Faith, Effort & Grace

Some people have faith but do not put in any effort. Some put in the effort but do not have the proper faith.

A boat had two oars. On one oar was written “Faith.”On the other was written “Effort.” One man who entered the boat tried to row the boat using the “Faith” oar alone. The boat went round and round and did not move forward. Another man got into the boat and tried to row it with just the “Effort” oar. Needless to say, he also was not successful. A third man entered the boat and began rowing with both the oars — Effort and Faith. The boat went steadily forward. Similarly, we need both these oars — the oar of effort as well as that of faith.

Just having faith in a doctor will not cure our ailment. The patient — say a diabetes patient — should take the medicine as well as follow the prescribed diet.

A vehicle fell into a ditch. The driver got out and, grabbing his meditation cushion, ran to the top of the nearby hill, sat in the lotus pose and began to pray, “Please, God, let my vehicle come out of the ditch!” Opening one eye he peeked across to see if his vehicle had risen. Seeing it had not, he intensified his prayers. A voice resounded from the skies, “Son, try pushing the vehicle as you pray.” So, plain faith is not enough; faith should be coupled with effort.

Without putting in the necessary effort, people often say, “I have faith. I go to the temple and pray.” What they do is when all their other work is done, they briefly visit the temple, tell God all their complaints, donate Rs.10 for a traditional temple-ritual and come back home. It is like saying, “God, since you are blind, here is my Rs. 10-worth of oil to light the lamp for light.” Or, “God, since you are deaf, here is my Rs. 10-worth of fireworks to help you hear so that you will grant my wishes.” Amma is not asking you to stop this. Such contributions are good, as you may be enabling a person’s livelihood with the amount you donate. But it is in fact your good actions that are needed.

You should pray, “God, please give me a mind that does not harm anyone by thought, look or deed.” This is real prayer. We should awaken to that. God’s grace flows into an effort that is free of ego. A selfless effort is our only true asset.

A seed lying in the desert or upon a rock will not sprout. When the water of compassion comes into our heart, the seed within us breaks open and sprouts. We should cultivate compassion coupled with the attitude of surrender. The universe itself exists upon the foundation of compassion.

Learn to see God in everything, as is exemplified in the scriptural story of the self-sacrificing King Shibi, whose left eye cried tears in sadness that only the right part of the body was allowed to give flesh to feed a hungry eagle. The story illustrates the highest principle that there are not two, just the one Self. Seeing others as oneself, love and serve them. Arise, awake, to that worldview!

This is the principle that the gurus live and exemplify. Seeing all as part of the same body, when one person grieves, the other should console him. Just as when the right hand is hurt, the left hand automatically caresses it… Just as when the finger pokes the eye, we do not cut off the finger… We should have such an attitude so that we will be able to forgive, forget and accommodate others and their shortcomings. This attitude will take us forward.