What is the difference between faith and blind faith? (PK answered 27)
Transcription (edited) by- Bhaktin Raji Nachiappan
Question – Is there a difference between faith and blind faith?
Answer (short) –
- Yes, there is a vast difference. Blind faith is undesirable and reasonable faith is not only desirable but essential.
- Reasonable faith is sensible and verifiable whereas blind faith is not.
- Scriptures like Bhagavad-Gita advocates reasonable faith as clearly evident from its verses like BG 18.63 and BG 9.2.
Answer (long)- Yes definitely. Blind faith is undesirable and faith is not only desirable but essential. Blind faith is not sensible and not verifiable. Reasonable faith or faith, in general, is sensible and verifiable and such faith is not only required in religion but in every walk of life. When we go to a doctor for treatment, at that time we have to put faith. We don’t know in advance whether the doctor’s treatment will cure us or not but we put faith in the doctor, and such faith is not blind faith. If we just went to a person sitting on the street and ask that person for treatment, then that would be blind faith because there is no sense in asking such a person.
How do we make sure that our faith does not become blind faith but it is reasonable or intelligent faith?
As I mentioned, faith should be both sensible and verifiable. Let us understand this again with the help of ‘doctor’ metaphor.
Firstly, when we go to a doctor, we first look at the credentials. Is this an accredited doctor? And when the doctor gives us a diagnosis – for example, I may have stomach pain and the doctor may advise to cut my leg. Now, this doesn’t make sense and therefore we would reject such a doctor. On the other hand, suppose the doctor says there is excess acidity and so I will give you some medicines to cure it. This makes sense and we will accept doctor’s advice. So the first aspect of intelligent faith is sensibility.
The second aspect is verifiability. Suppose, if the doctor says you take this medicine for one week and then your stomach will become alright. We take the medicine for one week and we find that actually our health is recovered. This is verification of what doctor advised and we say that this doctor is good. Putting faith in such a way, is not only desirable but essential. If we refuse to put faith, we may remain sick and can possibly die.
Similarly, in the field of religion, there may be blind faith. We just follow some rituals because everyone is doing it. We never ask questions about why a ritual is done. We never expect any transformation by following the rituals i.e. we never verify the religious process.
How can faith in religion be intelligent, sensible, and verifiable?
When we go to a spiritual teacher (who is like a spiritual doctor), we ask questions- ‘Who am I? What is the purpose of my life? How can I become happy in life?’ For example, the Bhagavad Gita (BG), a book of questions and answers, provides philosophy which answers these questions cogently and coherently. We use our intelligence to make sure that the answers make sense. In fact, BG actually asks for such intelligent deliberation. This is evident when at the end (BG 18.63) Krishna tells Arjuna, vimṛśyaitad aśeṣeṇa yathecchasi tathā kuru, which means deliberate deeply on what I have said and then decide what you want to do. This means that the BG is not calling for blind faith. Lord Krishna never says – ‘I am saying this and therefore you have to do this’. Rather He is saying – ‘use your intelligence to contemplate what is being told and then decide what you are supposed to do’. This is the intelligent and sensible aspect of faith in religion.
What is the verifiable aspect? The BG 9.2 says pratyakṣāvagamaṁ dharmyaṁ su-sukhaṁ kartum avyayam. It says that if we follow the process that is given in the BG then we will actually experience the higher truths (pratyakṣāvagamaṁ dharmyaṁ) as an inner awareness and then we will become joyful (susukham). Most people might equate verifiability to – ‘I pray to God to pass me in the exam and if I pass the exam, then God exists, and if I fail in the exam, then God doesn’t exist’. This is a very naïve and uninformed idea of verifiability, because irrespective of whether I pass or don’t pass, God’s existence does not depend on my passing.
If you want to know whether God exists or not, there has to be another way. Scripture does not promise that every prayer we offer to God will be fulfilled. Rather it teaches us that sometimes prayers will be answered and sometimes not. But the purpose of going to God and the verifiable test for connecting with God is that we will get higher spiritual experience. That experience will enable us to get free from the cravings for lower experiences. For example, many times people are addicted to bad habits like alcoholism, smoking etc. If people become devoted to God, chant the names of God, pray, worship, and serve God, then such practices will give them a higher happiness, higher wisdom, and a higher strength by which they can give up the lower addictions like alcoholism, smoking etc.
Now we may say, I don’t have such lower addictions. But we all have lower propensities like anger, selfishness, and greed. These mar our character. If we become truly devoted to God, not in a ritualistic sense but in a devotional and transformational sense, then by the practice of chanting the holy names and by the practice of bhakti yoga, we will experience higher happiness. By that experience, we will be able to fight-off, vend-off, and resist these lower impulses and contamination of selfishness, greed, and anger and become better human beings. The more we love God, the more we will be able to love other living beings also.
Question may arise, can anyone experience such higher happiness? The answer is yes.
We all know that material science deals with external things, hence it is also known as experimental science. Anybody who does the experiment correctly gets the same result. Similarly, spiritual science deals with internal realities, hence it is also known as experiential science. The internal experience of higher happiness is not subjective to an individual but anybody who follows the process correctly can experience the higher happiness. Such inner experience will manifest in form of our transformed outer lifestyle. We will become more virtuous, more godly, and less dependent on harmful, self-defeating indulgences and addictions. That is how we can understand the verifiable aspect.
When we say that the faith should be reasonable or intelligent, it means that before we repose the faith, it should make sense. Just like before we take the medicine, the doctor’s diagnosis should make sense. The faith should be verifiable in the sense that after we take doctor’s medicine we should become cured. Just like by following the religious process correctly, our virtuous and godly nature starts manifesting more. Religions which focus on simply ‘pay, pray and obey’, which means that you come, give a donation, bow down to God, and obey what we say, such religions often foster blind faith. But the BG does not offer religion of the type ‘pay, pray and obey’. It offers a religion of the type ‘analyse and realize’. It offers a philosophy for us to understand and evaluate intellectually. It also offers a process of inner transformation by which we can realize higher happiness. Therefore, putting faith in a religious system like BG is intelligent faith and not blind faith.