Faith and Śraddha

Faith and Śraddha

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.


Deepti Vishwanath

Śāstram is an educational text book. Don’t term it religious.

img_0553The worst occurrence in the abolishing of a cultural identity is to disconnect the present generations from their ancestoral roots, and the easiest way is to change the language. The way the ancestors spoke should no longer be understood to the new generation! How important it is to recognise that language controls the generation! It modifies with time, but to make the child in a family begin to think in an acquired language which his parents or grandparents did not know of! This is sure staple for a gap in thought.

All Vedic śāstram is in Sanskrit language. Actually, there is a Sanskrit specifically devoted to the Vedās, it is referred to as the Vedic Sanskrit or also termed the classical Sanskrit. Almost all the spoken languages in India, and neighbouring countries are rooted in it. (Some say, even far of foreign languages also, like German, but I am not qualified to comment on that). This classical Vedic Sanskrit graduated to the modern spoken Sanskrit whose grammar rule were codified by the great Pānini. Most of the now available śastrās are written in this and thus are still capable of being understood!

But, in the history of India, we find there have been centuries of infiltrations, and in their attempts to know the culture, have eroded it gradually. And in the very recent times, what has completely usurped us from our roots in thought, is the fact that I am writing in it and not in my mother tongue or Sanskrit. Infact I am made to believe it is my primary language. I have an aunt who does not know it! How can this then, be my primary language?  That besides, when our principal texts, our śastrās got translated, here is where the seed for a ‘confused generation hereforth’, in terms of knowing their śāstrās, got sown. Many a word in the Sanskrit language have no parallel word in English, how can they then be translated??

This where Bhagavad Gītā, got or was, falsely or deliberately, covered in a religious robe! Every word in language is nothing but a representation of an idea in thought. Take the example of the word Dharma. Vedās talk of Dharmas. Dharma is a whole concept which has a certain flexibility to its meaning. It adapts its meaning to the context in which it is used! The context automatically gives away the meaning to the one who knows the language completely. But imagine 350 years ago, some Englishman, who saw on the banks of river Gangā, some people performing their early morning sun worship! He is alien to such an action! Worshipping the Sun! And in his attempts to know genuinely, he believes they are praying. And praying is religious to him. And when he asks the person, what are you doing?” That person must have answered “I am only doing my Dharma.” Our Englishman got confirmed that Dharma means religion! And thereafter, till today, in all the translations, whereever word Dharma comes, it is translated as religion! It has got so accepted, that we have forgotten what Dharma means! We can’t pray to the Sun now without being religious! Utter confusion!! How would the dear English soul know, Dharma is a Karma. And Karma is not action. Even praying is a Karma. 🙏  Namaste! …… is also a greeting, not a prayer.

Deepti Vishwanath

Bhagavad Gītā is a śāstram. Not a religious doctrine.

Bhagavad Gītā is a śāstram. Not a religious doctrine.

Bhagavad Gītā is a śāstram. Śāstram is defined as, “instruction, advice, good counsel; rule, theory; compendium, institutes (of any branch of learning), code, scientific or canonical work, scripture; learning (rare):” -Macdonell Sanskrit dict.

Vedās are śāstrās. They talk of four human goals. Called purushārthas पुरुषार्थ । All humanity will have one of them as a predominant goal of life. It may change order within a life, but at any stage, one of them will be more dominant. These are-

1. Artha अर्थ – The objective world, characterised by acquisition of money or means which contribute to the sense of security.

2. Kāma काम – Fulfillment of pleasures, desires.

The above two are by default and everyone has them.

3. Dharma धर्म – Earning merit, पुण्यम् । This can be utilised in two ways. One, as earning the invisible merit which can later be utilised for one’s Artha and kāma. As one does with bank deposits. Save now, for a later use! Two, it can also be used as, earning a conducive, struggle free environment so that one can pursue the 4th goal, purushārtha.

