Meher Baba



The value and the limitations of external conformity

Though God-realisation is the ultimate destiny of all persons, there are very few who have the necessary preparation for the fulfillment of that glorious destiny. The mind of the worldly-minded is darkened by the thick layer of accumulated sanskaras, and these sanskaras must be considerably weakened if the aspirant is even to enter the Path. The usual method to gradually dissipate the heaps of sanskaras is to follow, as strictly as possible, the external code of religious rituals and ceremonies. This stage of external conformity to religious injunctions or traditions is known as the pursuit of shariat or karma-kanda. It covers actions like the offering of daily prayers, the visiting of holy places, the performance of duties prescribed by scriptures, and the observance of well-established rules of the ethical codes generally accepted by the moral consciousness of the times. The stage of external conformity is, in its own way, useful as a spiritual discipline, but it is by no means free from evil effects, for it not only tends to make a man dry, rigid and mechanical, but it often nourishes some kind of subtle egotism. However, most persons are attached to the life of external conformity because they find it to be the easiest way of placating their uneasy consciences.

Passing on to the realities of the inner life

The individual often spends several lives in gathering the lessons of external conformity. But there always comes a time when he gets tired of the stage of external conformity and gets more interested in the realities of the inner life. When the worldly man takes to this higher kind of search, he might be said to have become an aspirant. Like the insect, which through metamorphosis passes on to the next stage of existence, the aspirant transcends the phase of external conformity (shariat or karma-kanda) and enters upon the path of spiritual emancipation (tariquat or moksha-marga). In this higher phase, the aspirant is no longer satisfied by external conformity with certain rules, but he wants to acquire those qualifications which would make his inner life spiritually beautiful.

The limitations of conventions

From the point of view of the realities of the inner life, the life of external conformity, which satisfies the requirements of conventions and formality, may often be spiritually barren; and a life which deviates from such rigid conformity may often be spiritually rich. In seeking conformity with established conventions and formality, a man is almost always prone to slip into a life of false or illusory values, rather than a life which is based upon true and lasting values. What is conventionally recognised may not always be spiritually sound. On the contrary, many conventions express and embody illusory values, since they have come into existence as a result of the working of average minds which are spiritually ignorant. Illusory values are mostly conventional because they grow into that matrix of mentality which is most common. This does not mean the conventions necessarily embody nothing but illusory values.

Freedom from conventions must be based upon critical thought

Sometimes people stick to unconventional things for no other reason than that they are out of the way. The unusual nature of their pursuits or interests enables them to feel their separateness and difference from others and take delight in it. The unconventional things also often derive their interest merely from their novelty in contrast with the conventional things. The illusory values of usual things become insipid through familiarity, and the mind then has a tendency to transfer the illusion of value to those things which are not usual, instead of trying to discover true and lasting values. Transcending the stage of external conformity does not imply a mere mechanical and thoughtless change from conventionality to unconventionality. Such change would be essentially of the nature of reaction, and it can in no way contribute towards a life of freedom and truth. The freedom from conventionality which appears in the life of the aspirant is due, not to any uncritical reaction, but is due to the exercise of critical thought. Those who would transcend the stage of external conformity and enter into the high life of inner realities must develop the capacity to distinguish between the false and the true values, irrespective of conventionality or unconventionality.

Discrimination between the true and the false

The rise from shariat or karma-kanda to tariquat or moksha-marga is therefore not to be interpreted as being merely a departure from external conformity. It is not a change from conventionality to idiosyncrasy, from the usual to the unusual; but it is a change from a life of thoughtless acceptance of established traditions to a mode of being which is based upon thoughtful appreciation of the difference between the important and the unimportant. It is a change from the state of implicit ignorance to a state of critical thoughtfulness. At the stage of mere external conformity, the spiritual ignorance of man is often so complete that he does not even realise that he is ignorant. But when the person is being awakened and enters the Path, he begins by realising the need for true Light. And at the initial stages, the effort towards this Light takes the form of intellectual discrimination between the lasting and the transitory, the true and the false, the real and the unreal, the important and the unimportant.

