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"adhuvum avanadhu innaruLE"

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_be.com)
Date: Thu May 08 1997 - 14:03:34 PDT

Dear Bhaktas,

I have a few more thoughts on what I understand
to be our Alvars' and Acharyas' idea of grace.
The key idea we should keep in mind is this: 
it is not so much He who responds to our prayers 
or requests, as much as we who respond to His 
everpresent grace. 

God's initiating grace is present prior to our 
very existence, since creation itself is a manifestation 
of this grace.  If there is any way by which we
even begin to turn our thoughts in the direction of
the Divine, it is because of the thiruvaruL of PerumaaL.
God's grace is the very foundation of any relationship
with Him, and as such can never be undervalued.

Time and time again, Nammalvar denies that it is any
quality in him that "prompts" or "evokes" the grace
of God.  It is no question of being worthy, compared
to other beings, of the grace of God, or a question of
"earning" the experience of Him.  He declares "neecan enniRai
onRum ilEn" (tvm 3.3.4) -- I am low and without any merit 
whatsoever, but yet He continues to bless me.  This is
identical to Sri ManavaaLa MaamunigaL's view that there is
no need to prompt Him for his thiruvaruL; nor is it 
different from Sri Desika's reminder to never think of
prapatti as the cause of moksha.

In other words, God's making Himself accessible is not 
induced by us; He is always accessible should we allow
ourselves to realize His grace.  It is no exaggeration
to say that God desires us to realize Him far more than
we desire to go to Him.  This is what is so apparent
in Nammalvar's poems: we would not even have the smallest
inclination toward Him had He not condescended and made
Himself accessible in the first place.

aazhvaar emberumaanaar dhesikan jeeyar thiruvadigaLE saraNam

Mani

P.S:

In the end, it is perhaps futile to try to actually ascertain 
a causal relationship between grace and any human effort to 
"procure" it.  Nammalvar describes this vividly, speaking
of the Lord showing him the path, his finding refuge, and
of his realization that nothing he could do or give could
be sufficient payback for this supreme gift of grace:

   aaRenakku nin paadhamE saraNaagath
        thandhozhindhaay, unakku Or kaim
   maaRu naan onRilEn enadhaaviyum unadhE
        sEru koLkarum pumperuncennellum
   malithan sireevaramangai
        naaRu poondhan thuzhaaymudiyaay! dheyva naayaganE! 

				-- thiruvaaymozhi 5.7.10

   You have given me 
       your feet where 
         I find my only refuge
   I have nothing to give in return
       my soul too is yours
   O resident of cool Sri Varamangai
      where stalks of sugarcane and 
         paddy grow tall
   O Lord of celestials
       wearing the cool fragrant Tulasi crown!

Without denying the reality of human volition before
relying on His grace, nor denying the primacy and
ever-existent nature of this grace to begin with, I
believe we can all appreciate the wonderful mystery
expressed by Nammalvar.