When we ordinarily examine the concept of “faith” we start from the human standpoint and see it as a mental conviction, an emotional adherence or a vital attachment to some specific formulation for our existence. Since these all are based in the normal human consciousness, they are subject to bending or breaking under pressure. Sri Aurobindo notes that the term “faith” is actually not a fully accurate translation of the Sanskrit term “sraddha” which conveys a much more significant and deeper sense. “This sraddha … is in reality an influence from the supreme Spirit and its light a message from our supramental being which is calling the lower nature to rise out of its petty present to a great self-becoming and self-exceeding. And that which receives the influence and answers the call is not so much the intellect, the heart or the life mind, but the inner soul which better knows the truth of its own destiny and mission.”
When we recognize that the ego-personality is a construct fashioned by the divine Shakti for the manifestation of the divine intention, it becomes clear that the deeper knowledge, as yet hidden from the mind-life-body, resides in the divine consciousness and from there it prepares the being and then develops the intended action. Sraddha, in this sense, then is the individual soul’s recognition of this reality and its openness to participating in and accepting the divine guidance and development.
Individuals are called to the spiritual path through a variety of ways, some of them touching the mind, some the heart, some the vital being, or some even as a result of an extreme physical shock, such as a near death experience. However and in whatever manner the call comes, the opening of the limited mind-life-body, even if briefly, allows the divine Shakti to provide new insight, inspiration and motivation to the being. Regardless, the soul responds and adheres even when the intellect, heart, or vital being closes up again or falls back into its normal limited round of thought and action. “But outward circumstances are only a cover for the real workings of the spirit, and if it is the spirit that has been touched, the inward soul that has received the call, the sraddha will remain firm and resist all attempts to defeat or slay it. It is not that the doubts of the intellect may not assail, the heart waver, the disappointed desire of the life mind sink down, exhausted on the wayside.”
The long history of spiritual quests shows that indeed there may be long periods of apparent darkness and separation even after the defining experience has opened the soul to a larger reality. This is called by many “the dark night of the soul”. “But through it all the spirit within will be keeping its unseen hold and the soul will return with a new strength to its assurance which was only eclipsed and not extinguished, because extinguished it cannot be when once the inner self has known and made its resolution.”
“This saving return we shall experience so often that the denials of doubt will become eventually impossible and, when once the foundation of equality is firmly established and still more when the sun of the gnosis has risen, doubt itself will pass away because its cause and utility have ended.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 18, Faith and Shakti, pp. 746-747