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The Gift of Grace

Inner Light We may ask, "How are we to attain the unitive state of awareness?" -- ('I and the Father are one.') Until we are 'lifted' into the experience of unity by the grace of God, duality for us must continue to exist.

When that experience is about to happen to a person, that person's mind becomes irresistibly withdrawn from worldly concerns, and becomes centered instead upon one all-consuming love, a singular sort of love, for the very source of love within.

And in the process of consummating this love, solitude is procured, giving the mind the opportunity to become detached from the pull of distracting thoughts and sense-impressions; and the mind is then focused with great intensity upon its aim.

Consciousness, like an unflickering flame in a windless room, becomes pure and clear. And then suddenly it sees or knows who it has always been.

It is God's grace which manifests in us as that divine love that draws us so compellingly toward the experience of unity. This love is not the ordinary kind of love between a subject and an object, however; for in this case the subject and the object, and the love itself are one.

Nor is this love the result of a conclusion based on a rational premise; it is an inner experience. It is something quite real -- breathtakingly and intoxicatingly real. It stirs from within, and centers on itself within.

It is not a rationally thought-out construction based on philosophical principles, but a sweetness that is itself the object of devotion. It is this Love that bhaktis (devotees) love. It has no location but the human heart, yet its source is the universal Being.

It is His gracious gift, and only those who have experienced it know What it is. It is of this love that Ramakrishna sang:

    How are you trying, O my mind, to know the nature of God? You are groping like a madman locked in a dark room. He is grasped through ecstatic love; How can you fathom Him without it? When that love awakes, the Lord, like a magnet, draws to Him the soul.

Such longing for God or Truth always precedes the experience of enlightenment, because it is the natural expression, the unfailing indicator, of a shift in consciousness toward the transcendent Unity.

All of the outer events as well as the inner ones will conspire to bring one' s life to that point where enlightenment is experienced. When it is time for it to come, it will produce itself, and it will announce its coming by a great wave of love that steers the heart irresistably to the source of that love, and eventually reveals itself unaided from within.

Consider the great Shankara's final message to the disciple in his Vivekachudamani:

    Gurus and scriptures can stimulate spiritual awareness, but one crosses the ocean of ignorance only by direct illumination, through the grace of God.

No one has ever realized God except those to whom He has revealed Himself. On this point all Self-realized beings are unanimously agreed.

As one commentator says in the Malini Vijaya Vartika: "The learned men of all times always hold that the descent of grace does not have any cause or condition, but depends entirely on the free will of.the Lord." If it were dependent upon conditions, it would not be absolute and independent grace.

According to yet another Tantric scripture, the Tantraloka, "Divine grace leads the individual to the path of spiritual realization. It is the only cause of Self-realization and is independent of human effort."

The experience of Self-realization occurs when the mind is concentrated to a fine laser-point and focused in contemplation of God; but this happens only by the power of the universal Self, of God Himself.

This is not a denial of the efficacy of self-effort, but merely an assertion that every effort or desire to remember Him, every intensification of concentration on Him, is instigated by Himself, for He is our own inner Self, the inner Controller. It is He who inspires, enacts, and consummates all our efforts.

Among the Christian mystics, we find complete agreement on this issue. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, for example, says: "You would not seek Him at all, O Soul, nor love Him at all, if you had not been first sought and first loved."

Meister Eckhart also acknowledges this truth, saying: "It is He that prays in us and not we ourselves."

And the Blessed Jan Ruysbroeck concurs:

    Contemplation places us in a purity and radiance which is far above our understanding .... and no one can attain to it by knowledge, by subtlety, or by any exercise whatsoever; but he whom God chooses to unite to Himself, he and no other can contemplate God.

We find the same agreement among the Sufi mystics, the Hindus and the Buddhists, It is always so -- always. And though the attempt is often made by charlatans to translate the description of the mental state of the mysite at the time of his experience of unity into a sort of "method" or "scientific technique" for the attainment of God, no one has ever claimed that such a technique has actually produced the advertised result.

For, by themselves,the practices of shallow breathing, fixed stares, and cessation of thought, will never produce the experience of unity. This experience comes only by the will of God.

Nanak, the great Guru of the Sikh tradition, stated the matter plainly when he said, "Liberation from bondage depends upon Thy will; there is no one to gainsay it. Should a fool wish to, suffering will teach him wisdom."

When He draws the mind to Himself, the mind becomes still automatically. It is not necessary to attempt to still the mind by austere practices or artificial methods.

The body becomes still, and the mind becomes still, when the heart is yearning sincerely for Him alone. Everything happens very naturally by His grace: One begins to begrudge the mind any thought save the thought directed to God; and, with the aim of centering the mind continually on Him, one begins to sing His name in the inner recesses of the mind.

It doesn't matter what name is used; Christians call Him "Father"; Muslims call Him "Allah," or "Karim"; Jews call Him "Adonai"; and Hindus call Him "Hari" or "Ram." Love responds to whatever name is called with love.

To one who loves, His name is nectar; it is like a cold drink of water to a thirsty man. It is no discipline, nor is it an austerity. It is the refreshment of life. It is the sweetness of.peace, and the delight of delights.

Since there is really nothing else but that infinite Being wherever one may look, that awareness dawns, as one begins to sing the name of God within the heart; and the bliss of recognizing one's own Self both without and within begins to well up.

The more one sings His name, the more one revels in that bliss, and the more clearly one perceives His continual presence. Inherent in that perception is all mercy, all right judgement, all tenderness, all loving-kindness.

It is the natural devotion by which a man's heart is transformed, and by which he becomes fit for the vision of God. Therefore, say the mystics, we must forge our link with God, and He will lead us to Himself. He will draw us to love Him, for He Himself is that Love that awakens in us as love for God.

He will draw us to seek Him in prayer and in silent longing, for He is our own heart. Follow, and you will reach Him. Draw near to Him in the silence of the night and He will reveal Himself to you as your very deepest Self, your eternal Identity.

Keep on loving Him, keep on trusting in Him to guide you, and keep. on praying to Him. When He puts into your heart the desire to know Him, He will lift aside the veil and reveal that, all along, it was Him who prayed, who sought, who sorrowed, as you; and that, all along, it was you who forever lives beyond all sorrow, as God -- forever blissful, forever free.

 ~ Adapted from the Appendix.in: History of Mysticim, by Swami Ahayananda.

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