by Jeff Martens
Faith, vitality, mindful recollection, and knowledge of oneness form the path of unity for those not born in the state of yoga
Long ago there was a village caught in the grip of a great draught that was causing much suffering. All of the people began to worry as the weeks turned to months, and the months to years. It was decided that something must be done, so the local religious leader called for a great gathering in the village circle where everyone was to bring an article of faith to present for the calling of rain. A small boy heard the message and all night he lay awake in anticipation, for he knew exactly what he was supposed to bring.
The morning came and people began to arrive with their sacred objects of faith: relics, statues and other images representing God, pictures of ancestors, talismans and family heirlooms. Soon a great crowd had gathered and the priest instructed everyone to hold up their articles of faith to send their prayers for rain to heaven. At this moment there was a great commotion at the center of the circle. People stepped back to give room and looked on in wonder at the small boy who was holding up his article of faith.
There, at the center of the circle, smiling with eyes closed as if lifting his face into a downpour, the boy stood holding up his article of faith: a raised, open umbrella.
Gotta Have Faith
Religious leaders and spiritual Masters tell us over and over how important faith is. From the New Testament of Christianity to the Hindu Bhagavad Gita and the words of Buddha in the Dhammapada, the message is the same. As our faith is, so are we. We are made of faith. As we think so shall we become.
Faith is a knowing of things not yet seen. To know something we must feel it deeply inside ourselves to be true. Whatever we feel to be true for ourselves indeed becomes our experience, whether that experience is present or not. We may have already experienced this many times anticipating something wonderful that was going to happen, such as a birthday, graduation or Christmas morning. We have also probably experienced its opposite feeling the effects of a difficult meeting or a dreaded appointment well in advance of the actual event. In both cases our faith is the combination of thought with feeling, bringing us the full experience of what we are focusing upon now.
Faith is the outcome of the correct use of imagination and yet it is so much more. We all live by faith, whether this faith is conscious or in conscious, and it is this faith which describes and defines our lives. Conscious faith is the instrument of deepest change, for it is the act of faith that transforms us into the direction of our focus. In this way our personal transformation is limited only by our ability to conceive and what we feel to be true for ourselves and the world around us. However these limits made of ethereal thought or habitual perception can seem more daunting than the highest mountains. Known as our belief system of unconscious/subconscious map of the universe, here is the realm of habit and the dark currents of fear and addiction which keep us swimming in the often painful yet comfortingly familiar waters of lack. Luckily it only takes a small spark or seed of faith to ignite our entire being with transforming light.
Moving Inner Mountains
…for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Matthew 17, 20-21
We can be devoted to many things in life. We show our devotion by giving our attention. In fact, attention is the most valuable thing you have to offer in this lifetime. As we can only think one thought at a time, by focusing on something inspirational, even if that something is small, we begin the process of removing our attention (or worship) from the pain in our lives. To consciously use our attention and direct it as faith in an evolutionary way transforms us beyond old limitations and truly allows us to become the object of our devotion.
Yoga for the Rest of Us…
Few are born in the state of yoga and it is Faith that has the capacity to take the rest of us into the unknown and uncertain which is necessary for all change to occur, Patanjali notes this in the Yoga Sutra when he describes the process of realizing the state of yoga. Faith is the starting point and only after we take the leap of faith does the energy, mindfulness and knowledge of our true Self begin to emerge. The energy and resources arrive as we need and use them and not before. If we just sit back and wait for guarantees or assurances from the outside before we live our lives as we want them to be, we will be waiting for a very, very long time. Instead we must know our path on the inside so deeply that we feel it happening even now, even if the whole world were telling us otherwise.
Paramahansa Yogananda knew this when he built many beautiful Self Realization Fellowship temples in the United States in the mid-1900s. At first he would tell people of his plans and the people would exclaim how impossible they were and how many insurmountable obstacles he would face. Soon he learned to start the projects and have them well on the way to completion before announcing them. Then when the naysayers would cry out, he would simply say with a smile “It is already happening and done.” In this way he taught his students that, as we are literally made of faith or directed consciousness (whether that consciousness is habitual or inspired), it is not so much what we have faith in that has the power to transforms us, but the act of faith itself.
To have faith in being healthy is to expand beyond a self concept of illness. To have faith in ourselves as generous is to give ourselves the feeling of abundance. To have faith in ourselves as Spirit allows us to transcend the effects of physical limitations. To have true faith in something stretches us and expands us beyond old boundaries, ultimately taking us further than our conception of what we initially understood as real.
Once there was a very devoted student filled with the power of bhakti or love who came to the ashram and was accepted by the master. His devotion to the master and the practices were monumental and garnered the attention of the guru quite often, causing the other initiates who had been their far longer to become extremely jealous. Soon they decided to get rid of this student.
One evening the senior initiates were out walking in the light of a full moon with the devoted student when they came near a cliff edge. ”If you have perfect faith in the master,” they said to the devoted student, “You should be able to step off this cliff and be unharmed.” To their surprise, the student immediately stepped off the cliff edge and disappeared from view. Surprised at their good fortune, the senior initiates ran down the path to the bottom of the cliff only to find the devoted student sitting in meditation unmarked. ”You were right,” the student said. ”The master saved me.”
The senior initiates grumbled at the new student’s luck and came up with a different plan. The next day they heard that a fire was burning nearby and grabbed the initiate, pulling him toward one of the burning homes where a woman was crying for her child and trying to rush into the flames. ”If you have perfect faith in the master,” they said, “you can go into that burning house and rescue this woman’s child without being harmed.” Instantly the student ran into the flames and quickly emerged carrying a crying child wrapped in his arms. ”You were right,” the student said. ”The master saved us!”
The next day all the initiates had gathered at the shore of a large lake to welcome the master back from a long journey. As they stood at the water’s edge the senior initiates had one more plan. If you have perfect faith in the master,” they said, “You should be able to walk on the water and go out and greet the master before he comes to shore even though you cannot swim.” At that moment, without hesitation and to the shock of all who watched, the student stepped onto the water and began to walk out of sight toward the far horizon.
Soon the student approached the master’s boat. The master stood up quite amazed to see such a miracle. ”By whose power do you do such a thing?” the master exclaimed. ”By your Grace,” the student replied, bowing his head to heart. ”If just believing in me can cause such miracles,” the master thought, “imagine what I can do myself!” The master decided to join the student standing beside the boat, but before he stepped over he had some initiates tie a rope around his waist in case he should go under.
When the rope was tied, the master stepped onto the water, promptly sank beneath the surface trailing the un-tethered end of the rope with him and was never heard from again
Faith – the intentional act of Faith itself – is the essence of Self Realization and all transformation. It must be felt completely and known inside as truth while taking full responsibility for the cause of one’s current situation and without unconscious reservation or doubt. What do you have faith in? Is it what you truly want or is it a habit or past programming of consciousness? Is it in something that is greater than your limited self which stretches you, or do you place your attention on your petty and fearful nature? As we literally are faith or directed consciousness, when we intentionally focus with faith and feeling we discover the truest essence of who we are. Then the toys, conditions and objects as motivations of faith begin to fall away and we feel our truest nature. This focus ultimately points us back to our own reflection. Our attention shifts from the object of faith to the one who IS faith itself. Here is the truest gift of faith as a practice: the knowing of the One who focuses and experiences this glorious journey of life as a unified being of consciousness aware of itself.
Jeff Martens is a teacher, writer and co-owner of Inner Vision Yoga. All suggestions are voluntary. Consult a qualified teacher or your physician before you embark on any practice in which you are unfamiliar.
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