People often confuse faith with belief.
So many seem to think that “to have faith” means “to believe something without question.” But I think that there is an important distinction. In the words of one of the greatest sages and philosophers of the 20th century:
“Faith is a state of openness or trust. To have faith is like when you trust yourself to the water. You don’t grab hold of the water when you swim, because if you do you will become stiff and tight in the water, and sink. You have to relax, and the attitude of faith is the very opposite of clinging, and holding on. In other words, a person who is fanatic in matters of religion, and clings to certain ideas about the nature of God and the universe becomes a person who has no faith at all. Instead they are holding tight. But the attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be.”
It is no sign of great faith to go through life carrying the same set of beliefs as your parents. To accept without question the teachings of your culture (or any culture) is to submit to psychic conditioning and mental confinement.
A mature, intelligent and free-thinking person does not accept anything without question—and they certainly don’t settle for readymade answers to life’s ultimate questions. Rather, different perspectives are considered in the light of one’s own reason and intuition; every idea is explored and tested through direct experience.
A deep and meaningful faith is born out of questioning, searching, testing and exploring.
It begins when we step away from religion and fixed belief systems; when we can humbly admit that we don’t have all the answers, and step out into the mystery…
That which is infinite and absolute certainly transcends human language and understanding. It can never be fully defined or explained. It can never be laid out in any fixed doctrine whatsoever. So ultimately we must have faith in the unknown—nay, the unknowable.
Faith has nothing to do with religion. Faith is what enables us to let go of our beliefs and convictions, and let go of our need to understand and control. It is not our church or our creed that makes us people of faith, it is a life of daring openness and authenticity.
It doesn’t matter whether or not we believe in God, or whether we call it Allah or Jehovah, Krishna or Jesus. What matters is that we face the universe as it is, without any preconceived ideas; that we dare to be who we are, without pretense; that we open up and taste this mystery that we are all immersed in.
It is not belief that transforms us, it is an encounter with the sacred—when we go go beyond our understanding, beyond the limits of the human mind, and experience the presence of awesome beauty, cosmic order and unfathomable intelligence…
This is the place where true faith is born.
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Ed: B. Bemel