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Articles from Pre-1998 Issues 

What I see as 'Divine Grace' in Spirituality

by A. N. Dhar

God is within us and as such within our reach. The important thing is how earnest we are to see the Divine in and around us. Sheer intellectual curiosity cannot carry the seeker too far. Even a rigorous rational enquiry into the unknown is bound to prove fruitless and frustrating if it is not accompanied by an intense longing actuated by pure devotion and love. Passion to seize the unknown, reinforced by thoughtful reflection, serves as the helpful means here.

The aspirant has to undergo an inward process of cleansing through the mortification of the little self. Those who are true of heart, humble and one-pointed in concentration find the path to God free from obstacles. Ordinary worldlings, bereft of such qualities, on the other hand, find the path beset with hurdles and difficulties, which they cannot cope with. Their efforts to experience the transcendent, however strenuous, yield no results.

It is profitable, indeed, to study the accounts given by great saints and sages of their pursuit of the Divine and of their spiritual attainments. But such accounts often present a variety that, too, can baffle the unimaginative reader; he canot easily apprehend the underlying principle, the ground of variety and multiplicity. For the discerning, however, the singlemindedness of the aspirant provides the key-the concentration of all his mental powers on one point, a thing that is often elusive to the novice.

For the contemplative, the road lies through constant "thought, study and application". And for the true lover, the 'rinda' free from narrow dogmas and wedded to the Beloved, the Divine is always accessible, though He may play the game of hide and seek with him.

It is appropriate to mention here that what the sastras refer to as saktipata does not necessarily convey that the descent of divine energy or sakti into the seeker's psyche or soul is an accidental phenomenon, something unpredictable, not governed by law. If God "favoured" one devotee and remained indifferent to the other, that would amount to His wantonness and fickleness. But God's ways are always right and He cannot be anything but just.

The very aspiration for a glimpse of God, in my view, is in itself divine grace or anugraha. The true devotee of God is already blessed, certainly he has felt the divine "touch" or else how would he or she pine for a vision of God ? Shaktipata is, however, not of the same order or intensity in all devotees. What begins as a 'spark' generally works its effect slowly and steadily; it develops into a 'flame' and then into a 'wild fire' until it consumes the aspirant's ego. The devotee, freed of all traces of the ego, when his inward purification is complete, becomes an illuminated soul and finally gets fully united with the Lord.

There is no contradiction between anugraha and purushartha, the latter manifesting itself as tapas or penance that the aspirant undergoes for inward purification. The practice of yoga, involving meditation and other forms of sadhana including Kirtan, self-less social work and the like, yields positive results sooner or later. Such a discipline makes the aspirant into a recepient for divine grace.

Finally, the true Bhaktas, who are knowers of the Divine in their own right, generally look upon the world (Jagat) as a divine sport (Ishwara's Lila). According to this view, the individual soul weaned away from the Divine gets eventually united with him. In fact, its temporary alienation from God is a Sheer play of his Maya. However, the 'veil' of separation will not shut out the divine light for good. Siva's grace is always there, and for all. That is what our sastras lay emphasis on and declare so unambiguously. He who strives hard, trusting in God, ever waiting for "the spark from heaven to fall" inevitably experiences 'divine grace' and attains the final beatitude.
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