4. Moksha मोक्ष – Absolute freedom from embodiment and allied notions!

3rd and 4th goals one has to choose and deliberate them. They are not a default mode! The urge for them is there, but they have to be activated!

However, all the 4 goals are equally recognised as valid for man. For each and every one of the goals we have the respective śastra, the instructions on how to pursue them in such a way that we are successful in the pursuit.

For Artha we have Artha śāstra. The famous Chānakya Neeti is well known as a part of Artha śāstra, which Chānakya had authored to revive it. For Kāma we have kāma śāstra, the famous kāma sutrās are indeed kāma śastra; for Dharma, the dharma śāstra. Manu Dharma smriti being most known, but there are a few others a sense well. And for Moksha the Moksha śāstra. Upanishads are the principal texts for moksha, dealing only with this purushartha.

Bhagavad Gītā is a Moksha śāstra. Instructing man how to rise above his sense of limitations and everyday struggles and know the source of his being, which alone can give him eternal peace! And to be qualified for such a fragile innermost journey, the Gītā also serves as an guide.

Let me ask you, think of someone who is an ‘angel’ 😇? What comes to you? A person. Why that person, above all the others whom you know? Certainly it is the qualities the person inhabits which make him stand above the average. Who is an angel is referred to the cognition of certain qualities, which are humanly possible; just that, most of us, common folks, think it to be beyond us to put in “that sort of an effort”, or we deem them an unnecessary aspect to the running of our life or whatever else be the reason. But, that it is possible, we all know. Moreover, we may not be very clearl what those qualities are till we see them distinctly in someone! All we know is, angel must be above our level for sure. The weakness I have, an angel would not have them!

Now, think of a ‘devil’? The same comes to you, the qualities first, that a person exhibits. Along with also comes an underlying expectation, that person should have put in some effort to ‘not be so devilish’. And that, they can change, if and only if they want too!

Look at the verses below from chapter 16 of Bhagavad Gītā.

अभयं सत्वसंशुद्धिर्ज्ञानयोगव्यवस्थितिः । दानं दमश्च यज्ञश्च स्वाध्यायस्तप आर्जवम् ।।१।।

1. Fearlessness, purity of heart, steadfastness in Yoga and knowledge, alms-giving, control of the senses, sacrifice, study of scriptures, austerity and straightforwardness,

अहिंसा सत्यमक्रोधस्त्यागः शान्तिरपैशुनम् । दया भूतेष्वलोलुप्त्वं मार्दवं ह्रीरचापलम् ।।२।।

2. Harmlessness, truth, absence of anger, renunciation, peacefulness, absence of crookedness, compassion towards beings, uncovetousness, gentleness, modesty, absence of fickleness,

तेजः क्षमा धृतिः शौचमद्रोहो नातिमानिता । भवन्ति सम्पदं दैवीमभिजातस्य भारत ।।३।।

3. Vigour, forgiveness, fortitude, purity, absence of hatred, absence of pride—these belong to one born in a divine state, O Bhārata (Arjuna)!

These are the दैवी सम्पत्त – wealth or accumulation of characteristics; and one who has them is called divine, angel in our definition! While angel is stil a gender, ‘daivi’ is not gender based! Any human being can aspire to be rich with them. Irrespective of caste, colour, creed, gender or religion!

दम्भो दर्पोऽतिमानश्च क्रोधः पारुष्यमेव च । अज्ञानं चाभिजातस्य पार्थ सम्पदमासुरीम् ।।४।।

4. Hypocrisy, arrogance, self-conceit, harshness and also anger and ignorance, belong to one who is born in a demoniacal state, O Pārtha (Arjuna)!

These are the अासुरी सम्पत्त accumulation of the characteristics of the demonic, one we call a devil!

Is this ennumeration of human qualities, a religious mandate? They are called daivi or āsuri only as reference to two opposite spectrums that a human being is capable of gravitating towards.

They give a demarcation, a definition of what are the qualties which can be lived and which to be avoided or falling into. These are clearly, only aspects of self-development.

