Archive for the ‘Grace’ Category


Question: One of my friends who has been in spiritual life for long enough to advise anyone said that Karma or fate has to be experienced—that everything has been foreordained, and therefore, we have no choice but to go through the experience ordained by birth. He said, everyone, including people who are devoted to God and committed to living spiritually, has to go through Karma (=fate) or the results of past actions. He said we should ask God for the strength to endure Fate rather than beseech Him to remove it altogether. If this postulate is right, why bother to pray, and where is the place for God’s Grace? 

Swami Turiyananda: “A devotee is NOT afraid of prarabdha [the results of past actions]. As we have heard from from (Sri Ramamkrishna Paramahamsa), ‘Because of his karma, a man was supposed to be pierced by a pike; but by God’s grace, his foot was pricked by a thorn instead.’ ” [Letter dated 22.1.1916, pg. 137, Spiritual Treasures)

Swami Sivananda: “Prarabdha can be OVERCOME by the Grace of the Lord. The Lord’s Grace descend when there is sincere devotion and when Man does Purushartha (effort). Purushsharta is possible when the mind is pure… the laws of nature do not operate when there is the Grace of the Lord. His Grace is all-powerful. (pg. 38, May I Understand That?). 

Yogananda Paramahansa: “Even the fate of DEATH can be changed. Jesus demonstrated in a most dramatic way that there is NO SUCH THING thing as an UNALTERABLE FATE.” (pg. 50, The Divine Romance).

Yogananda Paramahansa: “…if we have faith in God, all things are possible…” (pg. 204, The Divine Romance).

Srila Prabhupada: “Prārabdha can be changed. [Lecture on BG 2.24 — Hyderabad, November 28, 1972.]

Paramahansa Yogananda: “Fate means that a cause has operated to produce an effect. You can change it, if you know the way…:

1. You can MINIMIZE the effect of an action.
2. You can RESIST the effect.
3. You can COMPLETELY STOP it.

“…Why do people go to doctors? Because that is one way to MINIMIZE the effects of wrong actions. The physical way to lessen an illness or overcome it may be found in such remedies as proper diet, exercise, or medication….

“…To RESIST the effects of karma is to use commonsense remedies, but rely more on the power of the mind. Refuse to accept any limiting condition. affirm and believe in health, strength, success, even in the face of contradictory evidence…

“…The only way that you can PERMANENTLY STOP the undesirable effects of past wrong actions is by removing the cause of those effects. Harmful past-life seed-tendencies must be CAUTERIZED from the BRAIN; then there will be no recurrence of ANY type of illness or other troubles arising from them. Roast them in the fire of wisdom…seek the wisdom born of meditation, which removes forever from within you the darkness of ignorance. Krishna said: ‘As fire reduces to ashes all wood, even so, O Arjuna, does the flame of wisdom consume ALL karma.’ [Gita 4:37]” (pg. 49, The Divine Romance)

How to Earn God’s Grace?

Posted: June 18, 2013 in God's Grace, Grace

Question: The scriptures and the enlightened ones have declared that the way to happiness, success, peace and meaningful living is to earn God’s Grace: all our efforts, including spiritual practices, will come to naught without it. Now, how do I get God’s Grace?

Swami Brahmananda: “His Grace and His blessings are NOT lacking. But how many are there who set their sail to catch His breeze of Grace? How many bend their heads to receive His blessings? People’s minds are busy with trivial things; who wants the REAL treasure? They talk big, but they don’t STRIVE to earn anything. They want to get everything without effort. People can manage to do all kinds of worldly work, but when it comes to keeping recollectedness of God, they say, ‘But where is the time to do it?’ ” [pg. 211, Swami Brahmananda As We Saw Him] [Note: Swamiji was a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa].


Swami Chidananda Maharaj: “…The very first factor of significance which seekers have to realise is that the Grace of the Lord, which was instrumental in leading one party to victory, came out to support the Devas and it was the fitness of the party that dictated the descent of the Grace.

“Herein the first truth is revealed that if the aspirant in his struggle should become fit to approach the giver of Grace for the bestowal of Grace, he must first make himself of Daivi-Prakriti and possess Daivi-Sampat.

