What is Grace?
These are quotations by Paul Brunton, an ardent and early devotee of Sri Ramana Maharshi. They explain what Grace is.
“Divine grace is a manifestation of the cosmic free-will in operation. It can alter the course of events in a mysterious manner through its own unknown laws, which are superior to all natural laws, and can modify the latter by interaction. It is the most powerful force in the universe.”
“It descends and acts, only when it is invoked by total self-surrender. It acts from within, because God resides in the heart of all beings. Its whisper can be heard only in a mind purified by self-surrender and prayer.”
Paul Brunton describes its nature as follows:
“Rationalists laugh at it and atheists scorn it, but it exists. It is a descent of God into the soul’s zone of awareness. It is a visitation of force unexpected and unpredictable. It is a voice spoken out of cosmic silence . . . . . . . . . . It is cosmic will which can perform authentic miracles under its own laws.”
Below are presented several conversations of devotees with Sri Ramana Maharshi describing or explaining Grace.
Conversations with Ramana Maharshi:
D: What is guru kripa (Guru’s Grace)? How does it lead to Self-realization?
M: Guru is the Self…. Sometimes in his life a man becomes dissatisfied with it, and, not content with what he has, he seeks the satisfaction of his desires, through prayer to God etc. His mind is gradually purified until he longs to know God, more to obtain His grace than to satisfy his worldly desires. Then, God’s grace begins to manifest. God takes the form of a Guru and appears to the devotee, teaches him the Truth and, moreover, purifies his mind by association. The devotee’s mind gains strength and is then able to turn inward. By meditation it is further purified and it remains still without the least ripple. That calm expanse is the Self.
The Guru is both ‘external’ and ‘internal’. From the ‘exterior’ he gives a push to the mind to turn inward; from the ‘interior’ He pulls the mind towards the Self and helps in the quieting of the mind. That is guru kripa (Guru’s Grace). There is no difference between God, Guru and the Self.
D: How is the Guru found?
M: God, who is immanent, in His grace takes pity on the loving devotee and manifests Himself according to the devotee’s development. The devotee thinks that He is a man and expects a relationship as between two physical bodies. But the Guru, who is God or the Self incarnate, works from within, helps the man to see the error of his ways and guides him in the right path until he realises the Self within.
D: What should the devotee do then?
M: He has only to act up to the words of the Master and work within. The Master is both ‘within’ and ‘without’, so He creates conditions to drive you inward and at the same time prepares the ‘interior’ to drag you to the Centre. Thus He gives a push from ‘without’ and exerts a pull from ‘within’, so that you may be fixed at the Centre.
You think that the world can be conquered by your own efforts. When you are frustrated externally and are driven inwards, you feel ‘Oh! there is a Power higher than man!’
D: How can I obtain Grace?
M: Grace is the Self. That also is not to be acquired; you only need to know that it exists.
The sun is brightness only. It does not see darkness. Yet you speak of darkness fleeing on the sun’s approach. So also the devotee’s ignorance, like the phantom of darkness, vanishes at the look of the Guru. You are surrounded by sunlight; yet if you want to see the sun, you must turn in its direction and look at it. So also Grace is found by the proper approach you make, though it is here and now.
D: Cannot Grace hasten ripeness in the seeker?
M: Leave it all to the Master. Surrender to Him without reserve. One of two things must be done: either surrender yourself, because you realise your inability and need a higher power to help you; or investigate into the cause of misery, go into the Source and so merge in the Self. Either way, you will be free from misery. God or Guru never forsakes the devotee who has surrendered himself.
M: Divine Grace is essential for Realisation. It leads one to God-realisation. But such Grace is vouchsafed only to him who is a true devotee or a yogin, who has striven hard and ceaselessly on the path towards freedom.
The American Engineer asked: “Does distance have any effect upon Grace?”
M.: Time and space are within us. You are always in your Self. How do time and space affect it?
D.: In radio those who are nearer hear sooner. You are Hindu, we are American. Does it make any difference?
D.: What is Guru’s Grace? How does it work?
M.: Guru is the Self.
D.: How does it lead to realisation?
M.: Isvaro gururatmeti … (God is the same as Guru and Self …). A person begins with dissatisfaction. Not content with the world he seeks satisfaction of desires by prayers to God; his mind is purified; he longs to know God more than to satisfy his carnal desires. Then God’s Grace begins to manifest. God takes the form of a Guru and appears to the devotee; teaches him the Truth; purifies the mind by his teachings and contact; the mind gains strength, is able to turn inward; with meditation it is purified yet further, and eventually remains still without the least ripple. That stillness is the Self. The Guru is both exterior and interior. From the exterior he gives a push to the mind to turn inward; from the interior he pulls the mind towards the Self and helps the mind to achieve quietness. That is Grace. Hence there is no difference between God, Guru and Self.
