You, O benevolent giver, are the paragon of generosity;
I beg for your grace, O Lord.
Sant Tukaram, quoted in Voice of the Heart
We have known many such prayers that ask for the Lord’s grace. Colloquially, the phrase “it’s God’s grace” is often used for sharing any good news or achievements with others. Grace is considered a gift from God. Theology explains grace as an unmerited favour of God. In simple words, grace implies having something good (favour) which we do not deserve (unmerited). But what is unmerited favour?
If we hire an employee who works for us, we are obligated to pay him his wages for the work he has done for us. We are indebted to him, and the salary he receives is not a gift but a payment. But when it comes to God, how can we repay him for all he has done for us? If each breath we take is owed to him, how can we even count the other blessings for which we are indebted to him, such as our daily meals, family, friends or worldly possessions? How can we redeem ourselves from this unimaginably heavy debt? In a way, we do not merit the blessed life we enjoy however humble it may be. The essence of grace is its free bestowal from the Lord to us, the unmerited.
A popular Christian hymn written in 1772 by John Newton, who survived a violent storm when he was aboard a ship, expresses the power of the Lord’s grace:
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
T’was blind but now I see.
According to Sant Mat, one cannot even worship the Lord if not for his grace. We are all blind and lost in illusion. The Lord creates his own love within us. We would never even think about the Lord unless he creates those circumstances, that atmosphere in which we can build our meditation. If that atmosphere is not there, the opportunity is not there. So what can we do? Everything is in his hands.
How does grace work? It is said the Lord’s grace works in mysterious ways. There is a story about a wealthy merchant who was very pious. He regularly visited saints to seek divine knowledge, and practised the teachings to the best of his abilities. During one such visit to a saint, he got a message that all his shops had caught fire, causing him a huge loss. The merchant was inconsolable and asked the saint, “I have never done a wrong deed in my life. Why did I have to suffer this loss?” The saint answered, “Why do you cry for something that was never yours? What do you need other than a shelter, simple food to eat, and two sets of clothes to wear? Whatever you had was his grace, what has happened now is also his will. Accept it with all your heart, as this may bring you closer to the Lord.”
So, do our troubles indicate lack of grace? On the contrary, they can be a blessing in disguise, because they help us remember the Lord. We remember the Lord more in times of distress than when we are happy. So our difficulties in a sense give us the opportunity to grow closer to the Lord.
Our concept of grace is when the Lord gives us a good life, loving family, comfort, wealth, and worldly possessions, but that may not be his grace at all, as these things may cause us to forget him. On the other hand, that which takes our mind away from the world and creates yearning in our heart to go back to him, is his grace. But these may not be pleasant incidents, pleasant events.
T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear,
And Grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
T’was Grace that brought us safe thus far
And Grace will lead me home.
Grace will lead us home to our true abode, where our true self merges back with the Divine. As soon as we are aware of our Master’s grace, we become increasingly aware of the insignificance of our individual existence and contributions in this world. That, in turn, increases our love for the Master and willingness to obey him, to follow the Sant Mat principles, and to meditate.
The love by itself is grace. When you love a Master, what more grace do you want? When you develop that love for a Master, that itself is grace.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III
Not till He himself takes us into his fold are we redeemed through the Master’s grace …. And that grace is showered on us through his gift of devotion and love, which eventually tunes us to him and draws us to our Home to merge with the Lord forever.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Die to Live
Grace is God’s way to reach out to us, and we should respond with faith, love, and gratitude. This is the only way we can build our relationship with the Lord and ultimately become one with him.
Blessed with His infinite grace, through meditation, we seek the door, we find it, and we knock.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Die to Live