4. Niyama - Faith | Āstikya
Summary of the Fourth Observance
Cultivate an unshakable faith.
Believe firmly in God, Devas, Guru and your path to enlightenment.
Trust in the words of the masters, the scriptures and traditions.
Practice devotion and sādhana to inspire experiences that build advanced faith.
Be loyal to your lineage, one with your satguru.
Shun those who try to break your faith by argument and accusation.
Avoid doubt and despair.
The Fourth Observance
Āstikya / आस्तिक्य
Faith, āstikya, is the fourth niyama.
Faith is a substance, a collection of molecules, mind molecules, emotion molecules—and some are even physical—collected together, charged with the energies of the divine and the anxieties of the undivine, made into an astral form of shape, colour and sound.
Being a creation built up over time, faith can just as readily be destroyed, as the following phrases indicate: crisis of faith, loss of faith, dark night of the soul, and just plain confused disappointment leading to depression.
Because of faith, groups of people are drawn together, cling together, remain together, intermarry and give birth, raising their children together in the substance of faith that their collective group is subconsciously committed to uphold.
Anyone can strengthen another’s faith through encouragement, personal example, good natured humouring, praise, flattery, adulation, or take it away by the opposite methods.
Many people with more faith than intellect are pawns in the hands of those who hold great faith, or of those who have little faith, or of those who have no faith at all. Therefore, we can see that a clear intellectual understanding of the philosophy is the bedrock to sustaining faith.
Faith is on many levels and of many facets. We have faith in a person, a family, a system of government, science, astronomy, astrology.
Faith in philosophy, religion, is the most tenuous and delicate kind and, we must say, the most rewarding of all faiths, because once it is sustained in unbroken continuity, the pure soul of the individual begins to shine forth.
Faith has eyes. It has three eyes.
The seer who is looking at the world from the perspective of monistic Śaiva Siddhāṅta and sees clearly the final conclusions for all mankind has faith in his perception, because what he sees and has seen becomes stronger in his mind as the years go by.
We have the faith of those who have two eyes upraised. They look at the seer as Dakṣiṇāmūrti, God Himself, and gain strength from His every word.
There is also the faith of those who have two eyes lowered. They are reading the scriptures, the teachings of all the seers, and building the aura of faith within their inner psyche.
Then there are those who have faith with their eyes closed, blind faith. They know not, read not and are not thinking, but are entranced by the spiritual leader in whom they have faith as a personality:
They are nodding their head up and down on his every word and when questioned are not able to adequately explain even one or two of his profound thoughts.
And then we have the others, who make up much of the world population today. They are also with eyes closed, but with heads down, shaking left and right, left and right:
They see mostly the darker side of life:
They are those who have no faith at all or suffer a semi-permanent loss of faith, who are disappointed in people, governments, systems, philosophies, religions.
Their leaders they condemn. This is a sorry lot. Their home is the halls of depression, discouragement and confusion. Their upliftment is jealousy and anger.
Faith Is on Many Levels
Faith extends to another level, too, of pleasure for the sake of pleasure. Here we have the jet-set, the hedonists, the sensualists, the pornographers and their customers.
All these groups have developed their own individual mind-set and mix and interrelate among themselves, as the astral molecules of this amorphous substance of thought, emotion and belief that we call faith creates their attitudes toward the world, other people and their possessions.
The Hindu, therefore, is admonished by the Sapta Ṛishis themselves to believe firmly in God, Devas, guru and the path to enlightenment, lest he stray from the path of dharma—for faith is a powerful force:
It can be given; it can be taken away. It is a national force, a community force, a group force, a family force.
And it is more than that, as far as the Sanātana Dharma is concerned, which can be translated as the “eternal faith,” the most strengthening and illuminating of all,
for it gives courage to all to apply these twenty yamas and niyamas, which represent the final conclusions of the deepest deliverers of eternal wisdom who ever resided on this planet.
Some people have faith only when things are going right and lose faith when things go wrong:
These are the ones who are looking up at their leaders, whom they really do not know, who are looking up at the scriptures, which they really do not understand:
Because their eyes are closed, they are seeking to be sustained and constantly uplifted by others. “Do my sādhana for me” is their plea.
And when some inconsistency arises or some expectation, unbeknownst to their leader and maybe never even recorded in the scriptures, does not manifest, a crisis of faith occurs.
Then, more than often, they are off to another leader, another philosophy, to inevitably repeat the same experience.
