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Discussion of grace

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_be.com)
Date: Tue May 13 1997 - 17:46:11 PDT

> MokshA is 
> not a goal to be won by effort , but it should  come as a gift of God out
> of His grace .

If I am not mistaken, this sentence represents the ``opposing
viewpoint'' in S.M.S. Chari's discussion of grace. In other 
words, Sri Srinivasa chari is of the opinion that the sentence
above represents the "thengalai" view against which Vedanta
Desika is opposed.

I think it should be abundantly clear from my previous post
that Desika himself is emphatic that moksha cannot be "won
by effort", and in this specific instance, all acharyas
of Sri Vaishnavism are agreed.  There are countless instances
of Desika ascribing everything from the gift of existence to
final salvation as flowing from God Himself.

Making this a focal point of argument is not a correct one.
One can easily play semantic games and say that the everpresent
compassionate nature of the Lord is a "guNa" rather than
"grace", as Krishna K. indicated.  I don't think this is a
meaningful distinction, and certainly not one that I find
in Desika's or Pillai Lokacharya's words.

In the munivAhana bhogam, Desika's anubhavam of ThiruppaN's
amalan aadhi piraan, he writes that the Lord is "sarvOpakArakan",
always favoring us.  Everything from establishing us in
goodness (sat Adi sthApanam) to finally releasing us from
samsAra and giving us the joy of effervescent bliss in the
form of kainkarya or service is a result of His upakAram
or favor.  I don't think it matters whether one calls this
upakArakatva grace or part of His nature.

This trend to think of moksha as being caused by one's own
effort, or "won" by one's efforts, strikes at the very heart of
Sri Vaishnavism, since it tinges the process of self-surrender
with egoism.  It does not matter if selflessness is preached
at the same time, since preaching contradictory things does
no one any good.

It is also clear that thinking or theologizing about some
being "deserving" of grace through self-surrender is also 
against Sri Vaishnava philosophy.  In what sense does someone
deserve the Lord's grace, or deserve moksha? 

>From our perspective, it appears that great souls such as
Vyasa, Suka Maharishi, Sanaka, Nammalvar, etc., deserved the
Lord's grace.  But this is once again just a matter of 
perspective.  From their perspecive, which is all the more
relevant since they were farther along the spiritual path
than we are, they felt that nothing they had done or could
do could deserve the grace of the Lord. 

Ascribing everything to the grace of the Lord is never
an exaggeration; thinking that nothing on our part forces
the Lord to grace us is also no exaggeration. These two
principles, it seems, form the very heart of Sri Vaishnavam.

Mani