Shraddha – Trust Pending Verification

This sub-module is based on the teachings of Swami Dayananda and Swami Viditatmananda.
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Shraddha is the fifth sub-qualification of Discipline. Shraddha can be translated as faith or trust in the words of Vedanta.

In this sub-module we will discuss:

1. What is Shraddha?
2. Why trust is required to understand Vedanta?
3. Why trust in the teacher is also needed?
4. Why Shraddha is enlightened faith, not blind faith?

What Is Shraddha?

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Of what nature is Shraddha?

Trust in the words of the teacher and Vedanta is Shraddha.


Trust, faith, in what?

In the words of Vedanta.

What is that faith here?

That they are a means of knowledge, a Pramana. You give the status of a means of knowledge to the words of Vedanta. You don’t look at them as theory, as speculation, as philosophy, but take them as an independent means of knowledge. That is called trust.

If it is philosophy, you don’t need faith, but because these words are supposed to fulfill a promise, you do require faith.

If it is a philosophy, why do you need faith? Do you have faith in Kant (Philosophy of Immanuel Kant)?

No, that is philosophy, so you have to understand what he says, and because it is speculation, you don’t require

But when you take Ayurvedic medicine, there is Shraddha, because you don’t know what it is going to do. A promise is held out. Many people have taken this before and it has worked for them, so there is no reason why it should not work for you.

So you take it with faith, Shraddha. And then suddenly you get up in the morning and find that you are better. But it can prove itself otherwise. Ayurvedic medicine can also create problems, but unless it proves itself otherwise, there is faith, Shraddha, that it is verifiable.

That faith, however, is different from the Shraddha we are talking about here.

Trust In Vedanta As A Means Of Knowledge (Pramana)

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The organs of perception are a valid means of knowledge for gaining knowledge of external objects. A listener does not question the data collected by his ears; he accepts it without questioning.

Similarly, you accept your eyes as a means of knowledge with respect to colour and form. All our organs are the Pramana, means of knowledge, for their corresponding objects and we have Shraddha or full trust in them.

For example, if my tongue says a hot drink is coffee, I accept it; I do not question it. We accept the knowledge given by our organs of perception with trust because we accept them as the Pramana, a valid means of knowledge for revealing the corresponding objects.

We should have a similar trust in Vedanta because Vedanta is a Pramana for the truth about the Self. The Self is not available for perception. It cannot be grasped by the organs of perception, the mind, or words.

In short, the Self cannot be comprehended by any means of knowledge other than Vedanta.

This Pramana is more than verifiable; it is just you. Who you are – for this, it is a Pramana. You have no problem at all; it has to reveal itself.

And therefore, it is more than Shraddha, really; it is surrender. It is surrender to the Pramana so that the Pramana can operate.

That’s how it presents itself. “I am a Pramana. The Self is to be understood by Vedanta.” That’s how Vedanta presents itself.

Vedanta itself is the Pramana, and Vedanta itself tells us this. What is already there, it is supposed to reveal, and I have nothing against that. This is called Shraddha.

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This-Is-True Attitude

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In the scriptures there is Satya-Buddhi, the attitude, “This is true.” Only when there is the attitude towards the scripture that it is true, is it a Pramana. If it is regarded as speculation, we don’t have this-is-true-attitude, and with this-is-true-attitude, it becomes a Pramana.

Suppose I hold up a flower and say, “This is a rabbit.” When I say this, you have no this-is-true-attitude in my words. You have this-is-true-attitude in your eyes.

What your eyes see, alone, is true, not what I say. If I say that this is a rabbit you are not going to accept it.

Why? Because what your eyes see, that sight, cannot be denied. And therefore, when I say, “This is a rabbit” you cannot accept that, because this-is-true-attitude is only in the Pramana, your eyes.

Similarly, when the words of the scriptures tell you that you are the whole, tat-tvam-asi (You are that), because it is a Pramana for you, you have this-is-true-attitude in those words.

Even though you have every reason to believe that it is not true, in your question, “How can I be the whole?” you can either dismiss the whole thing, or mean, “I think I don’t understand this.”

Then you give the benefit of the doubt to the scripture, and you enquire. This Shraddha in scripture is a Shraddha pending discovery.

The words of Vedanta are taken to be true. Even though it does not seem to be true for me, I accept that the meaning is true, and that I have to enquire and discover that. This is Shraddha.

Therefore, when there is a doubt, I don’t dismiss the scripture, I question my understanding. This is what we gain through Shraddha.

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Trust Enables Us To Understand Vedanta Correctly

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The Shraddha or trust that we have in Vedanta enables us to maintain a certain frame of mind wherein we don’t question what Vedanta says, but try to understand what it says.

The Self is a unique subject. Typically, I don’t have any preconceived notions or opinions about the objects of the world. A scientist can investigate an object without any kind of prejudice or preconceived notions.

However, here we already have many firm ideas or conclusions about the Self, God, and the world. For example, when you say you don’t believe in or accept God, you already have conclusions about the nature of God.

Therefore, when Vedanta reveals a truth about the Self or the world, which contradicts our present conclusions, we question Vedanta.

When we do that, we cannot learn; once we question the means of knowledge, we cannot learn from it.

What do I do when there seems to be a contradiction or deviation between what Vedanta says and what I think is right? I give Vedanta the benefit of the doubt first and then proceed to see if my conclusion is valid or not.

