According to the philosophy of yoga, faith and doubt are both useful. From the beginning of yoga practice to its perfection, our desires inspire us. When our desires are fulfilled, our faith increases. If not, doubts arise. The perfection of yoga fulfills all desires, so it results in full faith in the Absolute Truth.
The Consensus Reality
When thinking about faith and doubt, as is evident from a simple online search, religion is the usual context in which they appear; however, faith and doubt play out everywhere we live, work and interact. Yoga philosophy is holistic, so its perspective on these phenomena looks well beyond religion alone.
Participation in mainstream society is a matter of choice, of desire. If our desires are fulfilled through that participation, we’ll get more faith in it. Otherwise, doubts about whether this is the life we want naturally set in. The social contracts required for participation in mainstream society are in the mode of passion:
rajasi pralayam gatva
When one dies in the mode of passion, he or she takes birth among those engaged in fruitive activities.
In this excerpt from Bhagavad-gita 14.15, making reference to reincarnation, the word karma-sangishu indicates human society. The mode of passion is suspended between worlds. Above passion awaits goodness. Dying in that mode leads to higher realms. Below lies ignorance, and the animal kingdom.
The consensus reality can be transcended, held on to, or dropped out of. Whichever mode we think will make us happy inspires us to have faith in its lifestyle. Those in passion will view those in goodness or ignorance as maniacs. Socrates, in Phaedrus, gave two meanings to the word mania:
- Nosemata — Mania which is a byproduct of human illness
- Exallage — Mania due to divine emancipation from social customs
These two pretty neatly agree with the countercultural forms of ignorance and goodness, respectively.
To have faith in one is to challenge the others with scepticism about their true worth in providing happiness. Social conflicts always hinge on faith and doubt, for they are competing happiness systems.
Bhagavad-gita 14.10, applied socially, says that competition between the modes translates into culture war:
rajas tamas chabhibhuya sattvam bhavati bharata
rajah sattvam tamas chaiva tamah sattvam rajas tatha
Sometimes the mode of goodness becomes prominent, defeating the modes of passion and ignorance, Bharata. Sometimes the mode of passion defeats goodness and ignorance, and at other times ignorance defeats goodness and passion. In this way there is always competition for supremacy.
The consensus reality of passion is only skin deep. In it, faith and doubt are mostly confined to surface-level questions of:
- the flag we fly
- the clothes we wear
- the foods we purchase and eat
- the comments we leave online, and those we make in person
Disgusted with popular virtue signaling, many intelligent sceptics doubt that all this flag-waving and so forth is backed up by any real value. This lack of faith in the mode of passion is a tremendously powerful driver to explore other ways of life. If we aren’t happy here, it’s time to move on. But where to?
“Dropping out” — of school or of society in general — is one option. By rejecting the materialism of our host culture, including the ethnic or social norms we’ve been raised in, we can become alienated. Tribes of the alienated may then form new cliques, movements and communities to reinforce their choices and validate one another’s efforts to break free.
Others may turn within, choosing to live in isolation and seek total self-sufficiency. It’s easy to expand on the alternatives we might stumble upon by simply doubting the passionate mindset and culture we were born into. The responses to doubt are practically unlimited, but this doubt itself is a sign of intelligence:
samsayo ‘tha viparyaso nischayah smritir eva cha
svapa ity uchyate buddher lakshanam vrittitah prithak
Doubt, misapprehension, correct apprehension, memory and sleep, as determined by their different functions, are said to be the distinct characteristics of intelligence.
Through falsifying spurious claims, we can be more open to receive unassailable truth. Yoga philosophy supports the disenfranchised in their rejection of mainstream materialism, and invites them to consider the positive alternative: a life of transcendence.
Just as doubt is useful to weed out ineffective strategies for happiness, faith is our natural response to reinforce the strategies that do work. The happiness found in sense pleasure is a tease. It’s also temporary and coupled with drawbacks, but the happiness of yoga is in our eternal identity as souls.
The soul seeks an eternal and unlimited reservoir of pleasure. The process of yoga is one of relinking with our common source. Through that spiritual connection, we learn to see other living beings as partners rather than potential competitors or even enemies. Even inanimate things take on a divine aspect in relation to the Absolute Truth, or God.
As we begin the practices of yoga, we experience inner joy at increased intervals and intensity. The faith that results from this is not dogmatic, but based on personal experience. Because of this, our faith doesn’t contradict the doubt we held, but is informed by it, and serves the same ultimate purpose of a happy and fulfilling life.
Freedom From Blind Faith and Blind Doubt
When uncritical, neither faith nor doubt bring true happiness because both fall short of self-actualization. We all have inherent intelligence, and ignoring that to satisfy some social contract, mainstream or otherwise, leaves us in denial of our full potential. Yoga connects us, through pure spiritual intelligence, to our true hearts’ desire. This is the inevitable result of doubting that which is unreliable, i.e. material life, and placing our full faith in God.