Mr. A. Bose, an engineer from Bombay asked.
D.: Does Bhagavan feel for us and show grace?
M.: You are neck-deep in water and yet cry for water. It is as good as saying that one neck-deep in water feels thirsty, or a fish in water feels thirsty, or that water feels thirsty.
D.: How to begin (practice and dispassion)? Your Grace is needed for it.
M.: Grace is always there. “Dispassion cannot be acquired, nor realization of the Truth, nor inherence in the Self, in the absence of Guru’s Grace,” the Master quoted.
D.: The unknowable can be attained only by the grace of the unknowable.
M.: He helps the attainment. That is the Grace.
As for Grace – Grace is within you. If it is external it is useless. Grace is the Self. You are never out of its operation. Grace is always there.
D.: I mean that when I remember your form, my mind should be strengthened and that response should come from your side too. I should not be left to my individual efforts which are after all only weak.
M.: Grace is the Self. I have already said, “If you remember Bhagavan, you are prompted to do so by the Self.” Is not Grace already there? Is there a moment when Grace is not operating in you? Your remembrance is the forerunner of Grace. That is the response, that is the stimulus, that is the Self and that is Grace.
There is no cause for anxiety.
D: I thought I would not ask any more questions but only sit quiet in His Presence imbibing Grace which might be extended to me. So I do not pursue Maharshi with more questions this time. Only let me have His Grace.
M.: Your repeated visits to this place indicate the extension of Grace.
D.: How is Grace to be obtained?
M.: Similar to obtaining the Self.
D.: Practically, how is it to be for us?
M.: By self-surrender.
D.: Grace was said to be the Self. Should I then surrender to my own Self?
M.: Yes. To the one from whom Grace is sought. God, Guru and Self are only different forms of the same.
A Punjabi doctor:
D.: I cannot bring my mind to meditate.
M.: By practice and dispassion — abhyasa vairagyabhyam.
D.: I am not able to do so by myself. I am in search of a force to help me.
M.: Yes, what is called Grace. Individually we are incapable because the mind is weak. Grace is necessary. Sadhu Seva is meant only for it. There is however nothing new to get. Just as a weak man comes under the control of a stronger one, the weak mind of a man comes under control easily in the presence of the strong-minded sadhus. That which is – is only Grace; there is nothing else.
D.: I request your blessings for the good of myself”.
M.: “Yes – yes.”
D.: May I have Guru’s Grace?
M.: Grace is always there.
D.: But I did not feel the same.
M.: Surrender will make one understand the Grace.
D.: I have surrendered heart and soul. I am the best judge of my heart. Still I do not feel the Grace.
M.: If you had surrendered the questions would not arise.
D.: I have surrendered. Still the questions arise.
M.: Grace is constant. Your judgement is the variable. Where else should the fault lie?
D.: I must be enabled to surrender myself.
M.: Thayumanavar has said: “Glory to Thee for enabling me to discuss so much and follow Your words so far!”
D.: Grace is necessary.
M.: Yes, Grace is both the beginning and the end. Introversion is due to Grace: Perseverance is Grace; and Realisation is Grace. That is the reason for the statement: Mamekam saranam vraja (only surrender to Me). If one has entirely surrendered oneself is there any part left to ask for Grace? He is swallowed up by Grace.
D.: The obstacles are powerful and obstruct meditation.
M.: If a Higher Power is recognised and surrendered to, how will they obstruct you? If you say “They are powerful,” the source of their Power must be held so that they do not obstruct you.
D.: Grace is necessary for the removal of ignorance.
M.: Certainly. But Grace is all along there. Grace is the Self. It is not something to be acquired. All that is necessary is to know its existence. For example, the sun is brightness only. He does not see darkness. Whereas others speak of darkness fleeing away on the sun approaching.
Again, the sun is there and also bright. You are surrounded by sunlight. Still if you would know the sun you must turn your eyes in his direction and look at him. So also Grace is found by practice alone although it is here and now.
D.: By the desire to surrender constantly, increasing Grace is experienced, I hope.
M.: Surrender once for all and be done with the desire.
All these discussions are only to get rid of ignorance. When that is done everything will be clear. It is a matter of competence, or ripeness.
D.: Cannot Grace hasten such competence in a seeker?
