“Neither knowledge, nor austerity, nor charity, nor sacrifice can bring the vision you have seen. But through unfailing devotion, Arjuna, you can know me, and see me, and attain union with me.” — The Bhagavad Gita, 11:53-54
“We can believe in a thing, we can know that it exists, even if we cannot understand it with our intellect, or explain it with words.” — Leo Tolstoy
As we progress in our spiritual lives, one key discipline we learn is to believe in what we don’t see yet. Absolute, unshakable faith can create miracles out of thin air. And so, it’s wise to never underestimate the power of faith that a loyal disciple or devotee has in their heart.
There are numerous stories that illustrate the power of this kind of faith. Let’s focus on one such beautiful story from the Hindu tradition for today.
Once there was a boy named Haridas, whose mother was a great devotee of Gopala, the youthful Krishna. Every day Haridas had to walk to school through a forest inhabited by all kinds of wild animals. The journey frightened him so much that he asked his mother what to do.
“Don’t be afraid, Hari,” she replied. “You have a big brother, Gopala, who lives in the forest. All you have to do when you pass that way is to call his name and he will come and escort you to school.”
Haridas had never heard about this older brother before, but he believed his mother’s words completely. The next time he entered the woods he called out, “Gopala! Gopala!” At first, no one appeared, but the boy’s faith was so great that he just went on calling and calling. After a while, out from behind a tree stepped a handsome young man in a yellow silk dhoti, wearing a peacock feather jauntily in his rich black hair. “What’s all the shouting about?” he teased. The two became good friends, and from that day on Krishna appeared every time the boy called, and went with him as far as the edge of the forest. Haridas was never afraid in the woods again.
One day, however, the boy came walking home from school very slowly, with his head drooping. “There’s a feast tomorrow,” he told his mother, “and the teacher asked us all to bring something to eat. But we’re so poor that I don’t think I’ll have anything to take.” But Hari’s mother was unperturbed. “Don’t worry,” she said; “just ask your brother tomorrow for some yogurt for you to take.”
The next day Hari arrived at school with a little bowl of yogurt, and when they all sat down to eat, Hari’s yogurt was passed around with all the other dishes. It was just a small bowl, and there should have been scarcely enough for three or four. But no matter how much was taken from it, the bowl was never empty.
Naturally, the teacher became quite interested in this phenomenon. “Hari,” he asked, “where did you get this bottomless bowl?”
“From my older brother, Gopala, who lives in the woods.”
“But you don’t have an older brother,” his teacher objected. “Come on, now, tell me the truth.”
But Hari, of course, only stuck to his story.
Finally, the teacher decided to accompany the boy home that afternoon and meet this mysterious “older brother” Gopala, who handed out miraculous, unending bowls of food. But in his heart, he still thought the boy was lying. They reached the woods and Hari called out, “Gopala! Gopala!” Sure enough, Krishna appeared around the bend of the path, looking quite natty in his silk dhoti and peacock feather.
Hari waved and cried, “Hi, Gopal!” Then he turned to his teacher and said, “See, there is my older brother. Now, will you please excuse me so I can run home to tell my mother about the feast?” And without waiting for a reply, he hurried off into the forest. But the schoolteacher was left standing there feeling rather ridiculous, because he could not see anyone at all.
This simple, pleasing story thus reveals the incredible power of absolute faith. Unfailing devotion, as Krishna tells Arjun, equips a person to know, see, and attain union with the Lord.
This notion aligns beautifully with these profound words of Jesus Christ: It is only the pure in heart who see God. Complete faith is what it takes to see the Lord everywhere around us every moment of the day, and only those who are pure in heart are truly capable of such faith. (Again, Hanuman, like Haridas from the above-mentioned story, is a prime example of such devotion, someone we can look up to in our pursuit of becoming an ideal devotee or disciple of the Lord.)
In simple words, absolute faith makes the impossible, possible. Difficult and challenging problems get resolved in an instant, and obstacles and roadblocks vanish into thin air. All of a sudden, we become more capable and are able to tap into the divine power within us. As Eknath Easwaran writes, “When we come to have this kind of unquestioning trust in the Lord within us, without any kind of selfish reservation for ourselves, there is no end to the inner resources that will flow into our lives.”