path of a crestfallen ego that has intuited truth."


   St. Paul calls it "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Heb 11:1).

   And:

   "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God; not because of works, destiny man should boast." (Eph. 2:8-9)

   "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it." (Ps 127.1)

   Shraddha, or faith with reverence, implies a degree of surrender. In fact, some have said that faith is synonymous with surrender. For one heartfelt grouping of quotations on this topic, please see this section of The Notebooks of Paul Brunton. And for now, we end with this selection from the same:

   “Men are not left to depend for guidance only on what they learn by experience. What they believe by faith also guides them.”

   “Are we to wander with all our burdens from a hapless birth to a hopeless death? Or shall we surrender them?”

   “He will come to the point where he will give up the burden of always trying to do something for his spiritual development, the burden of believing that it rests entirely upon his own shoulders.”

   “Having worked to the utmost upon himself, but finding that a stable spiritual consciousness still eludes him, he has no recourse except to submit his further development to a higher power than his own will and then wait and let it work upon him.”

   “Do not let the ego try to manage your worldly life. Do not let it even manage your search for truth! It is faulty and fallible. Better to cast the burden on the higher self and walk by faith, not knowing where you are going, not seeing what the future is.”

   "When the ego is truly given up, the old calculating life will go with it. He will keep nothing back but will trust everything to the Overself. A higher power will arrange his days and plan his years."

   “It may be helpful to try a new angle on his spiritual problems. This is to stop striving and to wait with surrendered will for the higher power. The power is there within him and without him and knows his need. Let him stop being tense, stop working and striving. Let him even stop studying for the realization of this presence, but let him just ask prayerfully for it to take hold of him.”

   "The man who has seen reality during a temporary glimpse may later be subjected to its hidden operation without or within. In this way the higher power tests him, tries his faith, courage, patience, and, above all, sense of truth and capacity for discrimination. If the test reveals his weakness, then it is for him to provide the remedy: thus in the end he is strengthened. It is not enough to recognize the Real in its own homeland alone; he must be trained to recognize it under all conditions, even when it is hidden under thick illusion, even in the lowest ebb of the soul's dark night. These tests, which come from both within and without, help to give him this training."

   "Whether you feel the Reality in an overwhelming mystic experience or not, what matters is that you should carry the unfaltering faith that it is always there, always present with you and within you."

   "At a certain stage he must learn to "let go" more and allow the Overself to possess him, rather than strain to possess something which he believes to be still eluding him. Every aspirant who has passed it will remember how he leapt ahead when he made this discovery."



   St. John of the Cross adds:

   "What greater happiness can there be than to possess God, if He mutually possesses you? It is a state full of charm and of joy, in which the soul reposes peacefully in the bosom of divine Providence where it sports innocently with the divine Wisdom, feeling no anxiety about the journey which suffers no interruption, but in spite of rocks and pirates and constant storms, ever continues as happy as possible."

   The wonder...