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The Role of Faith in Spiritual Growth

Jul 7th, 2024 | 5 Min Read
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Category: Bhagavad Gita


Language: English

The JKYog Bhagavad Gita Online class discussion covered verses- 4.39 to 4.42.
श्रद्धावान् लभते ज्ञानं तत्पर: संयतेन्द्रिय: |
ज्ञानं लब्ध्वा परां शान्तिमचिरेणाधिगच्छति || 39||
śhraddhāvānllabhate jñānaṁ tat-paraḥ sanyatendriyaḥ
jñānaṁ labdhvā parāṁ śhāntim achireṇādhigachchhati

The concept of faith

Nature of Spiritual Truths: Shree Krishna suggests that not all spiritual truths are immediately perceptible or understandable through ordinary means. Some truths require a higher state of consciousness or spiritual elevation to be fully grasped and experienced. 

Limitations of Verification and Comprehension: If we insist on accepting only what we can currently verify or comprehend with our intellect, we risk missing out on deeper spiritual insights and truths. As Shree Krishna puts it, this approach can leave us "bereft of the higher spiritual secrets." 

Role of Faith: Faith plays a crucial role in spiritual growth by enabling us to accept and embrace truths that are beyond our current intellectual grasp. It allows us to trust in the wisdom of spiritual teachings, even if we cannot fully understand them at the present moment. Faith, here, acts as a bridge between what is known and what is yet to be known, facilitating spiritual progress.

Importance of Spiritual Elevation: Shree Krishna implies that our capacity to understand and experience deeper truths increases as we progress spiritually. According to Shankaracharya, faith (śhraddhā/ श्रद्धा) is characterised by a firm confidence in the words of the Guru and the scriptures (Guru vedānta vākyeṣhu dṛiḍho viśhvāsaḥ). This definition emphasises trust in the teachings of a qualified Guru who imparts knowledge in alignment with the eternal truths found in the Vedas and the scriptures.

However, blind faith is not a desirable thing. Before placing it on any Guru, we must use our intellect to confirm that the Guru has realised the Absolute Truth and is teaching it in accordance with the eternal Vedic scriptures. Once this is confirmed, then we should strive to deepen our faith in such a Guru and surrender to God under his guidance. The Shvetashvatar Upaniṣhad states:
यस्य देवे परा भक्तिर्यथा देवे तथा गुरौ। 
तस्यैते कथिता ह्यर्थाः प्रकाशन्ते महात्मनः।।
yasya deve parā bhaktir yathā deve tathā gurau
tasyaite kathitā hyarthāḥ prakāśhante mahātmanaḥ
"The imports of all the Vedic knowledge is revealed within the hearts of those who engage with unflinching faith in devotion towards Guru and God."
अज्ञश्चाश्रद्दधानश्च संशयात्मा विनश्यति |
नायं लोकोऽस्ति न परो न सुखं संशयात्मन: || 40||
ajñaśh chāśhraddadhānaśh cha sanśhayātmā vinaśhyati
nāyaṁ loko ’sti na paro na sukhaṁ sanśhayātmanaḥ
The Bhakti Rasāmṛit Sindhu classifies sādhaks into three classes based on the degree of faith and knowledge:
  1. Highest Sādhak: This aspirant knows the scriptures and has firm faith in spiritual teachings, God, and Guru. 
  2. Medium Class Sādhak: This aspirant may lack detailed knowledge of scriptures but maintains strong faith in God and Guru.  
  3. Lowest Class Sādhak: This aspirant lacks both knowledge of scriptures and faith in spiritual principles. Shree Krishna asserts that individuals in this category cannot attain peace in this life or the hereafter.  
Even worldly activities require the exercise of faith. For example, if a woman goes to a restaurant and places an order for a meal, she has faith that the restaurant will not mix poison in her food. However, if she is besieged with doubts and wants to subject every food item to a chemical test first, how will she ever enjoy and finish her meal? 

Hence, Shree Krishna says in this verse that there is no happiness in this world or in the next for the doubting person.
योगसंन्यस्तकर्माणं ज्ञानसञ्छिन्नसंशयम् |
आत्मवन्तं न कर्माणि निबध्नन्ति धनञ्जय || 41||
yoga-sannyasta-karmāṇaṁ jñāna-sañchhinna-sanśhayam
ātmavantaṁ na karmāṇi nibadhnanti dhanañjaya
Shree Krishna explains that those who renounce ritualistic actions and dedicate themselves wholly to God are in a state of "yoga-sanyasta-karmāṇaṁ"—they renounce all actions into the fire of Yog, offering their body, mind, and soul to God. For them, every action becomes an act of service to God. Shree Krishna says that their devotional work does not bind them.

When performed solely to fulfil selfish desires or self-interest, actions bind individuals in karma. In contrast, actions performed purely for the pleasure of God are akin to multiplying numbers by zero. Just as multiplying any number by zero results in zero, similarly, actions performed in devotion to God yield no karmic consequences. Enlightened souls, or Saints, exemplify this principle by engaging in various worldly activities without becoming entangled in the cycle of karma. This freedom is possible because their actions are offered in the sacred fire of Yog, dedicated entirely to the pleasure and service of God.
तस्मादज्ञानसम्भूतं हृत्स्थं ज्ञानासिनात्मन: |
छित्त्वैनं संशयं योगमातिष्ठोत्तिष्ठ भारत || 42||
tasmād ajñāna-sambhūtaṁ hṛit-sthaṁ jñānāsinātmanaḥ
chhittvainaṁ sanśhayaṁ yogam ātiṣhṭhottiṣhṭha bhārata
In the spiritual context, when Shree Krishna refers to doubts arising in the heart, he is not referring to the physical organ that pumps blood but to the subtle mind, which resides in the region of the heart according to Vedic teachings. Unlike the physical brain, which is located in the head, the subtle mind is said to reside in the heart region. This understanding aligns with experiences where love and hatred are intensely felt in the heart.

According to the Vedas, the heart is considered the seat of compassion, love, sympathy, and other positive emotions. Therefore, when doubts or conflicting thoughts arise "in the heart," it implies they arise in the subtle mind, which governs our emotions and deeper mental processes. This subtle mind is distinct from the physical brain but plays a crucial role in our spiritual and emotional experiences. So, when Shree Krishna discusses doubts arising in the heart, he addresses doubts that arise in the subtle mind, affecting our emotions and spiritual journey rather than the physical organ itself. 
In guiding Arjun as his Spiritual Master, Bhagwan Krishna imparts the wisdom of gaining insightful understanding through the practice of karma yoga. He advises Arjun to use both wisdom and faith to dispel doubts in his mind. Lord Krishna then instructs Arjun to take action, emphasising the path of karma yoga—performing duties selflessly and dedicating the results to God.

Despite these teachings, Arjun remains conflicted. The dual instructions—on the one hand, to refrain from action through detachment and, on the other hand, to engage in action with devotion—create confusion in his mind. This inner conflict is evident as Arjun expresses his doubts at the beginning of the next chapter, reflecting his struggle to reconcile these seemingly contradictory instructions from Shree Krishna.

Summary: JKYog India Online Class- Bhagavad Gita [English]- 06.07.2024