Faith and Knowledge

Escher_SwansWe usually place faith and knowledge in two separate categories: we think of faith as referring to something we may believe whether or not there seems to be any empirical proof or logic to support it. As often as not, the first word we associate with ‘faith’ is “blind”. By contrast, we think of knowledge as something you can prove, something that anyone can experience. Faith is subjective, knowledge is objective, and so we might think that knowledge, the objectively provable, is superior to faith, the subjectively un-provable.

Traditional yoga doesn’t make the same distinction between faith and knowledge; yoga sees faith and knowledge as two sides of the same coin. In fact, yoga considers faith to be the mandatory pre-requisite for knowledge because we don’t pursue a path of knowledge without faith that the path will actually lead to knowledge. In that sense, we might think that faith is more important than knowledge since you can’t have knowledge without faith.

The process of yoga is scientific: there’s a theory (proposed knowledge), an experiment to test the theory (practice), and the results of the experiment (realization of knowledge). Faith in the process is demonstrated by taking up the practice. The result of the practice is that theoretical knowledge is transformed into experiential knowledge, which validates our faith in the process. It’s subjective in that we personally experience a unique validation of our faith and it’s objective in that anyone can take up the practice and do the same experiment.

We go where our hearts take us. According to the disposition of our heart we develop a particular kind of faith. The disposition of one’s heart is affected by the qualities of material nature that we associate with: if we associate with the quality of goodness then our heart will be influenced by the quality of goodness and our faith will follow our heart. If our heart is in the mode of passion, our faith will also be in the mode of passion. And if our heart is in the mode of darkness then our faith will be darkened accordingly. Thus we find varieties of faith throughout the world and a particular kind of faith residing within our own heart.

The experience of yoga is both an evolution of consciousness and a softening of the heart. When the heart is receptive to the possibility of the evolution of consciousness the potential for that evolution awakens within the heart. When the potential for evolution awakens within the heart we feel inspired to work towards the realization of that evolution and with steady practice our evolution is realized. Faith unlocks the potential for knowledge, the potential for knowledge inspires our practice, our practice kindles the fire of realized knowledge, and the illumination radiating from that fire deepens our faith; the process comes full circle.

Yoga invites your faith in the possibility of the attaining the highest knowledge: knowledge of your own true nature.


Image: Swans, M.C. Escher (wood engraving, 1956)