Spiritual life is like venturing into a totally unknown area. To find one’s way one should have certain qualities, essentially faith. It is difficult to progress in spiritual life with a doubting mind. Sri Ramakrishna would explain this using a parable from Ramayana.
Once a man came to Lanka when Vibhishana was the ruler. While returning the person wanted to cross the sea which was quite turbulent at that time. He was afraid of getting into a boat because of the rough sea. Then Vibhishana wrote Rama’s name on a leaf and tied it to a corner of the man’s cloth. But, he didn’t reveal to him about the talisman that he had tied to the cloth. He said to the man, “Don’t be afraid. Have faith and walk on the water. But, please remember if you doubt the capacity of the substance that I have tied to your cloth to carry you safely, you will be drowned.” The man was walking easily on the turbulent water. Suddenly, he felt an intense desire to find out what was tied to his cloth. He untied the knot and found that the name of Rama was written on a leaf and that had been tied to his cloth. He suddenly felt, “What is this? Just the name of Rama?” Since doubt entered his mind, he was drowned in the ocean and he died.
Sri Ramakrishna would say that one needs tremendous faith in God to progress in spiritual life. Of course, there are preparatory steps to foster and develop such faith. One has to assiduously cultivate the company of the holy and lead a life dedicated to a higher purpose in order to develop such higher faith.