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Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen.
– (Bible, Hebrews 11:1)
Question: Sir, how is faith different from superstition? How do I know that I am not landing in trivia?
Speaker: A similar question was posed to Jesus. He was asked, “How do we know that your Father’s Kingdom is just as you describe? Can you give us a proof? Can you show us a sign?” That was the exact question asked to him, “Can you show us a sign?” And this got Jesus upset. He said, “With your faithlessness you are asking this question, how will you ever see a sign?” And he walked away. He did not stop at that place. He went away. He said, “I can’t even talk to you.”
Then he said that “The only sign is – the dead will come alive. That is the only sign, but to see that sign, you will have to die. And you won’t die because you are faithless.”
We have two kinds of occurrences in Bible. One is when people come to Jesus and say, “Here is my daughter and she is suffering from such and such disease. Can you cure her?” And Jesus cures her. There is an incident where Jesus starts walking on water. And his disciples on the other shore say, “Is it you, our Lord?” One of them named Peter says, “How do I know that it’s you?” Jesus replies, “It is simple. Come, walk on the river and meet me. You will know that it’s me.” Peter starts walking on the river. But after sometime he becomes a little doubtful, and he starts sinking. Jesus asks him, “Why did you allow yourself to doubt?” And then he was rescued by Jesus.
So, this is one kind of interaction that Jesus had. People came to him with Faith, and miracles happened. And then there were another kind of interactions, where people came to him to test him, to question him, to pose doubts to him, and he simply refused to entertain their questions. Those who came with Faith found the Faith affirmed. And those who came faithless found nothing from him. Those who come, already deeply faithful, that, “Yes, there is a ‘Kingdom of God’, and Jesus is the son of God”, for them there were miracles.
After one such incident, people asked Jesus: “How does this happen?” Remember they did not ask whether it happened? They just asked, “How does this happen?” And he said, “Even if you have a little Faith, the mountains will move, if you order them to move.” Thankfully, the listeners did not ask, “How?”
It just happens. There is no ‘How?’ It beats the mind, right? It irritates the mind. Mind asks, “But how?” It just is, simple. There is no question of ‘How?’ ‘How’ implies a preceding cause and effect chain. There is no cause and effect chain. It is direct, right from the source. No other cause. Don’t ask, “How?”
You see, you go out and you see elephants flying, and we often find the elephants flying. We have seen them, right? Initially we saw few dogs flying, and then elephants also started flying, and if we ask ‘how?’ what will happen? Not only will we not get an answer, the elephants will need to make an emergency landing. That will be the effect of these questions. So, if you really want to see elephants flying, remember – never ask how. No elephant will fly the moment you ask ‘how?’ When you find an elephant flying, just fly with him. The dogs are flying, the elephant are flying. You too fly. Why waste the opportunity in asking trivial questions? Why waste it? Things happen. They just happen. Don’t ask, ‘How?’
So, one day a large group of people came to Jesus. And the disciples of Jesus came to him and said, “We don’t have enough food. What to do?” Jesus said to his disciples, “Whatever you have, just distribute it to everybody.” And the food was distributed. And it is said that there were hundreds and thousands of people that day who had visited Jesus. After everybody had the gala feast, and the people were gone, then thousands of baskets were needed to collect the remaining food, the left-over food. So, initially there were only a few breads, not sufficient enough to feed even two people, and when the people were gone after having the food, thousands of baskets were required to collect the remaining food. How?
That is the question that need not be asked. It is not a question of mathematics. You will not understand using the calculative brain. In fact, the brain will not understand at all. When you listen to this and you just smile, then you know that you know. But if you listen to this and you get all ruffled up, as if something is wrong somewhere, that maybe he is a quack trying to fool people, then you are gone, finished. Then nothing can be done. The only proof is the proof of John.
What is that Proof? Die and come alive.
Listener 1: Sometimes, I feel that Faith is about non-questioning. A skeptical, doubtful mind will only question. But even belief is about non-questioning. When we start believing in something, we don’t question it. How is belief different from Faith?
Speaker: In belief you are afraid to question, because you know that the question will shake the belief. Have you ever wondered why you don’t question your beliefs? Because you know that the question will shatter your beliefs. In Faith, you play with the questions. You say, “Come, keep questioning. It is not that I have great answers, but I know that the issue at hand is beyond your questions.” It’s like trying to shoot a high flying plane with arrows. Your arrows will not reach there.
Belief is afraid of questions. Faith has nothing to do with the questions. It is neither afraid of them, nor does it invite them. In front of Faith, if you toss questions, it would not feel disturbed. Belief would get disturbed and angry. It would react sometimes violently. Faith just wouldn’t take those questions seriously. Do you understand the difference?
Belief is very serious about questions, serious about not allowing questions. Faith does not take questions seriously, because faith knows something far deeper than the questions. It knows a point where no question can reach. Somebody comes and asks you, “What is the smell of white?” Will you start beating up that fellow, or will you say that it is a heretical question? Will you say that, “I mean I know your question is not applicable to the issue at hand; you do not even understand what you are questioning”? Will you send this fellow to jail for blasphemy?
