You begin the spiritual path with self-effort. You begin with your own force, with your own will. As you begin to practice concentration and meditation, the mind becomes more one-pointed; it comes to a very calm condition. In that calmness, you are able to perceive the grace of God. God’s grace is there everywhere; it makes no distinction between people. It is something like the sunlight—whoever opens the door, gets the light. God’s grace will not come and force itself into you. It is your effort in making the mind one-pointed and still that enables you to tune to that grace and then the grace flows. The grace will not come and make you concentrate or make you meditate and that is why we have been given free will. With your free will, you are supposed to begin to tune yourselves to receive grace.

Haven’t we all heard the saying, “God helps those who help themselves”? The Bible says, “Blessed are the pure, for they shall see God. How can they become pure? Is it God who comes and makes them pure? One has to make oneself pure to see God. So that is the relationship between grace and self-effort. With your will you make the mind one-pointed and in that still, calm and quiet mind, the grace is reflected. It is not that grace comes from somewhere; it is in you already. But, it is not recognized or reflected properly because of the disturbances in your mind.

Some will like the idea that they don’t have to do any spiritual practice and they can just receive God’s grace, which will take care of everything. If you have absolute and unshakeable faith in God, that can be possible. But, how many can have that kind of faith. So, we recommend doing certain spiritual practices that will help you progress on the spiritual path toward the goal. If you say you dislike a practice it means that you don’t like the goal.

If you are really keen to reach the goal, you will like everything that will take you toward the goal. People create a lot of troubles and difficulties for themselves by not understanding what is needed to reach a goal. It is not that easy to reach a goal. If your goal is to reach the moon, how much money must be spent and how much risk must be taken? If you dislike that, then you are not interested in the goal. It seems to be self-contradictory then, and I have to doubt about your goal itself. Do you really understand the goal and do you really want to achieve it?

So, first you should know the exact goal, and you should know that you want to reach it at any cost. If those conditions are met, then you will try any possible way to achieve it. Suppose I say that only by getting up every morning and meditating will make it possible to reach the goal of attaining enlightenment. If you dislike getting up early enough to meditate daily, then you are not interested in that goal. So we must learn to love the goal first, then nothing is impossible. That’s what is meant by the proverb, “Where there is a will, there is way.” Where there is a goal, there must be a will. See? The goal must be decided, then the will comes and when the will comes the way comes. Once the will and the way are there, and through your practice the mind becomes steady and clear, then that grace—or the light within—will shine forward.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda