The Definition of Grace
The definition of grace in bhakti yoga philosophy is very extensive and exact, and this is a testament to its importance. In the world, we know that the greater the effort, the greater the result. In other words, you get out of something what you what you put into it. Using this logic, if we exert a limited effort, we will get a limited result.
So what kind of effort is required to attain an unlimited supreme divine power? Based on our experience of other accomplishments, it would have to be an unlimited effort.
How can a limited human being produce an effort to achieve what is unending or unlimited? It's not possible for us to match the unlimitedness of God with our material and limited efforts.
Through the definition of grace we begin to understand how to resolve this.
Our mayic limitations:
Material senses, mind, intellect, Body
The definition of grace is clarified in hundreds of scriptural verses. For example, both the Kath Upanishad and Mundak Upanishad (3/2/3)say:
"God cannot be understood through study, debating, intellectual application or mere listening. When a soul surrenders to God wholeheartedly, he receives God's grace, and with God's grace, he attains God."
In the Bhagavad Gita (11/53-54), Krishna revealed His divine form of almightiness to Arjuna, then He explained,
"Arjuna, the divine vision of My form that you just experienced is not the result of studying the Vedas or performing the austerities from the paths of jnana and yoga, it not the result of performing good actions, Vedic rituals or following religious rules and regulations."
"This is only the result of My grace, which you receive when you have exclusive devotion for Me."
The expression for exclusion devotion is 'ananya bhakti' or single-mindedness.
At the very end of the 700 verses of the Bhagavad Gita, after Krishna had explained the gist of the entire philosophy of the Upanishads, what did Arjuna declare?
"Krishna, my ignorance has ended. I have attained knowledge... through Your Grace."
The Shvetashvatar Upanishad states,
"God can be known only through His grace."
In the Ramayana, Goswami Tulsidas states,
"It may be possible to produce butter by churning water or to extract oil from sand, but it would still be impossible to cross the ocean of maya without God's grace."
The Ken Upanishad explains,
"Subtler than the material senses are sense perceptions of this material world. Subtler than sense perceptions is the material mind. Subtler than the mind is the material intellect. Beyond the intellect is the Divine soul. Beyond the soul is maya. Beyond maya is God."
This means that God, who is Divine and unlimited, is absolutely beyond maya. Although the soul is also divine, it is under the control of maya in the form of material senses, mind and intellect.
Our material faculties cannot grasp what is divine, our mind cannot detect what is divine, our intellect cannot imagine what is divine. We can't use our material faculties to surmount their own materiality.
So, at the base of the necessity for God's grace is our great incapacity: As material beings we simply cannot produce an unlimited and perfect effort in any area of spiritual practice to receive an unlimited attainment.
The only thing we can do perfectly and unlimitedly is STOP DOING. Doing nothing is another name for surrender -- the state that evokes God's grace, which is the goal of bhakti yoga practice.
Definition of Grace and Surrender
Without a correct understanding of the definition of grace, we will forever "do something and get nothing" from a spiritual point of view. If you wish to find God, attain God, see God, experience God's bliss, unite with God -- if you have any kind or class of divine desire, your understanding must be "do nothing and get everything".
What exactly is surrender? As long as a newborn baby does nothing for himself, his mother does everything for him. As soon as the child becomes more self-sufficient, the mother begins to reduce her direct care-taking. When the child is independent and does everything for himself, then the mother does nothing for him.
Similarly, as long as we use our own mental motivation to plot a course to action, we are bound by the consequences of our actions. We are within the field of "divine observation" (all of the consequences are being noted), but we are not yet in the field of "divine care" or grace.
When 'doing' truly comes to an end, this is surrender. God takes complete responsibility for and care of the soul who becomes fully surrendered to Him. God becomes the giver of grace. In actual fact, grace is always present; through surrender we enable our capacity to receive and experience it.
It is important to note that this grace doesn't appear as bigger paychecks, a better relationship, or any of the other countless demands we have for our physical happiness. According to the definition of grace this takes the form of:
So key to this idea is that the mind has to be surrendered to God. We attain the consequence of whatever our mind is attached to, not what we are physically doing. If the mind remains fully surrendered to God, we receive no karmic consequence for our physical actions; we receive only a Divine benefit. This is our goal in bhakti yoga meditation and was exemplified in the relationship between Lord Krishna and Arjuna.
True surrender is surrender of the mind. Attachment of the mind to the Divine field is called bhakti yoga or devotion, and attachment of the mind to the material field is called materiality.
Devotional link with the spiritual Guru
It is through surrender to a true Saint that we begin and complete our surrender to God. By surrendering to a Saint, or by joining our intellect and mental motivation with the divine intellect of the Saint, and faithfully following his guidelines for bhakti yoga meditation, we place ourselves on a direct and guided path for receiving divine grace.
In fact, only a true Saint has the power to explain the intricacies of both worlds, the material and the divine. His teachings, including the right understanding about the definition of grace, resolve our doubts and provide us the knowledge to practically progress in our bhakti yoga meditation.