a few months ago

Doubt, Faith, and Salvation

Imagine this: a housefly lands on your wrist. It begins to walk around. You feel the tiny tickles of its six tiny legs. You see it as it pauses and rubs its legs together. Then you feel more tiny tickles as it walks up your forearm.

What do you want to do to this imaginary fly? Do you imagine letting it continue to crawl on you? Or do you swat it away?

Next, imagine a horsefly lands on you. And it bites you!

In case you’ve never been bitten by a horsefly, let me tell you that it hurts.

Do you imagine that you allow the fly to continue to bite you over and over all over your body?

Now, we’re told that the man who came to be known as Ramana Maharshi once became so “absorbed in the Self” that he allowed his body to be eaten by insects. The story goes that he was found in a catacomb sitting still as his flesh was being eaten away by insects.

Can you imagine that?

Now, if you have any doubt about what is required for freedom – true happiness, true peace – the story of Ramana Maharshi clears that up.

The story of Gautama Buddha has striking similarities. Siddhartha sat under the Bodhi Tree with a resolution to remain at the tree until his desire to know the answer to suffering was fulfilled. As he sat there, he was presented with three temptations that were intended to persuade him to move. But he remained still.

These stories are instructive. We have doubts, so we need to turn to these kinds of teachings to give us reassurance.

Because in our day to day lives we encounter so many temptations to move, to fix, to solve, to avoid, to escape, etc.

Every time we feel the slightest discomfort or agitation, we doubt and we get caught up in fighting with that doubt.

We doubt what the purpose of my life is. We doubt whether we are in the right place with the right people, etc. We doubt what we should be doing. We doubt whether we are safe.

Can you see this? Pause for a moment and look carefully so you can see this. This is important.

See all the doubts that you wrestle with.

Isn’t it true? Don’t you wrestle with doubts all day? Look and see that this is true.

Doubt about what you want. Doubt about what is true. Doubt after doubt after doubt.

But again, let’s look to these instructive stories. What did Siddhartha do? What did Ramana do?

In both cases they remained still. And the main point is this: they allowed their very bodies and lives to be sacrificed.

I’m also reminded of Abraham of the Old Testament heeding God’s instruction to sacrifice Isaac, his son, to God. Abraham loved his son dearly and was tested on his faith when he complied with God’s instruction.

What is required for freedom?


If you don’t know freedom in this very instant right now, if freedom is not crystal clear to you in its entirety right now…you’re not sacrificing everything.

You’re still clinging to some kind of doubt that you’re wrestling with. Doubt about who you are, what life is.

Reality, Truth, Peace – whatever you want to call it – is obvious. It is here now. Presently. This.

Now, you and I can think whatever we want. That’s what you might call free will. You and I are so free we can think whatever we want.

We can think we are victims. We can think about oh poor me. We can think why me? We can think and think whatever we wish.

But whatever we think is irrelevant and always wrong. It misses the point. Always.

Because the point is here now. This.

This that you are fighting with.

This feeling, this thought, this fear, this sensation.

The conditioned thought/belief says, “But surely he doesn’t mean this!”

I do. I mean this. Whatever you think I couldn’t possibly mean.

That’s what I am talking about.

Again, let’s look to the instructive stories. And let’s contrast that with me and my concerns that I think are exceptions to the rule.

The rule, let’s call it the Cosmic Rule, is this: What is happening is revealing to me exactly, perfectly, and fully the pure perfection of truth here now. This is instant and complete here now. I cannot in any way improve upon this by interjecting my conditioned opinions about it.

As you and I go through our days, we find countless exceptions to this rule…or so we think. We excuse them all as necessary exceptions.

For example, if I feel suddenly terrified, stressed, spooked, strained, etc., I excuse it as an exception to the Cosmic Rule. I lie to myself and say, “This is an exception. This problem is a real problem that I must solve. Only once I solve this problem can I be free to invest seriously in freedom. So I must focus on solving this problem now. It is important. This is a prerequisite for freedom.”

Can you see how you do this? This is important to see. Really look and get honest about it.

There are dozens if not hundreds of these exceptions daily. Isn’t that so?

As if your life is constantly on the line.

Now, here should be a big clue since we’ve familiarized ourselves with those instructive stories. Abraham, Gautama Buddha, and Ramana Maharshi.

Lives on the line.

So if I believe my life may be on the line, this is pointing out something essential. It is pointing out that this is the Cosmic Rule…NOT the exception to it.

Do you see?

This right now is not the exception.

It is the rule.

This right now always is the Cosmic Rule. Which is that this right now is revealing pure perfection completely here now. My interjections and distractions are not needed.

Faith is this radical honesty.

Pure and simple. Faith is this radical honesty. It is to remain still and watch to find out if there is any power outside of you that can move you. Watch to find out what is true rather than believing any thought, any argument, any habit, any conditioning.

Do you see how truly radical this is?

And can you taste the freedom now? This is it. This already is salvation.

Salvation is not what you thought.

You thought salvation was making Reality, Truth – whatever you want to call it – conform to your limited and frankly MISERABLE ideas of what should be.

Isn’t that true? Look and see. It is obvious when you look. You have always been striving toward what you think salvation will look like and that search is precisely what defines your misery.

Your idea of salvation is a complete inversion of reality. Your idea of salvation is the formula for hell.

See that and you’re half way home.

Next, just put it into practice. If you can recognize that everything you have ever done and ever will do all in the name of reaching salvation (or call it peace or happiness or okayness or whatever you want) has led only to misery, the next step is this: stop trying to fix it. Stop trying to avoid. Stop trying to numb yourself. Stop trying to get it right. Stop trying to win. Stop trying not to die. Stop trying to protect youself.

Now just watch. Just watch what happens.

Doubt. Doubt. Doubt.

Isn’t it so? Doubt after doubt after doubt.

Let’s go back to our instructive stories.

When God instructed Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, do you think Abraham did not have doubts? Of COURSE he did.

But that’s not a story worth telling in and of itself. Because everyone has doubts. It’s so normal it is not worth telling a story about.

What is unusual about the story and therefore makes it worth telling is that Abraham didn’t wrestle with the doubt.

You think Siddhartha didn’t doubt? He did. Of course he did.

You think Ramana didn’t doubt?

Imagine dozens of flies eating your flesh. You would doubt.

Ramana doubted.

These stories are of interest to us and instructive to us precisely because we are like them and they are like us. But we don’t typically really understand that. We wrongly imagine that they did NOT doubt. We wrongly imagine that they had ACHIEVED salvation.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

They doubted. And they did not achieve salvation.

They doubted and remained still anyway.

And that stillness is not necessarily about remaining perfectly still in the body. It does not mean you have to let insects literally eat your flesh. Only the mechanical mind that wants to mimic believes that. And guess what? That’s just more of the same. More doubt, more wrestling, more distraction, more conditions, more future.

And more misery.

What I’m pointing to here is so radical you can’t grasp this. It requires stepping out completely on faith. It means risking everything now.


This is true freedom. This is freedom beyond the mechanical mind. Beyond acquisition. Beyond security and insecurity.

This cannot be had. It cannot be possessed by the mechanical mind.

But it can be recognized.

Which is done only through faith. Only through risking everything now.


Joey Lott

Joey Lott is the author of numerous books, including The Best Thing That Never Happened and The Little Book of Big Healing. He lives in southern Vermont with his wife and children.

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