Belief is an important word in the teachings of the wise, and it figures prominently in all religions. According to Jesus a certain kind of belief is absolutely necessary to salvation or regeneration, and Buddha definitely taught that Right Belief is the first and most essential step in the Way of Truth, as, without right belief there cannot be right conduct, and he who has not learned how to rightly govern and conduct himself, has not yet comprehended the simplest rudiments of Truth.
Belief, as laid down by the Great Teachers, is not belief in any particular school, philosophy, or religion, but consists of an attitude of mind determining the whole course of one's life. Belief and conduct are, therefore, inseparable, for the one determines the other.
Belief is the basis of all action, and, this being so, the belief which dominates the heart or mind is shown in the life. Every man acts, thinks, lives in exact accordance with the belief which is rooted in his innermost being, and such is the mathematical nature of the laws which govern mind that it is absolutely impossible for anyone to believe in two opposing conditions at the same time. For instance, it is impossible to believe in justice and injustice, hatred and love, peace and strife, self and truth. Every man believes in one or the other of these opposites, never in both, and the daily conduct of every man indicates the nature of his belief. The man who believes in justice, who regards it as an eternal and indestructible Principle, never boils over with righteous indignation, does not grow cynical and pessimistic over the inequalities of life, and remains calm and untroubled through all trials and difficulties. It is impossible for him to act otherwise, for he knows that justice reigns, and that, therefore, all that is called injustice is fleeting and illusionary. The man who is continually getting enraged over the injustice of his fellow men, who talks about himself being badly treated, or who mourns over the lack of justice in the world around him, shows by his conduct, his attitude of mind, that he believes in injustice. However he may protest to the contrary, in his inmost heart he believes that confusion and chaos are dominant in the universe, the result being that he dwells in misery and unrest, and his conduct is faulty.
Again, he who believes in love, in its stability and power, practices it under all circumstances, never deviates from it, and bestows it alike upon enemies as upon friends. He who slanders and condemns, who speaks disparagingly of others, or regards them with contempt, believes not in love, but hatred; all his actions prove it, even though with tongue or pen he may eulogize love.
The believer in peace is known by his peaceful conduct. It is impossible for him to engage in strife. If attacked he does not retaliate, for he has seen the majesty of the angel of peace, and he can no longer pay homage to the demon of strife. The stirrer-up of strife, the lover of argument, he who rushes into self-defense upon any or every provocation, believes in strife, and will have naught to do with peace.
Further, he who believes in Truth renounces himself, that is, he refuses to center his life in those passions, desires, and characteristics which crave only their own gratification, and by thus renouncing he becomes steadfastly fixed in Truth, and lives a wise, beautiful, and blameless life. The believer in self is known by his daily indulgences, gratifications and vanities, and by the disappointments, sorrows and mortifications which he continually suffers. The believer in Truth does not so suffer, for he has given up that self which is the cause of such suffering.
It will be seen by the foregoing that every man believes either in permanent and eternal Principles directing human life toward law and harmony, or in the negation of those Principles with the resultant chaos in human affairs and in his own life. Belief in the divine Principles of justice, Compassion, Love, constitutes the Right Belief laid down by Buddha as being the basis of right conduct, and also the Belief as emphasized in the Christian Scriptures, for he who so believes cannot do otherwise than build his whole life upon these Principles, and so he purifies his heart and perfects his life. Belief in the negation of these divine Principles constitutes what is called in all religions unbelief and this unbelief is manifested as a sinful, troubled, and imperfect life. Where there is right belief there is a blameless and perfect life; where there is false belief there is sin, there is sorrow, the mind and life are improperly governed, and there is affliction and unrest. "By their fruits ye shall know them.”
There is much talk about "belief in Jesus," but what does belief in Jesus mean? It means belief in His words, in the Principles which He enunciated—and lived, in His commandments, and in His exemplary life of perfection. He who declares belief in Jesus, and yet is all the time living in his lusts and indulgences, or in the spirit of hatred and condemnation, is self-deceived. He believes not in Jesus. He believes in his own animal self. As a faithful servant delights in carrying out the commands of his master, so he who believes in Jesus carries out His commandments, and so is saved from sin. The supreme test of belief in a Jesus is this: Do I keep His commandments? And this test is applied by St. John himself in the following words: "He that saith, I know Him (Jesus), and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected."
It will be found, after a rigid and impartial analysis, that belief lies at the root of all human conduct. Every thought, every act, every habit, is the direct outcome of a certain fixed belief, and one’s conduct alters only as one’s beliefs are modified. What we cling to, in that we believe; what we practice, in that we believe. When our belief in a thing ceases, we can no longer cling to or practice it; it falls away from us like a garment outworn. Men cling to their lusts, and lies, and vanities, because they believe in them, believe there is gain and happiness in them. When they transfer their belief to the divine qualities of purity and humility, those sins trouble them no more.
Men are saved from error by belief in the supremacy of Truth. They are saved from sin by belief in Holiness or Perfection. They are saved from evil by belief in Good, for every belief is manifested in the life. It is not necessary to inquire as to a man’s theological belief, for that is of little or no account, for what can it avail a man to believe that Jesus died for him, or that Jesus is God, or that he is "justified by faith," if he continues to live in his lower, sinful nature? All that it is necessary to ask is this: "How does a man live?" “How does he conduct himself under trying circumstances?" The answer to these questions will show whether a man believes in the power of evil or in the power of Good. He who believes in the power of Good, lives a good, spiritual, or godly life, for Goodness is of God, yea, verily, is God Himself, and he will soon leave behind him all his sins and sorrows who believes, with steadfast and unvarying faith, in the Supreme Good.
This chapter is selected from the book Above Life's Turmoil.
More from James Allen
James Allen was a little-known philosophical writer and poet. He is best recognized for his book, As a Man Thinketh. Allen wrote about complex subjects such as faith, destiny, love, patience, and religion but had the unique ability of explaining these subjects clearly and in a way that is easy to understand. He often wrote about cause and effect, sowing and reaping, as well as overcoming sadness, sorrow, and grief. For more information on the life of James Allen, click here.