The entire existence, this world is a gradual self-expression and manifestation of the Divine, says the Indian spiritual tradition. But without the vision to experience the world, and everything and everyone in the world, as a manifestation of the Divine, and more importantly, without the experience of our own self as a manifestation and as a portion of the Divine we continue to exist in Ignorance and separated from the omnipresence of the Divine.
Only through a sincere aspiration and an intense personal effort of the sadhak the Divine Grace begins to slowly tear apart the many layers of the veil behind which is hidden the deeper, inner vision which is able to see the Divine all around and within. Such intense sadhana also includes rejection of all that obstructs the path of aspiration, and surrender of one’s entire being and all the movements within – the act of aspiration and the rejection included – as an offering to the Divine so that He may decide the course of one’s sadhana and its outcome.
“The Divine Grace is there ready to act at every moment, but it manifests as one grows out of the Law of Ignorance into the Law of Light, and it is meant, not as an arbitrary caprice, however miraculous often its intervention, but as a help in that growth and a Light that leads and eventually delivers…. This Divine may lead us often through darkness, because the darkness is there in us and around us, but it is to the Light he is leading and not to anything else.”
(Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga – I, CWSA, Vol. 28, p. 357)
While the Divine Grace is there all the time, its action in an individual’s life is dependent upon how ready one is for the working of this Grace. This readiness is a matter of several things – one’s aspiration, surrender, faith, sincerity and one’s receptivity.
As long as one is primarily living in Ignorance and as long as one’s lower nature is the primary driving force behind one’s actions – which is a very, very long time – one may never fully or even partially get to sense the working of this Grace in one’s life. The more the veil of Ignorance is lifted bit by little bit, the more one is able to see how even from behind this veil, the Divine in His Vast, Compassionate Grace has been the protector amidst the dark chambers of the Ignorance and slowly guide towards brighter and brighter Light.
The mysterious working of this Grace then becomes more and more real for the sadhak, though as the Mother tells us even then this sense of Grace’s working may be very partial and inexact. Yet, the deepening of the trust that the Grace is behind everything is in itself a big step towards a more complete surrender. And even when periods of darkness come, which they must, the sadhak begins to see that this too is the working of the Grace because through this darkness he is being prepared for an even brighter Light that is just beyond the corner.
“The Divine Grace and Power can do everything, but with the full assent of the sadhak. To learn to give that full assent is the whole meaning of the sadhana.”
(Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga -II, CWSA, Vol. 29, p. 171)
With this one small sentence Sri Aurobindo not only tells us about the all-powerful and omnipotent quality of Grace, but also gives us the most beautiful and most perfect definition of sadhana. To learn to give full assent to the working of the Divine Grace is sadhana.
As long as my assent is lacking in any small way, I am not fully ready to receive the full power and effectiveness of Grace. The more my assent becomes complete and unreserved, the more completely and effectively the Divine showers His Grace upon me. So my task is to keep practicing this art of full assent, which again includes a triple labour of aspiration, rejection and surrender. Only through sincere personal effort I will build up my ability to give full assent to the working of the Grace.
It is said that even the initial turn of the heart and mind to the Divine’s Call is itself a working of the Grace. So while one’s personal effort is highly essential in sadhana, even the will and capacity to make this personal effort are the results of the working of the Divine Grace.
As the sadhana deepens, as the aspiration gets more intense and purified, as the faith – the śraddhā – gets more and more strengthened and surrender more and more complete, the Divine responds with His Grace and the sadhak’s steps begin to become sure and steady on the path.
This special action of the Grace is in response to the sadhak’s aspiration and faith. Yet this Grace was always there working for the sadhak, except that he himself didn’t have the faculties to “see” it as Grace. He didn’t have the faculties because he wasn’t awakened to the workings of the inner reality within him.
Once awakened to the truth of the inner world – however slightly and transient this may be – and once something in him slowly begins to answer the call of this inner world, he begins to sense an aspiring flame within, which if tended well grows in intensity. As this aspiration grows, so does his ability to ‘draw upon’ the Grace which though always there works in numerous hidden and mysterious ways.
Think of the rains.
Every monsoon season the Grace-full rains pour down from the skies above – everywhere, all around, for everyone. But only those who have developed a system for rainwater harvesting can access this bounty for further specific use. In a larger sense the rain is helpful for all and everything in the creation. We all enjoy and derive the benefit from this seasonal gift of the Mother Nature, like we do from other seasons. But if we could harvest the rainwater we would purposefully and in a focused, directed way ‘draw’ the bounty of rain (Grace) towards us, in response to our ‘call’ for the rainwater (Grace).
Or let us imagine what it takes to access the light from the Sun and channel it through the right apparatus to use it as a source of energy for our specific purpose. In the same way, the Grace is omnipresent and omnipotent and through our sincere aspiration and steadfast faith we ‘draw’ it towards us in response to our call.
The Divine Grace is thus always there for all, yet works more assuredly and effectively if one knows how to invoke it.
To invoke the Grace is not to pull it or force it. It is actually about making a quiet and sincere call to the all-powerful Divine. The working of the Grace will not always be obvious, in fact many times it will take the sadhak through a period of darkness yet with a purpose behind it. This mysterious working of the Grace that is not comprehensible by human reason is one sure indication that it is in fact the Grace of the Divine, the One that is Beyond all Comprehension, the Supreme.
“The more complete your faith, sincerity and surrender, the more will grace and protection be with you. And when the grace and protection of the Divine Mother are with you, what is there that can touch you or whom need you fear? A little of it even will carry you through all difficulties, obstacles and dangers; surrounded by its full presence you can go securely on your way because it is hers, careless of all menace, unaffected by any hostility however powerful, whether from this world or from worlds invisible. Its touch can turn difficulties into opportunities, failure into success and weakness into unfaltering strength. For the grace of the Divine Mother is the sanction of the Supreme and now or tomorrow its effect is sure, a thing decreed, inevitable and irresistible.”
(Sri Aurobindo, The Mother with Letters on the Mother, CWSA, Vol. 32, p. 8)