The bankruptcy of barren beliefs

For the spiritual aspirant, however, it is not enough to have merely intellectual discrimination between the false and the true. Though intellectual discrimination is undoubtedly the very basis of all further preparation, it yields its fruit only when the newly perceived values are brought into relation with practical life. From the point of view of spirituality, what matters is not theory but practice. The ideas, beliefs, opinions, views or doctrines which a person might intellectually hold constitute a superficial layer of human personality. Very often a person believes in one thing and does exactly the opposite. The bankruptcy of barren beliefs is all the more pitiable, because the person who feeds upon them often suffers from the delusion that he is spiritually advanced, when in truth, he has not even begun spiritual life.

The salient points of dogmas and creeds

Sometimes even a wrong view, which is held with some fervor, may indirectly invite an experience which opens out the gates to the spiritual life. Even at the stage of shariat or karma-kanda, allegiance to religions is not infrequently a source of inspiration for many selfless and noble acts, because, though these dogmas or creeds are blindly accepted, they are often held with a fervour and enthusiasm which supply the dynamic element to the ideology which has been accepted by the person for the moment. Dogmas and creeds, as compared with barren views and doctrines, have the distinct advantage of being embraced, not only by the intellect, but also by the heart. They cover and affect a wider part of personality than purely theoretical opinions.

The cause of the evil results of dogmas and creeds

But dogmas and creeds are at least as much a source of evil as of good, because in them the guiding vision, which is at the helm of individual life, is itself clouded owing to degeneration or suspension of critical thinking. If allegiance to creeds and dogmas has sometimes done some good to the individual or to the community to which he belongs, it has more often done untold harm to the individual or to others. Though the mind and the heart are both involved in the allegiance to dogmas and creeds, the mind as well as the heart are both functioning under the serious handicap of suspension of thought. Hence dogmas and creeds do not contribute to unmixed good.

The need for putting theory into practice

In one sense, when a person gives up uncritically accepted dogmas and creeds in favor of those views and doctrines to which he has devoted thought, there is a certain amount of advance, in so far as his mind has now begun to think and critically examine its beliefs. But very often the newly held beliefs are seen to lack the fervor and enthusiasm which used to characterise allegiance to dogmas and creeds. If these newly held beliefs lack motive power, they belong only to the superficial aspect of life, and they hang loosely upon the person, like an overcoat. The mind has been emancipated from the domination of uncultured emotionality; but this is often achieved by sacrificing the cooperation of the heart. If the results of critical thought are to be spiritually fruitful, they must again invade and recapture the region of the heart, so as to enlist its cooperative function. In other words, the ideas which have been accepted after critical examination must again be released into active life if they are to yield their full benefit. In the process of being used in practical life, they often themselves undergo healthy transformation and become more sound. And what is more, they are now interwoven with the very fabric of life, and are no longer merely ornamental.

Critical and creative thinking promotes the balance of mind and heart

The transition from external conformity (shariat or karma-kanda) to the life of inner realities (tariquat or moksha-marga) involves two steps:

1. freeing the mind from the inertia of uncritical acceptance based upon blind imitation, and stirring it to critical thinking, and

2. bringing the results of critical and discriminative thinking into practical life.

In order to be spiritually fruitful, thinking must be not only critical but creative. Critical and creative thinking leads to spiritual preparation, by cultivating and fostering those qualities which contribute toward the perfection and balancing of the mind and the heart, and the release of unfettered Divine Life.

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The qualities necessary for the spiritual life are interdependent upon each other

If the inner life of man is to be harmonious and enlightened, he has to develop and express many divine qualities while he is engaged in his daily duties. Each quality, by itself, may not seem to be extremely important; but it is not right to consider it apart from its necessary relation with other important qualities. In the spiritual life, all these qualities implement and support each other; and their interconnection is so vital that not one of them can be completely ignored without detriment to many other essential qualities. So, considered in its true function, each of these divine qualities turns out to be absolutely indispensable for a complete life.

