In our everyday talk with our family, friend, or even with peers we often use the words “Shradha”, “Vishvas”,” Barossa”, “Astha”, “Faith”, “Trust”, “Confidence”, “Belief”, “Assumptions”, “Expectations”, “Inferences” and many more similar words in our native language. Although these different words may be used in a different context if we see the deep meaning these words carries is “Believe something with Conviction”
Western History of the word “Faith”
The word faith is derived from the Latin “fides,” which means faith. In medieval Europe, faith became synonymous with religion or religious faith. The reason may sustain faith, but going by the definition, true faith depends upon neither proof nor reason but belief in something to be true. True faith is self-existing. It is sustained by itself either by intuition or belief, but rarely by external proof.
In the Western world, faith has long been traditionally identified with religion. However, faith does not necessarily mean religion only. Religious faith is just one aspect of it. You can have faith in any number of things, which may be religious or secular, or internal or external. Having faith in yourself is more important than having faith in any religion. For your peace of mind and healthy self-esteem, you should have faith in your abilities, actions, methods, relationships, and way of life.
Sanatana Dharma: What is Sharada/Faith
The English word “Faith” has a great significance in Hindu devotional theism. In Sanskrit faith is known as “Sraddha” or “Vishwas”.
Sanatana Dharma theistic schools are always based on “Sraddha” or “Vishwas” in which devotion and Sraddha (bhakti and shraddha) are central to spiritual practice. All Sanatanis have the Shraddha or Faith in many forms especially
- Sraddha in Bhagwan/God
- Sraddha in the inviolable Laws of Bhagwan/God
- Sraddha in Dharma
- Sraddha in the Scriptures
- Sraddha in the Spiritual Path which these Scriptures tell
- Sraddha in their Guru/Teacher
- Sraddha in the possibilities of Liberation
The above are a few explicit forms of faith / Sraddha, which are emphasized in the scriptures of Hinduism as the highest virtues.
Since Bhagwan/God is invisible and unknowable to the senses, and since he cannot be verified by rational means, tradition suggests that the Vedas should be used to sustain Sraddha/Faith, holding them as the reliable sources of verbal testimony to establish metaphysical truths about him and his eternal laws. Since they cannot rationally or empirically be established, we have to rely upon “Sraddha” and the knowledge of the scriptures to practice Dharma and strive for Liberation. While reason belongs to the mind, Sraddha belongs to the “Heart”. Hence, the English word “Intuition” is sometimes regarded as a corollary of Sraddha/Faith.
The “Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (3.9.21)” declares that the resting ground of “Sraddha” is the “Heart”. It is given as below:-
“What deity are you identified within the south?” “With the deity, Yama (the god of justice)“
Within this universe of duality, there exists the duality of justice and injustice, in accord with this ignorance, there also exists a deity of this duality.
“On what does Yama rest?” “On the sacrifice“
The sacrifice ritual is conducted within the realm of Dharma and righteousness through which justice is obtained.
“On what does the sacrifice rest” “On the remuneration (of the priests)“
It is the priest that officiates and gives validity and authority to a sacrifice ritual and the correct remuneration of the priest completes the correct procedure.
“On what does the remuneration rest” “On Sraddha/faith, because whenever a man has Sraddha/faith, he gives remuneration to the priests“
This Sraddha/faith is the very belief of the ignorant in a deity vital force that supports their individual rites and desire for reward from a divinity of duality.
"On what does Sraddha/faith rest" "On the HEART"....for one knows faith through the "HEART";
As stated, this Sraddha/faith is supported by the very belief in the duality of a vital force that enables their desire. This belief is further supported by the intellect (Heart) that is guided by Manas.
Sanatana Dharma: Three types of Sharada/Faith
According to Hinduism, Nature (Prakriti) is made up of 23 realities (Tattvas) or so, and three Gunas or modes.
