Faith in God is the first step to God-realisation. Not an iota of progress is ever possible in the path of spirituality without faith. The faith must be a living faith. It must be unwavering faith. Lack of faith is a stumbling block in the path of realisation. Faith develops into Bhakti or devotion to God. Faith is the gateway to the Kingdom of God. It is the threshold to the Knowledge of God. Faith gives strength and removes anxieties and uneasiness of mind. Faith is therefore a powerful mental tonic.
Faith is an important qualification for an aspirant in the path of spirituality. Students of all Yogas, whether of Karma, Bhakti, Raja and Jnana, should possess this fundamental virtue. No faith, no devotion. No faith, no Jnana. The Sanskrit equivalent of faith is "Sraddha" or "Visvas. " The student should have faith in the existence of God, in the teachings of his Guru, in the Vedas and his own self. The whole world runs on faith only. The Raja has faith in his Diwan. The husband has faith in his wife. The shop-keeper has faith in his customers. The patient has faith in his doctor. The client has faith in his lawyer. The engineer has faith in his head-clerk.
Faith is one of the important items in the Shad-Sampat or sixfold virtues of the four means of salvation or Sadhana Chatushtaya in the path of Jnana. Even Patanjali Maharshi, the exponent of Raja Yoga philosophy lays much stress on faith. He says: "Sraddha veerya smriti samadhi prajna - purvaka itaresham-to others (this Samadhi) comes through faith, energy, memory, concentration and discrimination of the real. " (I-20. ) He has placed Sraddha (faith) in the very beginning of this Sutra. He has given prominence to this. If a man has faith, then energy, memory etc. , come by themselves. He will collect all his energies and remember the ultimate Tattva and will exert to realise the basic Reality. Let me repeat the words of the Gita here. "He who is full of faith obtaineth wisdom, and he also who hath mastery over his senses; and having obtained wisdom he goeth swiftly to the Supreme Peace. But the ignorant, faithless, doubting self goeth to destruction; nor this world, nor that beyond, nor happiness is there for the doubting self. " (IV, 39-40)
"Some by meditation behold the Self in the self by the Self; others by the Sankhya Yoga and others by the Yoga of action. Others also ignorant of this having heard of it form others, worship; and these also cross beyond death, adhering to what they had heard. " (VIII, 24-25)
Dhruva had faith in the words of his mother. So he retired into the forest, did severe Tapas and came face to face with Lord Hari. The milk-maid had faith in the words of the Pandit who said: "Thousands have easily crossed the ocean by a single Name of God. Could you not cross this tiny stream?" and crossed the river by reciting His Name, whereas the faithless Pandit who preached about the power of the Name to the milk-maid was on the point of drowning when he himself tried to cross the river on the strength of the Name after seeing the marvellous spectacle of the girl's crossing the river by repeating RAMA NAM. Prahlada had unswerving faith on Narayana. And so he had His Grace. Fire was transmuted into ice by the Name of Hari. Mira had absolute faith on her Giridhar Gopal. And so poison was changed into nectar.
"Life is faith and illumination. Without faith it is lame, without illumination it is blind. We need today the creative force of faith, the faith that discerns without logic, the faith that electrifies, the faith that removes all barriers and obstacles from its path and is anxious to fill us with divine enthusiasm and to give expression to the divine in man. Be strong in faith and be complete in the light faith enkindles in the heart If the power of intellect can discern the ideals of life, the power of faith retains them and makes them active in us. The delight of life is in the constant striving for actualising the ideal, and unless we can claim the touch of divine faith in us, we do not see the joy of a new creation, a new realisation, a new life, a new dream. "
Bad company, lust, greed, infatuated love for wife, son and property, and unwholesome food are the enemies of faith. They spoil the intellect, cloud the understanding and destroy memory. They produce wrong Samskaras or impressions in the mind and render the intellect gross and impure.
Study of Bhagavata, Ramayana, Gita, Upanishads, Yoga Vasishtha; the elevating company of Sadhus and Mahatmas; service of saints; stay at Prayag, Rishikesh, Ayodhya, Vrindavana, Gangotri, Badrinarayan; prayer; Japa or recitation of Mantra; Kirtan or singing His Name; meditation; remembrance of saints and sages who have realised God and study of their teachings; fasting; pilgrimage; personal contact of a Guru can sow the seed of faith in a man and increase it also till it becomes quite firm and unshakable.
Look at the perfect faith of the boy Nama Dev! His father asked him to place a dish of food before Vittobha (Lord Krishna at Pandharpur). Nama Dev placed the plate before the Murthy and asked the Deity to eat it. He wept bitterly when the Murthy kept quiet. After sometime Lord Krishna came out of the Murthy in the form of a boy and ate the food. The boy brought back the plate empty. The father asked: "Nama Dev, where is the food?" The boy replied: "My Vittobha has eaten it. " Such is the power of real faith.
The rare achievements of Vishwamitra Rishi in his Tapas and Yoga, the success of Napoleon in the field of battle, the attainments of Mahatma Gandhi in his Karma Yoga and practice of Yama, the awe-inspiring majesty and the soul-stirring magnanimity and the grandeur and nobility of great personages like Tulsidas, Ramdas, Sri Dattatreya, Sri Sankara, Vamadev and Jada Bharata are all due to the work of that simple secret called FAITH.
Faith can work miracles. Faith can work wonders. Faith can move mountains. Faith can reach a realm where reason dare not enter. There is nothing impossible under the sun for the man of faith to accomplish. Have therefore absolute and unshakable faith in God, in the power of RAMA NAM, in the Vedas and the scriptures and in the teachings of your Guru and, last but not the least, in your own self. This is the master-key for success in life and God-realisation or attainment of Divine Consciousness.