Chapter 6: Faith and Cognitive Knowledge


1. Hemachuda was astonished at the fantastic tale of his beloved. Being ignorant, he smiled derisively at the tale and asked that wise princess:

2. "My dear, what you have been saying seems to be nothing but invention. Your words have no relation to facts and are altogether meaningless.

3. "You are certainly the daughter of an Apsaras (celestial damsel), and brought up by Rishi Vyagrapada in the forest; you are still young and not yet fully grown.

4. "But you talk as if you were several generations old. Your long-winded speech is like that of a girl possessed and not in her senses.

5. "I cannot believe that rigmarole. Tell me where your companion is and who is the son she killed.

6. "Where are those cities? What is the significance of your story? Where is your friend?

7. "I know nothing of your lady-in-waiting. You may ask my mother if you like. There is no other lady besides your mother-in-law in my father's place.

8. "Tell me quickly where such a lady is to be found and where her son's sons are. I think your tale is a myth like the tale of a barren woman's son.

9-11. "A clown once related a story that a barren woman's son mounted a chariot reflected in a mirror and decorated with silver taken from the sheen of mother-of-pearl, armed himself with weapons made of human horn, fought in the battle-field of the sky, killed the future king, subdued the city of aerial hosts and enjoyed himself with dream maidens on the banks of the waters of a mirage.

12. "I take your words to mean something similar. They can never be the truth." After listening to the words of her lover, the wise girl continued:

13. "Lord, how can you say that my parable is meaningless? Words from the lips of those like me can never be nonsense.

14. "Falsehood undermines the effects of one's penance; so how can it be suspected in virtuous people? How can such a one be stainless and numbered among the sages?

15. "Moreover, one who entertains an earnest seeker with hollow or false words, will not prosper in this world nor advance in the next.

16. "Listen, Prince. A purblind man cannot have his eye-sight restored by merely hearing the prescription read.

17. "He is a fool who misjudges good precepts for falsehood. Do you think, my dear, that I, your wife, would deceive you with a myth when you are so much in earnest?

18-19. "Reason well and carefully examine these apparent untruths of mine. Is not an intelligent man accustomed to judge big things in the world by verifying a few details in them? I now present you my credentials.

20. "Some things used to please you before. Why did they cease to do so, after you heard me on the last occasion?

21. "My words brought about dispassion; they are similarly bound to do so even more in future. How else can it be? Judge your own statements from these facts.

22. "Listen to me, King, with an unsophisticated and clear intellect. Mistrust in a well-wisher's words is the surest way to ruin.

23. "Faith is like a fond mother who can never fail to save her trusting son from dangerous situations. There is no doubt about it.

24. "The fool who has no faith in his well-wisher's words is forsaken by prosperity, happiness and fame. A man who is always suspicious can never gain anything worthwhile.

25. "Confidence holds the world and nourishes all. How can a babe thrive if it has no confidence in its mother?

26. "How can a lover gain pleasure if he does not trust his beloved? Similarly, how is the aged parent to be happy who has no confidence in his sons?

27. "Would the husbandman till the land, if he had no confidence? Mutual distrust will put an end to all transactions.

28. "How can humanity exist without universal confidence? If you should say, on the other hand, that it is the law of cause and effect, I will tell you; listen to me.

29. "People believe in the law that such a cause produces such a result. Is that not faith?

30. "So then, a man will not dare to breathe in the absence of Sraddha (faith) for fear of pathogenic infection, and consequently perish. Therefore believe before you aspire for supreme beatitude.

31. "If again, Prince, you hesitate to depend on an incompetent person, as you may think me to be, that is because you believe that a certain end must be accomplished.

32. "How else can the desired end be approached?" Hearing his beloved's arguments, Hemachuda said to the fair speaker:

33. "If faith should be placed on any one, my dear, it should certainly be placed on those worthy of it, in order that one's ends may be served.

34-35. "He who is bent on the highest good should never trust an incompetent person. Otherwise, he comes to grief, like a fish attracted by the tempting bait at the end of a fishing line. Therefore, faith can only be put in the worthy and not in the unworthy.

36. "Fishes and all those men who have ruined themselves in the one way and prospered in the other, can verify my statement.

37. "I can only believe you therefore after full ascertainment of your worth; not otherwise. Why then do you ask me if the desired end can be approached?" (vide sloka 32 ante.)

38. After hearing him, Hemalekha replied: "Listen, Prince, to what I am going to say now.

39. "I answer your point. How is one to be judged, whether one is good or bad?

40. "Is it by reference to accepted standards? What is the authority behind such standards? Are the authors themselves worthy or unworthy? In this way, there will be no end to argument.

41. "Moreover, the observer's competence must be taken into account. (Thus, too, there will be no finality reached.) Therefore life moves by faith only.

42-45. "I shall tell you the rationale of reaching the Supreme Goal by means of faith. Be attentive. People will not gain anything, either during their life-time or after death, by endless discussions or blind acceptance. Of the two, however, there is hope for the latter and there is none for the former."

(The following anecdote illustrates the point.)

"Once there lived a saint, by name Kausika, on the Sahya Hill near the banks of the Godavari.

46. "He was serene, pure, pious, having knowledge of the Supreme Truth. Several disciples attended on him.

47. "Once when the master had gone out, the disciples started to discuss philosophy, according to their own lights.

48. "There appeared on the scene a Brahmin of great intellect and wide learning, Soonga by name, who successfully refuted all their arguments by his skill in logic.

49-50. "He was a man without faith and without conviction, but an able debater. When they said that the truth must be ascertained by reference to some standard, he argued on the basis of an unending series of standards and refuted them.

51-55. "He rounded off his speech with the following: 'Listen, you Brahmins, standards are not applicable for ascertaining merits or demerits and so arriving at the truth. For erroneous standards are no good as tests. To start with, their correctness must be established. Other standards are required to check them. Are they in their turn infallible? Proceeding in this way, no finality can be reached. Therefore no tests are possible. Ascertainment of Truth being impossible without being tested, nothing can therefore be Truth. This enunciation itself cannot be true, nor the enunciator either. What then is the decision arrived at? That all are nothing, void. This too cannot be supported by reliable facts; hence, the statement that all are void ends in void also.'

56. "Hearing his discourse, some of them were impressed by the force of Soonga's logic and became scholiasts of the void.

57-60. "They got lost in the maze of their philosophy. The discriminating ones among the hearers placed Soonga's arguments before their master and were enlightened by him. Thus they gained peace and happiness. Therefore, beware of arid polemics parading as logic. Use it in the manner in which the holy books have done. That way lies the salvation." Thus addressed by that eminent heroine, Hemachuda was greatly astonished and said: "My dear, I did not realise your sublimity earlier.

61. "Blessed are you that you are so wise! Blessed am I that I have fallen into your company. You say that faith bestows the highest good. How does it do so?

62-63. "Where is faith expedient, and where not? The scriptures differ in their teachings; the teachers differ among themselves; the commentaries similarly differ from one another; to add to this, one's reasoning is no guide. Which of them is to be followed and which rejected?

64. "Each one stamps his own views with the seal of authority and condemns the rest, not only as worthless but also as harmful, my dear!

65. "That being the case, I cannot decide for myself. What you condemned as the school of the void turns round on others and attacks them.

66. "Why should not that school be respected? It has its own adherents and its own system of philosophy. Explain to me, dear, all these things clearly. They must indeed be already clear to you."

Thus ends the Chapter VI on Sraddha (Faith) in Hemachuda Section in Tripura Rahasya.