Does one attain to meditation through God’s grace?
It will be useful to understand this thing, because it has led to lots of misunderstandings and mistakes. A good number of people have thought that if meditation is attained through God’s grace then there is no need to do anything, and they did not do a thing. You are grievously mistaken if you mean by God’s grace that you don’t have to do anything.
Another misunderstanding that flows from it is that God’s grace is not equally available to everybody, that some persons receive more of it and others less. But in fact, no one is God’s chosen one; no one is his favorite. And if even God has his favorites then there is no hope for justice in the world. If you mean by God’s grace that God is kind to some and unkind to others then you are wholly mistaken.
But the statement that one attains to meditation through God’s grace is quite correct in another sense. Really it is not the statement of those who have yet to attain to meditation. It is the statement of the enlightened ones – those who have attained to it. It is so because when it happens, when one comes to it, the efforts he had made seem to be utterly irrelevant. In the context of the attainment, which is so immense, the efforts look so petty that one simply can’t say that he came to it through them. When one comes to it he feels so overwhelmed with its immensity that he says, “How could it have happened through my efforts? What had I done to find it? What price had I paid? What had I staked on it? Did I have a thing that I could have offered? Nothing.” When God’s bliss showers on anyone he just exclaims, “It is through thy compassion, O Lord, it is through thy grace, that I come to thee! Otherwise it was beyond me, impossibly beyond me.”
But remember that this is the statement of the blessed ones, the enlightened ones. If the unenlightened, the initiates cling to it they will be misled forever. Efforts are essential; one must make efforts.
The happening of meditation or enlightenment or whatsoever you call it is like opening the doors of a house in darkness to let in the sun. Although the sun has risen in the east, if we keep the doors of our house shut we will be always in the dark. And if we open the doors and wait, the sun will come in on his own. No other effort is needed to bring the sun in; we cannot put him or his light in a container and take it to our house. He comes on his own accord. The irony is that while our efforts cannot bring him, they can certainly keep him out, prevent him from coming. If we shut the doors or close our eyes, even the sun will be powerless to do anything. We can keep the sun out of our houses, we are capable of stopping the sun; but we are not capable of ushering him in. Only let the door open, and he will come in. And when the sun is in, we cannot say that we brought him in, we cannot take that credit. We can only say that it was his kindness that he came into our house. And we can only say that we were merciful to ourselves that we did not shut our doors.
Man can only be an opening, a door for God to come in. Our efforts only open the door; his coming depends on him, on his compassion. And his compassion is infinite, it is forever present at every doorstep. But what can he do if he finds many doors closed to him? God knocks at every door and goes back when he finds the doors shut. And we have closed our doors so firmly. So whenever he comes and knocks, we rationalize it, we explain it away in so many ways, and we remain content with it.
I would like to tell you a story that I love to tell. There is a great temple with a hundred priests to look after it. One night the chief priest went to bed and dreamed that God has sent word that he will visit their temple the next day. He did not believe it, because it is difficult to come across people who are more disbelieving than the priests. He did not believe his dream for another reason, too. People who trade in religion never come to believe in religion. They only exploit religion, which never becomes their faith, their truth. No one in the world is more faithless than one who turns faith into a means of exploitation. So the chief priest could not believe that God would really this temple.
The priest had never believed in such things, although he had been a priest for long years. He had worshipped God for long and he knew that God had never visited his temple even once. Each day he had offered food to God, and he knew that he had in reality offered it to himself. He had also prayed to God every day, but he knew well that his prayers were lost in the empty sky, because there was no one to hear them. So he thought that the message was not true, it was just a dream, and a dream rarely turns into a reality.
But then he was afraid, too, lest the dream should come true. At times what we call a dream turns into a reality and a reality as we know it proves to be a dream. Sometimes what we think to be a dream really becomes a reality. So the chief priest ultimately decided to inform his close colleagues about his last night’s dream. He said to the other priests, “Although it seems to be a joke, yet I should tell you about it. Last night I dreamed that God said that he would visit us today.” The other priests laughed and they said, “Are you mad that you believe in dreams? However, don’t tell others about it; otherwise they will take you to be crazy.” But the head priest said, “In case he should come, we should be prepared for it. There is no harm if he does not turn up, but if at all he comes, we will not be found wanting.”
So the whole temple and its premises were scrubbed, washed and cleaned thoroughly. It was decorated with flowers and flags and festoons. Lamps were lit and incense burned. Perfumes were sprayed and every kind of preparation made. The priests tired themselves out in the course of the day, but God did not turn up. Every now and then they looked up the road, they were disappointed, and they said, “Dream is a dream after all; God is not going to come. We were fools to believe so. It was good that we did not inform the people of the town; otherwise they would have simply laughed at us.”
By evening the priests gave up all hope, and they said, “Let us now eat the sumptuous food cooked for God. It has ever been so: what we offer to God is consumed by us in the end. No one is going to turn up. We were crazy enough to believe in a dream. The irony is that we knowingly made fools of ourselves. If others go mad, they can be excused, because they don’t know. But we know God never comes. Where is God? There is this idol in the temple; it is all there is to it. And it is our business, our profession to worship him.” And then they ate well and went to bed early as they were tired.
When it was midnight a chariot pulled up at the gate of the temple, and its sound was heard. One of the sleeping priests heard it and thought that it was God’s chariot. He shouted to others, “Listen friends and wake up. It seems he, whom we expected all day, has arrived at long last. The noise of the chariot is heard.” The other priests snubbed him saying, “Shut up, you crazy one. We have had enough of madness all through the day, now that it is night let us sleep well. It is not the sound of a chariot, but the rumblings of the clouds in the skies.” So they explained the thing away and returned to their beds.
Then the chariot halted at the gate, and someone climbed the steps of the temple and knocked at its door. And again one of the priests woke up from sleep and shouted to his associates, “It seems the guest has arrived whom we awaited the whole day long. He is knocking at the door.” The other priests berated him as they had done with the first. They said, “Are you not crazy? Won’t you allow us to sleep? It is just the dash of winds against the door and not a knock of a caller.” So they again rationalized and went back to their beds.
The next morning they woke up and walked to the gates of the temple. And they were astounded to see a few footprints on the steps of the temple. Surely enough someone had climbed them during the night. And then they noticed some marks of a chariot’s wheels on the road, and there was now no doubt at all that a chariot had arrived at the gate in the night. And strangely enough the footprints on the steps were absolutely uncommon and unknown. Now the priests burst into tears and fell down and began to roll on the ground where the chariot had halted. And soon the whole village was at the temple’s gates. Everybody in the crowd asked with bewilderment, “What is the matter?” The priests said, “Don’t ask what the matter is. God knocked at the door of our temple last night, but we rationalized everything. We are now damned. He knocked at the door and we thought that it was the flapping sound of the winds. His chariot came, and we thought that it was the rumble of thunder in the sky. The truth is that we did not understand anything. We only explained them away, because we wanted to enjoy our sleep.”
God knocks at every door. His grace visits every home. But our doors are shut. And even when we hear a knock we immediately rationalize it and explain it away. In the old days they said that “A guest is God”. There is a slight mistake in this maxim. The truth is that God is the guest. God is waiting as a guest at our doorsteps, but the door is closed. His grace is equally available to all. Therefore don’t ask whether one attains through his grace; one attains through his grace alone. And as far as our efforts are concerned, they are a help in opening the door, in removing the hurdles from the way.
When he comes, he comes on his own accord.
From In Search of the Miraculous, Discourse #6, Q1
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