Sunday, February 3, 2013

Beyond Faith

Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill“The devotee believes in the almighty potency of the Lord, while the faithless say that the Lord is almighty but do not believe it. Such men with a poor fund of knowledge do not know that the Lord is the Lord eternally and that one cannot become the Lord by meditation for millions of years or by mental speculation for billions of years.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.9.32 Purport)


The Vaishnava explains that all the ills in society are rooted in one thing: forgetfulness of God. Look at any problem that you see, any issue you currently have with the way things are run and with the way that other people behave, and know that the real cause is lack of knowledge of the Almighty Lord. The Vaishnava refers to this ignorance as forgetfulness because ultimately the living entities, who are part and parcel of God and thus beneficiaries of His samvit potency, are fully knowledgeable. A component of that knowledge is full faith in the words of the Vedas, which say that Krishna does amazing things like lift hills with His pinky finger while in the spiritual body of a five-year old boy.

We already acknowledge the amazing all the time. If you go to India, you can find yogis in remote areas who can levitate, stop their breathing for significant periods of time, make a snake dance, and read minds. These things are all amazing, and so the spectators are taken in. In our day-to-day affairs, we’re amazed by someone who can write a wonderful song, deliver a heartwarming speech, or prepare a delicious food dish.

If we appreciate these things and are amazed by them, why not be just as amazed by the things God can do? From a tiny seed a huge banyan tree can grow. We know that this is the case, and yet for some reason we don’t attribute the growth cycle to God. Or we may acknowledge God’s role but not appreciate it; we take it for granted. “It is there for me to exploit, not ponder over. The sun gives us tremendous heat and light to the point that we can’t live without it, but let me not worry over the sun or appreciate it.”

The Vaishnava’s claim of forgetfulness of God is quite interesting if you think about it. Public opinion polls show majority support in favor of a belief in God. This means that most people claim to be religious or at least believers in the Almighty. But if they really believe, why would they discount statements from the Vedas that describe the amazing? For instance, it is said that the Supreme Lord, in His personal form, once lifted a massive hill and held it up using just His pinky finger. This Supreme Lord is the same for everyone, though that particular vision was of a young and beautiful child living in the sacred land of Vrindavana.

He didn’t lift the hill as a cheap show of mystic strength, either. There was real protection involved. The people saved already believed in Him, who was known as Krishna. Their faith was further strengthened by Krishna’s lifting of the hill, which saved the residents from a torrential downpour that was instigated by a vengeful king of heaven.

Lord Vishnu's lotus feetAs mentioned before, the root cause of all ills is forgetfulness of God. The forgetfulness implies knowledge that one already has. Knowledge is stronger than faith, so in acknowledgement of the Almighty and His supremacy more than just blind faith should be extended. Perhaps this is the point of contention amongst those who claim to believe in God but then don’t believe any of the words of the Vedas which point out His amazing abilities. How do we go beyond faith? How do we reach true knowledge?

We know that knowledge can develop from direct perception. If we see something happen with our own eyes, we know that it is true. We can then share what we saw with someone else. Their acceptance of our words should thus give them perfect knowledge of the situation as well. The Vedas work in the same way. What the people saw in Vrindavana was retold by Shukadeva Gosvami in a conversation with a dying king named Parikshit. That conversation was recorded in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, which has since been translated and commented on by famous Vaishnavas, including His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

Surely there is faith extended in the beginning, but when one follows the principles of the Vaishnavas, principles which aim to revive one’s dormant knowledge of God and also one’s love for Him, then the faith turns into assuredness from knowledge. In this respect there is really no conversion from this faith to that. Lord Chaitanya advised everyone to become true to their faith in God by relishing the transcendental sound vibrations of “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” Basking in this mantra, which addresses God in a mood of love, not asking for anything in return, makes one a true believer in God and not just a spiritualist in name only. And the ability of this mantra to transform faith to knowledge is itself proof of the factual potency of the Almighty.

In Closing:

God is real I will say,

But from religion I’ll stay away.

 

To the snake charmer I’ll give praise,

From his sounds the snake standing up stays.

 

Beyond faith is knowledge real,

Of God’s existence, His potency to feel.

 

In higher authority we already believe,

Why not follow bhakti and real knowledge retrieve?

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