Patience and persistence

Every man is a rightful heir to the Truth. But he who would inherit it must be spiritually prepared for it, and this spiritual preparation sometimes takes several lives of patient and persistent effort. Therefore, one of the first requirements of the aspirant is that he should combine unfailing enthusiasm with unyielding patience. Once a man is determined to realise the Truth, he finds that his path is beset with many difficulties, and there are very few who persist with steady courage till the very end. It is easy to give up effort when one is confronted with obstacles. This might be illustrated by a story of a man from Poona. He once read a spiritual book which impressed him so deeply that he felt like renouncing everything. He left Poona, went to a jungle near the city, and sitting under a tree he began to repeat God's name with a rosary in his hand. He kept doing this all day, in spite of much inconvenience and dwindling enthusiasm. After the sun set, he heard from all sides the cries of frightening animals. And though these cries grew louder and louder in the gathering darkness of the night, he persisted in his determination. But when he saw through the darkness a huge bear coming towards him, he fled to save his life, and ran for seven miles at top speed until he fell unconscious in a shop in Poona. As he became conscious again, he related his adventure to those who had gathered around him, much to their amusement. But that finished his mood for renunciation.

Accepting the world as it is

Spiritual effort demands not only physical endurance and courage, but also unshrinking forbearance and unassailable moral courage. The world is caught up in maya and is addicted to false values. Therefore, the ways of the world run counter to the standards which the aspirant has set for himself. If he runs away from the world, that does not help him. He will again have to come back to the world to develop that quality which would enable him to face and accept the world as it is. Very often his path lies through the world, which he has to serve in spite of not liking its way. If the aspirant is to love and serve the world, which does not understand him, or even is intolerant to him, he must develop infinite forbearance.


As the aspirant advances on the Path, he acquires, through his contact with the Master, an increasingly deeper understanding of true love. And this makes him painfully sensitive to those impacts from outside which not only do not taste of love, but actually bring him into contact with cold contempt, cynical callousness, agonising apathy and unabating hatred. All these impacts try his forbearance to the uttermost. Even the worldly man suffers in the world, which he occasionally finds indifferent or hostile. But he is thick-skinned and his suffering is less acute, because he does not expect anything very much better from human nature, and thinks that these things are inevitable and incurable. But the aspirant who has tasted of a deeper love knows the hidden possibilities in every soul; and his suffering is very acute because he feels the gulf between that which is and that which might have been, if only the world had even faintly appreciated the love which he has begun to understand and cherish.

Moral courage and confidence

The task of forbearance would be easy if the aspirant could get reconciled to the ways of the world and accept them without challenge. But, having seen the higher, it becomes an imperative duty of the aspirant to stand by it, even if the whole world opposes him. Loyalty to the higher truth of his own perception demands unshakable moral courage, and readiness to face the criticism, scorn and even hatred of those who have not yet begun to open out to the truth. And although in this uneven struggle, he does get unfailing help from the Masters and other aspirants, he has to develop the capacity to fight for the truth single-handed, without relying upon external help all the time. This supreme moral courage can only come with supreme confidence in oneself and the Master. To love the world and serve it in the ways of the Masters is no game of the weak and the faint-hearted.

Freedom from worry

Moral courage and self-confidence should be accompanied by freedom from worry. There are very few things in the mind which eat up as much energy as worry; and it is one of the most difficult things in the world not to worry about anything. Worry is experienced when things go wrong. But in relation to past happenings, it is idle merely to wish that they might have been otherwise. The frozen past is what it is, and no amount of worrying is going to make it other than what it has been. But the limited ego-mind identifies itself with its past, gets entangled with it, and keeps alive the pangs of frustrated desires. So worry continues to grow in the mental life of man until the ego-mind is burdened by the past. Worry is also experienced in relation to the future when this future is expected to be disagreeable in some way. And in this case, it seeks to justify itself as a necessary accompaniment of the attempt to prepare for coping with the anticipated situations. But things can never be helped merely by worrying. Besides, many of the things which are anticipated never turn up, or if they turn up at all, they turn out to be much more acceptable than they were expected to be. Worry is the product of feverish imagination working under the stimulation of desires. It is living through sufferings which are mostly our own creation. Worry has never done anyone any good; and it is very much worse than mere dissipation of psychic energy, for it substantially curtails the joy and fullness of life.

Cheerfulness, enthusiasm and equipoise

Among the many things which the aspirant needs to cultivate, there are few which are as important as cheerfulness, enthusiasm and equipoise. And these are rendered impossible unless he succeeds in cutting out worry from his life. When the mind is gloomy, depressed or disturbed, its action is chaotic and binding. Hence arises the supreme need of maintaining cheerfulness, enthusiasm and equipoise under all circumstances. All these are rendered impossible unless the aspirant succeeds in cutting out worry from his life. But worry is a necessary resultant of attachment to the past or to the anticipated future, and it always persists in some form or other until the mind is completely detached from everything.