M.: Leave it to Him. Surrender unreservedly. One of two things must be done. Either surrender because you admit your inability and also require a High Power to help you; or investigate into the cause of misery, go into the source and merge into the Self. Either way you will be free from misery. God never forsakes one who has surrendered. Mamekam saranam vraja (only surrender to Me).
D.: What is the drift of the mind after surrender?
M.: Is the surrendered mind raising the question? (Laughter.)
Guru’s Grace is like a hand extended to help you out of water, or it makes your way easier for the removal of ignorance.
How is Guru gained? God, who is immanent, in his Grace takes pity on the loving devotee and manifests Himself as a being according to the devotee’s standard. The devotee thinks that he is a man and expects relationship as between bodies. But the Guru, who is God or Self incarnate, works from within, helps the man to see the error of his ways, guides him in the right path until he realises the Self within.
After such realisation the disciple feels, “I was so worried before. I am after all the Self, the same as before but not affected by anything; where is he who was miserable? He is nowhere to be seen.”
What should we do now? Only act up to the words of the master, work within. The Guru is both within and without. So he creates conditions to drive you inward and prepares the interior to drag you to the centre. Thus he gives a push from without and exerts a pull from within so that you may be fixed at the centre.
D.: Is success (of practice) not dependent on Guru’s Grace?
M.: Yes, it is. Is not your practice itself due to such Grace? The fruits are the result of the practice and follow it automatically. There is a stanza in Kaivalya Upanishad which says, “O Guru! You have been always with me watching me through several reincarnations, and ordaining my course until I was liberated.” The Self manifests externally as Guru when occasion arises; otherwise He is always within, doing the needful.
D.: Grace is necessary for it.
M.: Grace is ever present. All that is necessary is that you surrender to It.
D.: I surrender and pray that even if I go wrong I may be forcibly drawn to it.
M.: Is this surrender? Surrender to be complete must be unquestioning.
D.: Grace is necessary for realisation.
M.: Inasmuch as you, being a man, now understand that there is a higher power guiding you, it is due to Grace. Grace is within you. Isvaro gururatmeti (Isvara, Guru and the Self are the same).
D.: I pray for that Grace.
M.: Yes, yes.
The Pandit asked about the operation of Grace.
D.: Is it the mind of the Guru acting on the mind of the disciple or anything different?
M.: The Highest Form of Grace is Silence (mowna). It is also the highest upadesa.
D.: Vivekananda has also said that silence is the loudest form of prayer.
M.: It is so, for the seeker’s silence. Guru’s silence is the loudest upadesa. It is also Grace in its highest form. All other dikshas (initiations), e.g., sparsa, chakshus are derived from mowna (silence). They are therefore secondary. Mowna is the primary form. If the Guru is silent the seeker’s mind gets purified by itself.
D.: Is it proper that one prays to God or Guru when one is afflicted by worldly ills?
D.: What is the significance of Guru’s Grace in the attainment of liberation?
M.: Liberation is not anywhere outside you. It is only within. If a man is anxious for Deliverance, the Guru within pulls him in and the Guru without pushes him into the Self. This is the Grace of the Guru.
D.: Seekers who are in immediate proximity of the Master can get grace by darsana, sparsana, etc. (look, touch, etc.). But how does one get the same grace when the person is at a distance?
M.: By yoga drishti (yogic look).
D.: Doubts are always arising. Hence my question.
M.: A doubt arises and is cleared; another arises and that is cleared, making way for another, and so it goes on. So there is no possibility of clearing away all doubts. See to whom the doubts arise. Go to their source and abide in it. Then they cease to arise. That is how doubts are to be cleared. Atma samstham manah krtva na kinchidapi chintayet (By settling your mind in the Self, don’t think at all).
D.: Grace alone can help me to it.
M.: Grace is not exterior. In fact your very desire for grace is due to grace that is already in you.
D.: I have limitations. I am unable to rise to the occasion. Grace can achieve for me what I cannot achieve myself.
M.: True, but unless there is grace this desire will not arise.
D.: This can be realised only by the Grace of the master. I was reading Sri Bhagavata; it says that Bliss can be had only by the dust of the Master’s feet. I pray for Grace.
M.: What is Bliss but your own being? You are not apart from Being which is the same as Bliss. You are now thinking that you are the mind or the body which are both changing and transient. But you are unchanging and eternal. That is what you should know.
D.: It is darkness and I am ignorant.
M.: This ignorance must go. Again, who says ‘I am ignorant’? He must be the witness of ignorance. That is what you are. Socrates said, “I know that I do not know.” Can it be ignorance? It is wisdom.