Is ‘Sraddha’ blind belief?

Exploiters of religion have been making capital out of repeating the word Sraddha as their safest excuse for all problems spiritual; to clear which devotees may approach these men who pose themselves as guides in religion. Perhaps no other spiritual term has been so far badly handled by the priest-class and so profitably polluted by the laity in Hinduism as this word of healthy suggestions, Sraddha.
Invariably we find that the ordinary devotees are completely rendered, sometimes fanatical and often poorer, in their intellectual and mental growth, because of the unintelligent insistence of Sraddha translated as \”blind faith and unquestioned acceptance of any declara¬tion said to be divine.\”
Sankara tolls the death knell of this misunderstand¬ing when he explains Sraddha as that attempt at a clear intellectual appreciation by which an individual readily understands the secret depths of significance, the exact import behind the words of the texts as well as of the teachers.
The Pure Consciousness which is the core of the Reality in life, cannot be defined or expressed in words, but this supreme point of human evolution has been only indicated by the text of the scriptures. As such, an honest and sincere effort on the part of the student is unavoidable if the words indicating the Truth are to be correctly interpreted, understood and efficiently made
use of. This capacity at realizing the words of the Scriptures in all their suggestiveness is termed as Sraddha. One may say Sraddha is the belief in what we do not know so that we may come to know what we believe in.
A certain amount of Sraddha is even used by us in our everyday life. If in the material world, it is my Sraddha in the words of the poet that makes me see the face of beauty, it is my Sraddha in the strokes and in the hues on the canvas that makes me realize the experiences of the painter, if it is my Sraddha in a given prospect that gives me a glimpse of its message of beauty and innocence—if, in the gross outer life, Sraddha is so unavoidable, how much more it should be so in my attempt to understand the suggestive beauty, the indica¬tive message and the implied meanings of the pregnant words of the scriptures and of the teacher.
The special capacity of the human intellect, not only to know and appreciate the Sastra, but also, to absorb and assimilate the noble ideals, so completely as to bear upon all one\’s actions, is called Sraddha. It is that powerful, impelling force which springs forth spontane¬ously from within, and propelled by which all layers of personality in an individual act in their appointed fields. \”Faith\” is the content and the very essence of the equip¬ments of man\’s whole being. \”Faith\” gives the direction, the dash, and provides a destination for one\’s determina¬tion. Faith is seen in various fields of human endeavors — in man\’s physical indulgences (ahara), his dedicated activities (yajna), his self-denials (tapas), and his chari¬ties (daana).
Faith is of three kinds, according to the nature of the temperament (gunas) which the individual entertains in himself. (Sattwic, rajasic or tamasic or good, passionate and dull or divine, undivine and diabolic). Sraddha determines the texture of our impressions (vasanas) in us, which, in their turn, command our view-of-life. Our desires, thoughts and actions are charted by our view of life. Naturally, an individual\’s physical activities, .psycho¬logical behaviors and intellectual make up are all order¬ed by the type of Sraddha he has come to maintain in himself and if the Sraddha is of the wrong type, the entire expression of his personality in all walks of life and in every field of endeavor, can only be ugly. As his inner disposition, so will be the man. The more an individual identifies himself with his physical sheath, the more crystallized becomes his ego, under the influence of his inner disposition.
The essence of \’Faith\’ lies in the secret energy of the ego with which it holds on to its convictions, to reach a definite, chosen end, by well thought-out and entirely self-planned means. Each devotee ultimately reaches the seat of his devotion, if he consistently and with Sufficient intensity, devotes himself to its attainment.