Control and dispassion are the conditions of one-pointedness

The difficulties in the Path can be overcome only if the aspirant has one-pointedness. If the psychic energies are dissipated in worldly pursuits, the progress which he makes is very slow. But one-pointedness implies dispassion concerning all the allurements of the phenomenal world. The mind must have turned away from all temptations, and complete control should have been established over the senses. Thus, control and dispassion are both necessary for being able to attain one-pointedness in respect of the search for true understanding.

Guidance from the Master

The supreme condition of sure and steady progress on the Path is the benefit of guidance from the Master. The Master gives just that guidance and help which is necessary according to the immediate needs of the aspirant. All that the Master expects is that the aspirant will try his best for spiritual advancement. He does not expect immediate transformation of consciousness, except where the ground is previously ready. Time is an important factor in spiritual advancement, as it is in all material endeavors. When the Master has given a spiritual push to the aspirant, he waits till the help thus given is completely assimilated by him. An overdose of spirituality always has an unhealthy reaction, particularly when it is inopportune. The Master, therefore, carefully selects the moment when his intervention is assured of maximum results; and having intervened, he waits with infinite patience till the aspirant really needs further help.

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Readiness to serve is according to individual aptitude and ability

The aspirant has to be always in readiness to serve the cause of humanity. He need not apply himself to any type of work irrespective of his capacity. He has to select that portion of work which he is qualified to do by virtue of his individual aptitude and abilities. But whatever service he can render by virtue of his capacity, he renders even when the circumstances are most trying.

No insistence upon the claims of the limited 'I'

The ordeals through which he may have to pass are many, but his determination to serve whenever possible must remain unshaken. He is not in any way attached to the idea of service, in the sense of maximum results being secured through himself alone. If there is any service which needs to be rendered, he is willing to render it with any amount of sacrifice; but he never is bound by the false idea, 'I alone should have the credit of doing it.' If the privilege of rendering the service falls to the lot of someone else, he is not envious. If he were to seek for himself opportunities for rendering service, it would be a form of selfishness. In the service which really counts in the spiritual life, there can be no thought of the self at all. There should be no necessity felt of having something for oneself, or of being the one who can give something to others. The self in all its forms has to be entirely out of the picture. Service should spring out of the spontaneity of freedom, if and when it is necessary, and it has to come in the cooperative spirit, in which there is no insistence upon the claims of the limited 'I'.

Freedom from the opposites of great and small things

If the aspirant is completely detached from all works and their results, he becomes free from the vitiating opposites of the great things and small things. The worldly-minded feel their separative existence through achievements. Therefore, they have a natural tendency to judge their achievements in terms of tangible quantities. They grasp at great things and avoid the little things. But from the spiritual point of view, the so-called little things are often seen to be as important as the so-called great things. The aspirant has no motive to eschew the one and seek the other. Therefore he attends to little things with as much zest as to great things.

The domination of conventions restricts the scope of service

In the spiritual life, the little things matter as much as the great things. But the conventions of the world usually fail to recognise this simple truth. By following the conventionally accepted ideas, the scope of possible service to fellow beings gets artificially restricted to those things which are conventionally regarded as important; and many things which really are of vital importance to life come to be neglected, with the result that life is spiritually impoverished.

Accepted values determine the fields of service

Thus, in a society which is dominated by merely material conceptions of life, service is interpreted in terms of supplying bread or clothes, or other physical amenities of existence. In a society which values intellect, service is interpreted in terms of spreading learning in different forms. In a society which has developed a taste for beauty, service is interpreted in terms of organising the production and distribution of works of art. In a society which is responsive to the ineffable values of the heart, service is interpreted in terms of constructing those channels which will facilitate the culture and expression of the heart. And in a society which is alive to the supreme importance of the spirit, service is interpreted in terms of imparting spiritual understanding. Of these different types of service, the service which is concerned with spiritual understanding is the highest, because spiritual understanding includes the right perspective to all human problems, and promotes a solution of them all.

