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Balance in the paradox

From: Mohan Sagar (
Date: Fri May 16 1997 - 21:57:58 PDT

I have been thoroughly enjoying this very interesting set of discussions on
Nirhetuka and Sahetuka Krpa, and have learned a great deal from the erudite
group involved in this.  At the early stages of these discussions, I had the
opportunity to engage in two consecutive telephone conversations, one with
Mr. Kalale and the other with Varadhan, that further accentuated my interest
in this complex issue.  Based on all of these, I would like to share a few
thoughts that I have been pondering this past week.

Mani had presented a very poignant concept, which was furthered by Mr.
Sadagopan, that nirhetuka and sahetuka krpa are not diametrically opposed,
but indeed, are mysteriously and subtly intertwined as to mutually
compliment each other in some sense.  I support such a view, for I contend
that looking at Grace in this way tempers either extreme, creating a
delicate balance between the Lord's Compassion and the devotee's desire to
realize Him.  To elaborate:

One concensus that seems to have emerged out this discussion is that both
Swami Desikan and Pillai Lokacharya would concur that some vyajam, or
pretext, is required to "open the floodgates" to the full realization of the
Lord's Unfathomable Grace.  While I do not disagree with this, I am
concerned that overemphasizing its requirement could make our limited human
nature tend to focus on the pretext, rather than on His Grace.  We would
begin to ask ourselves, "what is this pretext exactly?  Is it a specific
ritual? Am I qualified to perform it?  Whatever it is, I've got to find it,
so that I can invoke His grace.  And once it is complete, how do I know that
I have done it right?  How do I know that I have His Grace?"  On and on,
possibly to the point that our reliance on Him becomes muted by the fears
and worries associated with our self-efforts.

This is where the nirhetuka krpa concept plays its tempering role.  By
realizing that the pretext is a result of the Lord's Grace, and that our
seeming self efforts are virtually irrelevant before the real Upaya, the
Lord Himself, the fears, worries, and needless thoughts are mitigated,
allowing the prapannan to fully rely on the Lord alone as the Upaya and Upeya.  

It is my view that the relative unimportance of the pretext becomes enhanced
by the idea that the Lord, out of His unbounded desire to save, can even use
accidental deeds as pretexts for Grace.  Sri Vachana Bhushanam has several
interesting anecdotes which illustrate how even the most accidental contact
with the Lord or a Bhagavatha can save a soul, whether or not an individual
is aware of this action or its beneficial results. 

But, once we start going to the other extreme, having such doubts as, "if
the Lord requires little or nothing to reach Him, then why am I doing all
these aradhanais and karmas; if all is the result of His Grace, then why are
so many people still bound in samsaram; if the Lord's grace is uncaused,
then he must be partial, etc.," the sahetuka idea of the need for a pretext
brings us back to balance.

It is certainly a delicate balance to maintain, and it really does not
completely resolve the issue.  But, maintaining this seemingly paradoxical
notion creates a more temperate climate that I believe would reduce the
ritualistic, do X to gain Y, idea of pretext while mitigating the notion of
the arbitrary nature associated with uncaused grace.  I think it would also
further the idea that the pretext is not a specific act, per se, but an
emotional experience - a realization of the Lord's protection that, in
reality, is always there for us.  

Daasanu Daasan,