Faith, it's presence and strength, is traditionally the test of someone's legitimacy as a believer. The deeper the faith, the better someone is doing spiritually...right? I've been spending the last couple of years cultivating faith, admiring the roots that it seemed to be growing, how much more difficult I was becoming to sway. Recently I picked up a copy of Osho's The Book of Understanding, though, and got a completely different perspective on the merits of doubt...
"They say, believe. I say, explore. They say, don't doubt. I say, doubt to the very end, till you arrive and know and feel and experience. Then there is no need to repress doubt, it evaporates by itself. Then there is no need for you to believe. You don't believe in the sun, you don't believe in the moon. You don't need to believe in ordinary facts because they are there...The moment you destroy doubt, you have destroyed something of immense value, because it is doubt that is going to help you to inquire and find. In destroying doubt you have cut the very root of your inquiry."
Coming from a Catholic upbringing, this is a challenging, heretical idea. Faith is such a well-ingrained virtue, I had never thought to consider the alternative. However, I am fully behind experiencing. It's the reason why you'll never find me guaranteeing anyone that Kundalini yoga will work for them- because I can't say for sure that it will. I know what my experience of it is, but I can't give you my experience. Each of us has to find our own truth and have our own experience. Nothing that my dear friend Regina said about Kundalini compared to how it felt in my body to do it. She suggested it for months and after only three classes I had bought a class pass and was on the train.
Even within the practice I still have doubts, though. I was very unsure of the chanting aspect at first. It seemed a little foreign and culty, but I liked the way it felt, so I asked a lot of questions and kept exploring it. The more positive, transformative experience I have with mantra and chanting, the more questions I have and the deeper my practice becomes. It's like gravity- it just works. Not because I believe in it. I experience it, personally and practically, in every moment.
Doubt alone won't take you anywhere, though. Curiosity, open mindedness and inquiry is the key. My doubt in Kundalini only worked because I was willing to say, "Okay, I don't know about this weird yoga, but I'm willing to give it a shot." I had the experience of it feeling pretty amazing but didn't really understand what I was doing, so I kept seeking out more information. I got copies of the mantras with translations of the Gurmukhi so I understood what it meant in English and could really chant with full feeling. My teachers made me copies of sets so I could look them over and practice at home. I started reading The Yoga Sutras. A year later, I was in the teacher training I had helped implement, still doubting and seeking, resisting and embracing. I remain ever dazzled by how profound this practice is, daunted by my ever mounting doubts and questions, and amazed that the more I learn, the more room I seem to have for more.
Don't settle for belief and faith. Doubt! Inquire! Don't rest until you've had an experience. And, please, don't take my word for it. Go find out for yourself just how valuable experience is in making a believer out of you.
"When mind knows, we call it knowledge.
When heart knows, we call it love.
When being knows, we call it meditation.
But all three speak different languages, which are not translatable into each other. And the deeper you go, the more difficult it becomes to translate, because at the very center of your being there is nothing but silence." -Osho