“The accessibility to this fountain-head of Grace from which we may draw support is conditional upon the nature of the one who approaches it. Because they were Devas, they could approach the Gracious Lord in order to ask for His Grace. We have to become Adhikaris, if we may approach the one who is to bestow grace upon us and who is to provide us with the necessary leadership and the strength to overcome the evil forces with which we are trying to battle. This is given out by all Acharyas, all great seers and Mahapurushas in the form of the Sadhana-Chatushtaya, the Yama-Niyama or the Sadachara, the acquisition of Daivi-Sampat. This is an indispensable prerequisite for every seeker who wishes to get the better of the lower self and set foot on the path of Yoga. 

“…we have first to recognise the presence of the lower self and that we are distinct from it; and that the lower self is an obstacle within us, an undesirable element within our nature. And we must align ourselves not with that force but with the divine forces. The second is the truth that mere recognition of this or acceptance of the fact that the lower self is undesirable and must be overcome is not enough; we must put this recognition into dynamic action. We must manfully set about trying to do this process of breaking down all these elements of the evil, lower nature with all our heart and all our might.

“God helps those who help themselves, is a well-known old adage. This is very true upon the spiritual path. Unless we demonstrate our sincerity and completely rid ourselves of the impurity, unspiritual and undivine, by means of practical effort and actual striving, we have not yet attained the fitness to ask for grace. We must exert; then we become deserving. Then we can desire to obtain the help of the higher powers.

“This is a law which the majority of seekers are prone to disregard because recognition and acceptance of this law is very uncomfortable and inconvenient. For, it implies that we have to strive and to make effort, and the lower nature will not easily sanction this, inasmuch as in the beginning of the spiritual practice, to a great extent, the personality of the seeker is under the habitual dominance of the lower nature, its old tendencies, old habits, inclinations, etc.

“There may be a desire or even sincerity; but it is all theoretical and the Tamoguna which is the prominent feature of the lower nature will not easily allow the aspirant to put forth right exertion. To bring out this law in a telling manner, we are told that the Devas again and again gave battle to the Asuras, not once but time and again; and it was after repeatedly being worsted in battle that they found that, in spite of their earnest and sincere practical efforts to overcome the evil forces, they were yet not crowned with victory. Then it is that the celestial hosts turned to the Supreme Lord and prayed for His Grace. And, it is only when these conditions are fulfilled that the Lord will hear this prayer and bestow His Grace.”

(pgs. x, xii-xiii, Lord Shanmukha and His Worship by Swami Sivananda)


If the Soul is immortal, why does Swamiji celebrate his birthday which belongs to the body?Swami Sivananda: “I do not celebrate my birthday. It is the devotees who do it. Celebration of such birthdays is equal to worship of Para Brahman. Worship of the Guru is worship of Para Brahman. The devotees take delight in celebrating the birthday, and they are benefited, uplifted. A spiritual wave is created year after year when the birthday is celebrated, and more and more people get a chance of knowing the existence of the Divine Life Society and my teachings. The celebrations of the birthday is an annual reminder to the aspirants of the purpose of their life. It is a fillip to their Sadhana. The pious, receptive attitude prevalent on such an occasion draws forth the grace of the Guru and God upon the devotees. The thoughts of peace, love, devotion, etc., sent out by the innumerable devotees that assemble together to celebrate the birthday go a long way to promote peace, harmony and spiritual well-being in the land.

“It is not without purpose that the Hindus celebrate the birthdays of religious leaders, saints and sages, such as Buddha Jayanti, Sankara Jayanti, Mahavira Jayanti, etc. The Hindu calendar is spotted with many such Jayantis and other holy days, so that the observance of these Jayantis and holy days may give the needed spiritual impetus to people and they may strive with increased zeal for the attainment of the purpose of life, viz., God-realization. The more we have of such special, holy days, the more we have the chance of being inspired to intensify our spiritual progress.” (pg. 44, May I Answer That?)

