What we need is this shraddha. Unfortunately, it has nearly vanished from India, and this is why we are in our present state. What makes the difference between man and man is the difference in this shraddha and nothing else. What makes one man great and another weak and low is this shraddha.
CW: Vol. 3, Address of Welcome presented at Calcutta and reply
The secret of human excellence is faith. Faith in the words of the teacher. Faith in oneself. Faith in one’s destiny. Faith in the potential of life.
Faith is hope. Faith is the basis of hard work, perseverance, and patience. Faith is the meaning imbued into every action.
Faith in oneself conquers the enemies of self-doubt, low self-regard, and an inability to trust oneself to perform a great role. Faith in the guru or the teacher leads to constant meditation on the ideas we receive, on the thoughts that inform our actions, on the suggestions for improvement; and through that faith comes faith in one’s own ability to receive, assimilate and grow.
To develop faith is not easy; what one needs is an iron will and a belief, an initial theory, that one is capable of achieving a goal. Then the will in action results in the rigour, hard work and tremendous energy needed to translate each of our diverse strands of ideas and thoughts into coherent goal–directed action. This process of iteration: set new hypotheses, struggle forward, and prove them, leads to the growing spiral of faith and competence.
As this spiral reaches its next levels, it becomes wider in its scope, more powerful in its action. It releases the tremendous latent energies of ‘rajas’, of ‘action’, ‘ambition’, drive and focus, bringing in its wake great commercial and worldly success.
As the spiral widens, the belief grows that one can be what one chooses to be and the sense of possibilities thrown up provides one with a menu of choices in existence.
This menu of choices, when meditated upon, thought upon, results in making higher and purer choices. No longer is the choice towards comfort: of rewarding effort with enjoyment, of hard work with success, of struggle with rewards, monetary or otherwise.
Now the choice tends towards the building of institutions, of lasting vehicles that will transform human energy into great products of civilization, and in their very act of creation also transform the human beings who participate in the creation.
And in the next, and final stage, the choices tend toward the pure act of the worship of existence; each act being a bouquet of love offered to the divinity in existence itself. The process is the end: the end being the process of living itself.
Now we have reached true human excellence where the whole of existence is a supreme act of faith. Not I but Thou. Not me alone but all beings. Not my good alone but the good of all. Such feelings are the fruit of the supreme tapasya that has preceded this stage. And it is these thought currents, of unselfishness, devotion, love, universal compassion, etc., which become the true engines of human growth, of society’s progress to its next stage of evolution.
This then is the meaning of ‘shraddha’ or faith. It is both the beginning and the end. It is both the means and the outcome. It informs all actions and is also the product of previous actions. It grows from a conscious, analytical experiential process, to a way of living that is truly natural.
Faith is, in other words both the form and content of excellence in its purest sense.