Seven Secrets of Meditation, Part 4: Grace
So far we have looked at three of the foundation stones of successful meditation practice – sincerity, effective technique and aspiration. In meditation, sincerity consecrates a part of our life to regular practice; our focus in the heart centre with its powerfully concentrated spiritual qualities ensures maximum progress; and the heart's awakening inner cry ignites our aspiration from tiny ember to mounting flame. This quickening in our inner journeying is an exciting time of palpable results – how different we are beginning to feel!
But personal effort is only one reason for this blossoming of spirit – the second is the transformative power of grace, a recurring theme in the written and oral teachings of the great masters and spiritual teachers. Grace is the love and compassion of Godresponding to personal effort and falling unconditionally like rain on agnostic and believer alike. Personal effort, magnet-like, always attracts grace – and grace increases our hunger, deepens our meditation, clears away the blocks and obstacles and expedites our progress. Grace is the fourth secret of meditation, the key to the great alchemy that transforms ignorance into knowledge, disbelief into devotion, seeker into saint.
"God is on the third floor and I am on the first floor. There should be a rendezvous, a meeting place. I have to go to God; I have to go to the second floor with my personal effort, that is to say, with my tears, my soulful cry. And then God will come down from the third floor to the second floor with His infinite Grace, Compassion, and there we meet together. He has to give what He has, His Compassion, the flood of Compassion, and I have to give my little personal effort and my tears, the flood of my tears. Then we come together, there we meet together."
For most of us beginning meditation, personal effort is required because the concept of grace with its assumption of the existence of God is simply not a reality. Either we do not believe in God or, overly conscious of our blemishes and wrong doings, we cannot believe that a God could love us constantly and unconditionally. Sri Chinmoy tells us that the opposite is true, that even our little personal effort is itself entirely due to God's loving grace. God is calling us – our meditation is our response.
"Personal effort cannot live by itself even for a minute, because its inner nourishment is the Grace from Above. The grace is inside your personal effort. If grace is not there, personal effort will very, very limited – after some time you will give up. God's Grace is responsible for everything... this moment it is using our hands, next minute it is using our legs, next moment it is using our mind, next moment our breath or our heart."
Grace especially permeates our being when we are in the field of aspiration, even to the point of nullifying or changing our karma. The law of karma refers to a cosmic law in which action and reactions, causes and effects are part of a chain of experiences given to us by a higher Power. Sri Chinmoy uses the analogy of a child who does something wrong then runs to the father to avoid the consequences. The father has compassion for the child. He knows the child has done something wrong but safeguards the child from the consequences.
"If we have complete faith in God and we surrender to Him and we immediately run to Him with our wrong doing, our error or our defects, He will bless us and protect us from the karma which would have normally come back to us."
Belief or disbelief in grace does not alter it's reality any more than our expectation of a sunny day might stop a sudden downpour – and an open mind/open heart will gradually reveal it's existence. As we become more conscious of grace in our life, a direct personal experience, our faith and surrender and our feeling of being God's child deepen. Anxiety disappears, love and patience come, everything is being taken care of by God the infinitely loving parent. This is not a dogma or a philosophy or an idea but Reality – you know it, live it, you can feel it.
"God's greatest adamantine Power is His Grace. The moment God uses His Grace for an individual, He offers His very Life-Breath to the seeker. Grace does everything. Grace is like sunshine. If you keep your windows open, then only can the sunlight enter. But if you keep your hearts door closed, then how can sunlight enter? If we approach God with the heart and the soul, there can be no dryness, only a constant shower of love and Grace. We feel our love flowing to God and God's Grace constantly being showered on us."
Sri Chinmoy mentions two important qualities that we need to better utilise the force of grace in our lives – the first is purity in the heart, mind and vital; the second is gratitude. "It is through gratitude, constant gratitude to the Supreme in us, that we expand our consciousness and come to know our higher vision and reality." With the Supremes Grace always in our lives, everything becomes simple and clear and we know what our life's tasks and purposes are. At this time we are eager to show our love by serving God in the world. "God does not want an inactive body, a dead soul. He wants someone who is active, dynamic and aspiring; someone who wants to be energised so that he can do something for God; someone who wants to realise God and manifest all the divine qualities here on earth."
But our inner wealth always starts with God's grace and compassion. This infinite wealth achieves "first, a free access to His inner Existence, then a most complete intimacy or oneness with His inner Will and finally, ecstasy or delight, which is the universal and transcendental Reality which God Himself is."
(All quotations in this article are by Sri Chinmoy.)