Two kinds of service

But if there is no spiritual understanding, the desire for rendering service to others is harnessed by limited conceptions. Service is of two kinds: it consists in adding to the lives of others those things which are really worthwhile, or it consists in removing from the lives of others those handicaps which prevent them from having things which are worthwhile. And if our ideas of things which are worthwhile are narrow, the scope of possible service also becomes correspondingly narrow.

Little things that matter

The scope of service is not completely exhausted by great gestures like giving big donations to public institutions. They also serve who express their love in little things. A word that gives courage to a drooping heart, or a smile that brings hope and cheer in gloom, have as much claim to be regarded as service as onerous sacrifices and heroic self-denials. A glance which wipes out bitterness from the heart and sets it throbbing with a new love is also service, although there may be no thought of service in it. When taken by themselves, all these things seem to be small, but life is made up of many such small things. And if these small things are ignored, life will be not only unbeautiful but unspiritual.

Element of error in the estimates of the world

Just as the worldly-minded have a tendency to judge positive contributions in terms of magnitude, they also make a similar mistake in judging obstacles, handicaps and adversities. Thus, for most persons, the adversity of another must assume colossal forms if it is to deserve notice. It is characteristic of the worldly-minded that they give more importance to things that take shape in external and tangible ways than to things which are silent elements in the inner life. Devastating war is, for example, considered to be a greater calamity than lingering lives filled with bitter hatred; though from the purely spiritual point of view, lives filled with bitter hatred are not in any way less evil than devastating war. War assumes so much importance because of the many visual instances of cruelty. But hatred is equally unbeautiful, even when it does not materialise itself in outward actions. In the same way, epidemics, injuries, and the sufferings of the deathbed invite more attention from the worldly-minded than the agonies of the heart which is heavy with the burden of unquenchable desire.

The field of service is life as a whole

But for the aspirant who is eager to serve without any desire for recognition and credit, everything that thwarts or perverts the release of full life is worthy of attention, irrespective of whether it is great or small according to the usual estimates of the world. Just as the building up or the collapse of empires has a place in the flow of universal life, the fleeting moments of sadness or sweetness have also their own place in it. The importance of the one should not be measured in terms of the other, and the claims of the one should not be ignored against the claims of the other. The aspirant looks at life as an integral whole, without allowing any parts to monopolise his attention at the cost of other parts.

Service which springs from love ensures harmony with co-workers

Even when the aspirant is rendering a service which is selfless, he keeps constant guard upon his mind. The aspirant must be humble, honest and sincere. The service which he renders must not be for the sake of mere show, and it should be an outcome of true love. If the aspirant is inspired by love, his love shall enable him to be in entire harmony with other workers without being jealous. If there is not complete harmony amongst the workers, the service which is rendered falls short of the spiritual ideal. Further, if the aspirant renders the outward service without the spirit of love, he is acting from a sense of duty, as in many worldly institutions where there are paid workers. In the institutions of the world, people work for pay. At best, it is a cold sense of duty which prompts them to be efficient. Their work cannot have the inward beauty of work which is spontaneously done out of love.

The importance of contact with the Master

The aspirant can best assimilate the lessons of true service, if he has the good fortune to be in contact with the Master. The Master teaches not through preaching, but through example. And when the Master is seen in his capacity of rendering service to humanity, the aspirant is quick to catch that spirit because of his love for the Master. Contact with the Master is also helpful in imbibing the spirit of cooperation, which the aspirants cultivate easily because of their common love for the Master. They serve because the Master wants it. They do the Master's work, not their own. And they do it, not of their own accord, but because they have been entrusted with that work by the Master. Therefore, they are all free from any ideas of individualistic claims, rights or privileges, being keen only about the Master's work, ready to serve his cause to the best of their ability when they are called upon to do so, and equally ready to hand over that work to another aspirant if he can do it better.

Service without fuss

In cooperation of this type, the aspirants are, in a way, serving each other, because the Master's work is accepted by them all as their own. And in being useful to a co-aspirant for doing the Master's work, the aspirant is rendering a service to him as much as to the Master. But in such service there can be no bossing, because the aspirant is always conscious that it is the Master's work, which he has accepted as his own, that he is doing. He further knows that, as aspirants, they are all equal. And it is easy for him to cultivate the habit of serving in the spirit of utter humility. If service makes him proud, he might as well not have served. One of the most difficult things to learn is to render service without bossing, without making a fuss about it, and without any consciousness of high and low. In the world of spirituality, humility counts at least as much as utility.

