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Re: Conceptions of Grace (part 1)

From: Krishna Kalale (
Date: Mon May 12 1997 - 14:19:31 PDT

Dear Bhaktas,

I thought Mani came out with a very nice analysis of the subject of grace,
free will and fatalism.

 I thought I would try to clarify some misunderstandings I might have
caused by a quick reply to Sri Sundar Rajan's email.  Particularly at work,
in the middle of a crunch, my language might have represented some idealogy
different from what I had in mind.

However certain issues Mani has brought out were based on an improper
understanding of the terminology used by me.

>I realize that Krishna's criticisms may not have been aimed
>at any acharya in particular, but I do know that he is trying
>to reflect Sri Desika's viewpoint accurately, and I do think
>that his words can easily mislead the reader. 

I really did not have Vedanta Desika's views when I started writing about
Sri Sundar rajan's email.  All I thought is that do we have freedom and if
so do we have to work for our spiritual progress. if not why not?.

>Similarly, I object to this statement of Krishna's:
>> But special karuna - or special grace is showered only to the
>> deserving based on karma.  one element of karma is the free-will which
>> should be excercised to evoke God's grace.
>The Lord's grace does not need to be "evoked". It is always
>there, and according to Swami Desika, our self-surrender is
>a mere "vyAja", an excuse or pretext for Him to shower it
>upon us. He is ever existent as the siddhopAya, waiting
>at all times to save us, but we regularly refuse to give 
>Him the opportunity.
what is the nature of "we refuse to give him opportunity'?
is this a conscious action or not, by a jiva? if one does not refuse God's
grace, what kind of action or thought will that person have?

>I do not think it correct to say that the flow of grace
>is based on one's karma, as Krishna wrote -- that strongly 
>implies that one deserves the grace, something akin to a 
>commercial transaction. Karma after all is nothing but the 
>law of action and reward.  

My only implication is some act of a jiva's free will has causes God's
special krupa to flow towards that individual.  If all grace is nirhetuka,
then it is identical to fatalism. some grace is sahetuka for that some
action of the individual or thought is needed; lest God's impartiality
cannot be upheld.  

I disagree that karma is only law of action and reward. karma is just
action in sanskrit. some of it could be past, future or present. Karma can
be viewed as purva karma, sanchita karma, prarabdha karma etc. are
different aspects of it.  of course the theory of karma is same as law of
action and reward. Even this law is not as straight as it is stated.

It is much better in my opinion 
>to say that the self-surrender is the individual's "opening 
>of the floodgates" -- there are no more obstructions presented 
>to the Lord's grace. [Karma may certainly play a role -- 
>but I will get to this issue later.]

what does "opening the floodgates" mean? is opening of flood gates a
conscious act of the individual or not?
>This view, while differing in many subtle ways, is also very
>similar in spirit to Sri Pillai Lokacharya's words from the
>"sri vacana bhUshaNam":
>        66. "unmanaththaal en ninaindhirundhaay" engirapadiyE
>            praapthikku upaayam avan ninaivu.
>            Just as [Thirumangai Alvar's words] tell us, "What
>            are you thinking in your mind?", the Lord's thinking
>            [of our welfare] is the means of attainment.
>        67. adhu dhaan eppOdhum undu.
>            That [thought] indeed is [there] at all times.
>            [The Lord is thinking of the soul at all times.]
>        68. adhu palippadhu ivan ninaivu maarinaal.
>            When [the jIva's] thought changes, [the Lord's thought]
>            bears fruit.
>            [When the jIva gives up the thought of relying on
>             his own efforts for protection, the Lord's grace pours
>             forth.]
>The word "palippadhu" or "phalippadhu" is very important here.
>The Lord's grace _bears fruit_ at the individual's mental
>attitude.  So in one sense again, even according to Swami Lokacharya,
>the kRpA is sahetuka.  But at all times we are to remember it
>is also nirhetuka because His grace is ever existent as the

