Thursday, May 7, 2009

Faith and "I"

Good Morning.
I will be taking care of all your problems today.
So sit back, relax, and enjoy the rest of your day!
-God

This is what the sign on the wall read at the Salvation Army on the North side of Chicago. Prior to volunteering there, I only knew stereotypes of the homeless and hungry…just what you see on TV. But it didn’t take long for those stereotypes to break down. The people we served meals to were happy, smiling, polite and full of energy. What surprised me most, was their deep sense of spirituality. Not only did I find this in my conversation with folks, but even in their greeting. My standard, “Good morning, how are you?” was often replied with “Blessed” or “In His Grace”, many with bible in hand.

I used to wonder, how could people so hard on their luck, have so much faith? I have seen so many times with family and friends, after they’ve suffered difficult circumstances or loss, God and religion are the first things questioned, i.e. “How could God do this to me?”

I’ve been reflecting quite a bit on “faith” lately, as I’ve noticed a growing pattern of Sikh Youth beginning to doubt their belief in God. In my conversations with some of these youth (many of whom come from wealthy backgrounds), I’ve tried backing off the subject of God altogether, and simply asking - “What do you believe in?” And it’s been pretty consistent. Most of their belief lies in achieving materialistic and financial goals - a high-paying job, big house, nice car, admiration and respect from the community etc. I would listen to this in awe, thinking to myself, that’s it? There is nothing else? Nothing deeper?

I’m not implying that poor people are more inclined to be spiritual or more likely to believe, while the wealthy are incapable of it - of course, all of us can think of examples to prove that theory wrong.

But in simplest terms - in order to believe in God, you must first believe that there is something bigger than yourself.

And therein lies the problem…

I wonder…is their doubt really based on any atheist philosophy or scientific theory, or it is just Haumai (I-am-ness). Is it our Haumai that convinces us that we know everything when we really don’t? Is it our Haumai that inhibits us from connecting with the Shabad? Is it our Haumai that prevents us from believing?
In page 346 of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Bhagat Ravidas Ji says:

malin bhee math maadhhavaa thaeree gath lakhee n jaae
My intellect is polluted; I cannot understand Your state, O Lord.

karahu kirapaa bhram chookee mai sumath dhaehu samajhaae
Take pity on me, dispel my doubts, and teach me true wisdom.

I believe Waheguru is within everyone, believer and non-believer alike. But the force that connects us to that Waheguru within can be strong, weak, or non-existent depending on our Haumai. A friend once compared this to metal filings and a magnet. If you put a stack of papers in between the two and move the magnet, the filings will only move a bit - if at all. But as you remove the layers of paper, the filings will eventually move the direction of the magnet. And as the layers become less, the force between the magnet and filings become so strong…they will eventually be in sync. Similarly, we must remove the layers of Haumai to be connected with Him.

Thoughts…opinions? I’d love to hear.

2 comments:

  1. Good question. I am not sure the answer, but I do believe that faith in God is under attack across the board, esp. in liberal Western-style democracies were religion is seen as a tool of oppression. In addition, the Western concept of God does lend itself to scrutiny-how can a Just God kill innocents via earthquakes, etc.
    Add to the fact that modern science is doing a pretty good job of taking all the mystery (and fun) out of the big questions: where did we come from, what is the nature of the mind, etc. and you've got an equation where more and more people are going to identify as atheists/agnostics. This is being confirmed with several recent polls (see the latest Pew research polls on the subject).
    As a 'practicing' Sikh, my faith has been dealt several blows, mainly from the field of neuroscience which seeks to explain any mystical Gurbani-related experiences as merely chemical transactions in the brain. I'm not a great Gursikh by any means, but if my faith can be shaken (and it has, severely) then I can't imagine what would happen to youth who didn't spend a fair amount of their formative years in love with the Guru.
    All I can do is try to do ardaas to get my faith back, but that's tough- how can I pray for faith when the feeling behind my ardaas is shaken? Of course, now the situation is really dicey- I've got young kids. How do I instill faith in God and Guru, when I've lost it myself. I can't believe I'm the only one in this boat, but it sure feels lonely.

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  2. Thanks for the comment, and sorry for the dely in reply. Trust me, you're surely not the only one in this boat. I think it is completely natural to have "ups and downs" in our faith, especially when we encounter difficult circumstances...and I also don't believe being a parent means we need to have it all "figured out." I wish I had the answer to your question...but I'm positive your method is correct...as you say, "All I can do is try to to do ardaas to get my faith back." Never the underestimate the power of Ardaas. The fact that you are still turning toward the Guru shows a strong element of faith in itself.

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