Question: I was raised as an atheist. Life would be so much easier if I had faith. In all my years of Yoga, I know I have heart, compassion and spirit, but I can’t connect with faith. Please offer me your guidance.
Swami Satchidananda: Whether you know it or not, you have faith. There is nobody in the world without faith. But faith is placed in different ways, at different times, by different people. First of all, we have faith in ourselves. You have faith you are living. You have faith in your mother’s word. Otherwise, you wouldn’t even know who your father is. Because who knows the real father? So whether we know it or not we all have faith.
Faith is not something you have to put in God. As long as you have faith in something, it is enough. Faith works wonders. The Bible says that an ounce of faith can move mountains. We see that in our daily life. For example, somebody I knew had a serious problem with cancer. She just heard me saying, “Your body doesn’t have cancer” and she believed it, and now she has no more cancer. The doctors were trying hard to find the cancer, and no cancer was found in her body. Of course, she gave the credit to me. But I give the credit to her, to her faith.
Faith is there, always. Nobody is an atheist. In the mid-1980s, I was in Russia, talking to a Russian monk, and we had to go through a translator. The translator was a communist. While we were talking, God came into the conversation many times. A little tolerance was there as she was translating. After a while, she got tired of that and suddenly she looked at me and said, “I’m a nonbeliever. I can’t listen to this anymore.”
So I questioned her. “Could you tell me what is it that you don’t believe in?”
She hesitated. I helped her. “You don’t believe in the church?”
“You don’t believe in reading the Bible?”
“You don’t believe in Jesus?”
“So there are so many things you don’t believe in. But do you believe in friendship?”
“Do you believe in love?”
“You’re a communist woman, so don’t you believe in comradery?”
“A minute back, you said you were a nonbeliever, but you seem to be believing in so many things. How could you say you are a nonbeliever? Just because you don’t believe in one thing? You are not asked to believe in everything. But you have your own belief. Truly speaking, what you believe is the real religion. Friendship, love, comradery, universal brotherhood. That is what will make one a believer, a religious person.”
“So, do you mean to say I’m a religious person?”
“Certainly. You are the real religious person—not that going to the church and reading the Bible make you a religious person. Some may be doing it only mechanically.” Immediately, she started crying. Tears were rolling down from her eyes. At the end of our stay, we were leaving the city by train. She came to the station to send us off, with tears in her eyes she said, “I wish I could go with all of you.”
So overnight, an atheist became a theist. After all who is an atheist? A-theist. We all believe in things. Years ago in India, for example, a mother would go behind the cow shed, get a ball of cow dung, place it in the front yard, put a flower on it, and then she will perform an arati—a worship service. If I’d said, “What are you doing?” she would reply, “I’m worshiping God.” Is she worshiping cow dung or God? The rest of the cow dung was in the back yard. How could this ball of cow dung become God for her? Faith. If you believe it, it becomes God. So faith is always there. You should learn to apply it properly, use it. Nobody is without faith and as such no one is an atheist.
You say you know you have heart, compassion, and spirit. So you have faith in that. You have faith in Yoga. Sometimes we don’t understand what faith means. We think faith can only be in a particular religion or “ism” and otherwise you are not faithful. Not necessarily. So in a way, everybody has faith. Keep up that faith and that will work wonders in your life.
We doubt ourselves. A person who doubts is destroyed, says the Bhagavad Gita. Faith means there is no doubt. And I always say: Faith and fear never go together. If you have faith, there is nothing to be afraid of. If you have fear, you seem to have lost your faith, forgotten your faith. It doesn’t go away but you have forgotten. Faith is absolute cosmic power, which is constantly working in every one of us. It is what keeps us alive.