Swami Krishnananda: “The incarnations of God are supposed to come with a power of divinity, whereas the sages and saints are supposed to go with the power of divinity. As the one comes with Divine force, the other goes with that Divine force. This is why we lay much importance on the birthdays of Incarnations and the Mahasamadhi days of Siddhas and Masters. Such a holy occasion we observe every year on the Punyatithi Aradhana Mahotsava of revered Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj.” (Chap. 9, Spiritual Import of Religious Festivals: Message given on the 3rd of August, 1972, the Ninth Punyatithi-Aradhana of H.H. Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj)

Mata Amirtanandamayi: “…When we celebrate the birthdays of great souls like Christ, Krishna…, there is one prayer that we should never forget to recite, ‘Please bless us to realize the eternal ‘I’ in me.’ This prayer should be part and parcel of our spiritual life. Amma doesn’t want Her children to forget this prayer when they celebrate (them).” (24 December 2007 — Amritapuri: http://www.amritapuri.org/859/eternal.aum)

Mata Amirtanandamayi: “Mother is happy to see her children happy, and happily undertaking service activities on the occasion of Her birthday. Mother gets no speacial joy beyond that from these celebrations. She has agreed to all these only to see the happiness of Her children. Children, what makes Amma truly happy is seeing you love one another and being compassionate to others. Amma is happier to see you clean a nearby dirty sewer than to see you wash Her feet and worship them… What makes Mother truly happy is when Her children consider Her birthday as the day for wiping the tears of those who are suffering.” (Birthday Message [1990], pg. 11, Lead Us to Light, Vol.2)


Swami Sri Chinmoy: “God’s greatest gift to mankind is His Compassion, and man’s greatest gift to God is his surrender. When man surrenders to God soulfully and unconditionally, when he surrenders to God’s Will cheerfully, at that time God’s Capacity, God’s Reality, God’s Infinitude become his. Compassion is the magnet in God, and surrender is the magnet in the seeker. When God uses His compassion, it is like a magnet from above pulling us up to the Highest. And when we use our surrender, this magnet immediately pulls God down into our living breath,. So, when our magnet and God’s magnet come together, the Hour of God dawns for us in our life of aspiration and self-dedication.” (pg. 96, God Is)


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Swami Sri Chinmoy: “God’s greatest gift to mankind is His Compassion, and man’s greatest gift to God is his surrender. When man surrenders to God soulfully and unconditionally, when he surrenders to God’s Will cheerfully, at that time God’s Capacity, God’s Reality, God’s Infinitude become his. Compassion is the magnet in God, and surrender is the magnet in the seeker. When God uses His compassion, it is like a magnet from above pulling us up to the Highest. And when we use our surrender, this magnet immediately pulls God down into our living breath,. So, when our magnet and God’s magnet come together, the Hour of God dawns for us in our life of aspiration and self-dedication.” (pg. 96, God Is)


Swami Chidananda: “What is Guru’s grace? It is not some mysterious something that comes out of him, as Gurudev used to say, like water out of his kamandalu. His kripa, his anugraha (grace) is in the form of his sandesa, upadesa and adesa. They constitute the manifestation of his grace. His teachings, his admonitions, his instructions to us and his positive, imperative directives are the dynamic expression of his grace.

” ‘Sleep no more; wake up; sit in asana; do japa. Meditate on the Supreme Being. Read one chapter of the Gita. Have sattvic diet. Be simple in life; reduce your wants. Control anger through kshama (forgiveness). Observe mauna for some time every day. Speak the truth at all costs. Observe brahmacharya. Do charity every day according to your ability. Introspect; find out your defects and remove them. Draw inspiration from elevating, inspiring svadhyaya; daily svadhyaya will increase your knowledge and wisdom; your mind will become transformed and your heart purified, elevated and inspired. Read the lives of saints. Thus progress day by day.’

“In this way, the Guru gives practical suggestions and warns that these are all important spiritual canons and must be observed rigidly. You should not give any leniency to the mind. And if you do something wrong, punish yourself, atmadanda. Great ones have progressed through this method only. These positive and imperative commandments, adesa, directives, to spiritual aspirants, sincere seekers, disciples, devotees, constitute anugraha. They constitute guru kripa. They constitute the light in our life, the light that illumines our path and which shows clearly the goal that we have to attain.

