What is God’s Grace?
A short talk given by M. R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen from Questions of Life, Answers of Wisdom Volume 2.
Questioner: There are times when we look at things that have occurred in our lives, and we realize that it is not through our own efforts or anything, that certain things have occurred, and we say that it is only through God’s grace that such and such has happened. Could Bawa give us an explanation of what it means—what God’s grace is?
Bawa Muhaiyaddeen: A buffalo went to the pond to drink water. A cow, which is related to the buffalo, went too. Other kinds of animals also needed water and went to drink from the same pond. Most of the animals, using their wisdom, stood on the bank and drew the water in gently, without getting their bodies or feet wet. But the buffalo plowed right into the water and stomped around in all four directions, muddying the water before it even took a drink. Now a crocodile appeared on the scene, attracted by the currents and agitation the buffalo had stirred up in the water. Soon a ﬁght ensued between the two, and because of all the thrashing, the water became even more disturbed.
What could the buffalo say at this point? Could it say that this was God’s doing? No, the crocodile came because the buffalo did not use its wisdom or transform its qualities. All the other animals used their wisdom and drank gently from the edge of the pond, without disturbing the water. But the buffalo did not use wisdom. It went right to the middle of the pond and thrashed about, disturbing the water and thereby attracting the crocodile. Then it shouted about what followed, calling it God’s will. But that danger was really brought on by the buffalo’s own agitation of the water. You cannot say this disturbance was God’s will.
God brought forth many creations and expected each one to use its wisdom. He gave them explanations that would enable them to act with that wisdom. Now, if we are vigilant and use our wisdom in a subtle way, but something happens despite that—something really unavoidable—that is when we are entitled to say it was God’s will. Only at that point we can hold up our hands and say, “This is Your will, O God! It is beyond my capacity to deal with.”
But if we forfeit our wisdom, stomp into the middle of the pond like the buffalo, disturb the water, and get caught by the crocodile, we cannot blame it on God’s will. Such actions are, in fact, acts of ignorance. The danger that came to you in your life due to acts of ignorance, you cannot call God’s will or God’s grace. It was a result of acts stemming from a lack of wisdom.
Questioner: I was thinking more of the kind of thing like being brought to Bawa Muhaiyaddeen, being allowed to meet him in my life—the grace of God that brought me here.
Bawa Muhaiyaddeen: That is different. That is a wisdom matter. There are two different matters here. There is the kind of wisdom seen in the cows that stood at the edge of the pond and drank without disturbing the water. To ﬁnd truth and to use that truth to save oneself from danger is also an act that stems from wisdom. But to rush in like the buffalo and become entangled in various disasters—that is an act which arises from ignorance and cannot be credited to God’s will. Do you understand?
Questioner: I understand that. But I was thinking of the opposite kinds, the truly wonderful things that have happened, which we feel unworthy of. If I look back on my life…
Bawa Muhaiyaddeen: This was the appropriate answer for the way the question was worded. You might have asked the question this way: When we go on searching—with perseverance and wisdom—for a truth, what kind of beneﬁt might we receive? The answer to that would be: It will bring you much good and take you onto the path of God. It will take you into God’s realm. And that is God’s grace. The beneﬁt we receive will be in proportion to the determination and effort we put into our search. That grace will lead us into the realm of God’s beauty, His wealth, and His qualities and actions. That is the reward, the beneﬁt of such a search.
So, the one who has wisdom will stand on the bank and gently drink the water. Conducting his life in the proper manner, he will live in peace. The wisdom will help him to escape from danger and lead him to what is beneﬁcial. On the other hand, the one that has no wisdom will wade right in and become entangled. His wisdom lost, he will ﬁnd himself in danger.
Your seeking, your perseverance, your determination, your intention, your faith—will take you to whatever you are searching for. If you are searching for truth, it will take you into the realm of truth. It will cure your fatigue. That is God’s grace. You can call that God’s will. Whatever comforts us when we are fatigued by our search—that is God’s grace.