In doing so, we have an opportunity to review our own conclusions. Otherwise, how can we learn and grow? If we always hold on to our present conclusions, we will never learn anything.

In order to learn, our scope of knowledge must grow and it is necessary to question our conclusions. Therefore, wherever there is a discrepancy between what Vedanta reveals and our own conclusions, we question our conclusions rather than question Vedanta.

Shraddha or trust does not mean that we have to blindly accept whatever the teacher tells us. It only means that we give it the benefit of the doubt and look upon it with a certain reverence.

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Shraddha Is Trust In Vedanta And The Teacher

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Shraddha is not only in the scripture, but in the words of the Guru. The words of the Guru are also important, because this scripture has to be handled.

How do you handle the scripture?

The whole thing is a method, and this method is something that is held by the teaching tradition, the Sampradaya. This tradition holds the key to unlocking the meaning of the scriptures, and therefore, the words of the Guru also become important.

Sometimes a custom made approach to the subject matter is required, based on who is the student. You have to find out where the student is and take off from there. You don’t take off from where the scripture is, but from where the student is.

So what is not even said by the scripture may be said by the teacher. For the time being, he may tell the student to follow a certain practice, a certain means, which is necessary to prepare oneself.

To help the student gain a mind that is conducive for this knowledge, the guru may add a few things which may not be there in the scripture at all.

Knowing the student, he will know that this may be necessary, at this time, in this place, etc., understanding all the contributing factors to the student’s mind.

The modern student has his own problems, and the ancient student had his or her own problems, but one thing is consistent – the mind is typical. Still, whatever the problems are, they have to be taken into account, and then the preparedness has to be taught.

The human mind is complex, so we have to address that also. The modern teacher has to take into account the factors that contribute to the complexity of the mind.

Naturally, therefore, there may be a statement from the teacher which may not be found at all in the scriptures. But that does not mean you dismiss it as long as the main vision is unfolded and the teacher is one who knows the tradition of teaching.

He knows not only the meaning of the teaching, but the tradition of teaching, the method of communicating it to another person.

So in the words of the Guru, also, we have Shraddha.

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One has to discover Shraddha

Let Shraddha, trust or faith, arise in its own way. Let it be discovered. It cannot be commanded. This reverence for scripture cannot be thrust upon anybody.

We discover it as we get exposed to Vedanta, appreciate its profundity and clarity, and see how it releases us from different notions and complexes.

Just as we cannot make ourselves love someone, we cannot make ourselves have Shraddha. Love has to manifest itself. Similarly, Shraddha is not something that we can command; it has to happen.

Shraddha Is Enlightened Faith Based On Verification

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Shraddha, trust and reverence, is essential to learn and enjoy an open mind. An open mind is willing to shed its conclusions and prejudices and is ready to learn and change.

In having Shraddha, there is trust, faith, reverence, devotion, openness, and freedom. In fact, this is the trust where there is freedom.

Normally, the word “faith” scares us. Any intelligent person is skeptical when this question of trust and faith arises because faith is always understood to be blind faith.

But here we are talking not about blind faith, but enlightened faith, a faith that we discover as a result of verification.

As we listen and understand Vedanta and try to assimilate and implement it in our lives, we discover its validity and take the next step. We do not simply believe it, but proceed as we discover the validity of the truth.

Vedanta says that qualities such as humility, non-pretentiousness, and non-violence give peace of mind. This is a testable proposition.

Vedanta says that happiness is not to be found outside, but is to be discovered within ourselves as it is our own nature. Let me stop the external pursuit of happiness and focus my attention on myself and see whether I am able to discover inner peace or not.

The reverence or trust will enable us to shed all the notions that we may be holding on to and thus free us from our shackles. Nobody else has created these shackles of our various conclusions, complexes and prejudices, but we ourselves.

Shraddha or reverential faith enables that learning frame of mind and, therefore, is freedom. Such a mind remains free from doubts and questions and open to the teacher and the teaching.

The conviction that the scriptures and the words of the teacher are true is said to be Shraddha by the wise by whom the Truth is known.


Lord Krishna also gives importance to Shraddha and says in the Bhagavad Gita:

one who has Shraddha gains knowledge.

We give our eyes and ears the status of a Pramana with reference to revealing their corresponding objects. Similarly, we need to accord Vedanta the same status with reference to revealing the nature of the Truth.

Thus, Shraddha, which we discover in course of time, is an extremely important disposition of mind and qualification for studying Vedanta.

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1. Shraddha can be defined as trust or faith in the words of Vedanta pending verification. Shraddha is faith in Vedanta as a Pramana, a means of knowledge for knowing the Self, just as eyes are a means of knowledge with respect to colour and form. Vedanta is not to be looked upon as speculation or philosophy.
2. We need a this-is-true attitude towards Vedanta so that if we hear something which contradicts our beliefs or conclusions, we give Vedanta the benefit of doubt. I provisionally accept that the meaning is true, and then I enquire into it; I don’t dismiss it. This kind of attitude helps us to question our own conclusions, be more open minded, and understand the teachings correctly.
3. Shraddha is trust in the teacher too. Trust in the teacher is required because the key to Vedanta is the teaching tradition. As long as the Guru knows the method of communicating the teaching, he or she may customize the teaching for a particular student. So trust is needed in the words of the Guru also.
4. Shraddha is not blind faith, but enlightened faith based on verification. We discover faith when we implement Vedanta in our lives and verify whether what the teachings say is true.