There is something else that is very important for you to understand in order to become self-realized, and that is faith.
You have to have faith in something that you yet do not understand. Faith is a powerful tool you use to climb the ladder to self-realization.
You have to have faith in yourself,
faith in the teaching,
faith in the teacher,
faith that something wonderful is about to happen to you.
Yet I meet so many people that are so dogmatic, opinionated in their views. They have doubts, suspicions, all kinds of negative symptoms going through them, and they want to become self-realized. It is true you can go a long way with all of your bad habits. But I say to you, you can never awaken fully until you give them up, and faith helps you to give them up.
There's a story about Makunda, one of the rishis, sages, of old. For some reason he decided to get married. He wanted to have a child. But no matter how he tried, his wife couldn't conceive. Two years passed, and he said “I'm going to pray to Shiva," one of the Gods.
He prayed to Shiva and he said
“Lord, your will is my will.
I don't really know what's good for me, or what I really want. But you know what I want in my heart, and if it's right for me it will happen. If it isn't, it won't. But I have total faith in you that whatever happens is your will and it's good."
He prayed like this for many years.
Finally Shiva appeared to him and said “My son, never have I seen such faith. You forgot all about yourself, about your family, and you just wanted me. So I have appeared to you. Your desire will come to pass. You will have a child, but you must make a choice. You may have a child who is a half idiot and will live a long life, or a child with a fine intellect who will live a short life. You have to choose."
Makunda said "I will choose the latter, the one with the sharp intellect.” And Shiva said “He will live to be sixteen years old. Then he will drop his body.” Makunda accepted and the time came to have the baby, they did.
And at a very young age the intellect of the child was astounding. He was able to memorize all the Vedas when he was five years old. He was able to speak five languages. He was an astounding poet, writer. As he grew older his father became sadder and sadder. Finally he asked his father “Father, what's wrong? Why do you become so sad every time I have a birthday?" And Makunda explained to him the deal he made with Shiva.
"You've only to live to be sixteen, and then you must go.
The youth said “Shiva listened to you. Perhaps he'll listen to me," and he started to pray to Shiva every day. "Lord, I am yours, and do with me what you want. I have no desire. I know only that you brought me here, and when you're ready you will take me back. Do with me as you will. Your will, not mine, be done. I am yours." And again he said that prayer every day for a year.
Finally Shiva appeared to him also and said “My son, you have the faith of your father. When someone prays to me thus, I have no option but to help him. So because of your faith, when you reach the age of sixteen, you will stay at that age forever."
Now the moral of that story is the faith. Remember, Makunda was very advanced spiritually, and yet he had faith in a power, a presence, that he didn't see or feel. He surrendered to that power and that presence. That's what it takes for us to awaken.
This is why people like Ramana Maharshi always said that devotion, faith and self-inquiry are the same thing. You can't just have dry self-inquiry. You have to feel love. You have to feel devotion. You have to put God first. Unless you put God first you're going to just have dry words, and the words will give you a sharp intellect. You will be able to recite all sorts of things, memorize books, hear lectures and remember them, yet you will never really awaken.
This is why sometimes Advaita Vedanta can be dangerous to some people. Yet if they really read the books on Advaita Vedanta, they'll understand that they have to develop a tremendous faith.
Think of some of the teachers that you know or heard about. Nisargadatta, he always prayed. He realized that he was consciousness. He was self-realized, but at the same time he chanted, he prayed, he had devotion. It sounds like a contradiction. For you may say “If someone is self-realized and he knows himself or herself to be all there is, to whom do they pray?" Try to remember that all spiritual life is a contradiction. It's a contradiction because words cannot explain it.
Even when you are the self, you can pray to the self, which is you.
Ramana Maharshi always had chanting at the ashram, prayers, devotional hymns. These things are very important.
Many westerners, who profess to be atheists, come to listen to lectures on Advaita Vedanta, and yet nothing ever happens in their lives. As long as you do not have devotion, faith, love, discrimination, dispassion, it will be very difficult to awaken.
Therefore those of you who become bored with practicing self-inquiry may become very devotional. Surrender everything. Give up your body, your thoughts, all the things that bind you, whatever problems you may believe you have. Surrender them to your favorite deity. You are emptying yourself out as you do this. Do a lot of it. Become humble. Have a tremendous humility. If you can just do that you will become a favorite of God and you’ll not have to search any longer.
But of course the choice is always yours. What are you chasing in life?
What are you going after?
What are the things that interest you?
Whatever you put first in your life, that's where your heart is. All of the things that have transpired in your life up to now, forget them. Be aware all of the time that there are no mistakes. There is nothing from the past that can interfere with your life if you become devotional and have faith in God. You'll be automatically protected from anything. And if you have enough faith, you can totally remove all karmic aspects of your life. You can transcend all of karma.
You can make life easier for yourself, if you have faith.
— The Collected Works of Robert Adams Volume 1