ADVAITA SADHANA - PAGE 2
4. Moksha is by Grace of God
However, if we persist with our efforts, by the Grace of God, if not in this life, maybe in a later life, that noble of goal of Brahman-realisation, that is, the realisation that we ourselves are Brahman and being–in-Brahman happens.
Who is this God (Ishvara) that is bestowing this Grace on us? JIvas and the universe are just a show of mAyA, but even in that ‘show’ there is a lot of regularity. It is not a haphazard mad show; it is a well-enacted play. The mind, which is a part of this ‘play’ may be weird in its ways of dancing hither and thither, but the entire universe of the Sun and stars down to the smallest paramAnu’s vibration within the atom, are all happening with a fantastic regularity. Even this mind has been stilled to silence by our great men and they have chalked out ways for us in terms of what they called Dharma , to follow their footsteps and still our minds. Further, there are thousand other things which happen according to the rules of cause and effect that our ancestors have discovered and left as a heritage for us. The affairs of this universe are happening in spite of us according to some schedule chalked out for them so that we may live in peace. If we observe all this carefully, maybe from the absolute point of view everything is a MAyA but in the mundane world of daily parlance, there is an admirable order that must have been initiated or chalked out by a very powerful force, far more powerful than all the powers that we know. That power is what is called Ishvara (God).
It is Brahman that, in association with MAyA – even the words ‘in association with’ are wrong; for Brahman does no work and so does not ‘associate’ itself with anything; so we should more precisely say ‘appearing to be in association with’ – is the Ishvara that monitors and manages both the universe and the JIvas. It is in His control all this world of JIvas rolls about. When that is so, for us to transcend this curtain of MAyA, and to get out also of His control so that we may realise the Brahman that is the core of Him as well as us, is not possible without the sanction of that power, namely Ishvara. In other words only by the Grace of Ishvara can our mind be overcome and Brahman-realisation can happen.
In this mAyic world, the dispenser of the fruits for all our actions is this Ishvara. What fruits go with what actions – is all decided by Ishvara. Every single action of ours has a consequence and the dispenser of this consequence is the same Ishvara. It is this cycle of actions and the cycle of the fruits of our actions that result in our revolving recurrence of new and newer lives. Only when karma stops may we ever hope to become the karma-less brahman. What prompts the JIva to be involved in karma is the mind. It is by the prompting and urging of the mind that we do action. So action will stop only if the mind stops . But the mind refuses to stop. How can a thing destroy itself by itself? Can a gun shoot itself out of existence? So what the mind can do is only this: In the total agony of anticipation of its own death, it has to keep thinking all the time about the JIva-Brahma-Aikyam that would happen after its (mind’s) death. This is what ‘nidhidhyAsana’ means. It has to be done with great persistence. The essence of advaita-SAdhanA is this kind of persistent thinking. Of course this is also ‘action’. Walking is the action of the legs. Eating is the action of the mouth. Thinking is action of the mind.
I just now said that all actions are carefully watched by Ishvara and it is He who dispenses the fruits of actions. He also watches this ‘thinking action’, namely the nidhidhyAsana. When we do this persistently and sincerely, He decides at some point that this person has done the nidhidhyAsana sufficiently enough to destroy his balance of karma and dispenses His Grace that will kill the mind that has been always struggling to establish our individuality that shows this JIva to be distinct from Brahman.
This is the meaning of the statement that by God’s Grace one gets Realisation of Brahman. That does not mean however that God waits and calculates whether we have done enough SAdhanA to get our karma from all our past lives exhausted. If He does so then that should not be called ‘His Grace’! A mechanical calculation like a trader to balance the positive and negative side of our work does not deserve the name of Grace. Love, sympathy, compassion, forgiving and allowing for marginal errors – only these will constitute what is termed as Grace, or ‘anugraha’.
The word ‘anugraha’ may also be interpreted as follows. The prefix ‘anu’ stands for concordance or conformity; also continuance. The word ‘graha’ connotes a catching up. When we try to catch up with the Lord by following or conforming with His attributeless nature, by the same principle of conformity He comes and catches us up. That is ‘anugraha’. The mind of us, instead of being steadfast in its work of ‘catching up’ with the Lord, may also run away from Him. Even then the Lord’s Grace follows us and makes us ‘catch up’. That is ‘anugraha’. Here catching up with the Lord includes both the MAyA-associated Almighty and also the attributeless Brahman which is not associated with any MAyA. We may be subject to the whims and fancies of MAyA but He is in total control of it. So even when He ‘does’ so many activities under the guise of MAyA, He is always the actionless Brahman . Thus even if we aim at the MAyA-associated almighty, he absorbs us into the Brahman that has no trace of MAyA.
