Faith is Born of Knowledge

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First answer

Dear Prabhu,

please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

I am sorry not to have much time to do a full research, but these few sastric references will make clear my concept.

Of course I am fully aware of how many times the word “sraddha” is translated as “faith”, but it is the concept of what really means sraddha (translated as faith) that in my modest opinion is not fully understood.

The confusion comes from the contamination of the Christian religion, that twists the real meaning of faith.

Before giving a few sastric quotes, I’d like to make a short analogy so you may better understand my thought.

Let’s say we are talking about a country I have never been to, never heard or read about. Let’s say Mongolia.

You come to me and say: “Do you have faith that Mongolia is a beautiful country?”

My answer would be: “I don’t know Mongolia. How can I have faith?”

See? “Know”. I don’t know anything about that, how can I have faith?

I would then ask you,

“please tell me about Mongolia, let me read something, let me go there to see at least something, and then I can believe.”

If I would have immediately said

“yes, I have faith that Mongolia is a beautiful country”,

my answer would denote blind faith born of who knows what.

Then let’s say you describe Mongolia to me. Other people also tell me about it, I see maps and photos on the Internet. Due to that my faith increases.

If I want a definite proof, I may go there, but since it is a big country I can never be sure that all the country is beautiful. But, since I have heard and seen a lot, then I more and more develop faith that all the country may be beautiful.


Abandoning the analogy and coming to Krishna, if we don’t know anything about Him, if we have never at least heard about Him, why in the world should we have faith in Him?

Now I have faith in Krishna. Why do I? Because Srila Prabhupada told me about Him, because of the sastras, because of sadhus, because of my limited purification and experiences of transcendence. A part of Him I have understood and realized. The part I haven’t, I have faith.

Why do I? Because I have understood and realized a part of Him.

When you met Srila Prabhupada, he talked to you about Krishna. He did not say “have faith in Krishna” without preaching to you.

So faith is born of knowledge.

This is my point.

Believing without having understood or experienced anything is sahajiyaism, blind faith born of fanatism, foolishness and personal material interests.


It follows some quotes from Srila Prabhupada:

“The first initial stage is called sraddha, or a liking for the Supreme Lord…”[1]

Here sraddha is translated as “liking”, not faith. How can you like Krishna if you don’t have some information about His qualities?

“If one reads the description of this external form of the Lord with great faith, or if one hears about it or explains it to others to propagate bhagavata-dharma, or Krsna consciousness, his faith and devotion in spiritual consciousness, Krsna consciousness, will gradually increase.”[2]

Here it is clearly explained that one has to hear in order to have faith.

If you hear, immediately your heart is brought to Krishna, and if you continue to hear your faith increases. Why? Because of purification. Again, before hearing, what should you have faith in?

“Sraddha, to advance in spiritual life, the beginning is sraddha, faith. That is faith. Sraddha… Not exactly faith. Sraddha means respectful: “Oh, it is nice.” That is called sraddha…”[3]

See? Here Srila Prabhupada says “not faith”. Sraddha means respectful.

“It is nice”, he says. You hear about Krishna, you know Him, so obviously you come to the conclusion that “He is nice”.

“As mentioned in verses thirty and thirty-one, one’s first duty is to approach the spiritual master, the representative of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, to begin rendering service to him… ”[4]

This is the process. You want spiritual realization, then you approach a Guru, you learn and serve him and purification comes. It doesn’t say “have faith in God”, and that’s it. Actually to “have faith in God” doesn’t mean anything.

This is Christianism. Not Vaishnavism.


“After hearing Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna told Krsna:

sarvam etad rtam manye

yan mam vadasi kesava.

“O Krsna, I totally accept as truth all that You have told me.”[5]

This is the correct way of understanding Bhagavad-gita, and this is called sraddha. It is not that one accepts a portion of Bhagavad-gita according to his own whimsical interpretations and then rejects another portion. This is not sraddha. Sraddha means accepting the instructions of Bhagavad-gita in their totality, especially the last instruction:

sarva-dharman parityajya

mam ekam saranam vraja.

“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me.”[6]

When one becomes completely faithful in regard to this instruction, one’s strong faith becomes the basis for advancing in spiritual life.”[7]

You hear, then you accept. What in the world do you accept if you don’t hear?

Here it is explained that one has to approach a spiritual master first, because of desire for spiritual realization. This is the main meaning of the word sraddha or faith. Desire for self-realization, which is born of frustration in material life, or causeless mercy of the pure devotee and the Lord.

“Srila Prabhupada: The first stage is that you are inquisitive. “So,” you say, “what is this Krsna consciousness movement? Let me study it.” This is called sraddha, or faith.”[8]

Here Srila Prabhupada explains without possibility of letting in other interpretations his meaning of the word sraddha: inquisitiveness. One wants the Absolute Truth, so he approaches a Guru. This “wanting the absolute Truth” is called sraddha.


Having faith in Krishna without having first heard or chanted is not faith (sraddha) but blind faith, which is not accepted by Srila Prabhupada:

“The conclusion is that blind faith in a particular mode of nature cannot help a person become elevated to the perfectional stage. One has to consider things carefully, with intelligence, in the association of a bona fide spiritual master. Thus one can change his position to a higher mode of nature.”[9]

I can go on and on and on.

I can offer you hundreds of quotes form sastras clearly explaining this concept.

Faith born of knowledge and realization is sraddha. Faith born of sentimentalism is something else.


Second answer

I cannot but agree with what you say.

My point is another one though. What causes or should cause faith?

I am saying: knowledge.

You say “faith in Krsna”. You and I have faith in Krishna because we have heard of Him.

“Faith in Srimad Bhagavatam” because we have read it.

“Faith in our founder-acarya” because we have known him. We have met him, we have heard and practiced his instructions.

“Faith in established senior devotees” because we know them.

Knowledge can change things, it can also change faith. If I have faith in a known devotee, and then I come to know that he does something wrong, I stop having faith in him. So faith is always based on knowledge.

This is what I meant in that paragraph of the Katha Upanishad.

Knowledge gives rise to faith, knowledge can put it out.

Apart from this, there is nothing more that I disagree on.

[1] Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.6.16, purport

[2] Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.26.38

[3] Srila Prabhupada lectures on SB, 1972

[4] Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.7.33

[5] Bhagavad-gita 10.14

[6] Bhagavad-gita 18.66

[7] Nectar of Instruction, chapter 5

[8] Science of Self Rrealization, chapter 1

[9] Bhagavad-gita 17.2 purport


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