Monday Morning Greetings #13 – The Perils of Faith

March 28th, 2022

To advance in learning, there is a necessity for faith. Unfortunately, there is also a danger in faith. In this post I want to discuss that danger and how to safeguard against being victimized by it, but first it is important to briefly discuss what faith is and why it is so important.


Faith is not blind. It is trust by experience. When, by following the guidance of someone who is expert in a particular field of knowledge, one realizes some truth, one naturally gains trust in their authority. That naturally leads to faith, the acceptance of that person’s authority in certain areas of knowledge beyond what one can personally verify. For example, if one’s health improves by the prescriptions of an expert doctor, one will trust that doctor’s authority and follow the health protocol he or she recommends, although one is not a medical authority nor able to confirm the legitimacy of that doctor’s recommendations.


The necessity of faith as a precursor to knowledge should be obvious. To learn something means going beyond one’s present perception and comprehension, an endeavor obviously requiring preliminary faith. If that is not there, then the effort to understand those truths would be lacking, and one would remain in ignorance of them. Now to the perils of faith—especially in the fields of transformational knowledge, such as psychology and spirituality.


Unfortunately, a person doesn’t have to be perfect in a field of psychological or spiritual expertise to give someone a preliminary experience of transformation and thus generate trust in their authority. And, if such an authority is motivated by personal gain, he can easily manipulate rather than enlighten those who trust him or her. I think the dangers of acceding that type of authority to another is obvious, and the history of such exploitation is common and quite documented. We are thus left with a dilemma.


On one hand, without faith in an accomplished teacher we are generally limited to the authority of our own opinions. On the other hand, if we get the wrong teacher, we get cheated. In that regard, here are some guidelines I wrote in terms of finding a proper spiritual authority, while at the same time safeguarding oneself against being exploited.


  1. Finding a conduit to spiritual knowledge begins with the sincere intention to want to be ruled by knowledge with the faith that God in the heart will respond to our honest entreaty by manifesting externally to us through a humble and learned guide.
  2. A teacher is one who was the faithful student of his teacher. A bona fide teacher should therefore be connected to a recognized lineage of teachers.
  3. The teacher’s legitimacy and one’s relationship with him or her must be tested over a reasonable period of time.
  4. A teacher’s duty is to clear the doubts of their student and therefore must be open to and able to answer all doubts.
  5. Whatever the teacher says must conform to the saintly people and sacred teachers in the tradition to which he or she belongs.
  6. A bona fide teacher is non-envious and non-possessive. If the student finds someone legitimate who inspires them, the teacher blesses the student to develop that connection.


The vehicle of bhakti moves forward on the tracks of faith. It is therefore so important to take refuge in those who know and embody truth. The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam warns, however, that people today are so unlucky that even though they may have a strong desire for spiritual guidance, they can easily be misguided by people willing to exploit their faith for their own personal benefit. [1] Although we are doomed if as a result of this we become skeptical and faithless, still it is wise to be cautious of the perils of faith.


[1] See Bhag. 1.1.10 translation and commentary by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami

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