Q&A: Personal effort in meditation
When you meditate and you cry for something, should you also make an effort to achieve it, or just let it take place naturally?
At the beginning you have to make a personal effort; later it becomes spontaneous. Unless and until it becomes spontaneous, you have to make the personal effort. When a sprinter starts a race, his hands make such a vigorous movement. In the beginning he consciously moves his arms and hands very fast. He is making strong personal effort. But after fifty or sixty metres, when he is going at top speed, everything becomes spontaneous. At that time he is not striving to move his arms. But at the start, he did.
It is like sailing a boat. Before you start you move this thing and adjust that thing. You have to do all kinds of things at the beginning. While you are getting ready, you are very dynamic. But that is only your preparation. Still the boat is near the shore. It is only when you are actually well on your way that the boat can sail without your constant personal effort. In your meditation this spontaneous movement is an act of Grace from above.
If you are sincere, then you will say that at the very beginning of your journey God's Grace also descended. Otherwise, you would not have been inspired even to enter into the boat. But when you start out, you feel that you are making a tremendous personal effort. But there comes a time when you realise that this personal effort is nothing other than Compassion from above. Why are you getting up early to pray and meditate, whereas your friends are still wallowing in the pleasures of lethargy? It is because God's Grace has descended into you. So the deeper you go, the clearer it becomes that God's Grace enables you to make progress through your personal effort. Either God is pleased with you, or out of His infinite Compassion He is helping you.
Personal effort is of paramount importance at the beginning, because at that time we don't feel that God is our unconditional friend. As human beings, we always say that if I give you something, then you will give me something in return. But if I don't give you anything, then you are under no obligation to give me anything. But God is not like that. God gives unconditionally, whether we claim Him as our own or not. This moment I may pray to God to fulfil my desire. But the next moment, after He fulfils my desire, immediately I will say, "Oh, I don't need You. I don't want to be Your child." But God cannot do that. God always claims us as His own no matter how bad we are, because He sees that in hundreds or thousands or millions of years, He will make us perfect. A child, at his sweet will, can leave his parents; but can the parents leave the child? Impossible! Similarly, I can disown God, my eternal Father, because I am angry with Him or because He has not fulfilled my desires. But He will never disown me, because I am His child.
Self-effort is necessary. God's Grace is indispensable.
So personal effort is necessary because we do not feel that God is constantly loving us and blessing us unconditionally. Once we can feel that He is doing everything for us unconditionally, then personal effort is not necessary. Just because we don't have that kind of feeling, so-called personal effort is of paramount importance. But when we become sincere, when we become humble, and especially when we become pure, at that time we will feel that it is God who has inspired us to exercise our personal effort. So credit goes to God from the beginning to the end. In the beginning we give 50 percent of the credit to ourselves, because we got up to pray and meditate, and 50 percent to God, because He responded to our prayers and inspired us during our meditation. But if we are sincere, devoted and absolutely pure, then we will say that 100 percent of the credit goes to God.