Aspiration, Grace, and Life – 2


Author: Suhas Mehra (2019). Published in Sraddha, Vol. 11 (1), August 2019, pp. 140-152



Cotton rose (Hibiscus mutabilis) Spiritual significance: The Divine Grace (Source)


Anything is achievable by aspiration from below and divine grace answering that call. Googling the word ‘Grace’ one gets the following results – “smoothness and elegance of movement; courteous goodwill; an attractively polite manner of behaving; (in Christian belief) a divinely given talent or blessing; the condition or fact of being favoured by someone; a period officially allowed for payment of a sum due or for compliance with a law or condition, especially an extended period granted as a special favour; a short prayer of thanks said before or after a meal; used as forms of description or address for a duke, duchess, or archbishop; three beautiful goddesses (Aglaia, Thalia, and Euphrosyne) believed to personify and bestow charm, grace, and beauty.”

The meaning of Grace according to Merriam-Webster dictionary is –“Unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification; virtue coming from God; state of sanctification enjoyed through divine assistance.” Interestingly, the usage of the word “grace” since 1800s has constantly receded by approximately one fifth until 2000 after which the usage began to increase, perhaps after the 9/11 tragedy!

In one of his letters, Sri Aurobindo once described the process of working of the Grace:

“The Divine Grace is there, ready to act at every moment, but it manifests as one grows out of the Law of the Ignorance into the Law of Light and it is meant, not as an arbitrary caprice, however miraculous often its intervention, but as a help in that growth and a Light that leads and eventually delivers.” (CWSA, 28: 357)

And what are the outcomes of such grace? The Mother described that beautifully in her Prayers and Meditations:

“There is a Power that no ruler can command; there is a Happiness that no earthly success can bring; there is a Light that no wisdom can possess; there is a knowledge that no philosophy and no science can master; there is a Bliss of which no satisfaction of desire can give the enjoyment; there is a thirst for Love that no human relation can appease; there is a Peace that one finds nowhere here, not even in death.

“It is the Power, the Happiness, the Light, the Knowledge, the Bliss, the Love, the Peace that flow from the Divine Grace.” (CWM, 1: 380)

One generally hears the words “Divine Grace” from an individual on a spiritual pursuit, but it is also not uncommon for scientists, mathematicians, artists, businessmen, or other non-spiritual seekers to believe in the Divine and the Divine Grace. Srinivasa Ramanujan, the brilliant Indian mathematician, credited all his mathematical acumen to goddess Mahalakshmi of Namakkal, his chosen deity. It is believed that he would receive visions of manuscripts of complex mathematical content unfolding before his eyes. “An equation for me has no meaning unless it represents a thought of God,” he had once said. (Kanigel, R., 1991, The Man Who Knew Infinity, Prologue, p. 7)

Not only did the Goddess poured her Grace on Ramanujan by revealing to him mathematical secrets, but also guided him on how to achieve the purpose of his life through working with Prof. Hardy (one of the leading mathematicians of the time) and make significant contributions in the field of mathematics. Ramanujan, at one point of time, was thinking of declining the offer to go to Cambridge because at that time crossing the sea was prohibited in his community. However, the Divine Grace intervened in the form of Ramanujan’s mother having a vivid dream in which the family goddess, the deity of Namagiri, commanded her “to stand no longer between her son and the fulfillment of his life’s purpose.” Ramanujan traveled to England by ship, leaving his wife to stay with his mother in India. (Neville, E. H., 1942. Srinivasa Ramanujan, Nature, 149-3776: 293)

It was Ramanujan’s faith and deep aspiration which led him to experience the Grace of the Goddess in his dreams. Interestingly, it was quite a different type of dream for Elias Howe Jr., an American inventor, which led him to make significant innovations in the design of sewing machines. His refinements to the design concept of his predecessors brought him the award of the first United States patent for a sewing machine using a lockstitch design. He once had a nightmare that cannibals would stab him with spears with a hole in the tip if he couldn’t come up with an improvement of sewing machine. He was awakened by the dream and knew instantly that a hole in the needle tip was all that was needed to make the sewing machine work. This is how a critical component of the sewing machine was invented.

