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Magazine : Matrusri English
Language : English
Volume Number : 1
Month : January
Issue Number : 8
Year : 1967

“Experience gives faith but faith does not give Experience”


THIS saying is akin to another of Mother’s sayings ahout esperience. namely “Experience gives shastra, but shastra does not give experience” Rishis or saadhakas get experi- ence and along with its conse- quent advantages. Then, they record the main lines of their saadhana and experience in the language of the philosophy of that age, and that becomes a shastra. A shastra therefore contains epigramatic instructions and technical descriptions about a saadhana and its rewards. In the physical and biological sciences, the meanings of techni- cal terms are clearly defined, but not so in philosophy. Some scholars maintain that all terms are defined alright, but as even an atheist Jain or Buddhist could have his say and present his philosophy, (which becomes his darshana) a strict conformity to the standardised terminology cannot be expected of all writers. But, even with theists and inter pretters of the Prasthaana trava, we find different meanings. ascribed to important words like ‘nirguna midhya’ etc. And when shaastra thus composed is read, the reader may not get at the exact meaning intended The many extent interpretations of the Gita-which is not brief of epigramatic at all-varying on the one hand from extreme advaita to extreme dwaita on the other prove that even that primary shaastra itself does not give experience; it was only inter pretted by different commen tators in accordance with their spiritual experience.

The first part of the present saying asserts that experience gives faith. Ever since those early days when religious appeal moved mankind, greatmen have preached and practised the tenets of their religion. Ordi- nary men, who have had the experience of hearing them and moving with them, developed faith and spread the religion to other regions. The great faith and piety of the disciples of Budha or Christ sprung up only from their experience. To this day, faith in saints and their sayings continues to blossom on the experience which their dis- ciples had while staying with them.

Our neighbour’s experi ence can also create faith in us Witnessing another’s experience is also an experience and hence it can breed faith. The spread of Buddhism and Christianity through the sacrifices and ex- periences of the votaries of those religions illustrates this truth. But, hearing about other’s ex- perience only through reports is quite another matter. We hear and read about several reports; and instead of faith, criteism rises in our minds, We go to the extent of decrying not only the report, but also the pious, man about whom the report speaks.

It is this latter behaviour that illustrates the second part of the present saying. Another person’s faith does not give us the experi ence that bred the faith in him.. The example of the shastra quo ted above helps to make this clear. A shaastra is at best an expression, a report, of another’s experience and that report does not give us his original experience when we read it. Similarly, reports of another’s faith or examples thereof do not give us the experience that engendered the faith in him. It is only our experience that can lead to our faith, other’s faith does not lead to our experience.

Another saying of Mother. “We criticise when we hear, not if we see” runs close to the implication of the present one. Reports of other’s experience give rise to criticism, but when one actually goes through the same experience, one quietly believes it. St. Thomas the apostle be lieved the rising of Christ from the dead, only on seeing the master, but not on the reports of his own colleagues! Satya bhaama realised the identity of Sri Krishna (her husband!) only after the costly experiment of tulaabhaaram, not from the many reports she heard of. A cook invited to serve in the kitchen on Mother’ birthday decried her reported spirtuality, but turned up to work on being offered the wage he demanded. It so happ- ened that she entered the kitchen to see if the soup that was getting ready would not suffice for the numbers of visitors, who turned up. She dipped her arm in the cauldron of boiling soup and took out a piece of pumpkin. “This much should be quite enough”, she said to the dazed cook, and went away. It is a different story that the soup answered the need of the disproportionate nu mbers that turned up but the staring cook knew too well, what it was to get even a drop of boiling soup on his hand! He saw her whole forehand dip into the soup! We hear now that he insists on serving in the kitchen on every birthday thereafter.

But this report of his expe rience is a report nevertheless, this would not give his experie nce to others! An interesting story about Matsyendranath takes our understanding further! Ma- tsyendra is said to have entered the Kaamaroopa kingdom, then closed to all men by the orders of the queen. His disciple Gora- khnath went in search of him and found himself arrested and taken to the same cellar in which his guru was sitting with a huge annular boulder placed on his shoulders, when he had entered. into samaadhi. He opened his eyes and on seeing the boulder, invoked divine aid with his usual “Jai Matsyendranath”. The boulder broke up into fragments and fell off. Gorakhnath said the same word, to free himself from the chains that bound him. But nothing happened. All the ladies that surrounded the two, laughed. Gorakhnath then said with his characteristic fervour, Jai Sadguru”, and then the chains. broke down. His faith was in his experience with the guru but not in the faith of his guru. His guru’s faith could not give him that experience, the strength which could Freak his chains.. His own experience, and the consequent faith alone could come to his help.

All reports about miracles are only like this. If people with the experience of a miracle believe, and if others do not, it only illustrates the saying, “Ex perience leads to faith, but faith does not lead to experience”. More interesting is the observation that, even for one who believes in a miracle, it does not once more happen to him on his faith in the first. Lack of understanding of this has caused several to break of from their allegiance to the pious man or woman, who cause the first expe rience! Faith does not give that experience, only the person who caused the first experience could if he wanted. If your experience led you to faith, stick to it but do not expect that your faith should give you another experi ence. It can’t.


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