So, when somebody questions Faith, all that Faith does is smile. “Had you understood Faith, why would you have asked such questions? Had you understood white, you would not have asked me the smell of white.”
Belief gets angry. If you attack someone’s beliefs, he will not take kindly to you. Faith laughs. It may not even bother to respond. Or it may respond in a very funny way. You might remember the story of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda. Vivekananda asked Ramakrishna, “Can you show me God?” Ramakrishna said, “All right, today or tomorrow?” It’s a joke. Faith is able to joke with questions.
Today or tomorrow! Do you know what Ramakrishna is saying? You are a creature of time. You exist in ‘todays’ and ‘tomorrows’. In today and tomorrow will you see God?
But Vivekananda is hit. He is the one to get disturbed. For the first time someone has come up with such a direct reply, as if the man is holding God in his palm, it’s here. If you come across such a man who says he is very faithful and is yet very allergic to questions then you should know that he is not faithful at all, he is just a believer. And if you come across a man who calls himself faithful and who, with all his efforts and all his earnestness, is trying to answer questions relating to Faith, then again you should know that this fellow is just a believer.
The faithful just lives. His living is the only proof. How else will he answer questions? There is no other way to answer questions. He will say, “Look at me, here I am. And if that doesn’t bring you to Faith then nothing else can. When my being is insufficient, then how can my words be sufficient? When you cannot listen to my Silence, how will you understand my words?”
Only a very faithful mind can come up with brilliant jokes. Like Zen monks, Joshu and others. They have said that, “Buddha is such a rascal. If you come across the Buddha, you should totally avoid him. Even his shadow pollutes.”
And Zen is very categorical in not talking about Faith. Faith is not a word that you can associate with the Zen. In fact they would mock the Buddha. They mock everything. Their entire life is a joke. And that is the mark of a faithful man, he jokes. How can he take you and your question seriously?
Bodhidharma, when people would come to speak to him, he used to face the wall and answer them. So, everybody would be sitting at his back and he would face the wall and answer. Such great respect he gave to your questions. You can only joke with question, what else can you do? Think of it. People have come with their most serious and important questions, and what is Bodhidharma doing? Sitting with his face to the wall and the back to the audience, and he is answering question. What else can you do? And this is the mark of a greatly faithful mind. Again remember, Faith is not a word to be found in Zen vocabulary. It is not a word to be found, it is the very essence of Zen, and that is why the word is absent. When it permeates, really-really deeply, then the word gets deleted.
I was listening about Aristotle. So, he goes to the beach and there he sees a man who is taking the sea water spoon by spoon, one spoon at a time and putting it away. So he asks him, what are you trying? He said, “I am trying to empty the Ocean.” Aristotle says, “What rubbish! Your spoon is so small and the ocean is so large. Will that ever happen?” The man just laughs. That is the reply of a faithful. He has done what he wanted to do. And Aristotle was a man of knowledge. A logician he was, the father of western thought, logic. Spoon in the sea! Message is given. And there are thousands of other stories. In no story will you find a question of faith being taken seriously. In no story, will you find the words ever satisfying the questioner. It is impossible.
There is a practical difficulty as well. Whenever the proof is about to be given, the questioner faints. What to do? Either he faints or he runs away. And again there are so many stories that tells of the same problem, that the fellow comes and he is very eager for proof and the moment the proof is about to be disclosed, the fellow simply collapses. Now, how can the proof be given? Do you understand the meaning of collapsing?
The proof of Faith can be given only to the faithful, and to be faithful means the collapse of ego. So, the one who is asking for a proof, he will never get a proof. Who gets the proof? – The faithful. And who is faithful? – The one who remains after the questioner is gone. So, that is indicated by the words fainting or collapsing.
Listener1: That means, if a question is arising, it is a sheer proof that you are faithless. And forget the answer, if the question is arising, it is not.
Speaker: But you must still pose the question. Why? You will get a joke.
That’s how jokes are born, when faithless question are posed.
See I am only half joking on this. Yes, questions on Faith cannot have answer, yet those questions must be posed because posing those questions would expose the stupidity of those questions, and that is the joke. “How stupid this question was!” That is the joke.
So, don’t let that question fester. Expose it. Exposing it is important. It has already come. Now, can you suppress it? It has already come. Now that it has come, speak out. The minimum that you will get is a joke. And if you are lucky, you may get Faith.
Listener2: This questioning also shows about the questioner that he is not a believer.
Speaker: Yes, yes, right! At least you are not trapped in superstition. Yes, good.
So, do not misconstruct the entire dialogue to mean that questions are bad. Questions still have a useful role to play, right? If you do not speak, if you do not address those questions, if you do not expose them, then they will remain there and gain power. So, bring them out. By bringing them out, you are saying, “It is alright! Because you are so fond of troubling me, now come out in the open and trouble everybody. Let’s see how much power you have. Come out. Why just disturb me? Come out” So, then chances are that the questioner will faint. Have you seen this, your most acerbic questions, your most diabolic questions, they faint before being asked. You very well have the worst of doubts, right? Don’t you have? But when the moment comes to express those doubts, what happens to them? Those thoughts start hiding. “No, no, it’s all right. I never said that it is so bad or something. No, No there is no need, fine, fine. No, no, let’s not talk about that.”
