What is required to know the śastra? Faith or śraddha? Are they the same?
No. Faith and Śraddha are different as lemon tea and milk tea. Both are teas but their essential ingredient is different. Similarly Faith and Śraddha both have a difference which is very significant in knowing the śastram.
Faith in English dictionary – “Christian Theology. the trust in God and in His promises as made through Christ and the Scriptures by which humans are justified or saved.” “belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion.” “a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.” “belief that is not based on proof.” “confidence or trust in a person or thing.”
For the study of the śastram, śastra itself gives the qualifications of the aspiring student. The one who is endowed with the sādhana chatustayam-the group of 4 qualities will gain śastra vidya.
1. Viveka – a discerning capacity to think rationally.
2. Vairagya – Dispassion towards all engagements which bring an ephemeral pleasure.
3. Shama-Dama-Ādi Shataka sampatti. The wealth of the subset of six qualities, sense control, mind control, endurance, an ability to withdraw the mind wilfully from its preoccupied state, equanimity and ŚRADDHA.
4. Mumukshatvam – yearning for, a longing for absolute freedom.
There is an oft quote from the Bhagavad Gītā (Ch4, Vs39), “श्रद्धावान् लभते ज्ञानम् ।” “The one who has śraddha gains the knowledge.” श्रद्धावान् śraddhavān – the one who has śraddha; लभते labhate- gains; ज्ञानम् jñanam- knowledge.
Śraddha in Sanskrit-Hindi dictionary – “आस्था, निष्ठा, विश्वास, भरोसा ।” “देवी सन्देशों में विश्वास, धार्मिक निष्ठा ।” “आदर, समान ।” “शान्ति, मन की स्वस्थता ।”
What is that ‘little’ difference between faith and śraddha? By the dictionary meanings they seem alike.
Faith expects you to accept without understanding or questioning. Because it is the truth. Believe in it. Śraddha expects you to understand first and for which question when necessary, but with faith, that the answer must be right, only you cannot see it so. Having that trust in the śastra and the śastra ācharya (teacher), who will painstakingly keep explaining, answering every doubt, till they are removed.
Bhagavad Gītā, in the 4th chapter,verse 34, gives the characteristic of such a śraddhavān student.
तद्विद्धि प्रणिपातेन परिप्रश्नेन सेवया । उपदेक्ष्यन्ति ते ज्ञानं ज्ञानिनस्तत्त्वदर्शिनः ॥३४॥
Tadviddhi pranipaatena pariprashnena sevayaa;
Upadekshyanti te jnaanam jnaaninas tattwadarshinah.34.
“Know that by long prostration, by question and by service, the wise who have realised the Truth will instruct thee in (that) knowledge.”
Know the method of gaining the knowledge. Having approached an ācharya, offering your namaskāra (salutation), through questioning and service to the ācharya, the knower of the truth, will instruct you, for your knowledge.
Namaskāra determines your śraddha. A willingness to be taught. And to learn; what you don’t understand, address it as a question to the teacher. Who will then explain with the help of tarka-logic, and anubhava -your valid experiences, till your doubts have vanished and you also begin to see what the śastram says. It is an engaging method of learning. A conversation with an objective on both ends. The ācharya wants to convey the śastra and the shishya wants to learn the śastra. As the student continues to dispel his ignorance, this shishya, as an expression of gratitude offers service in place of the generosity in efforts put by the teacher while explaining. Once learnt, the shishya now has a choice to be an ācharya or not. This is a live tradition and very different from ‘sermons’.
Thus, śraddha encapsulates faith. And expands beyond it. Śraddhavān alone gains the śastra vidya. Śraddha is required to know the śastra and to prevent it from becoming dogmatic.
Religions are faith based. And faith can become blind. Such religions defeat the very purpose of a religious life! Yes. Religions are meant that people can live a religious life.
But while religions preach, śastra teaches. And that is no small a difference! And that is also true for faith and śraddha.