It is actually a running race between Ishvara and the JIva. The JIva tries to catch up with Ishvara. But Ishvara thinks it unfair to grant the Realisation of Brahman to this JIva ‘who has so much balance of karma’. And the JIva having failed to catch up gives up the attempt and allows itself to be carried away by all worldly distractions. That is the time when Ishvara follows him with compassion and makes the ‘catching-up’ possible. But this compassionate easing up is done in a subtle way. It turns the mind towards spiritual matters; that is what it means for Ishvara to ‘catch up’. At the same time it is done so gradually that the full ‘catching up’ of the JIva with Ishvara does not happen before the time for it is due. To that extent Ishvara ‘slips’ away. But that itself makes the JIva fall headlong into the bottomless pit of sin and again the compassionate grip of Ishvara tightens. This tightening and loosening goes on and on until the JIva fills up its mind fully with Ishvara and nothing else. And that is the time for the consummation of the ‘anugraha’.
The Lord is called ‘karma-phala-dAtA’ – the dispenser of the fruits of actions. Like the decision of a judge He has every right to be very strict in His dispensation of justice. When He does so, we have no right to fault Him for His strictness. But He does not do it that way. He very often condones our failings with His supreme compassion. He is neither too strict nor too lenient in His dispensation of justice. When the supreme-most status is granted to us it is not fair to expect Him to grant it without any concern whether the grantee deserves it well enough. Justice may be tempered by mercy but it cannot go to the extent of denial of justice. In all these, it does not stop with just doling out the punishment for the karma done. It is in fact supplemented by the process of destruction of all pending karma, end of the mind and finally the benefit of Brahman-realisation. With such a prospect, the condoning or forgiving nature of Ishvara cannot be expected to go too far!
5. Takes time but effort has to be started.
There are two categories: ‘JnAnavAn’ and ‘JnAni’. Both are above the level of any ordinary human being. A JnAnavAn, by learning and hearing, has convinced himself that the Atma that is called JivAtmA is nothing but Brahman itself, and is trying hard to bring that knowledge into one’s own experience. A JnAni on the other hand has gone to that peak of realisation of that knowledge as own experience. The JnAnavan who is making efforts to have that Brahman-realisation ‘reaches Me’, says the Lord, ‘only at the end of several births’ (*bahUnAM janmanAm ante jnAnavAn mAM prapadyate*) (B.G. VII – 19). Here ‘reaches Me’ means he attains the consummation of the realisation that Atman is Brahman). At another place (B.G. VI – 45) He says: *aneka-janma-samsiddhis-tato yAti parAm gatiM* -- meaning, slowly graduates to perfection only by several births. Even this attainment of Realisation after several births happens only by His Graceful Hand that lifts us up. Otherwise the ‘bahu’ of (VII – 19) and the ‘aneka’ of (VI – 45) will be several times larger!
The reason is: The goal is great and grand. ‘To become Brahman’ is something really great. But the one who wants to win that high prize is so small! Naturally it has to take several several life-times. Just to conquer another kingdom like his own a king has to make elaborate preparations for war. When that is so, for a small man to win over the kingdom of brahman-realisation, he has to take enormous efforts. It is the kingdom of the Atman that the JIva is set out to conquer!
From one point of view the whole matter appears simple. We are not aiming for the kingdom of heaven in Vaikuntha or Kailasa which are far away from us. What we are aiming at is to know ourself, to know what is within us. Just to be what we are is the goal. There should not be any difficulty here; because we are being asked to be what we are and nothing more. When it is said that way it looks simple. But when we attempt it we come to know there is nothing more difficult than this SAdhanA. It is like walking on razor’s edge, says the Katha Upanishad. But don’t lose heart, adds the Upanishad. Wake up, there are excellent teachers to guide you. Even if it be razor’s edge you can walk on it and come out successful! Thus the Upanishads speak of the difficulties of the path but also give you the path. The Guru’s Guru of our Acharya has also talked of these in very formidable terms. “Advaita is the only fearless state. Even great yogis fear to tread that path. It requires that fantastic effort of emptying the waters of the ocean by using blades of grass, soaking them in the water and shaking the water off from the ocean. Only by such unceasing effort can the mind empty itself of all its thoughts and be in the Atman.”
Note: This is from Mandukya Karika: III-39, 41
At the same time what we learn from this is that to be the real Self instead of the false Self it is so difficult. The false self is the mind, a creation of MAyA. The real Self is the Truth that is Brahman.
It may take many life-times; it may be very difficult and long. But the effort has to start right now. The more you postpone it, the life-cycle will get more extended. Suppose we don’t start this ascent of the spiritual ladder now. What do you think will happen? We will be continuing to commit further sinful activities and these will accumulate more and more dirt and trash in the mind. More life-times have to be spent. That is why I said the effort has to start rightaway, in order to escape from this life-cycle.
I said just now ‘escape from this life-cycle’; I also said ‘efforts have to be done’. These two together constitute the definition of SAdhanA. Instead of doing certain things in a haphazard fashion as and when the mood or the occasion arises, those great ancestors of ours who have reached the goal have prescribed for us specific methodologies for us. To walk that path is what is called SAdhanA.