“……….know that the Guru is where there is reverence for his teachings, an eagerness to fulfil his teachings and a keen desire to follow the path pointed out by him. Where there is an earnest, ardent and fervent wish to move along that path, to practise his instructions, there the Guru is fully present and guru kripa is fully present. The anugraha of the Guru enriches such an aspirant.”

 

(This is an excerpt from Swami Chidananda’s book “Sure Ways to Guru Kripa)

 


For most devotees the religious or spiritual life is part of their ordinary life. It may be the most important part of their life, but it is part of their normal living. It is only when God’s grace comes into our life that our spiritual life takes on another dimension. We could call it a vertical dimension because we seem, in one way or another, to be lifted out of ourselves. It may be the result of a meeting with a teacher; it may be some book we read; it could be a spiritual experience; but something changes. Something new has come into our life.

The result may not change our outward life very much, or it may change it so dramatically that we leave our old life and go to an ashram, even seek permanent entry there. But whether the result is that dramatic or less dramatic, it seems to be inevitable that after a period of time we settle down into a mundane life again—whether it is in an ashram or still in the world. We somehow seem to have lost that vertical dimension, that dimension that was changing everything for us. And the truth is that unless we can somehow regain that vertical dimension, that dimension of grace, our spiritual life will not really move.

But how can we bring God’s grace back into our life again? When it did change our life, it was not something that was under our control. It happened spontaneously. Does that mean then that there is no hope for us? Fortunately, Pujya Swamiji tells us that God’s grace is always blowing. But it is up to us to put up our sail. Originally, God didn’t care whether our sail was up or not; He just came into our life. But it seems that at some point He says to us, “Now it is time for you to put up your sail.”

But how do we put up our sail in order to catch His grace? The Lord gives us a secret in the last teaching verse of the Gita: “Abandoning all dharmas take refuge in Me alone.” Our problem is that even when we want to take refuge in God, our fundamental reliance remains with ourselves. We’re scared of letting go. We don’t really want to leave the results of our life to God. We want to keep firm control of the rudder of the boat of our life, and we’re reluctant to put up the sail in case God’s grace blows us in directions that we don’t want to go.

So it is our choice. Do we want to continue our mundane life, or do we want to have the adventure of God’s life? Do we want to keep our life the way it is, or do we want God’s grace in our life? Do we want to keep control over our life, or do we want to take the risk of going God’s way, to put up our sail and let Him take us where He wants to take us.

The spiritual life is always now. It is not in the future when we are ready. It is always now. So, if we want to bring back that original thrill, that original grace into our life, the answer is to put up our sail, let go of the rudder and trust God now. The need is to take refuge now!

Early Morning Meditation Talk given in the Sacred Samadhi Hall of Gurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh


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Just as a man casts off worn-out clothes and puts on new ones, so also the embodied Self casts off worn-out bodies and enters others which are new. (II-22) 