The fellow sits in your head and the moment it comes to talk, this fellow doesn’t want to come out and talk. And when you are somewhere else, when he knows that there is no opportunity to talk, then he will shout. He knows that there is no opportunity for you to answer, then he is talking. Have you seen that? He keeps talking and talking. When he talks, you just say, “Oh Yes! Yours is the profound doubt. I second your suspicion. Now, let’s take a shared oath. Because this question is so important, we will definitely ask this question. We will not shy away. After all, this question is so important. You are asking this question in my mind all the time. So now we will give this question due respect. We will raise it.” And then what will happen, let’s see. Bring that question to this commitment that, “You keep shouting all the time. Let’s shout in the open. Why only here? Why only in my mind? Let’s shout in the session.” And then see what happens.
Listener3: Sir, sometimes you don’t question because you are a believer. When you question, your beliefs will get shattered.
Speaker: Oh no! When you have Faith, the Faith itself gives you the courage to question. Kindly don’t think that the faithful man is some kind of a conformist, an obedient, conventionalist, who does not debate or argue or question. He does question, he does argue, he does debate. In fact, he is able to call into question, even those things that are a taboo to be discussed in the open otherwise. Only the faithful mind can lay open everything threadbare. “I am not afraid. Let’s talk about whatever you want to talk about. Let’s talk.”
Listener4: There are also two kinds of people – One, who lives in a clear way, genuine way and another who lives in a negative way. Suppose X tells Y to steal something, and instead of doubting that, he acts.
Speaker: You are talking about loyalty. See, in Faith, there is surrender. What is the difference between being loyal and being faithful? It’s important to understand this. What is the difference between being loyal and being faithful? In both, you are saying that, “Something is bigger than me”, in loyalty as well as in faith. The difference is in loyalty, you have made some worldly object bigger than you, and in Faith there is only the One that is bigger than you. So, loyalty would never be absolute and undivided. You would always have many masters. You remember Jesus saying that, “The man cannot have two masters.” That is what happens in case of loyalty; you are loyal to this and that and that, partially loyal at all places.
Listener5: Sir, there is one more thing that I saw in your video on honesty, that when you say, ’I am honest’ then you make yourself bigger than honesty.
Speaker: Obviously, wonderful! Because you have decided to be loyal, and you can also decide not to be loyal, and you can choose the object of loyalty. “I am loyal towards this fellow.” And there would always be conditions attached. “I am loyal to him because he is my husband”, “I am loyal to him because he is my employer.” This is not Faith. Understand this.
Faith does not have an object. Loyalty always has an object. Faith is always absolute. Loyalty is not. Loyalty has all the characteristics of time and space. It keeps coming and going, changes with changing circumstances. Faith does not. It does not change.
Listener6: Sir, loyalty is also very fragile.
Speaker: Very fragile, yes! It’s like taking the membership of a political party. You can switch from one party to another at any time.
Listener6: Because you are fragile.
Speaker: Yes, because you are fragile. Well said.
Listener8: When the mind is talking so much, like whenever I have at least two or three questions, I come to the session, I ask one, while the remaining three or four keeps going on at the back of the mind. But as soon as some others’ questions are answered, it seems that my questions are dissolved. Does that mean that they were unimportant?
Speaker: See, no question can stand in front of Faith. Not because Faith has all the answer. Do you understand this? Not because faith has all the answer, but because questions look stupid in front of Faith. It’s a strange thing. Faith does not have answers. Do not expect the miracle that you would come up with a very convoluted philosophical question and Faith will come up with an exact answer or something. That wouldn’t happen. It’s just that if you are in front of a Saint and you are asking a very philosophical question, you would look like an idiot. The Saint may even say that, “Sir, what a great question you have asked! Now let me dance.”
“If you are done with your question, may I continue with my dancing?” And you will look so utterly stupid.
(Pointing to a listener) So, he has gone there and asked a great question, as he always does. And the Saint is listening and saying, “Such great question, such profound thoughts!” And once he is done with the question, what does the Saint do? He starts dancing. “You wanted to ask a question, you have asked, now let me dance.” He still keeps asking, “What is the logic of dancing Sir, tell me. Why should one dance?”
Speaker: (Smilingly) “And how should one dance? And also tell me how to write jokes? Give me an algorithm to produce jokes.”
Listener10: Learn from the elephants.
Speaker: Faith comes from exactly the same place jokes come from. Faith and jokes have a lot in common. They both do not come from center of logic.
There is a beautiful verse by Kabir –
शिष्य पूजै गुरु आपना, गुरु पूजे सब साध।
Couple that with Rahim’s verse –
एकै साधे सब सधै |
When you are surrendered to the One, through that one you get the essence of everything. But if you are going shopping, then you are choosing like a shopper does.
शिष्य पूजै गुरु आपना, गुरु पूजे सब साध।
So, in being surrendered to the one, you get the essence of everything, but in running around here and there, you get nothing.
Watch the session: Prashant Tripathi on Jesus: Faith does not answer questions, it laughs at them The transcription has been edited for clarity.
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