Grace, Sweet Grace: An Essential Guide For Aspiring Seekers by Manatita
“For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. LORD of hosts, How blessed is the man who trusts in You! Psalm 84: 11.
It was about 19.55hrs that evening when He inwardly came …. Strong, forceful, powerful …. He was as sudden and unexpected as a butterfly at night. Vaguely aware of a most beautiful stage at the Royal Albert Hall, London, I was sitting absorbed in the shimmering rays of its electronic effects: red, blue, green, yellow …. A myriad of dazzlingly colourful spectrums of light shone before me as the Grace of The Supreme flooded my being with Its love, sweetness and delight.
I guess that I was being subconsciously prepared for this experience that day, and that what happened was the result of a culmination of imbibed inspirations at the Royal Albert Hall.
That afternoon, May 19th, 2008, I had gone somewhat early to the venue. Here I was enchanted by the magnificent complexity of the Royal Albert Hall, its stunning red drapes, majesty and visual beauty. On stage, Boris Purushottama Grebenshikov – a Russian musician and composer - and his band were practising, surrounded by a gigantic arrangement of flowers and plants. Fresh, fragrant and colourful, they embodied a natural spontaneity, purity and bloom, as they blended easily into the setting of the Hall…
Before I continue, here is another lofty quote on God's Grace:
"Grace is our true meal. A true devotee can really and truly live on God's Grace. The Bible has taught us, "Man does not live by bread alone." This is true; but I wish to say that man can live by God's Grace alone. If a spiritual person, an aspirant, really cares for God's Grace, then I wish to say that he can live by God's Grace constantly and eternally..."-Sri Chinmoy.
So here I was, sitting up front, and not more than twenty-four feet from the stage … the experience of beauty and peace from within was gradually taking hold. High up above me, I was vaguely aware of some sort of preliminary programme being shown prior to the performance, and of the disciple who was sitting next to me at that time. Here I sat, gradually drifting further into the experience. My inner being was flooded with peace, tranquillity and love so forcefully, that it was quite some time before I regained sufficient focus to enjoy the performance.
What is a spiritual experience? Perhaps the reader will have some ideas. Here, however, I will attempt to recount my own. Sometime in the fall of 1982, I was sitting in front of my shrine at home, looking intently at a photo of Sri Chinmoy. Suddenly a non-familiar state came over me, and I seemed to lose control of what I was doing. This was accompanied by a subtle fear, thus causing the experience to dissipate.
Knowing by faith that this was something associated with my meditation, I spoke to Bhavani – at that time a prominent member of the London Sri Chinmoy Centre – about it. I recall that she told me not to be afraid, to open up myself to the experience and to surrender to the Supreme¹. Indeed this was all I needed at the time, and from then on I had no problems with the experiences that came along the way.
Spiritual experiences can take many shapes and forms. I have known devotees to speak of shaking, crying, laughing, or having a feeling of peace, seeing visions, hearing a sound and much more. I have personally experienced intense love for humanity, tears, and a forceful energy which affected my posture and breathing, and thrills running in and through my being. Some of my religious friends have spoken of ‘speaking in tongues’ and also shouting out the name of the Lord.
Royal Albert Hall Concert. Light and Grace
As a beginner-seeker, I wish to write with Zen mind, beginner’s mind. Nevertheless, I would say that for me a spiritual experience has never been painful, fearful or sensational. It has always made me feel closer to God, and came with a purity which pushed me in the direction of service and surrender – a deeper yearning to serve God in mankind and to surrender to His Will.
It is with this in mind that I would strongly suggest to anyone who may feel any fear, pain or emotionalism, to approach their Mentors for guidance, especially where there is a need for clarity on the inner workings of the psyche.
Spiritual experiences have come to me quite suddenly. Sometimes I have had a foretaste, but mostly I did not know nor could I predict. It seemed that I would do everything right and not feel anything great at all. While at other times, with everything seemingly going wrong, I would still get great spiritual experiences. My perception of Sri Chinmoy's philosophy is that everything would come naturally and should not be forced. He also emphasised purity in the higher and lower emotions, and the importance of being ready for the experience. This is important in minimising the risks of things going wrong. also personal effort cannot stand alone:
"Personal effort cannot live by itself even for a minute, because its inner nourishment is the Grace from Above. The grace is inside your personal effort. If grace is not there, personal effort will be very, very limited – after some time you will give up. God's Grace is responsible for everything... this moment it is using our hands, next minute it is using our legs, next moment it is using our mind, next moment our breath or our heart." – Sri Chinmoy
One day in late 1982, I was meditating at my shrine, when I suddenly felt a powerful surge of energy. A very strong ‘Force’ was flowing in and through me. The thought suddenly came to my head that I should try out this newly acquired power. I subsequently stretched out my hand to my lighted candle, and commanded it to blow out. At that point I felt a great strain on my forehead, the power immediately left me, and yes, I never tried this fruitless exercise ever again. I am afraid I still have some work to do as far as the need for purity and the transformation of the ego.
