Developing Firm Faith in Krishna and Bhakti
Having faith in anything comes from the mood or quality of goodness (sattva-guna), which aspiring devotees of Krishna are encouraged to cultivate. Though not spiritual in itself, living and seeing through the guna or quality of goodness, is illuminating and favorable for spiritual cultivation. So part of cultivating Bhakti or the serving and remembering of Krishna in love is being situated in goodness (simplicity, peacefulness, discernment). This will be very helpful, as opposed to being in passion (intense endeavor and material attachment) or ignorance (laziness, sleep, intoxication).
The material world is sometimes referred to as the "Land of Doubt", while the spiritual world, "The Land of Faith". Thus it should be no surprise that the process of returning to the land of divine faith, should be the development of increasingly greater faith or shradda.
Firm faith is described by Lord Chaitanya in the 22 chapter vs 62 of the Chaitanya Charitamrta Madhya lila thus:
"Sraddha is confident, firm faith that by rendering transcendental loving service to Krishna one automatically performs all subsidiary activities. Such faith is favorable to the discharge of devotional service."
Here is Rupa Gosvami's delineation of how faith develops in Krishna consciousness:
"In the beginning one must have a preliminary desire for self-realization. This will bring one to the stage of trying to associate with persons who are spiritually elevated. In the next stage one becomes initiated by an elevated spiritual master, and under his instruction the neophyte devotee begins the process of devotional service. By execution of devotional service under the guidance of the spiritual master, one becomes free from all material attachment, attains steadiness in self-realization, and acquires a taste for hearing about the Absolute Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna. This taste leads one further forward to attachment for Krishna consciousness, which is matured in bhava, or the preliminary stage of transcendental love of God. Real love for God is called prema, the highest perfectional stage of life."
Prabhupada comments on this verse in Bhagavad-gita 4.10. In the prema stage there is constant engagement in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. So, by the slow process of devotional service, under the guidance of the bona fide spiritual master, one can attain the highest stage, being freed from all material attachment, from the fearfulness of one's individual spiritual personality, and from the frustrations that result in void philosophy. Then one can ultimately attain to the abode of the Supreme Lord. (I highly recommend the beginning of the purport as well.)
Having faith in anything comes from the mood or quality of goodness (sattva-guna), which aspiring devotees of Krishna are encouraged to cultivate. Though not spiritual in itself, living and seeing through the guna or quality of goodness, is illuminating and favorable for spiritual cultivation. So part of cultivating Bhakti or the serving and remembering Krishna in love is being situated in goodness (simplicity, peacefulness, discernment). This will be very helpful, as opposed to being in passion (intense endeavor and material attachment) or ignorance (laziness, sleep, intoxication).
The intellectual analysis of the world or the path of Krishna consciousness (or any path) isn't a call to action. We can remain uncommitted through merely reason, and make our home on the fence, seeing both positive and negative aspects, yet feeling irresolute. In my experience, remaining on the fence, doesn't give us any confirmation or conviction--accept that we are undecided. We have to actually enter the field of action, and then see what kind of feedback we receive. This means we have to take a risk to make progress. No risk, no gain. Certainly we can be as educated as possible, yet the nature of any endeavor is uncertainty as to the result.
In order to get off the mental fence we have to have faith. Faith then, although often maligned by by scientists or atheists, is required for taking action. They may use a different name for being committed to a particular endeavor, but it is really faith. According to the Bhagavad-gita 17 chapter, we all are our faith, whether in goodness, passion, or ignorance. Everyone is a combination of these mental states, yet we are encouraged to situate ourself as much as possible in goodness, and purify our other tenancies by using them in Krishna's service.
