By SRI SRI SHUDDHAANANDAA BRAHMACHARI
The answer, however true, gives rise to even more important questions. If everything is predestined, what will be the role of the individual? Do we have any freedom? These are difficult, confounding, enduring mysteries for humankind.
We cannot borrow the answer. No philosophy can resolve this ancient riddle of human existence. The essential question, the one that must be personally answered remains: Who am I?
The self you think yourself to be, the self with whom you have been identified, is limited. It is a pseudo-self, a limited self that is governed by the past. It is the ego, a fabrication of your own mind’s false identifications that stands as the obstacle between you and the realization of a more ultimate freedom. As long as you are in the grip of the ego’s narrow illusions, you cannot be free. You are a prisoner of the past and the destiny that proceeds from it.
It is only by mastering your own mind that you escape the inevitable wheel of destiny and the confines of individuality. If you are circumscribed by individuality, you are within its operational range, whether you accept it or rail against it. Enlightenment is the transcendence of individuality through universality. Being one with the One, the enlightened masters have nothing to do with “destiny” or individuality. The only way to transcend the ego is to become conscious, to continually surrender your limited awareness into an ever expanding awareness of the Universal Oneness, to rely ever more deeply on Divine Grace.
We all have individual will power. Everything that we have achieved in life has come out of our willingness to attain. We all have the aspect of effort, our individual will to attain a particular state. But our effort does not stand alone. It is self-contained or even self-maintained. It does not exist in a vacuum, unaffected by the larger flow of life and divine intention. We are not alone. Our effort, however intense and dedicated, combines with the grace of the Divine, which unfolds to assist us in achieving our goals. Without Divine Grace, nothing can be achieved.
With Grace, all that is impossible becomes possible. All of life’s obstacles become steps toward higher realization. Holding our hearts open to Divine Grace, the disquieting anxieties, assumptions, and preoccupations of the mind begin to settle. They slip into quietude, allowing Grace to take the lead, to guide and shape the moment, to work toward the highest good. Grace smoothens our way toward the highest purpose within every situation. Until and unless we open to Grace, we cannot transform the more difficult predicaments of our lives. With Grace, even the most negative forces become agents of transformation, lifting us into a higher life, into higher energy, into more expansive consciousness.
Our hearts must open in acknowledgement of the Divine Grace that always surrounds us. It is not enough to read scriptures and participate in spiritual discussions. Yes, we can do those things. But they serve us only because we do them with an open and humble, seeking heart, thirsty for Grace. To practice consciously opening to Divine Grace, to let our awareness become more saturated and attuned to the grace that is already in our lives, is to give Grace the space and time and the fertile field in which to flourish. Grace begins to sing throughout our lives, in every cell of our body, until one day we realize its celestial song is the song of our own heart, the very essence of our own being.
Spend a few moments each morning consciously holding your heart open to Grace that the Divine is bestowing on you and on the day’s activities. Take a pause and open yourself to Grace whenever you can during your wakeful hours: as you begin a new activity, enter a meeting, leave the office, get in and out of your car or step onto a bus, or are about to meet a friend. If it is only for two seconds, invite Divine Grace in, to come with you, to take the lead and permeate whatever lies ahead.
If you find yourself in a difficult situation, turn inward again. See and feel the energy of Grace flowing to you, through you, within you, carrying you, exercising its gentle, unseen hand to move the situation effortlessly forward. Give up the reins and give up any sense of dis-ease. Just give them over to Grace. Be at peace. You are in the field of Grace and its influence, which can heal all things. See Grace flowing into the hearts of all others involved. If you have a saint or a guru to whom you have special devotion, call on his or her intervening grace-filled presence. Let Grace effortlessly inform, inspire and guide you in how to respond to the situation.
If you have a little more time, sit in quiet openness. Be patient. Be trusting. Be still and know that God is there, with you. You will see what steps to take, what to say, what to leave unsaid. Notice any smaller, lower, petty or more predictable impulses to which the ego may cling. They do not matter. Simply bathe them in the energy and intentions of Grace. You will begin to see what conduct, what attitudes, what changes, what courses of action with higher alignment can reveal.
As our awareness of and gratitude for the magnitude, availability, and pervasive presence of Grace deepens, we seed a new kind of future for ourselves and the world. The energy and life of Grace amplifies. It reaches out, touching others. Oh, so delicately and subtly, it stirs the essential being within, calling us all to a new order, one beyond the blindly repetitious patterns and limitations of the unconscious past. Grace is the key to freedom.