Belief and faith – these two terms are often used interchangeably in our discourse, but they have significant differences, particularly in the context of the spiritual journey. Both of these are not in opposition, rather they coexist, representing different aspects of our spiritual development.
Belief is an intellectual acceptance or a mental agreement to the truth or validity of something. This ‘something’ can be a particular notion, a specific fact, an idea, a principle, a religious doctrine, or any form of accepted knowledge. It’s important to understand that belief is a function of the mind. It’s what our rational mind can comprehend, accept, and hold as true.
The formation of beliefs can be influenced by numerous external factors. For instance, the cultural or social environment we grow up in, the traditions we are exposed to, the religious teachings we receive, and the personal experiences we encounter – all these contribute towards shaping our beliefs.
Beliefs are like the compass of our lives, they provide direction and shape our actions. They serve as the lens through which we perceive and interpret the world around us. However, beliefs are also susceptible to change. As we gather more information, gain new insights, have new experiences, our beliefs may shift, evolve, or even be completely replaced.
However, beliefs, by their very nature, require some form of validation or evidence. Our mind seeks proof, craves certainty, and fears doubt. It wants to make sense of the world, and to do that, it seeks consistency and logic. Beliefs can be challenged, questioned, defended, or proven.
But this very need for proof and evidence also constrains belief. When beliefs become rigid, when they are held unyieldingly, they can lead to division, conflict, and intolerance. Dogmatic belief systems can create a sense of ‘us’ versus ‘them’, fostering a divide between those who share the same beliefs and those who don’t.
Faith, on the other hand, is not based on the intellectual understanding or acceptance of something as true. Rather, faith is an inner state of being, a deep, profound trust that goes beyond our intellectual understanding. It does not operate in the realm of thoughts, ideas, and evidence but transcends them.
Faith is an innate knowing, a sort of intuition that pervades our entire being. It does not ask for proof, it does not require evidence. Faith simply is. It’s like experiencing love. You cannot understand love intellectually, you cannot prove it with evidence. You can only feel it, experience it. Similarly, faith is not something you think, it is something you live.
Unlike belief, faith embraces uncertainty and doubt. It recognizes the limitations of our human intellect in fully comprehending the enigma of life and existence. It accepts that there are mysteries, ambiguities, and paradoxes in life that our mind cannot fully grasp.
This openness allows faith to foster a sense of wonder, awe, and humility before the mysteries of life. It invites us to explore, to question, to seek, and yet to remain content with the realization that some things are beyond our understanding. It is this quality of faith that can bring about inner peace and contentment.
Belief and faith thus play unique roles in our spiritual journey. Belief may be the beginning, the first step towards understanding the world and ourselves. It’s the seed that takes root in the soil of our mind, nourished by our experiences and understanding. But as our spiritual journey progresses, we are led to the edges of our understanding, to the boundary of what our mind can comprehend. And it is here that faith takes over.
Like the lotus flower that begins its life in the muddy bottom of a pond, its seed (belief) takes root and begins to grow towards the light. As it journeys upward through the murky waters (spiritual journey), it finally breaks through the surface to blossom in the light, untouched by the mud and muck from whence it came. It is at this point that belief transforms into faith. This blossoming is akin to the radiant inner trust (faith) that remains unswayed by the outer circumstances.
Belief and faith coexist and complement each other in our spiritual journey. Beliefs guide us through the tangible, physical world with its rules and material realities. But when it comes to navigating the intangible realm of spirit, the ineffable and sublime, faith becomes our beacon. Let your beliefs be your stepping stones, but let faith be your wings, lifting you towards the realms of the Divine.