Devotees of this kind, who are called “groupies” in rock and roll, go from group to group, teacher to teacher, philosophy to philosophy. Fortunately for them, the rent is not expensive, the bhajans are long and the food is good.
The only embarrassing situation, which has to be manipulated, is the tactic of leaving one group without totally closing the door, and manipulatively opening the door of another group.
When that uplifted face with eyes closed has the spiritual experience of the eyes opening, the third eye flashing, he or she would have then found at last his or her sampradāya, unshakable path. The molecules of faith have been converted and secured.
They shall never turn back, because they have seen through the third eye the beginning and ending of the path, the traditional lineage ordained to carry them forth generation after generation.
These souls become the articulate ones, masters of the philosophy.
Their faith is so strong, they can share their molecules with others and mould others’ faith molecules into traditional standards of the whys and wherefores that we all need on this planet, of how we should believe and think, where we go when we die, and all the eternal truths of the ultimate attainments of mankind.
Stages of Evolution
Faith is the intellect of the soul at its various stages of unfoldment.
The soul comes forth from Lord Śiva as an embryo and progresses through three stages (avasthā) of existence: kevala avasthā, sakala avasthā and śuddha avasthā.
During kevala avasthā, the soul is likened to a seed hidden in the ground or a spark of the Divine hidden in a cloud of unknowing called āṇava, the primal fetter of individuality, the first aspect of Lord Śiva’s concealing grace, tirodhāna śakti.
Sakala avasthā, the next stage in the soul’s journey, is the period of bodily existence, the cyclic evolution through transmigration from body to body, under the additional powers of māyā and karma, the second and third aspects of the Lord’s concealing grace.
The journey through sakala avasthā is also in three stages:
The first is called irul pāda, “stage of darkness,” where the soul’s impetus is toward pāśa-jñānam, knowledge and experience of the world.
The next period is marul pāda, “stage of confusion,” where the soul begins to take account of its situation and finds itself caught between the world and God, not knowing which way to turn. This is called paśu-jñānam, the soul seeking to know its true nature.
The last period is arul pāda, “stage of grace,” when the soul yearns for the grace of God. Now it has begun its true religious evolution with the constant aid of the Lord.
For the soul in darkness, irul, faith is primitive, illogical:
In its childlike endeavours it clings to this faith. There is no intellect present in this young soul, only primitive faith and instinctive mind and body.
But it is this faith in the unseen, the unknown, the words of the elders and its ability to adjust to community without ruffing everyone’s feathers that matures the soul to the next pāda—marul, wherein faith becomes faith in oneself, close friends and associates, faith in one’s intellectual remembrance of the opinions of others, even if they are wrong.
It is not very quickly that the soul gets out of this syndrome, because it is here that the karmas are made that bind the soul, surround the soul, the karmas of ignorance which must be gone through for the wisdom to emerge. Someone who is wise got that way by facing up to all the increments of ignorance.
The marul pāda is very binding and tenacious, tenaciously binding. But as the external shell of āṇava is being built, the soul exercises itself in its own endeavour to break through. Its “still small voice” falls on deaf ears.
Yoga brings the soul into its next experiential pattern:
The soul comes to find that if he performs good and virtuous deeds, life always seems to take a positive turn. Whereas in negative, unvirtuous acts he slowly becomes lost in a fore- boding abyss of confusion. Thus, in faith, he turns toward the good and holy. A balance emerges in his life, called iruvinaiyoppu.
Whether he is conscious of it or not, he is bringing the three malas— āṇava, karma and māyā—under control:
Māyā is less and less an enchanting temptress. Karma no longer controls his state of mind, tormenting him through battering experiences. And āṇava, his self-centred nature, is easing its hold, allowing him to feel a more universal compassion in life. This grows into a state called mala-paripāka, the ripening of the malas.
This will allow, at the right moment in his life, arul to set in. This is known as the descent of grace, śakti nipāta. The internal descent is recognized as a tremendous yearning for Śiva. More and more, he wants to devote himself to all that is spiritual and holy.
The outer descent of grace is the appearance of a satguru. There is no question as to who he is, for he sheds the same clear, spiritual vibration as that unknown something the soul feels emanating from his deepest self.
It is when the soul has reached mala-paripāka that the Lord’s tirodhāna function, His concealing grace, has accomplished its work and gives way to anugraha, revealing grace, and the descent of grace, śakti nipāta, occurs.
