Don’t accept blindly. BRING UP your doubts, confusions and misgivings
As well as asking questions that clarify the meaning of the text (see Principle 10), we also need to ask questions if we doubt the truth of something Srila Prabhupada writes. This kind of doubt can be very disconcerting. We often don’t like to acknowledge such doubts even to ourselves, let alone reveal them to other devotees, because we fear doing so may constitute an offence, or expose us as being faithless. Many readers will be familiar with the following verse which is cited numerous times by Srila Prabhupada and which emphasises the importance of implicit faith:
“yasya deve para bhaktir / yatha deve tatha gurau
tasyaite kathita hy arthah / prakasante mahatmanah
Only unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master are all the imports of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed.” Bg 6.47 purport
However, I would like to point out that blind faith is not the same as ‘implicit faith’. Blind faith is condemned because it is counterproductive to spiritual progress:
“In this verse, both blind following and absurd inquiries are condemned.” Bg 4.34 purport
“Don’t take it as a sentiment or as a blind faith. You have got reason; you have got arguments; you have got sense. Apply it and try to understand it. Neither it is bogus. It is scientific. Then you will feel… Taj-josanad asv apavarga-vartmani sraddha ratir bhaktir anukramisyati.” Lecture on Bhagavad-gita 4.11-12 — New York, July 28, 1966
“This is called firm, unflinching faith. Faith, I do not mean faith by blind faith. This Bhagavad-gita is not blind faith. Everything is being explained step by step, scientifically, authoritatively. So try to understand.” Lecture on Bhagavad-gita 4.39-42 — Los Angeles, January 14, 1969
“But faith should not be blind. Blind faith is useless. Now we have already discussed that one should go to the spiritual master with surrender and question and service — three things. First of all, for acquiring knowledge we have to find out the suitable personality, and if we are fortunate enough to find out such suitable personality, then first thing is to surrender. And that, after that surrender, there are questions. One must be very intelligent to put questions to the spiritual master. Without questions you cannot make progress. So blind faith is never required, neither questions should be in a mood of challenge. That should not. Questions or answers should be just to understand. And that should be accompanied with service.” Lecture on Bhagavad-gita 4.39-5.3 — New York, August 24, 1966
As suggested in the above excerpt, if we want to come to the stage of firm or implicit faith then we must raise our doubts and misgivings. Srila Prabhupada frequently emphasises this. Without raising these doubts they will remain as cancers of faithlessness in our hearts which may cause us to stray from the devotional path in the face of reversals. Before facing such testing life situations we need to confront our doubts headlong during our discussions of Srila Prabhupada’s books.
The following are some evidences supporting the validity of asking questions until we feel comfortable accepting something as true.
“Doubt, misapprehension, correct apprehension, memory and sleep, as determined by their different functions, are said to be the distinct characteristics of intelligence.
Doubt is one of the important functions of intelligence; blind acceptance of something does not give evidence of intelligence. Therefore the word samsaya is very important; in order to cultivate intelligence, one should be doubtful in the beginning…” Srimad Bhagavatam 3.26.30
“Nothing should be accepted blindly; everything should be accepted with care and with caution.” (Bhagavad-gita 10.4, Bg 10.5, Bg 10.4-5)
“So we request simply people that you accept this authoritative knowledge and try to assimilate it by your intelligence. It is not that you stop your argument and intelligence, simply blindly accept something. No. We are human beings, we have got intelligence. We are not animals that we shall be forced to accept something. No. Tad viddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya [Bg. 4.34]. In this Bhagavad-gita you’ll find. You try to understand, tad viddhi. Viddhi means try to understand. Pranipata. Pranipatena means surrendering, not by challenge.” lecture on Bhagavad-gita 2.13 — Pittsburgh, September 8, 1972