this is what I really mean by sahetuka and nirhetuka krpa. Lords krpa is
bifold. But note that nirhetuka krpa is always common and applicable to
everyone and unchanging.  The sahetuka component is the one which needs
some action or thought of the individual to make God free from vaishamya
nairghanya (partiality)
>But this brings up the question of whether even this mental
>affirmation is a result of His grace alone.  Does His grace
>extend so far as to cause us to do prapatti (self-surrender)
>to Him? What then happens to our free-will?
>Here is what Swami Desika says about the subject:
>        upAyas svaprApter upanishad adhIta svabhagavAn
>           prasattyai tasyokte prapadana nidhidhyAsanagasRtI |
>        tadArohaH pumsas sukRtaparipAkena mahatA         
>           nidAnam tatrApi svayam akhilam nirmANam nipuNaH ||
>        The Lord has said in the Upanishads that He is the
>        means for attaining Himself. Devout meditation (bhakti-yoga)
>        and self-surrender (prapatti) are ordained to receive
>        His grace.  Because of great merit, a person can do
>        either of them.  To do this too, the Lord who can do
>        anything is Himself the cause.
>                                [Rahasya Traya Sara,
>                                   upAya vibhAgAdhikAra (ch 9.)]
>        mukhyam ca yat prapadanam svayam api sAdhyam   
>           dAtavyam Isa kRpayA tad api tvayaiva |
>        tan me bhavat caraNasangavatIm avasthAm
>           paSyann upAyaphalayor ucitam vidheyAh ||
>        O Lord, that perfect prapatti [that I am to do]
>        should be accomplished by You Yourself and should
>        be granted by You out compassion.  Seeing my
>        condition who am attached to Your feet, You should
>        do the needful with respect to the means and the
>        fruit.
>                                [Saranaagati Dipika 55]
>The emphasis is always on the Lord's grace, almost mysteriously
>so.  In another instance, Desika says that the cause of the
>bestowal of the Lord's grace is very difficult to determine
>("arudhiyida aridhaayiruppadhoru bhagavath kataaksham,"
>from "munivaahana bhogam".)
>I mention these examples to point out that there is no 
>uncertainty concerning grace in Desika's philosophy. Everything
>is because of the Lord's grace -- He is the Way and the Goal.  
>However, the Lord has also granted us free-will and has given 
>us guidelines, and these are also a result of His paramount grace.
>These are granted to all, for He is partial to no one, and
>it is up to us to use this freedom properly.  This freedom
>only need be used to show the correct inclination.
>[Rahasya Traya Sara, carama sloka adhikaaram (ch. 29)]
>This inclination itself is brought about in part by karma,
>as traditionally understood in Vedanta. The effects of our
>past deeds, from time immemorial, present us with circumstances
>and impressions under which we operate.  At some point in time,
>this combined with our ability to think leads to inclination
>towards the Lord.  The Lord, campaigning for us to turn toward
>Him for so long, uses this excuse to shower us with His
>grace and destroys our past karma:
>	hitam iti jagad dRshtyA klRpter aklRptaphalAntaraiH
>	   amativihitair anyair dharmAyitaSca yad drcchayA |
>	pariNatavahucchadyA padmAsahAyadayE! svayam
>	   pradiSasi nijAbhipretam naH praSAmyad apatrapA ||
>	O Mercy of Padma's Consort! We perform some acts that
>	the world considers proper, some acts without knowing
>	their nature, and which are not meant to yield any
>	other fruits. We perform acts which accidentally
>	turn out to be good, as well as other kinds of deeds.
>	Without any sense of shame, You Yourself grant us 
>	what we desire, based on this pretext.
>					[Daya Satakam, v. 74]
>Pillai Lokacharya, writing earlier than Desika, presents
>an identical viewpoint:
>	386. aakaiyaal ajnaathamaana nanmaigaLaiyE paRRaacaakak
>	     kondu kataakshiyaaniRkum.
>	     Therefore it is seen that good things done unknowingly
>	     are taken as a qualification [for accepting the self.]
>					[Sri Vachana Bhushana]
>Once again, I hasten to point out that in neither acharya
>is there a hint or arbitrariness on the part of the Lord,
>nor is there a hint of being "deserving" of grace.  There
>are so many places where Desika renounces the thought that
>his prapatti was an upAya that automatically gave moksha.
>He explicitly condemns the view that prapatti is to be
>seen as a barter for grace. [Saranagati Gadya Bhashya --
>I am indebted to Smt. Prof. Vasudha Narayanan's thesis for
>bringing this to my attention.]
I agree with this.  upayatva buddhi rahitah is mentioned in RTS, which I
have spent about couple of hundred hours to contemplate on listening to the
cassettes of Dr. N.S. Anantharangachar.  I have never mentioned the idea of
karma being a barter for grace.  It is only a vyaja. NOte that sattvika
tyaga buddhi is a jeeva's attitude in karmayoga, prapatti and in all
actions.  On the otherhand, from God's perspective, someone has to be
deserving grace to be picked (yam eva esa vrunute...). or else he will be
not impartial if he picks some one arbitrarily. to avoid this
arbitrariness, a jeeva's karma should be accounted for, eventhough it is
vyaja.  If you take this to an extreme, jiva does not have svatantra
kartrva - ie. independent agency for work or thought.  Jiva is always
subservient and dependent on God always.  

>At all times, all our acharyas take great pains to point out
>that it is the siddhopAya who accomplishes our salvation
>through His grace, and anything that we do (or do not do)
>serves as a pretext or excuse for this grace to flow upon
>us.  How else can we cut asunder our countless sins from
>time immemorial? Through *our* surrender of our self? 
>No -- the surrender is just an excuse, and His grace cuts away
>the karmas that bind us.
>I have yet one more question to discuss -- the correct
>motivation behind all our actions as our acharyas have
>advised us.  I will take this topic as well as other
>incidental issues up a concluding post.

Krishna Kalale
619-658-5612 (phone)
619-658-2115 (fax)