At this stage, knowledge comes unbidden:
Insights into human affairs are mere readings of past experiences, for those experiences that are being explained to others were actually lived through by the person himself.
Faith in Tradition
The intellect in its capacity to contain truth is a very limited tool, while faith is a very broad, accommodating and embracing faculty. The mystery of life and beyond life, of Śiva, is really better understood through faith than through intellectual reasoning.
The intellect is a memory/reason conglomerate from the lower Nādi/chakra complex. Its refined ability to juggle information around is uncanny in some instances.
Nevertheless, the intellect is built upon what we hear and remember, what we experience and remember, what we explain to others who are refined or gross in reasoning faculties.
What we remember of it all and the portions that have been forgotten may be greatly beneficial to those listening, or it may be confusing, but it is certainly not truth with a capital “T.”
There are two kinds of faith:
The first kind is faith in those masters, adepts, yogis and Ṛishis who have had similar experiences and have spoken about them in similar ways, unedited by the ignorant.
We, therefore, can have faith that some truth was revealed from within themselves, from some deep, inner or higher source.
The second aspect of faith is in one’s own spiritual, unsought-for, unbidden flashes of intuition, revelations or visions,
which one remembers even stronger as the months go by, more vividly than something read from a book, seen on television or heard from a friend or a philosopher.
These personal revelations create a new, superconscious intellect when verified by what yogis and Ṛishis and the sādhus have seen and heard and whose explanations centuries have preserved.
These are the old souls of the śuddha avasthā, being educated from within out, building a new intellect from superconscious insights.
Their faith is unshakable, undaunted, for it is themself. It is just who they are at this stage of the evolution, the maturation, of their soul in the śuddha avasthā.
One of the aspects of faith is the acceptance of tradition rather than the questioning or doubting of traditions.
Another is trust in the process of spiritual unfoldment, so that when one is going through an experience, one always believes that the process is happening, instead of thinking that today’s negative experience is outside the process.
However, it is not possible for souls in the irul pāda, stage of darkness, to trust in the process of anything except their need for food, a few bodily comforts and their gaining the abilities to adjust transparently into a community without committing too many crimes for which they would be severely punished. They gain their lessons through the action-and-painful-reaction ways.
It is difficult and nearly impossible for those in the marul pāda, stage of confusion, to have faith in the process of spiritual unfoldment and trust in tradition,
because they are developing their personal ego, manufacturing karmas, good, bad and mixed, to sustain their physical existence for hundreds of lives:
They will listen to sermons with a deaf ear and, after they are over, enjoy the food and the idle chatter the most. They will read books on philosophy and rationalize their teachings as relevant only to the past. The great knowledge of the past tradition, even the wisdom their grandparents might hold, is an encroachment on their proud sovereignty.
It is only when the soul reaches the maturity to enter the arul pāda, the stage of grace, that the ability will come from within to lean on the past and on tradition,
perform the present sādhanas, live within dharma and carve a future for themselves and others by bringing the best of the past, which is tradition, forward into the future:
This transition is a happy one. Truth now has a capital “T” and is always told. The restraints, the yamas, truly have been perfected and are a vital part of the DNA system of individual living beings. Now, as he enters the arul pāda, the niyamas, spiritual practices, stand out strongly in his mind.
The Sanskrit word āstikya means “that which is,” or “that which exists.” Thus, for Hindus faith means believing in what is. Āstikya refers to one who believes in what is, one who is pious and faithful.
Faith is the spiritual- intellectual mind, developed through many superconscious insights blended together through cognition, not through reason. The insights do not have to be remembered, because they are firmly impressed as saṁskāras within the inner mind.
There is an old saying favoured by practical, experiential intellectuals, “Seeing is believing.” A more profound adage is “believing is seeing.”
The scientists and the educators of today live in the marul pāda. They see with their two eyes and pass judgments based on what they currently believe.
The Ṛishis of the past and the Ṛishis of the now and those yet to come in the future also are seers.
There is a thin thread through the history of China, Japan, India, England and all of Europe, Africa, the Americas, Polynesia and all the countries of the world connecting seers and what they have seen.
This seeing is not with the two eyes. It is with the third eye, the eye of the soul. One cannot erase through argument or coercion that which has been seen.
The seer relates his seeing to the soul of the one who hears. This is sampradāya. This is guru-śiṣya transference. This is truth. This is śuddha. This is the end of this Upadeśa.