If someone asks, “why should I put in that effort, when the whole world is busy developing the devil in them?” The answer is the next verse.

दैवी सम्पद्विमोक्षाय निबन्धायासुरी मता । मा शुचः सम्पदं दैवीमभिजातोऽसि पाण्डव ।।५।।

5. The divine nature is deemed for liberation and the demoniacal for bondage. Grieve not, O Arjuna, for thou art born with divine properties!

So, why should anyone want to put in the work of developing the daivi sampat and avoiding the āsuri Sampat is dependent upon, if you want peace in life or strife! The divine nature is deemed fit for mental peace and the demoniacal for strife!

The message here is, even though it takes greater courage and effort to amass the ‘developed qualities’; in the long term, they have greater benefits and returns. In the immediate gain is the peace of mind and culmination is, it help one in knowing his own true and essential nature. This is the highest benefit.

Whereas, though it is easy to fall for instant ‘reactive-ness’, it results in greater stress and strife later on! Called bondage. Bondage to people, circumstances, and an alarmingly high proportion of dependence on external factors for one’s happiness. A cyclical struggle in life. A frustrated, unhappy, dejected and even violent expression to life, which is counter to one’s happiness.

Arjuna had succumbed to self doubt on the battlefield after the war cry was made. It was time for his skills to be in action. But instead, self doubt had paralysed him, making him incapable, even to lift his bow. Kṛṣṇa, here as a friend assures Arjuna, that he is equipped with all the capabilities to fight injustice, and he should shrug out this mental depression he had slipped into born of his attachments.

Is this religious ?

How and when in time did the śastrās take a religious outlook? Another post, some other time. 🙏

Deepti Vishwanath

Bhagavad Gītā-A Life encyclopaedia.

Gīta is like an encyclopaedia and no encyclopaedia is religious. Encyclopaedia consists of a concise of various informations regarding several topics. Bhagavad Gīta is exactly that. The several topics in it pertain to everything to do with a human life and his journey in creation. To call it religious, is to call a dog mad and kill it.

Bhagavad Gītā is well known to be a part of Bhīṣma Parva (Parva means section) in Mahābhārata. Mahābhārata is an ingenious story, and the characters, the protagonists, the antagonists, the side characters, all of them depict what a human journey goes through. But the genius lies in tracing and highlighting the events to
the inner mind of man. How his choices taken, unfolds the events in his life! The depth of the unfoldment is such that it takes an individual to know the source of his own being.

In the 17th chapter of Bhagavad Gītā, the three types preferences of food by three different kinds of people is mentioned. By knowing this, you know what sort of temperament you exhibit. It is a great tool of self-assessment!

आयुःसत्त्वबलारोग्यसुखप्रीतिविवर्धनाः ।
रस्याः स्निग्धाः स्थिरा हृद्या आहाराः सात्त्विकप्रियाः ।।८।।

Foods which increase life, purity, strength, health, joy and cheerfulness, which are oleaginous and savoury, substantial and agreeable, are dear to the Sattwic people.

कट्वम्ललवणात्युष्णतीक्ष्णरूक्षविदाहिनः ।
आहारा राजसस्येष्टा दुखशोकामयप्रदाः ।।९।।

The foods that are bitter, sour, saline, excessively hot, dry, pungent and burning, are liked by the Rajasic and are productive of pain, grief and disease.

यातयामं गतरसं पूति पर्युषितं च यत् ।
उच्छिष्टमपि चामेध्यं भोजनं तामसप्रियम् ।।१०।।

That which is stale, tasteless, putrid, rotten and impure refuse, is the food liked by the Tamasic.

(Translation from Bhagavad Gītā by Swami Sivānanda).

Is this classification of preference of food in anyway making a religious statement??

Every verse of the Gītā is useful to humankind to find his peace, even more so when he gets overwhelmed by how his life has unfolded and he gets clueless in many a moments during his life.

Gītā is a śastra vidya. Regarding this, in another post.