The innate question in all is: what remains after death? What becomes to the soul after the death of the body? Where is the soul gone to? Does it still exist? All these questions arise spontaneously in all minds. These are momentous questions which touch the hearts of all deeply. The same questions arise today in all people and in all countries as they arose thousands of years ago. No one can stop them. These questions are discussed today and they will be discussed in the future also. From ancient times, philosophers, sages, saints, Yogis, thinkers, Swamis, prophets and metaphysicians have tried their best to solve the great problem of death. 
When you lead a life of luxury, when you are rolling in wealth, you forget about the phenomenon of death. But the moment you see one of your dearest relations snatched away by the cruel hand of death, you are at once struck with awe and wonder and reflect within yourself as to where his soul has departed to. Does the soul still exist? Is there a soul independent of the body? It cannot be totally annihilated. The past impressions and thoughts of the soul cannot die. You can overcome pain and sorrow if you know the true meaning of sorrow, pain, suffering and death. The phenomenon of death sets the human mind thinking deeply. All philosophy originates from the phenomenon of death. Thus philosophy is really a study of death. The highest philosophy of India starts with the subject of the problem of death. Study the Gita, the Kathopanishad and also the Chhandogya Upanishad which treat of it. Death is a call to reflect and to seek the goal of Truth, the eternal Brahman. 
According to Hinduism life is one continuous, never-ending process. All change is only a change of environment and embodiment. The soul is immortal. It takes one form after another on account of its own actions. Hinduism is based on two fundamental doctrines, namely, the law of Karma and the law of transmigration. Death is only a necessary and a passing phenomenon. Just as you move from one house into another, so also the soul passes from one body to another to gain experience. 
Death is nothing but a change of body. Death is the separation of the soul from the physical body. Just as a man casting off worn-out garments puts on new ones, so also the dweller in this body, casting off worn-out bodies, enters into others which are new. 
Every soul is a circle. The circumference of this circle is nowhere but its centre is in the body. Death means a change of this centre from one body to another. Why then should you be afraid of death? 
This physical body is composed of the five fundamental elements, namely, earth, water, fire, air and ether. The gods are endowed with a divine and luminous body. The fire element is predominant in them. In man the earth element preponderates. In the case of aquatic animals, the element of water predominates. In the case of birds the element of air predominates. 
The hardness of the body is due to a portion of the earth; the fluidity is due to a portion of water; the warmth that you feel in the body is due to fire; moving to and fro and such other activities are due to air; space is due to ether. The individual soul is different from the five elements. The soul is the eternal Spirit. It is non-material. It is intelligence or consciousness. 
The individual soul or Jivatma is an image or reflection of the Supreme Soul or Paramatma. Just as the sun is reflected in different parts of water, so also the Supreme Soul is reflected in the different minds of different persons. 
The individual soul is reflected consciousness. It is this individual soul that departs from the body after the death of the body and goes to heaven with the senses, mind, Prana, past impressions, desires and tendencies. It is endowed with a subtle body when it proceeds to heaven.
 
Just as there is the subtle bladder within a football, so also, within the gross physical body there is another body—the subtle body or Linga Sarira. This subtle body comes out with all its impressions and tendencies at the time of death of the gross physical body. It is like vapour. It cannot be seen by the physical eye. It is the subtle body that goes to heaven, it manifests again in a gross form. This re-manifestation of the subtle form into the gross physical form is called reincarnation. You may deny this law but it exists. It is inexorable and unrelenting. If you deny the law, it clearly shows that you are ignorant of it; it will surely operate whether you admit it or not. The light of the sun is there whether the owl accepts it or not. 
A dead body cannot talk, walk or see. It remains like a log of wood after the soul has departed from it. It is the soul that enlivens, moves and directs the body, mind and senses. 
The soul, accompanied by the chief vital air (Mukhya Prana), the sense-organs and the mind, and taking with itself ignorance, good and evil actions and the impressions left by its previous existences, leaves its former body and obtains a new one. 
When the soul passes from one body to another, it is enveloped by the subtle parts of the elements which are the seeds of the new body. The soul has a vision of the body to come. Just as a leech or a caterpillar takes hold of another object before it leaves its hold of the first one, so also the soul visualises the body to come before it leaves the present one. 
Just as a leech supported on a straw goes to the end of it and then takes hold of another support by contracting itself, so does the self throw its body aside and, making it senseless, takes hold of another support after contracting itself. Just as a goldsmith takes apart a little quantity of gold and fashions a newer and better form, so does the self throw off this body and, making it senseless, takes on another, a newer and better form, for its enjoyment in the world of the manes, celestials, gods or Hiranyagarbha. 
The Jiva has adopted the whole universe as its means to the realisation of the fruit of its actions. It goes from one body to another to fulfil this object. Therefore, the whole universe, impelled by the work of the Jiva, waits for it with the requisite means for the realisation of the fruit of its work made ready. The Satapatha Brahmana says: “A man is born into the body that has been made for him.” 
When the king of a country pays a visit to some place within his kingdom, the leaders of the particular village, anticipating his arrival, wait on him with a variety of food and drink and provide him with beautiful mansions. They say, “Here he comes, here he comes.” Similarly the elements and the presiding Deities like Indra and the rest, who help the organs of the body to function, wait upon the departing self with the means of enjoying the fruit of its works. They secure for the soul a suitable body to enjoy the fruit of its actions. 
Desire is the root-cause of transmigration. Being a slave of desires, the individual soul attains those results to which its subtle body or mind is attached. Exhausting in heaven the fruit of whatever actions it did in its life it returns from that world to this for fresh work. Thus does the man transmigrate who is a slave of desires. But the man who does not desire never transmigrates. He who is free from desire, the objects of whose desires have been attained, and to whom all objects of desire are but the Self—in his case, the organs do not depart. Being but Brahman, he is merged in Brahman.

