Q: You encourage people to think freely but how is free thinking compatible with faith?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Yes, this is the beauty. Usually you think faith means blind faith, or reason has no place in it. But that is not the case here.
The Vedanta always talks about Vichara (deliberation) and Viveka (discrimination).
Even in Samadhi it is said, ‘Vichara-anugama Samadhi’ (A meditative state in which you are with some experiences, thoughts, ideas, feelings hovering around); ‘Vitarkanugama Samadhi’ (A meditative state with irrefutable logical understanding of the creation).
Even in Samadhi, Tarka (logic) is allowed.
That is why there is Savitarka Samadhi (A meditative state in which there is a dialogue or argument in one part of consciousness with the other part of the same consciousness), and Nirvitarka Samadhi (A meditative state which has no dialogue, where there is no reasoning).
Then there is Sarvichara Samadhi (one in which there is some knowledge flowing. In this state of deep Samadhi some faint thoughts move through), and Nirvichara Samadhi (one where there is no thought. This is a thoughtless state which is the experience of nothingness or just emptiness).
So Tarka, i.e., reason is not considered a bad thing, or contrary to faith. It is through reason that people go to faith, isn’t it? When your reason is satisfied then your faith is strong; then nobody can shake your faith.
If one says, ‘Once faith is there don’t reason’, that is when the faith is weak. A weak faith is always scared of reason. But truth will never be scared of reasoning.
When truth is there, in whatever manner you reason, the truth will be the same.
When you have faith in the truth, it will always stand out.
That is why Lord Krishna after giving his Upadesha (teachings), in the end he says, ‘I have said whatever I needed to say now you decide. If it appeals to your reason you take it.’
‘Yathecchasi tathā kuru’ (As you wish, you may do), this is what Lord Krishna says.
This is very important. You see, reason and faith are not in conflict here in the Orient. Especially when knowledge is based on experience, not presumptions, you don't have to worry about faith being shaken by reasoning.
Now wrong reasoning is not allowed. Logic is good but illogically if you try to condemn things then that is contrary to faith. So, an honest seeker will not use Kutarka (wrong reasoning).
An example for wrong reasoning is - if a door is half closed you can say it is half open, but if a door is fully closed it does not mean it is fully open. If you say that it is fully closed when it is fully open, it is Kutarka.
In science, first is reason and then faith. Correct? You reason out and then you start believing what appeals to reason.