Doubt, Belief, Faith and Trust

This morning I picked up an Osho book that I read a few years ago called Tantra: The Supreme Understanding. I found a passage that really spoke to me, where Osho distinguishes between several related concepts: Doubt, Belief, Faith and Trust. I think it is fascinating how he considers doubt and belief opposite sides of the same coin, doubt being the more negative view and belief the more positive. Yet both are in denial of something else, “againstness” in Osho’s words rather than acceptance. I think the prevailing view is that you either doubt something or believe it. However if you consider these two concepts similar, then this opens one up to the question: “If I am not doubting or believing, what am I doing?”.  This is where Trust and Faith come in: Faith is a trusting, a deep trusting, a love. It is neither for or against.

The reason this spoke to me so much was that in the past few months I’ve been wrestling with doubt. Several events in my life created the conditions for a doubting mind, and reading this I had the realization that the events in my life have simply moved my attention from belief to doubt.  While the Believing-mind is accompanied by more joyful states then the Doubting-mind, both are in effect limited ways of being in the world. As Osho states, giving attention to doubt feeds it, and suppressing it will only cause it to live in your subconscious.  My experience is that doubt is an extremely corrosive attitude, how then can we get rid of it?  By moving our attention and our energy towards trust, by being indifferent to the doubting mind. Only by being indifferent can doubt disappear completely.

The events in my life have shown me that the only reliable way to be in the world is to trust. Trusting all appearance, good or bad, being indifferent. But not indifferent as in not caring. Indifferent as an absolute acceptance. This trust is the beginning of deep faith, and the very foundation of love.

Please read Osho’s own words below. To put this in context, Osho is speaking about a spiritual students readiness to receive teachings.  Enjoy:

…And your readiness means that doubt should simply disappear from the mind. It should not be suppressed, you should not try to defeat it, because defeated it will remain in you; suppressed, it will remain part of your unconscious and it will go on affecting you. Don’t fight your doubting mind, don’t suppress it. Rather, on the contrary, you simply bring more and more energy into trust. You simply be indifferent to your doubting mind, nothing else can be done.

Indifference is the key: you simply be indifferent. It is there – accept it. Bring your energies more and more towards trust and love – because it is the same energy which becomes doubt; it is the same energy which becomes trust. Remain indifferent to doubt. The moment you are indifferent your cooperation is broken, you are not feeding it – because it is through attention that anything is fed. If you pay attention to your doubt, even if you are against it, paying attention to it is dangerous because the very attention is the food; that is your cooperation. One has just to be indifferent, neither for nor against: don’t be for doubt, don’t be against doubt.

So now you will have to understand three words. One word is ”doubt,” another word is ”belief,” the third word is ”trust” or ”faith”. Doubt is a negative attitude towards anything. Whatsoever is said, first you look at it negatively. You are against it, and you will find reasons, rationalizations how to support your ”againstness.” Then there is the mind of belief. It is just like the mind of doubt only standing upside down; there is not much difference. This mind looks at things positively and tries to find reasons, rationalizations how to support it, how to be for it. The mind who doubts suppresses belief; the mind who believes suppresses doubt – but they both are of the same stuff; the quality is not different.

Then there is a third mind whose doubting has simply disappeared – and when doubt disappears, belief also disappears. Faith is not belief, it is love. Faith is not belief because it is not half, it is total. Faith is not belief because there is no doubt in it, so how can you believe? Faith is not a rationalization at all: neither for nor against, neither this nor that. Faith is a trusting, a deep trusting, a love. You don’t find any rationalizations for it, it simply is so. So what to do?

Don’t create belief against faith. Just be indifferent to belief and doubt both, and bring your energies towards more and more love; love more, love unconditionally. Not only love me, because that is not possible: if you love, you simply love more. If you love, you simply exist in a more loving way – not only towards the master, but towards everything that exists around you: towards the trees and the stones, and the sky and the earth. You, your being, your very quality of being, becomes a love phenomenon. Then trust arises.

The Summoned Self

How will you measure your life?  This is often the question that we Americans ask ourselves when we move forward with major and even minor decisions. This line of thinking, as termed by David Brooks in a recent New York Times article, is considered the Well-Planned Life approach. Promoted by Harvard Business School professor and author Clayton Christensen, this approach is about creating a strategy to come up with an overall purpose, and making decisions about allocating your time, energy and talent. Christensen reminds us that people with a need for high achievement tend to focus on tangible and near-term accomplishments (such as closing a sale or finishing a paper) instead of aspects of life that may not yield fruit for some time – such our relationships, family and health. Just like any successful business project, focusing on both near and long-term goals will lead to success. When following this model, life comes to appear as a well-designed project, carefully conceived in the beginning, reviewed and adjusted along the way and brought toward a well-rounded fruition.  Sounds so nice doesn’t it? But if you’re like me there is something about that approach that just doesn’t feel right at all!