The ideal of service

When the Master serves others, he does so, not because he is attached to the work, but in order to help, and also to set for his disciples the example of selfless service. And while serving others, he sees himself in them, and experiences having served himself. In his unwaning blissful feeling of oneness, the Master knows himself to be at once the Lord of all and the servant of all. He therefore exemplifies an ideal of service in which there is no enslavement, either of he who receives service, or of he who renders it. The aspirant can speedily realise the ideal of true service if he has before him the example of the Master. But the spiritual preparation of the aspirant can never be said to be complete unless he has learned the art of rendering service which gives not boredom, but joy; which brings not enslavement, but freedom; which does not set claims and counter-claims, but springs from the spontaneity of free give and take; which is free from the burden of personal want; and which is sustained by the sense of ever-renewed fulfillment.

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The value of faith and its forms

One of the most important qualifications for the aspirant is faith. Of faith there are three kinds: 1. faith in oneself, 2. faith in the Master, and 3. faith in life. Faith is so indispensable to life, that unless it is present in some degree, life itself is impossible. It is because of faith that cooperative and social life becomes possible. It is faith in each other that facilitates a free give and take of love, a free sharing of work and its results. When life is burdened with unjustified fear of each other, it gets cramped and restricted.

Faith in each other and its essential counterpart

Children have a natural faith in their elders. They look to them for protection and help instinctively, without requiring any introductory letters. This quality of trusting others persists in later life, unless the person receives a rude shock by being deceived or exploited by others for their self-interest. So, though faith is natural to man, it grows and flourishes in a society where men are reliable and honest and worthy of faith, and it fades in a hostile environment. Faith in each other becomes complete and steady when it finds its counterpart in those qualities which invite and confirm faith. Being worthy of faith which others place in us, and having faith in others, are two complementary virtues. They are the condition of an unhampered flow and development of individual and collective life.

The importance of faith in oneself

Unqualified and implicit faith in each other belongs to the world of ideals. In actual practice it exists only in some special cases. Though it is very much to be desired, it cannot come unless the world is peopled with persons who deserve unlimited faith; and this condition requires a perfect development of the qualities of being reliable, steadfast and invariably helpful. But these qualities, which foster mutual faith, remain undeveloped unless one has supreme faith in oneself. If a man has no faith in himself, he cannot develop those qualities which invite and foster faith from others. The confidence that you can, under all sorts of trying circumstances, remain loyal to your own perception of the best, is the very foundation of the superstructure of a reliable character.

A secure basis for self-confidence

But unshakeable faith in oneself is as rare as implicit faith in some other person. Few have developed it to the degree which ensures effective and constructive control of oneself. In most persons, faith in oneself is always being challenged and undone by the constant experience of one's own frailties and failings, which often prove to be unyielding, even when the man knows what is right. The self-confidence, which is thus in perpetual danger of being shattered, can be securely established only when the man has in front of him the vision of the living example of perfection and has faith in it.

Faith in the Master

Faith in the Master becomes all-important because it nourishes and sustains faith in oneself and faith in life, in the very teeth of setbacks and failures, handicaps and difficulties, limitations and failings. Life as man knows it in himself or in most of his fellow men may be narrow, twisted and perverse. But life as he sees it in the Master is unlimited, pure and untainted. In the Master, man sees his own ideal as realised. The Master is what his own deeper self would rather be. He sees in the Master the reflection of the best in him, which is yet to be, but which he will surely one day attain. Faith in the Master, therefore, becomes the chief motive power for realising the divinity which is latent in man.

Faith and critical reasoning

True faith is grounded in the deeper experiences of the spirit and the unerring deliverances of purified intuition. It is not to be regarded as the antithesis of critical reason, but as the unfailing guide of critical reason. When critical reason is implemented by a deep and living faith based on pure intuition, its functioning becomes creative, fruitful and significant instead of barren, ineffective and meaningless. On the other hand, many forms of naive credulity cannot be broken through except by the fearless and free working of critical reason. However, it remains true that critical reason can touch and inform only those forms of faith which are not based upon pure intuition. True faith, grounded on pure intuition, always remains an imperative which cannot be ultimately reduced to the conclusions of ratiocinative intellect. It is not derived from the limited intellect, but is more fundamental and primary, with the result that it cannot be silenced by any intellectual acrobatics. But this does not mean that faith at any stage need be blind, in the sense that it is not allowed to be examined by critical intellect. True faith is a form of sight and not of blindness. It need not be afraid of the free functioning of critical reason.

