Put Gratitude into Action
When he turned eighty years old, Henry Moore, the sculptor, was asked for the secret to life. His answer:
The secret of life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for your whole life. And the most important thing is – it must be something you cannot possibly do.
Quoted in Twyla Tharpe, Keep it Moving
How does this quote apply to a meditation practice that will lead us to God-realization and reunion with the Lord from whom we originated? First and foremost, meditation is indeed a task to which we’ve committed our entire life. Second, we know that we must be prepared to bring everything we have to its practice. Third, this path is 24/7, so we are expected to spend every minute of every day in a manner that prepares us for the next morning’s meditation. Finally, meditation that brings us back to the Lord is something we cannot possibly do alone or unaided. We could never attain self-realization and, ultimately God-realization, without the grace of a true living Master. Given this fact, we need to have everlasting gratitude for our great, good fortune in having come to this path – and put that gratitude into action.
Gratitude is being appreciative of what we have been given in our lives – a comfortable home, a loving family and friends, good health, and so on. But, let’s consider for a moment the possibility that being grateful is not just about feeling appreciative or saying thank you to someone for a gift or kindness.
Genuine gratitude must be transformed into action. For example, suppose a parent gives a son or daughter a loan with the expectation that the child will use the funds wisely. If the child uses the money irresponsibly, chances are their words of thanks will take on an air of insincerity. However, if that same child uses the loan prudently, they will have demonstrated to the parent that the outward expression of thanks was genuine, as exhibited by action. Likewise, saying thank you to the Master is insufficient unless we transform our gratitude into action. And the best action we can do is to put forth sincere effort in our meditation practice. So gratitude, expressed by our sincere effort is the best way to thank the Master for all the blessings we have been given, both temporal and spiritual.
Spiritual practice is like the two wings on a bird, one wing being grace and the other effort. Grace and effort are so closely intertwined that one cannot exist without the other. It is grace that puts us on the path and creates the perfect circumstances for us to attend to our spiritual practice. Then, the more effort we put forth, the more grace we experience. In Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, Maharaj Charan Singh says:
When the Lord wants us to go back to him, he creates those circumstances, that atmosphere which makes us think about him, about the path, the way leading back to him. Without his grace, we will never come on the path or on the way of devotion; or, in other words, we will never come in contact with the saints at all without his grace.… But we ourselves have to work; we have to make ourselves receptive to his grace.
The Lord has given us a human birth, the gift of initiation, and the grace to put forth the effort. Our effort is the best way to show our thanks for this grace. A questioner asked Hazur, “Since masters or saints always give their grace, where does the value of effort come on the path?” In response, he answered:
You see, you will feel the pull from within to sit in meditation, to achieve something within. That is the grace. Now grace is pushing you to make the effort, making you sit in meditation, making you awake early in the morning, and making you feel guilty the whole day if you don’t attend to your meditation. That is all grace. That is forcing you to put in effort. So saints have their own way of giving grace.
When the Lord gives us those gifts – the atmosphere, the circumstances, the longing – we show our gratitude by putting forth the necessary effort. Hazur explains in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II:
We are all beggars at his door, so we should all do our best and leave everything to him. Of course, we will only get when and what he wants us to get, but we must make the effort by doing the spiritual practice.
And I assure you, if we really beg from our heart, he is always ready to give. If we come one step, he comes ten steps to receive us. But our devotion must be pure; our longing, our desire to merge back into him must be absolutely one-pointed. We have to love him for his sake.… We have to base all our worship and meditation on the foundation of love. Only then will we get the best results.
When our gratitude is sincere, we demonstrate that sincerity by attending to our meditation with one-pointed love and devotion, slowly turning our back to the world and its attractions. Doing so is the best way to progress toward our ultimate goal, God-realization.
Let us be open to the grace that the Lord is showering on us rather than resist it. Let us show our gratitude by making the efforts his grace allows. With his grace and our effort, the impossible becomes possible, and we learn the secret of life. It is never too late to start.