More than 30 years ago I spent a brief time in a spiritual scene which had all the hallmarks of a cult. The leader famously used to say, “If you doubt you’re out.” What that statement meant was that if you voiced a doubt about the many questionable things that were going on, you would be forced to leave.
‘If you doubt you’re out’ is a kind of interesting statement in my opinion; and from the point of view of trying to understand that nature of reality the statement itself might be interpreted in different ways.
First of all, doubting that what we initially take to be true—that reality is dual by nature, that everything I see, perceive, and experience is different from me, that I am an individual whose existence is subject to birth, death, and change, and that my well-being is constantly at risk—might be a giant step in the right direction.
So if you doubt the nature of reality as you initially take it to be, that doubt might just help to lead you out—out of taking your being to be subject to suffering—and into the recognition that you are ever free.
Then from the point of view of the teachings of Vedanta, having one’s doubts cleared up is considered to be a very important aspect of the teaching. The student is encouraged to express his or her doubts, not with the intention of arguing with the teacher, but rather in order to have light shed upon them.
A true teacher should be able to address a student’s doubts, and help to resolve them by enabling the student to see through them. This is not a type of brainwashing, but rather a shining of light on some dark places held in the mind—dark places which themselves are blocking the recognition of the nature of reality.
Thus all the student’s doubts should be expressed and cleared up over time.
This might lead one to ask, “What about sraddha?” a word which is sometimes translated as ‘faith,’ and is held to be a prerequisite for the gain of self-knowledge.
The true meaning of the word sraddha is not faith, as in blind faith. What the word sraddha really means is ‘faith pending understanding.’ In other words the student has enough trust in the teaching and teacher to listen with an open mind, and to express doubts in order to have them resolved.
A true teacher will never tell a student he or she is ‘out’ because of doubts. A true teacher knows how to deal with doubts, welcomes them, can withstand them, and knows how to clear them up.
Then, finally having recognized the nature of reality, there is no doubt that person is out—out of samsara that is.