The Gunas are responsible for modalities or patterns of behavior and attitude in beings. They influence our thinking and actions. A person’s essential nature is determined by them. The three Gunas are: –
- Rajas and
In humans as well as in all other living beings, they are found in various permutations and combinations. The Gunas compete with each other to dominate.
A person’s natural propensity depends upon which Gunas are predominant.
- Sattva makes a person gentle and pleasant.
- Rajas make him ambitious and competitive
- Tamas makes him harsh or cruel.
Just as these Gunas influence our behavior, they also influence our Sharada/Faith.
The beauty of Sanatana Dharma: Diverse form of Sharada/ Faith
Unlike the Abrahamic religions of Islam and Christianity where religious faith is based only on the belief that there is “ONLY” one God and that God is their “ONLY GOD”.
Sanatana Dharma, the religious faith is not stratified into any rigid categories. It didn’t dictate whether we believe in the existence of “Bhagwan/God” or “NOT”. Sanatana Dharma has a whole range of belief systems, each supported by a particular school, which make it fundamentally different from the Abrahamic Religions. They are listed below.
- God is (Astika)
- God is not (Nastika).
- God is not, but souls are
- God and souls are the same.
- God and souls are different.
- God and Nature are the same.
- God and Nature are different.
- Nature is, Souls are, but God is not
Sanatana Dharma: Explanation of Faith/Sraddha
In Sanatana Dharma, Sraddha/faith is used in a very broad sense. It not only means belief but also Interest, Dedication, and Application. They are interrelated. For example, a human cannot be interested in any goal unless he believes in its possibility. The human cannot dedicate himself to a cause or to a path, unless he knows in his heart (as mentioned in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (3.9.21) explained above), or believe, that it is good for him or lead him in the right direction. None of it would be possible unless the human has faith in themselves.
A person should have Sraddha/faith not only to practice his religion or achieve liberation but also to gain mastery in any endeavor. A student should study with Sraddha/faith, a teacher should teach with Sraddha/faith, and a devotee should worship Bhagwan/God with Sraddha/faith. If a person is faithful to the Bhagwan/God and nourishes them with Sraddha/faith, Bhagwan/God will serve him with the same Sraddha/faith and strengthen his faith in them. In all these, Sraddha/faith is propelled by both conviction and dedication.
In Sanatana Dharma, it is said that Sraddha/faith is the sum of a person’s worldview, values, and convictions. It encompasses the whole spectrum of one thought since much of what he knows is what he believes to be worth remembering and paying attention to. From Sraddha/faith arises trust, devotion, loyalty, commitment, dedication, and assurance. Sraddha/faith may arise from simple observation, facts, inference, intuition, assurance, experience, common sense, or a simple belief. Sraddha/faith is difficult to sustain because the world is an appearance, and human-like us are ALWAYS subject to delusion and ignorance.
The person should have Sraddha/faith not only to practice his religion or achieve liberation but also to gain mastery in any endeavor. A student should study with Sraddha/faith, a teacher should teach with Sraddha/faith, and a devotee should worship Bhagwan/God with Sraddha/faith. If a person is faithful to the Bhagwan/God and nourishes them with Sraddha/faith, Bhagwan/God will serve him with the same Sraddha/faith and strengthen his faith in them. In all these, Sraddha/faith is propelled by both conviction and dedication.
The Bhagavad-Gita affirms that those who worship Bhagwan/God with faith, who contemplate upon him and establish their minds in him are dearer to him, and they will be speedily rescued from the cycle of births and deaths. People who have faith in Bhagwan/God and believe in his greatness are not deluded by his forms or appearances. They readily recognize him even when he manifests in mortal form, but the ignorant ones who lack faith cannot perceive him. They mistake him for an ordinary being and ignore his teachings. It is faith that sustains your devotion, and by devotion only you achieve union or oneness with Bhagwan/God.
So, It is right to say that “Sraddha/faith is at the heart of Sanatanis / Hindus Devotional Practices”.
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