When I first learnt to chant Śraddha Sūktam, a beautiful hymn from Ṛg Veda, I was mesmerised by its meaning. Some of my regular students accuse me of being mesmerised by every hymn I learn, and this is completely, happily true! In any case, here’s a little excerpt of me studying this mantra with Guruji Sreenivasan (The Challakere Brothers).
Śraddha is an important concept presented in the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali. It is often translated into English as ‘faith’ which according to my Veda teacher (Dr.R.L.Kashyap) is inaccurate, even if faith is something more than ordinary belief.
Because in Yoga, there is no ‘belief’.
Śraddha in Yoga is an initial qualification for Samādhi, the ultimate assimilation of knowledge. In Sūtra 1.20 from the 1st chapter: of the Yoga Sūtras:
1.20 śraddhāvīryasmṛtisamādhi prajñāpūrvaka itareṣām
Patañjali says that Śraddha sets things in motion on our yogic journey. This doesn’t mean we have to come to yoga with full force (faith!). But, in fact, we can come to yoga based on the faintest, even the vaguest interest or curiosity. We can come to yoga full of questions and doubts and criticism.
Unlike ordinary faith, which is most often associated with the word blind, we can come to yoga with our eyes fully open and our minds full of doubt. Through practice, Śraddha, that was a tiny seed of curiosity, germinates under the right conditions and flourishes like a plant that has received the right nourishment.
Śraddha then becomes the source of Vīrya, an indomitable energy. We need this energy to stay on the path of Yoga.
Here’s how the word is constructed:
Śrat + dhā = Śraddhā
Śrat is the Truth, related to Sat & dhā means to hold.
Śraddha therefore becomes the power of truth, something that allows us to hold the truth.
Śraddha then becomes our constant companion, a partner we collaborate with to help us discern what practices benefit us and give us energy on this challenging yogic journey!
In the Vedas, Śraddha is invoked as a Goddess, a cosmic force, through the recitation of this beautiful hymn. Śraddha allows us to experience Her presence with the same conviction that we have in our own existence.
The first line from this hymn Śraddhayāgiḥ samidhyate means by Śraddha, our power of will is kindled. Here’s our study group reciting this mantra.
We invoke Śraddha in the morning,
We invoke Śraddha at mid-day,
We invoke Śraddha at the setting of the Sun,
O Śraddha, invigorate us with the power of Truth.