Hinduism Today magazine has long been one of my favorite publications. It’s a wonderful and credible source of Hindu vidya, and although the publication was founded by monks from a Shaivite lineage, the magazine itself often contains considerable information pertaining to many of Hinduism’s other sects. The magazine is officially Shaivite, but I think most readers would find it actually quite Smarta. The lineage leading up to the modern day Saiva Siddhanta Church is old and very much intact, and the fact that it manages to have such an immense and open presence here in the West, while remaining so very orthodox is great. For a while I saved every issue, and then as an act of nonattachment I stopped, and now I am again. Some issues carry more weight than others, but every single issue is my favorite issue.
In the most recent issue of the magazine published, there’s an article titled, “From Bondage to Liberation: Explaining the ego’s initial subjugation of the soul as a form of Shiva’s grace.” It couldn’t have come at a better time, considering the formation of these posts, and I feel it offers a warm-n-fuzzy feeling or silver lining to the information presented leading up to this post. I hope you agree.
Grace is a funny religious term. I don’t like it usually. Same goes with the notion of mercy. For one, the difference between the two is often poorly understood (as with myself) or misunderstood entirely (as with many people, in general). The simplest definition of grace that I’ve been able to find is “unmerited favor,” which pretty closely matches my current understanding. The connotation is one of doing something nice for someone even though they don’t necessarily deserve it. There’s nothing inherently wrong in that notion, as far as I’m concerned, but I don’t really understand God to operate in that kind of mode. To me, to suppose God shows grace to humans is rather negating to the concept of karma, which itself is fairly supreme. I can see gurus showing grace and mercy, and in some cases I think this is exhibited in the form of the guru mitigating a devotee’s karmas for the advancement of that devotee. But I digress.
So… back to ego and grace and Hinduism Today’s Satguru Bodhinath Veylanswami. According to the article in this issue of the magazine, egoity is named “anava mala.” According to the Mrigendra Agama, anava mala is the “individualizing veil; egoity.” Also according to this Agama, the grace of Shivashakti is bestowed upon not only sentient beings, but also upon “inert things,” and this acts as an intensifier to that anava mala.
Superficially, this sounds counterintuitive. Why would God’s grace intensify our egoity? To be clear, the Mrigendra Agam clarifies, “…but not with the intention of making the soul suffer. Whatever action is done by Lord Shiva, it is indeed and effective and unfailing help to the soul. It cannot be considered otherwise.” The text continues, detailing that liberation cannot happen until the anava mala is removed entirely.
“But even when the power of anava mala becomes ripe for such maturation, its intensification does not, and cannot, take place of its own accord. It is seen that always and by all means, the non-intelligent object, in this case the ego, is kept in action only by an intelligent being,” states the Mrigendra Agama. The Agama then likens all of this to a physician who’s applying a stinging medicine to a wound. The sting is technically painful to the patient, but certainly for his own good. Later, the Agama continues, “Even so, for the sake of the removal of anava mala, the experiences should not be considered as afflicting or aggravating activity, but rather as healing, for they drive the soul’s evolution through the understanding born of its experiences.”
“Since Shiva is all-pervasive, His immediate and active presence in all objects and beings cannot be set aside. But where there is no need for His action, He remains neutral and free from any action… For those souls in whom anava mala is reaching its phase of maturation and removal, Shivashakti descends immediately and unfolds in the form of grace. Grace is indeed the compassionate function which makes the intensities of anava mala’s bonds ripe enough for removal.”
Later on we’re explained that a specific form of Shakti manifests to help the loosening of the ego through intensification. “Tirodhana shakti is a pure and asupicious power, which takes command of and works in concord with the ego’s obscuring potencies in order to sytematically work through them.”
This deep and metaphysical explaination closes with, “Grace is, in actuality, the cognitive power of the bound soul brought about by its evolution through the ego’s dominion and the maturing process of the inert bond. The simultaneous occurance of cognition and the ego’s intensification is considered to be the bestowal of grace” and that this explanation applies identically with the preponderant states of karma and maya, the soul’s other two bonds (anava mala being the third bond of the soul preventing liberation).
Certainly by now, your head may be swimming. Fair enough. But where do we stand? I’m feeling like it might be appropriate to bring this post to a close and attempt a summary in another. Of course, why not have skipped all these many words and just cut right to the summary? It’s not my style. The friend who’s been mentioned before in these posts encouraged me to write a paragraph of 20 words. It made me chuckle. 20 words isn’t a paragraph (for me). It’s a sentence.
One more post. Then I’m done. I promise.
Om Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha