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Exploring Wisdom: How to Cultivate Faith

Faith. We hear this word so often in a spiritual context that we’ve begun to take the meaning for granted. What is faith, exactly? And on our own individual  journeys, what do we put our faith in? Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar spoke recently about the role of faith in the path of spirituality—what it is, how to develop it, and how to develop trust in yourself and your journey.

Faith cannot be cultivated, it is simply there!

You have parked your car in the parking lot and you have faith that it will be there when you come back.

You may have come from Alabama, Atlanta, or from some other place, but you have faith that when you go back, your house will be intact. You have faith that your job is secure or your business is secure. That is faith. Faith is something that is inherent.

The Three Types of Faith

There are three types of faith:

Faith in oneself.

Faith in others. This is faith in the goodness of people around you and in the law of society.

Faith in the unseen. Faith which is not tangible, and which is beyond reason and logic. Everyone has experienced a glimpse of something that is beyond logic, beyond reasoning, and beyond what the intellect can tangibly comprehend. No matter how much one denies it, they have at some point experienced something that is beyond these limits. Having confidence in this is faith in the unseen.

These three kinds of faith, or trust are generally there in everybody. If you are a normal person, it has to be there. If you have some psychological paranoia or illness, then you may not have faith in yourself.

Lack of Faith in Oneself Leads to Lack of Faith in Others

A couple came to me once. They lived just 10 minutes away from the venue, but they said that it took them 5 hours to come and meet me. I said, “How come?” The lady then said that the moment her husband got out of the house and walked a few steps, he felt that the door was not locked. So, he went back and checked the door. He pulled the door front and back several times to ensure it was locked. Again, he walked some steps and the same doubt came over him and he went back to check if the door was locked. This gentleman was paranoid; he didn’t trust himself. This is a sort of psychological illness.

In society, you will find many people who do not have faith in themselves, and they walk around without being diagnosed. Lack of self-faith leads to lack of faith in others—you will always feel that everybody is after you, or everyone is angry at you, or out to get you. Can you survive like that? Impossible.

When you have parked your car outside, you cannot keep thinking will my car be there when I go back or not? Unless you are in Lebanon or Afghanistan, where such incidences may happen and these fears are justified!

There is an Omniscient Force That Is in Charge of the Whole Universe

We are here only for 60—70 years, and we think we are in control of the whole world. I tell you, this is such an illusion. The Earth has been in existence for millenniums. This Earth has sustained itself for nineteen billion years, and we think we are managing this whole world.

There can’t be a bigger illusion than this. There is a force that is taking care of this planet and that will continue to take care of this planet, and this is going to last for a long time. And there is not just one planet, but there are many such planets, and many lives.

We think that we provide food and we are providing everything. But if we go underwater, do some scuba diving and see—we find there is a whole world there and they are being provided for. Every creature is being provided something to eat.

I am reminded of a philosophical quote by a 12th century saint, “Ajgar kare na chakri, panchi kare na kam, das maulak keh gaye, sabke data ram.” He says, “A python doesn’t serve any master, nor does a bird go looking for work, but food is being provided for everything by the Lord.” So why do you worry?!

A python is very lazy and moves very slowly; it just keeps lying around all the time. However, birds are very busy creatures, flying around all the time. Yet, both are equally provided for—the Divine is providing for everybody.

This has been said to instill confidence in people: whether you move slowly or fast, you will be taken care for. Whether you are very busy or moving at a snail’s speed, there is compassion in the cosmic consciousness, and the Divinity provides for everybody.

Now, when you realize this and wake up from within, faith is a byproduct of that. Faith is anyways there, but it manifests with awareness.