"God is on the third floor and I am on the first floor. There should be a rendezvous, a meeting place. I have to go to God; I have to go to the second floor with my personal effort, that is to say, with my tears, my soulful cry. And then God will come down from the third floor to the second floor with His infinite Grace, Compassion, and there we meet together. He has to give what He has, His Compassion, the flood of Compassion, and I have to give my little personal effort and my tears, the flood of my tears. Then we come together, there we meet together."- Sri Chinmoy
Spiritual experiences, as I perceive them, seem to come from God’s goodness or God’s Will (Grace). It is a gift of the Supreme. One day in the early 1980’s, I was sitting at a conference called ‘The Italian Experience’, and listening to some prominent speakers talking about some aspects of my profession. Suddenly, I felt myself being lifted up and taken to a place of deep calm, peace and comfort. I soon found it a struggle to hold on to the lecture, and subsequently lost all memory of what was being said. Indeed, perhaps it was fortunate for me that I was sitting at the back and so did not attract attention.
Light and Blessings
Amazing Grace: Chris Tomlin
Writing in the Bible, the Apostle Paul says: - “For by grace are you saved through faith, and not of yourselves, it is a gift of God and not of works, lest any man should boast”. The Holy Bible: King James Version. Ephesians 2: V.8, 9.
This is how I have come to feel about spiritual experiences.
I have felt deep inner thrills through listening attentively to my Master, by hearing him talk, sing and meditate, by telephone, reading his writings and in many other significant ways. I will relate one more experience here. One day, I attended an event in Manhattan, probably in the early nineties. It was at a function in honour of Sri Chinmoy. I was sitting at a table at the back with a few disciples from New York.
Once again a great wave of peace overpowered me, as if it was coming directly from the Master sitting up front. Being conscious of the disciples around me, I somehow managed to pull myself away, and sat down in the semi-lotus posture, in the hallway of that particular floor of the Hotel. Here waves of peace kept flowing in and through me periodically. It was as if I would be granted a brief respite intermittently, followed by a continuation of the experience. This lasted for some time. Much later, when I came to, I felt quite cold. In the nearby hallway, I could see a very familiar girl disciple smiling at me lovingly. I returned the smile, got up and returned to the function.
"God's Grace is God's self-revealing, self-fulfilling eternal Existence. We have to know that it is God's Grace that will give us illumination, liberation and realisation. The infinite life, the eternal life, God's infinite wealth will belong to the aspirant who really cares for the Supreme's Grace, which is our only meal." Excerpt from Life-Tree-Leaves by Sri Chinmoy.
I have had experiences that have taken other forms. While not necessarily inner encounters as such, they are part of life experiences that come along the way. There have been intuitive flashes which protected the writer from arguments, and helped also to avoid more serious problems. Again, the intense identification with others ills, has at times brought great pain. There is also the additional inner ‘suffering’ meted out when one does ‘wrong’, and also the feeling that another of God’s children has been hurt, even if unintentionally, can sometimes lead to great inner sorrow.
According to my understanding of Sri Chinmoy's writings, spiritual experiences may or may not come, and are not a necessary or indispensable indicator in the seeker’s development. While they may come because the Supreme gives them to us, the focus should still remain on love of God, and in striving to do the Will of the Supreme. Nevertheless, spiritual experiences can be significant pointers on the way, and indeed may be very useful in serving the divinity in God and man.
Sri Chinmoy has written extensively, and has described – as one speaking with authority – some of the more exalted spiritual experiences. One can read about this higher knowledge in (Samadhi and Siddhi, the Summit of God-life, or Light of the Beyond: Teachings of an Illumined Master).
He has also discussed certain topics in conversations with his disciples. One particular experience that inspired me came from the book Beyond Within, written bySri Chinmoy, and in a passage entitled Joy in Surrender. HereSri Chinmoy writes lovingly of the constant joy that comes with surrender to God’s will, to the extent that one sees and feels this joy in the trees, cars and everything that one touches. (Beyond Within: Philosophy for the Inner Life, P441, (1985), Agni Press).
Perhaps it behoves us all to seek these higher experiences of God through living an unconditionally surrendered life to the Supreme.
-Monday 29th December, 2008. Deway Asajaya Room, Grand Margherita Hotel, Kuching, Malaysia. -Manatita, Bard of Solace. © Copyrighted.
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