"Full many a ray of purest ray serene the dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness to the desert air."
from "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" by Thomas Gray

Sunday, October 9, 2011

krupā, or grace

krupā, or grace, is omnipresent. Like the supreme consciousness is the substratum of all creation, grace is the essence of all experience.
Every life experience is manifested grace but people usually associate grace only with a desired result. It is erroneous to think that only if I have a loving family, I am blessed with grace. Dhruva was born to an unloving father, and his childhood experience led him to seek the Lord, and ultimately he won the love of his father. In retrospect, his earlier experience of being rejected by his father was divine grace that eventually led to his spiritual evolution and material success.
In a culture of instant gratification, people are grateful for fleeting pleasures and lament over transient sorrows. Material success certainly comes through effort and grace, but the converse – the lack of wealth does not imply lack of effort or lack of grace. We have to deal with prārabdha – destiny with equanimity. We bear the results of our own past karma - actions. Then the question arises, can one change one’s prārabdha ? Definitely. As the current moment has been effected by the past, what we do in the current moment shapes the future. That individual effort or tapas, has to be blessed with krupā, or grace to bring us to the desired state. 
Many people associate grace with meeting the objective. What gets forgotten is that success may bring complacence and arrogance whereas failure can bring humility and spur one to selfless, more concerted and better-directed effort, and thus personal growth. Sometimes what appears to be an individual loss brings success to the higher cause, which is divine grace. The battle fought by Maharani Lakshmibai and the martyrdom of Sardar Bhagat Singh resulted in loss of life at the hands of the enemy but their sacrifice motivated others to dedicate their life for the cause of Indian independence from the British. Even the personal loss of life was effort blessed with grace.
Good health alone is not evidence of grace. The inspiring life of Stephen Hawking, the physicist from UK who suffers from a condition that has left him completely paralyzed for many years now, shows us that a beautiful life can be lived that benefits the world, even when suffering from physical ailments. Hawking himself was quoted on the universe, “The laws may have been decreed by God, but God does not intervene to break the laws.” I would beg to differ, taking the example of his life. I see Hawkins as a man who has risen above his destiny through self-effort blessed with grace.
So how is one to obtain this omnipotent omnipresent grace? In life, the presence of God is in the form of a guru. When one needs direction in life, a guru appears. The physical presence of a guru is not necessary to receive a guru’s grace. As with divine grace, the disciple may not always acknowledge the presence, or is aware of it, but the grace of a guru is bestowed forever.
Success has to be striven for. Results have a causal relationship with the effort put in, and the omnipresent grace is the catalyst. The current state has resulted by grace, and the effort to change the current state to a desired state needs grace. If we do not reach desired state, then that is grace as well because there is a lesson in failure that one needs to learn. 
A guru is personified grace. And the grace of a guru is needed to make knowledge effective. Drona, the military guru to the royals, did not accept the tribal prince Ekalavya as his disciple. Ekalavya struggled alone, using a statue of Drona for motivation, and became an excellent archer. But all this effort went to nothing when Drona asked for Ekalavya’s right thumb as his guru dakśiṇā - tuition. Karna sat still while a wasp bit through his leg, so that his guru Parashurama should be able to sleep peacefully. On waking, the guru recognized this as a Kshatriya trait while Karna had presented himself to be a Brahmin, and he cursed Karna to forget his knowledge when he needed it most. This curse led to Karna’s death in the battle-field.
śaraṇāgati, or complete surrender, is the acceptance of grace that allows a person to accept every situation life brings. Krishna is quoted as saying to Arjuna - sarva dharmān parityajya mamekamśaraam vraja|aham tva sarva pāpebhyo mokśa iśyami ma śuchaha|| When a person surrenders to the Supreme, he becomes the recipient of divine grace.

Even with divine grace and the grace of a guru, the importance of self-effort cannot be underestimated. Artists have mastery over their art, yet they have to make an effort to keep that mastery. Singers practice religiously every day to hit the right note, painters and sculptors spend hours in shaping their vision, chefs practice their culinary arts, musicians play the same piece repeatedly till they perfect it, and dancers put their body to the ultimate test. I can put in the same amount of time as the artist or possibly more, put in my best effort and yet not be able to perform as the artist. There is no success without grace, but grace does not lie in success - so what if nobody is there to evaluate and applaud? There is no opportunity without grace, but grace does not lie in opportunity - so what if you never got a chance to excel? Grace is the divine gift that is uniquely bestowed on an individual, and one has to make an effort to continue to deserve that grace. And, the fact that the effort is blessed with continued grace, is also grace.

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