The Logic of Faith (Shraddha)
For many of us, faith can be a loaded word. If we come from a religious background that has been forced upon us against our will and intuition, it is highly likely that we will have inwardly revolted against notions such as faith. However this is not the kind of faith I will be discussing here. If faith means holding a belief or conviction based solely on the ideas of others without any experience or empirical evidence to justify such beliefs, it is called "blind faith" and is actually in opposition to true faith (Shraddha).
True faith is not belief. It is not what we think or have been told, but it is something that is drawn from direct experience and provides us the information to help us continue toward a particular goal. If, for example, I practice meditation daily and I am feeling more connected to the world around me, then I will have faith that the practice of meditation is moving me in the direction I wish to go. If I then compare that experience to the experience written in spiritual texts, or the experience of others, my faith will be further strengthened. The beauty of the practice of yoga is that it never requires us to believe anything on hearsay alone. In fact, it demands that we reconsider all given knowledge using our own bodies and minds as laboratories to test out beliefs to see if they stand up in the face of direct experience. The path of yoga is therefore the most revolutionary path one can take, because it requires one to question everything and deconstruct all social and familial conditioning until we can begin to see clearly beyond our histories and thus come closer to truth.
For example, in the media, economics and the state of our economic success is always prioritised as the most important aspect and signal of societal health. If we were to allow the media to penetrate our consciousness without discrimination and without questioning its motivation, then we would end up believing that economic growth is the most vital aspect of our well-being. After questioning and putting such a narrative to the test however, we would quickly see that material gain is not reflective (after a certain level of need has been met) of our health and well-being. Once this information has been obtained, we can conclude that faith in what the media espouses makes no logical sense.
Though we all possess the intellectual capabilities to realise truth amidst such illusion, in many of us these capabilities lay dormant. Yoga is the science that can reawaken our intelligence, and because it's methodology works, the more we practice it the more faith we have in it. The more our experience tallies with the Scriptures, the more faith we have in the Scriptures and the ultimate goals they outline. Thus, at one level shraddha conveys mental and intellectual prowess, and at the higher levels it is the experience of Samadhi (absorption/bliss) that provides the information to push us onward in our practice.
Our faith grows the more love we feel, and by love I mean a sense of connectedness to all beings, the planet, the universe, and so the remembrance of source. It is these moments when separation temporarily dissolves upon which our faith is built, and there is a direct correlation between the amount of practice we do and the more connectedness we experience. However, when the memory faculty (smriti) is weak, we can quickly give in to moments of inertia and forget this correlation. When this happens, a state of suffering and mental torment will eventually arise to get us back into practice. We could call this 'fierce grace', and the observation of this process and the recognition of its cyclical nature can also strengthen our faith.
At some point when our strength (virya) and memory (smriti) evolve to a higher level, they will not allow us to return to old negative patterns (the negative samskaras), and instead keeps us focused towards love and away from division. This requires a high level of consistency in practice, but the scriptures tell us if we carry on with focus and dedication that we will discover separateness is an illusion and we are all that exists; we will completely shed the need to be acknowledged as an individual ego or vindicated in our righteousness and so reach a state of perfect wisdom (prajna) and peace. Personally, the more I practice the more faith I have that one day, we will all reach this state.