All is Grace

by M. Govindan Satchidananda

“He, the genesis of the field of maya, is experienced in inner perception;
He knows our thoughts; the ignorant know this not.
“He does not love me,’ say they;
He is close and caring to those that surrender.”
- Tirumandiram, verse I.22

Life is filled with dualities: liking and disliking, pleasure and pain, success and failure, gain and loss, high and low, good and bad, the beautiful and the ugly, true and false, and ultimately life and death itself. Amplified and charged with emotions, these dualities become dramatic and we usually become absorbed in them. When we get what we want, we think “how great life is!” or “how great I am!” but when we don’t get what we want, or we get what we don’t want, then we blame God, even swear at Him! Life is a puzzle, a mystery, and at times, when we are really down, the only exit appears to be suicide or death. The wise however, see that “all is grace.” To understand why this is so, one must first take a step back from the drama of one’s life and the false identify that “I am the body,” or “I am what I think” or “I am what I feel,” and see things from a deep, abiding perspective, that of our soul. The soul is Being, Consciousness and Bliss, sat chit ananda. We do so whenever we are simply a Witness, with choice less, non-judgmental awareness.

“The light that shines in the hearts of devotees,
Holy God, who sports in such hearts;
Extolling His greatness, adoring Him as My Lord,
We shall get closer and obtain His grace.”
- Tirumandiram verse 39

God abides in the heart. Yet one does not know it because of the ignorance of egoism. The Lord cares for the soul, and seated within it, helps the soul become self aware. Slowly but surely the soul begins to see more of that light, which illuminates the self, others, and the world. The soul learns that the supreme Lord alone matters, and becomes drawn to Him. Worshipping Him with true understanding, one obtains His grace.

“The God of gods, whom the enlightened adore;
The God supreme who showers grace endless;
My  father, Him, I contemplated;
As light eternal and prayed, head low with abiding love.”
- Tirumandiram verse 48

Contemplating the Lord as Light eternal within oneself is an advanced form of meditation taught in Babaji’s Kriya Yoga third initiation.

The Five Functions of the Lord

From this new perspective we begin to see the eternal existence of the five functions of the Lord, the Supreme Being: creation, sustenance, dissolution (or involution), obscuration and grace. Creation, sustenance and dissolution are intended to help the soul go through its karmic experiences in the world, to gradually release itself from the three stains, known as malas: ignorance (egoism), maya (delusion), and karma, the consequences of its past actions. All of them are aspects of grace, according to Tirumular, as they draw the souls back into union with the Lord. Grace is the compassion of the Lord. Through grace, absolute knowledge and incomparable bliss is bestowed. It is the grand play of the Lord and is the daily experience of all souls. It is experienced most intensely when the surrendered soul is taken by the Lord into His fold, liberating it completely from the malas.

“Creation, destruction or preservation:
Holy Lord, by His grace, embarks upon;
His will, the compassionate One works
Through maya, spread in all directions.”
- Tirumandiram verse 393

  1. Creation. The Lord attaches each soul to a body so that it can work out its karma, grow and mature in Self knowledge, and so become fit to receive more and more of His grace. Creation exists for the evolution of the souls.

    “The spotless embarks as creation,
    Provides body to my soul, lays limit of time and karma,
    And suffering too; main support is He
    Giving life experience and he is impartial.”
    - Tirumandiram verse 394

    Many ideas are expressed in this verse. The Lord provides a body and the circumstances of birth which are suitable for the working out of the soul’s karma. He supports the soul as it experiences the dualities of pleasure and pain, guiding it towards oneness. He is just and impartial: he does not discriminate in favor of one or the other, for he has no likes or dislikes.

  2. Sustenance. The Lord sustains his creation. For this purpose He pervades all bodies and life as light and darkness; filling one with thoughts and feelings, guiding the soul through life’s experiences. Though the soul in its ignorance fails initially to perceive and appreciate this, as the soul matures, it begins to see the light of truth.

    “The Lord it is who creates the world;
    The world He sustains and all living being too;
    Receptacles, big and small, the potter makes;
    Even so, the Lord shapes into form all that there is.”
    - Tirumandiram verse 417

    The many things which sustain each of us throughout our lives, including family and friends, possessions, skills, knowledge, and experience are all his handiwork.

  3. Dissolution. Commonly known as “destruction,” this function of the Lord is best described as “dissolution” or “involution.” Dissolution involves dissolving all material forms into their subtle essence. This returns the souls to the abode of the Lord, for rest and recuperation from the process of working through karmic consequences. Ultimately it brings the soul to rest in the bliss of union with the Lord.

    “Daily dissolution is to be in sleep’s darkness;
    Ordained dissolution is beyond waking;
    Pure dissolution is action less kevala state;
    Ultimate dissolution is to be in the Supreme Lord’s grace of truth
    - Tirumandiram verse 425

    Sleep is daily dissolution; the body and the mind obtain rest from worldly activities and stress. Death is ordained dissolution. He that gives the body to the soul destroys it at the appointed time, and that is the lot of every soul born to fulfill karmic obligations during its earthly visit. Pure dissolution is Self-realization wherein one becomes absolutely free of the malas or stains of ignorance, maya and karma. Ultimate dissolution is to unite with the Supreme Lord, His Grace, the Truth.

  4. Obscuration. This is the function by which the Lord conceals Himself and the purpose for one’s life, from each soul, so that the souls may fulfill their karmic obligations, believing that worldly experience is the ultimate purpose of life. The so-called “mystery” of life, is result of this function. The souls, considering the impermanent to be permanent, the pleasurable to be the source of joy, and the body-mind-personality to be their identity, pursue transitory experiences. Through these experiences they suffer the dualities of pleasure and pain, which in turn teach the souls the lessons they needs to finally seek the true meaning of existence.

    “Soul of Soul he is, the light within;
    He is not one foot away; He and the soul are that close;
    Yet the soul knows Him not!”
    - Tirumandiram, verse 431

    Tirumular tells us in the following verse that love is the key to open the doors of perception through which God is seen. But when there is no love, God ensures the soul fulfills its obligations in life.

    “I see Him in the depth of my being, and conceal Him there;
    He is bound to reveal Himself, conferring His grace;
    Let there be happiness; your great love be special;
    Your desire that he should reveal Himself will be met.”
    - Tirumandiram, verse 437

  5. Grace. The Lord’s grace is what leads the soul up the ladder of spiritual experience, easing the soul from the world slowly and revealing the greater light of wisdom and Self-knowledge. Grace is the compassion of the Lord. Unlike karma, it does not depend upon the merits or demerits of one’s activities. It is the response of the Lord to the soul’s aspiration for the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.

    “His cosmic form no one can grasp;
    But the body composed of the five elements
    He pervades so finely like milk in water,
    The wonderful bliss I learnt to experience tirelessly.”
    - Tirumandiram verse 450

    As long as obscuration lasts, one is unable to perceive the presence of the Lord within. But through the grace of the Lord, as one turns away from attachment to the body-mind-personality and purifies oneself of the stains, one begins to have spiritual experiences. With these, and the bliss they confer, one turns more and more towards the Lord within, in union. Ultimate bliss is found by the Lord’s grace.

    Grace pervades all of the five functions of the Lord and consequently everything that is created, preserved, dissolved, obscure and gracious in our personal lives. When we can perceive and appreciate this, moment to moment, our suffering ends immediately, and we see the face of the Lord.

From the Kriya Yoga Journal, no. 68, Winter 2011

Copyright © by Marshall Govindan December 2010


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