Brooks moves on to discuss an alternative view of life, one that is not as prevalent in American society that he coins The Summoned Life. This view approaches life with a completely different perspective, believing life isn’t a project to be completed; it is an unknowable landscape to be explored.

Short of quoting the entire article (its short, just read it!), the Summoned Life is about emphasizing, What are my circumstances asking me to do? over the What Should I do? approach of the Well-Planned life. 

These are questions answered primarily by sensitive observation and situational awareness, not calculation and long-range planning. Moreover, people who think in this mode are skeptical that business models can be applied to other realms of life. Business is about making choices that maximize utility. But the most important features of the human landscape are commitments that precede choice — commitments to family, nation, faith or some cause. These commitments defy the logic of cost and benefit, investment and return.

Brooks believes that the first vision is more American, while the second vision is more common elsewhere and that ultimately both are useful to combine into a Well-Considered Life, where Life comes to a point not when the individual project is complete but when the self dissolves into a larger purpose and cause.

This article really touched on something that has been incubating inside of me for the past couple of months, since my return to America. My life prior to 2009 was clearly a Well-Planned life; a life centered around achievement, accomplishment, career, possessions, hobbies, etc.  A fear of commitment to certain things (read: relationships with women) always existed because they clearly add a variable to the well-planned life that could not be controlled to produce the desired result.  I think I’m not alone in this, as I see so many people around me driven by this project of life: completing tasks, improving their situation, moving up. The problem is that this entire approach is rooted in Ego. When Ego drives, the feeling is that the world is separate from you, therefore you act from it and by default act in self-interest. This may have the temporary effect of improving your financial or material situation, but from my experience will not satisfy the burning questions in life – those like: Why am I here, What happens when I die, What is my purpose? Why do I suffer? How do I find (lasting) joy? 

Having a tremendous amount of time to myself recently, I am fortunate to be able to watch subtle patterns in my consciousness, see the roots of emotions rising and visualize more clearly my own habits that are rooted in various schools of thought.  This process can’t be viewed through traditional lens, its one that requires an element of quietness and an element of stilling both my external activities and the activities of mind. This combination has led me to the sensation that I alluded to earlier, one of standing still as the rest of the world rushes on by. A lot of this has been beautiful – friends and family growing and changing, people finding new careers, welcoming new babies into families, new relationships beginning, others ending to allow a new exploration. Outside of my immediate circle, the patterns of the world do something similar – the wars continue, as does the poverty, the materialism, the nationalism, consumerism, etc, etc.  Yet my perception of the world shifting. These things aren’t grabbing hold of me, entering into my way of thinking and consciousness.  They are becoming more like background music in a beautiful play where the main actors are Beauty, Love and Compassion.

Yet, the Ego is an elusive fellow.  I have felt a tremendous amount of self induced pressure to produce the results of well-planned life through a summoned life. This is clearly an effect of the remnants of the Well-Planned life construct– projects (life) have targets and goals, and there should be measureable progress along the way.  However, measuring the immeasurable is simply impossible to do. I constantly have to remind myself of this before getting mired in self-judgment and doubt, which unfortunately happens more often than I’d like. The reminder is that this beautiful gift of a human life is a process, one with no beginning and no end, completely timeless and by its very definition, already perfect.

That’s all I have time for today – soon I will be discussing the realities of such an approach in the modern world.

Is the grass greener?

As I begin to plan my trip abroad, I find myself fantasizing about opportunities that may present themselves throughout my journey. Career opportunities, spiritual growth, friendships to name a few. Is this more of an escape mechanism than reality?  This is something I have been struggling with for almost a year when the idea of such a trip began to develop.  Of course one can find everything right where they are, right now. But as I look at my past I find that the biggest character developing moments and opening experiences have occurred when I am out of my comfort zone, typically away from home.

Sometimes we become so mired in our foundations and patterns that it becomes easier to just push it all away and start from scratch. I often liken this to a housekeeping for the mind.  Just as you have two options to clean your room – from the inside, slowly examining each item and determining whether to keep it or remove it, OR, taking everything out of the room at once, starting with an empty room and then slowly adding back the important items.  I’ve always found the latter allows for a more tidy room (mind).  There is actually a third method that doesn’t work at all.  *Thinking* about housekeeping but not actually doing anything about it. That’s where I’ve been lately.