Beliefs Masquerading as Truth
Truth is that which can stand on its own. It needs no support. There is no amount of evidence or reasoning that can either prove or disprove Truth. We often call this type of knowing faith.
But there is quite a bit of confusion about faith. Faith comes from the heart. It cannot be found in the mind. This misunderstanding has pushed many into increasingly blind, extreme, and unhealthy viewpoints. By taking a thought and clinging to it against all evidence and reason, it traps us in the prison of our own limited perspective.
It cuts off all possibility for healthy discussion. It has made many feel that their religion is the only one, and has blindly led millions to challenge the findings of science. This has made many agnostics and atheists skeptical of the role of faith in today’s world.
Faith is not a belief that we hold to tightly. When our beliefs are misplaced as faith, we feel the need to squeeze them, as if we are trying to compress a fleeting sand into a solid rock. This squeezing may create the illusion of solidity, but it requires effort to continue the charade. The second we stop holding, it crumbles.
Faith requires none of that. It takes no energy or holding. Truth just is. It is found through the continual letting go of clinging in the mind. Truth is always present, but we can see it more clearly when our mind is open and free from clinging.
Truth is who we are. Faith is the inner knowing that comes from relaxing into the Truth of our Being.
To varying degrees, those of us on the path have faith. But we also have a whole stew of beliefs that have cleverly attached themselves to that faith. These beliefs stem from our own attachments, aversions, fears, insecurities, etc. So, though its important to acknowledge our faith, its also important to recognize our infallibility. Though we have contact with the Truth, we don’t understand fully what it means or how it relates to our life. And we don’t always see it clearly.
When I returned from India the second time with my current partner, Jamie, life seemed very difficult. I had left my “spiritual” life on Maui where I lived with my teacher, Ram Dass, and now I was in a “worldly” relationship with my girlfriend and living in L.A.!
It seemed to me I was running from my spiritual path and turning away from the deep faith I knew to be true. I was confused and screaming on the inside. I had totally lost my center, and I was certain of what I had to do to get it back. I was so sure of it that I almost left everything behind to run to Taos, NM to live at the Neem Karoli Baba Ashram. I had contacted the ashram manager, bought a bus ticket and packed my bags.
On the day of my departure, Jamie was about to drive me to the bus station. Before we pulled away, she said to me, “I feel like this is a cop-out. I just feel like you are running away because life is hard right now.” There are many other words she said that I don’t remember. But from the moment she began speaking, I felt my heart begin to crack.
Before she could even finish her words, I completely broke down and began sobbing. It was a full-body cry, exploding from the heart as wailed tears. I hadn’t cried that hard in years. I didn’t even know I was capable of it.
I realized that she was right. My fear of commitment, my fear of having to find a job and pay bills… it was all getting the best of me. I hadn’t worked a real job or had to worry about paying rent in years. I had never really been in a long-term relationship. I was scared. I just wanted to run away from all of it. This fear had masked itself in the cloak of “spirituality” by making the Taos Temple my escape.
I had misplaced my beliefs and understanding about my faith as the faith itself. And I clung to it tightly to stave off my gnawing fear.
When our life seems to crumble, when it seems that God is no longer with us, when it seems that we have lost our center, there is a great opportunity in those moments to enter into a deeper and more profound faith.
I have faith in Love. Love is who we are, it is the Ultimate Truth, and the fabric of everything. I have faith in our Eternal Nature, in the Guru and the path. I have faith that no matter what life presents to me, I am always safe. I am safe in Eternity. I am held in the arms of Love. I am eternally resting in the palm of the Guru’s uplifting hand.
But I don’t know what any of that means. I may think I do, and I may even be right, but the ideas I hold in my mind are beliefs that are either correctly or incorrectly aligned with ineffable Truth. And beliefs need to be open to inspection if they are to evolve and stay relevant. If they are to point us beyond the intellect and beyond belief, they need to be used lightly and not squeezed into substitutions for Truth.
I may be safe, but I could die tomorrow. Love is who I am, but I will continue to create karma for myself and suffering for others. The Guru may be with us, but this doesn’t mean that we won’t destroy the planet or that we are safe from another holocaust. It will be a long and tiresome fight if we are to progress as a species.
Though I know that compassion is the only answer and though I have access to Truth, it is filtered through my own limited experience and clouded by my attachments. I could be wrong about everything in my life, in politics, and in the world.
When I see myself holding onto a spiritual idea, this is the time for reflection. Why am I holding on? What am I afraid would happen if I let go? What deeper Truth could I find?
Below is a poem I once wrote about this very process:
This is the faith
found folded inside
of all things,
not for god
or for man or the angels
but for it’s own
It’s what’s left
when loss and confusion
have stripped away the nail
from where the universe