Question: Mother, you often say that if we take one step towards God, God will take a hundred steps towards us. Does this mean that God is far away from us?
Mother: No. It means that if you make an effort to cultivate just one good quality, all the other good qualities will develop naturally within you.
A woman was once given a beautiful lantern as first prize in an art competition. The lantern was made of glass with beautiful decorations. She hung it in her drawing room. While enjoying its beauty, she observed that some of the paint on the wall had begun to crumble. She decided to paint the whole wall. When she had finished painting, she looked at the room and noticed that a window curtain was dirty. She immediately washed it. Then she noticed that the carpet was worn out and the threads were coming loose. So she removed the carpet and replaced it with a new one. Finally, the room looked fresh and new.
It all began with her hanging the lantern in the room, and led to the room becoming clean and beautiful. Similarly, if you begin to do one good thing in life, many good things will follow in its wake — it will be like a rebirth. God is the repository of all good qualities. If you imbibe just one good quality, you will get closer to God, and soon all other good qualities will follow. This is the only way in which this transformation is possible.
Mediocre students are often given grace marks to help them pass their examinations. Though everyone is eligible, only those who have secured a minimum level can receive them. It calls for effort on the part of the students. Those who don’t bother to study won’t receive that sort of help.
Similarly, God is constantly showering His grace on us. But if we are to benefit from it, there has to be some effort on our part as well. If our minds don’t have the receptivity needed, then even if God pours His grace upon us, it won’t do us any good. What is the use of complaining about the lack of sunlight, when we ourselves have shut all the doors and windows of our room? The light of the sun is everywhere; we need only open the doors and we will experience it. Similarly, God is constantly bestowing His grace upon us, but we have to open the doors of our hearts to receive that grace. This means that before we can receive God’s grace, we first need to receive the grace of our own minds. God is infinitely compassionate; it is our own mind that lacks compassion towards us. This is why we do not experience God’s grace.
If a person extends his hand towards us with a gift, and we adopt an egoistic pose, he will think, “That person has such a big ego; I don’t think I’ll give this to him after all. I’d rather give it to someone else.” And with that the giver withdraws his hand. The person who didn’t get the gift simply wasn’t receiving the grace of his own self. His egoism cost him that gift. And so it is that the grace, which we already should have received, continues to elude us because our mind is not willing to be humble enough to receive it.
On certain occasions, our intellect tells us to do something. But our mind doesn’t agree. The intellect says, “Be humble,” while the mind says, “No! If I’m humble, it won’t work. I’m not going to be humble towards these people,” The result is that we lose much of what we could have gained; something positive that could have happened, doesn’t take place.
“So to receive God’s grace, we first have to receive our own grace — and that grace is egolessness. This is why Amma advises everyone to have the attitude of a beginner. Try always to have that attitude. It will prevent the hood of the ego from rising.You may think, “If I always remain a beginner, doesn’t that mean that I’ll never make any progress?” This is not so at all, because having the attitude of a beginner simply means that we retain the innocence and total receptivity of a beginner, which is the only way we can truly, and as quickly as possible, develop our knowledge. You may wonder how you will be able to function in society and do your work if you’re always innocent and childlike. But to be innocent and childlike doesn’t mean to be a weakling — far from it! You have to be strong and assertive if the situations so demand. But still, you should always, as far as possible, be as open and receptive as a child.
If a cow is chewing up a precious plant, and we politely tell it to move, saying, “My dear cow, would you mind moving?” of course it’s not going to move. On the other hand, if we shout “Hey, cow! Move!” then the cow will go away. We cannot call this action egoistic; it is the attitude we adopt to correct someone’s ignorance, and there’s nothing wrong with this. But we should always have the deep inner attitude of being a beginner, and retain the innocence of a child.
Our bodies have grown, but our minds are not expansive. To make the mind expand and embrace the whole universe, we have to become like children. Only a child can grow. Today the mind is full of egoism. All our effort should be directed towards destroying the ego. And our mind should be tuned to others.
Say that two cars are coming from opposite directions along a narrow road. If both the drivers refuse to stop and give way, neither of them will be able to move forward. If, however, just one of them is prepared to back up and move aside, both can proceed.
The one who is forgiven, as well as the one who forgives, are able to advance. This is why it is said that to forgive is to advance. Forgiveness uplifts both the giver and the receiver. We should understand the practical side of everything and act accordingly. The ego can never be anything but an obstacle to real progress.
God is only compassionate towards us. He constantly bestows his grace upon us, even more than we deserve by our actions. God is not a judge who rewards us for our good deeds or punishes us for our bad actions. God is the fountainhead of compassion. He forgives us for our mistakes and showers His compassion on us. But God can save us only if there is some positive effort on our part. If that effort is lacking, we cannot receive His grace. So it isn’t God’s fault — it is our fault.
It was because Rukmini held up her arms towards Lord Krishna during her swayamvara (husband-choosing ceremony) that He could lift her onto his chariot and drive away with her. In the same way, there is a need for a positive reaching or effort on our part if we are to succeed in anything.
We are not isolated islands, but are all connected, like links of the same chain. We are part of the chain of life. Our every action, whether deliberate or not, affects everyone. It isn’t right to think that we will become good only when everyone else has changed. Most people have this attitude. We should be willing to change even if others refuse to do so. Thinking that we will change for the better only after those around us have changed, is like hoping to enter the sea after all the waves have subsided.
So instead of waiting for others to improve, we should make an effort to improve ourselves. When we do this, we will behold a change in others as well. When we cultivate only goodness within us, we will see only the essential goodness everywhere. So we have to be alert in our every thought, word and deed.