What is faith?

Devotion - Bhakti

by Jayaram V

Faith is what you believe in with conviction. Trust, confidence, belief are some words associated with faith. The word faith is derived from Latin Fides, meaning the same. In medieval Europe, it became synonymous with religion or religious faith. In Sanskrit faith is known as sraddha. The resting ground of this faith is the heart (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 3.9.21). In Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism faith is used both for religious and secular purposes.

Faith is not only necessary for salvation but also for gaining mastery in any profession or endeavor. A student is expected to study with sraddah. A teacher is expected to teach with sraddah. A priest or a devotee is expected to perform a religious ritual with sraddha. Thus the word not only implies faith but also interest, dedication and application. Faith is the sum total of your worldview, your values and convictions. It encompasses the whole spectrum of your thought since much of what you know is what you believe to be worth remembering and paying attention to.

From faith comes trust, devotion, loyalty, commitment, dedication and assurance. Faith may arise from simple observation, facts, intuition, assurance or even simple belief. Traditionally faith is identified with the religion you practice. But faith does not necessarily mean religion only.

Religious faith is just one aspect of it. We believe in many things, with or without reason. Our parents and elders, our culture and society, our education, relationships and a host of other factors shape our beliefs and our faith is a sum total of those beliefs and convictions.

Some examples of faith are: faith in God, faith in Jesus, faith in Buddha, faith in Krishna, faith in Allah, faith in a political ideology, faith in democracy, faith in a leader, faith in a scripture, faith in a country, faith in values, faith in an institution, faith in the triumph of truth, faith in afterlife, faith in good education, faith in karma, faith in oneself and so on.

Thus you can see that your beliefs define you and distinguish you. They do speak a lot about you, more than you can even imagine. They shape your life. They influence your thinking and attitude, and motivate you or discourage you from doing or not doing certain actions. At the group level, beliefs may lead to friendship, harmony and cooperation or enmity, conflicts and even wars.

Your beliefs have so much importance in your life because they are the decisions or the conclusions you draw from your life's experience. Since life is very complex and not much can be deduced out of it logically except for a few facts, most of our conclusions and opinions about people, relationships, things, and ourselves are in fact beliefs or based on beliefs only. Our reliance upon beliefs to make sense of the world is a never ending process.

From the time we gain awareness until we die, we remain guided by our beliefs more than anything else. When such beliefs have no correlation with reality, it leads to delusion, prejudice and irrational thinking. If we are not careful, our beliefs may become the biggest stumbling block in our progess and lead to many unhappy consequences.

If you think you or someone else is good or bad, friendly or unfriendly, it is belief only. Your opinions about yourself and others are mostly beliefs based upon your thinking, learning and values. They may be based upon your observations and facts, but, since life is complex and our minds are are also complex and intriguing in their functioning that you cannot be sure that they are entirely based upon facts and objectivity. So it is important that you examine your faith, the sum total of your beliefs and subject them to scrutiny, analysis and reality check to understand yourself, your actions and your decisions.

The more you understand your beliefs, the greater will be your self-awareness and control over your life and actions. Try to examine the underlying beliefs and assumptions in your decisions and conclusions. Try to know why you prefer certain things and situations in life and avoid others. Wherever possible, dispute your irrational beliefs that prevent you from manifesting your full potentials. Know what beliefs motivate you and keep you focused and what beliefs are self-defeating. As you understand your beliefs, you learn to think with greater clarity and purpose.

Suggestions for Further Reading

Translate the Page