Similarly, a young doctoral student of 23 years, Larry Page, had the irrational fear that he was admitted into college because of an error, and believed that he would be kicked out of college at any moment. In his dream one night, this constant anxiety fuelled a thought of downloading the entire Internet on personal computer. When he woke up, he was curious to see if that was indeed possible. So, he sat down and did the calculations. Given the amount of data, it wasn’t possible. But he could save them all as individual links, he thought. Would that be useful, he wondered? Grabbing a pen, he scribbled down the details in the hope that it might be useful. At the time Page hadn’t thought about creating a search ranking algorithm, or what is today commonly known as Google.

Years later, while delivering a commencement address at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Page, while reminiscing about that potent dream – the dream that possibly changed the world – said,

“You know, what it’s like to wake up in the middle of the night with a vivid dream? And you know how, if you don’t have a pencil and pad by the bed to write it down, it will be completely gone the next morning?… Sometimes it is important to wake up and stop dreaming. I spent the middle of that night scribbling out the details and convincing myself it would work.”

He reminded the graduating students of the slogan he had once learned in a summer camp – “healthy disregard for the impossible.” Because in many ways, all path-breaking innovations have been made by inculcating within a “healthy disregard” for what ordinary minds would think as impossible. This is another way in which an inner aspiration for transcending the limits of the ‘possible’ expresses itself.

Similarly, Einstein’s special theory of relativity, structure of Benzene, shape of DNA, the Periodic Table – all these were the result of Grace working through the dreams. About the working of Grace, the Mother explains:

“People believe that the Grace means making everything smooth for all your life. It is not true. The Grace works for the realisation of your aspiration and everything is arranged to gain the most prompt, the quickest realisation.

“The Grace is something that pushes you towards the goal to be attained. Do not try to judge it by your mind, you will not get anywhere, because it is something formidable which is not explained through human words or feelings. When the Grace acts, the result may or may not be pleasant―it takes no account of any human value, it may even be a catastrophe from the ordinary and superficial point of view. But it is always the best for the individual. It is a blow that the Divine sends so that progress may be made by leaps and bounds. The Grace is that which makes you march swiftly towards the realisation.” (CWM, 14: 96)

The above words of the Mother express in another form what Sri Aurobindo had spoken about his experiences at the Alipore jail, in his famous 1909 Uttarpara speech:

“When I was arrested and hurried to the Lal Bazar hajat I was shaken in faith for a while, for I could not look into the heart of His intention. Therefore I faltered for a moment and cried out in my heart to Him, “What is this that has happened to me? I believed that I had a mission to work for the people of my country [independence] and until that work was done, I should have Thy protection. Why then am I here and on such a charge?” A day passed and a second day and a third, when a voice came to me from within, “Wait and see.” Then I grew calm and waited. I was taken from Lal Bazar to Alipore and was placed for one month in a solitary cell apart from men. There I waited day and night for the voice of God within me, to know what He had to say to me, to learn what I had to do. In this seclusion the earliest realisation, the first lesson came to me. I remembered then that a month or more before my arrest, a call had come to me to put aside all activity, to go into seclusion and to look into myself, so that I might enter into closer communion with Him. I was weak and could not accept the call. My work was very dear to me and in the pride of my heart I thought that unless I was there, it would suffer or even fail and cease; therefore I would not leave it. It seemed to me that He spoke to me again and said, “The bonds you had not strength to break, I have broken for you, because it is not my will nor was it ever my intention that that should continue. I have another thing for you to do and it is for that I have brought you here, to teach you what you could not learn for yourself and to train you for my work.” Then He placed the Gita in my hands. His strength entered into me and I was able to do the sadhana of the Gita.” (CWSA, 8: 7)



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