An analysis of credulity and doubt

The right of testing the Master through critical reasoning has always been conceded to the disciples. But if after testing and being satisfied about the perfection of the Master, the disciple shows any wavering of faith, it is a result of a deplorable deficiency in his sincerity of approach and integrity of purpose. Just as there are many cases of uncritical and undeserved credulity placed in the claimants for spiritual wisdom, there are many cases of an unjustified wavering of faith in spite of a convincing basis for faith in one's own experience. And just as uncritical credulity is ultimately the result of an unconscious operation of many worldly wants, unjustified wavering of faith is also due to the unconscious operation of desires which run contrary to the effective manifestation of a rationalised faith. In the first case, wish is the father of unwarranted belief; and in the second case, wish is the father of unwarranted doubt.

Wavering of faith is often due to the unconscious operation of cravings

Cravings have a tendency to pervert the functioning of critical reasoning. And an unwavering faith, which is grounded in pure intuition, can come only to a mind which is free from the pressure of diverse wants. True faith is, therefore, a matter of gradual growth. It grows in proportion to the success which the disciple attains in freeing his consciousness from diverse cravings.

Beliefs and opinions

Faith must be carefully distinguished from a mere intellectual belief or opinion. When a person has a good opinion about someone, he is said to have a certain kind of faith in him. But this kind of opinion does not have that spiritual potency which belongs to a living faith in the Master. The beliefs and opinions which a person has often constitute a very superficial layer of the human psyche. They do not have any integral relationship with the deeper psychic forces. They remain in one region of the mind without bringing about any radical changes in the core of personality, which determines the attitude to life. People hold such beliefs just as they wear clothes. In times of emergency, they show the tendency to change their clothes to suit their immediate purposes. In such cases, beliefs are unconsciously determined by other purposes; the purposes are not consciously determined by beliefs.

Living faith is creatively dynamic

Living faith, on the other hand, has the most vital and integral relation with all the deeper forces and purposes of the psyche. It is not held superficially, nor does it hang, like merely intellectual beliefs, in the periphery of consciousness. On the contrary, living faith becomes a powerful factor that reconstructs the entire psyche; it is creatively dynamic. It enlivens every thought, illumines every feeling, recasts every purpose. Such living faith in the Master becomes, for the disciple, a supreme source of inspiration and unassailable self-confidence. And it expresses itself primarily through the spirit of active reliance upon the Master, and not merely through some opinion about him. Living faith is not a sort of certificate given by the disciple to the Master. It is an active attitude of confidence in the Master, expressing itself not only through implicit and trustful expectation of help from the Master, but also through the spirit of self-surrender and dedication.

Living faith is grounded in experience

Such fruitful and living faith in the Master is always born of some deep experience which the Master imparts to the deserving disciple. It is fundamentally different from the beliefs which people have either through uncritical acceptance or superficial thinking. Mere intellectual beliefs have, for the most part, very little spiritual importance. The Master, therefore, is utterly unconcerned with whether the disciple believes in him or in someone else. And he is equally unconcerned with whether the disciple, at any moment, does or does not believe in him. If, in some fortunate cases, the Master, through his benign intervention, wins for himself the living faith of the disciple (as distinguished from mere belief), it is because he knows that the disciple will be helped through it.

Testing the disciple

Just as the disciple is testing the Master in respect of his capacity to guide him, the Master, in his turn, is testing the disciple in respect of his integrity of purpose. The Master is unconcerned about whether the disciple doubts him or has faith in him. What he tests is whether the disciple is or is not sincere and wholehearted in his spiritual search and pursuit. The Master is not at all interested in giving proof of his own divinity to the disciple, except when he feels that any such proof is likely to be unfailingly useful and unavoidably necessary for the spiritual benefit of one who has surrendered himself to him.

source: Discourses by Meher Baba,
volume 5
(1943?) p45-65

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Index - Book One

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