(pgs. 77-81, Kingly Science Kingly Secret)

THE TWELVE months of the Hindu year, based on the lunar calendar, are named after that star during whose ascendency the full moon of that month occurs. The full moon day of Chaitra month, that is, the Purnima during the ascendency of the Chitra star is particularly sacred to the Chitra Guptas, the recording angels of the Hindu pantheon. A special worship is offered to these celestial representatives of the god of death, and an offering of spiced rice is prepared and later distributed as prasad or holy sacrament. A fire worship is done at the close of the ritualistic worship. By the performance of this religious observance annually, these angels of the other world are greatly pleased and judge man’s actions with more sympathy.
The psychological effect of this worship, done on the very first full moon day of every year (Chaitra is the first of the twelve months), is to vividly remind us of the higher power that maintains a constant watch over every act of ours on this earth-plane. This memory serves as an invisible check on one’s conduct.
The conception of the Chitra Guptas as located within each shoulder is a powerful inducement to keep oneself engaged in constantly doing good actions only.
The term Chitra Gupta means “hidden picture”. A true picture of all our good and evil actions is preserved in the ethereal records. The Hindu personifies it for the sake of worship. The real significance of the worship of the Chitra Guptas is beautifully brought out in the following story connected with it.
Brihaspati is the Guru or preceptor of Indra, the king of the gods. Indra disobeyed Brihaspati on one occasion and the Guru relinquished his task of instructing Indra in what he should and should not do. During the period of the Guru’s absence, Indra did many evil deeds. When the compassionate Guru resumed his duty again, Indra wanted to know what he should do to expiate the wrongs he had done in his Guru’s absence. Brihaspati asked Indra to undertake a pilgrimage.
While Indra was on pilgrimage, he suddenly felt the load of sins taken off his shoulders at a certain place (near Madurai in South India), and he discovered a Shiva Lingam there. He attributed the miracle to this Lingam and wanted to build a temple for it. He had this constructed immediately. Now he wished to perform the worship of the Lingam; the Lord Himself caused golden lotuses to appear in a nearby pond. Indra was greatly pleased and blessed. The day on which he thus worshipped the Lord was Chitra Purnima.
When you perform worship on the Chitra Purnima day, remember this story. If you have intense faith, if you feel with a contrite heart that you have committed sins on account of ignorance, if you pray with faith and devotion to the Lord to forgive your sins, if you resolve never to commit them in the future, and if you resolve to be obedient to your Guru and never to flout his counsel, then your sins will be forgiven. There is no doubt about this. This is the significance of the above story of Indra. Meditate on this story on Chitra Purnima day.
The Hindu scriptures prescribe elaborate worship of the Chitra Guptas on this day. The Deity is invoked in an image or a kalasa (vessel filled with water) and then worshipped with all the rituals and formalities of the worship offered to God’s image. Meditate on Chitra Gupta, reciting the following verse:
Chitra guptam mahaa praajnam lekhaneepatra dhaarinam;
Chitra-ratnaambara-dhaararn madhyastham sarvadehinaam.
Then offer ritualistic worship with incense, camphor, flowers, etc. Feed some Brahmins, the poor and the needy. Give bountifully in charity and receive the Lord’s blessings.
(pgs. 1-3, Hindu Fasts & Festivals)
Note: If you had observed how Muslims pray, you might have noticed that towards the end of their prayers, they look right and left (saying “Peace be unto you, and on you be peace” in Arabic: I believe it is “As-Salāmu `Alaykum). It is said to their fellow brethren sitting on either side. However, the same ritual is done even when they are alone. This time, they do it to greet the angels on their right and left shoulders: According to Islam, two angels dwell on all human beings’ two shoulders: one on the left and the other on the right—they record every action of every individual: the good, bad, sinful and every single act from birth to death.

The exact self-same concept is found in our antediluvian Sanatana Dharma which predates Islam by several centuries: at least by five millennia . (See para. 3 of Swamiji’s article above)