What is faith? My atheist husband tells me, “I envy you your faith.” I once told my friend who was going through a divorce but whose Buddhist practice was at its strongest at the time, “I have faith in your faith.” In Season 3 of The Crown, Prince Philip says, “I have lost it, the faith. And without it, what is there? The loneliness, the emptiness, the anticlimax… that is what faithlessness is.”
So what is faith? Regardless of one’s religion or affiliations, faith is the basis of all life – faith that there is a tomorrow, faith that the sun will rise and the stars will shine, faith that one is part of a whole and that the whole is a benign, safe space to exist and grow in.
Babies have unquestioning faith in the mother’s milk, animals have faith in their own instinct – they do not judge or over-analyse. They just follow the command encoded in their bodies.
How do we become faithless, and when do we fall into loneliness and hopelessness? When we stop following the command encoded in our bodies. When we judge and over-analyse and predict.
When, for instance, a young Indian girl follows social norms instead of following her dream to study and write, and marries a man she doesn’t like because she is told this is best for her, and then later the marriage becomes a vicious cycle of self-hate, desperation, abuse and apathy.
Or a man moves continents driven to earn power and wealth instead of tinkering around with electronics and spending time with children that he once loved, only to find that he has lost decades of his life in the chase and lost his sense of purpose, family and human connections that would have made it all worthwhile.
It’s no one’s fault. Humans cannot help ourselves falling out of rhythm from our true purpose because that’s nature’s doing, too. That’s what makes us different from animals. On one hand, we have been encoded with our swadharma, our life’s calling, deep inside our cells, but on the other hand, we also have layers and layers of vasanas – tendencies or patterns – that we need to peel away and conquer before we can find our truth.
So the girl whose life calling was to inspire other women through her writing must first go through the fires of torture and pain until she realises it is a self-inflicted prison and she is the only one with the key and the power to change it all, if only she has the courage to do so.
And the Prince whose purpose was to set up an institution that helps people debate and question matters of faith must go through the process of finding himself directionless at midlife and faithless to the point of despair.
It is in our darkest moments that the light of our purpose resides. Our karma is our mission.
How do we find our purpose, our mission? With faith. Faith that there is a tomorrow, faith that the sun will rise and the stars will shine, faith that we are part of a whole and that the whole is a benign, safe space to exist and grow in. Faith that the universe is conspiring in our favour.
Faith is the most natural instinct of all, and faithlessness the temporary deviation. We only need to silence our minds, follow the calling, and then face whatever shows up. Even a baby can have true faith. It’s in the follow-up that you grow up.
Photos: Pixabay. First published in eShe’s December 2019 issue