I have mentioned in some of our resent blog discussions that our coming to take up the path of Krishna consciousness will be easier or more difficult depending on our previous life's spiritual advancement or scarcity of it. This means the person who already has a good stock of faith and standing in Bhakti will have a much easier time than one who doesn't--this is not unfair, but a natural, though unseen progression. The Gita teaches us that spiritual attainment is carried over from lifetime to lifetime. Even though by objective standards there is so much garbage on the Internet in regards to KC, or in the minds of people in general who may misunderstand what it is and argue against it, if one has sufficient faith through experience in Krishna, his holy name, and devotee association, one will not be so affected by any negative presentations or uninformed propaganda. In fact one may be protected from it, until one's faith and conviction has a firm enough manifestation in one's life. Here is a great Gita verse for that: "When your intelligence has passed out of the dense forest of delusion, you shall become indifferent to all that has been heard and all that is to be heard."
Basically for success in any field in including Bhakti, one has to be committed and fixed on its goal, and the process of attaining it. We all have to go beyond superficial appearances to uncover the heart of the matter. Those with no faith never will get beyond what I call a path's "covering". Another way to speak about our ability to do so, is our sense of urgency. What do we really want from life, or through a particular endeavor? Are we a casual "armchair philosopher" or are we willing to "Die to live" (as coined by Hegel), ready to put our life on the line for our spiritual search. Krishna states, in the verse [4.11] after the one quoted from above that he reciprocates with our desire or intensity to know and love him.
This all means that we have to take responsibly for our life, rather than blaming God, life, or fate. Our birth in a particular family and nation, our gender, personality, mental makeup, and opportunities that we are given or are naturally inclined to pursue, are consequences of our previous lives. We life in purposeful universe, and for everything there is a good reason, though it is often hidden. We may not be able to see the reason for some time, or ever, yet at least philosophically it will be helpful for us to know and act by the knowledge that nothing is capricious or accidental. We can ask or pray to Krishna for understanding, yet we have to ask in faith, adding, "if it is for my highest good to understand at this time".
We have to find a way to live with faith, whatever path we embark upon. If it faith in Bhakti we seek, then we have to take the prescriptions of the saints and scriptures of Bhakti, even if we don't have complete faith in them. We have to begin somewhere, and if one thing is not working, we have to be willing to adapt. And if we are not really that serious, do we really accept to be helped? Help is available for the serious seeker, and there are many practitioners who have dedicated their lives to offer others such help, though this takes humility to seek out. There is no meaning to faith in Krishna without faith in his devotees. And faith means action. Action performed with faith, begets a deepening of faith and realization.
Our developed faith is a prerequisite for our taking shelter of Krishna and having firm conviction in devotional service, and surrendering to him through his pure devotee. There are six items which are fully present in a faithful, surrendered devotee, and are the method for us beginners, gradually applied for our spiritual advancement, or ever increasing faith: (1) One should perform only those actions favorable for devotional service to Krishna. (2) One should give up everything unfavorable for discharging devotional service. (3) One should firmly believe that Krishna will protect one in all circumstances and that no one is a better protector than Krishna. This conviction should be distinct from the monistic philosophy that one is as good as Krishna. Rather, one should always think that Krishna, or God, is great and that one is always protected by Him. (4) One should have the conviction that Krishna is one's maintainer, and one should not take shelter of any demigod for maintenance. (5) One should always remember that one's activities and desires are not independent. In other words, the devotee should feel completely dependent on Krishna, and thus he should act and think as Krishna desires. (6) One should always think himself the poorest of the poor and feel totally dependent on the mercy of Krishna.[quoted from Prabhupada's Narada-bhakti-sutra]
Although modern Christianity also stresses faith--it appears to mean from my analysis more like "belief" in its application rather than spiritual faith. It is also true that "faith without works is dead". Therefore, do what you can to increase your faith in Krishna, the holy name, devotional service (bhakti) and devotee association so you can get off the mental fence and take action. Apply to your life the six items of surrender. Though some may not like it, the beginning and continued nurturing of our spiritual life is receiving the blessings of advanced devotees. It may come by their grace, even unknowingly to us, or in reciprocation to our sincere effort to engage in service, and understand what Krishna conscious is. And if you have weak faith (kamala shrudda) then you have to keep sincerely praying for it, or for the desire for the desire to have it. Everything comes from this.