Now, you might well ask why it is so difficult. When we speak in terms of monistic Vedanta, we say that God is everywhere, God is here and now, ever present; moreover, God is already within our own heart. And when we go further on in monistic Vedanta, we say that in its true nature everything is God, I also am God, my true nature is God. Then we go still further and say there is nothing else than God; even when we think we are perceiving other objects, it is really God whom we are perceiving, only we are perceiving Him mistakenly. Further, we say that in one moment, or a fraction of a moment, the veil of maya can drop away and we can at once have the supernal vision. All these things we say. But we do not say that this sudden illumination should happen naturally and as a matter of course to everyone. In other words, it is not promised to everyone. It may happen, that’s the idea; or, to use devotional language, it happens by the grace of God.
The grace of God cannot be earned; it is conferred by God upon us; if we could earn it, then it would be the result of effort on our part; it would be governed by law, and therefore it could not properly be called grace. But notice this, in devotional religions we are told that it is possible to have the grace of God, and there are stories about how so and so became transformed overnight. These stories are true. Sri Ramakrishna sometimes used to give illustrations of divine grace; he would say, suppose a very poor man receives a letter from an attorney which says a certain distant cousin has left him a vast fortune. Overnight he becomes a rich man. From poverty to riches in just one step, with no effort on his part. He also used to speak of grace in a somewhat different way. He would say suppose a man is digging in his yard and uncovers a hidden spring, and suddenly water gushes out. Similarly God-realization can suddenly come. But mind, no religion ever tells you that it must come at a certain time of your spiritual life. They never will tell you that.
So what do you do? If you are following a theistic religion, you go on daily practising devotion. In India that kind of practice is called vaidhi devotion that is to say, according to vidhi, rules or disciplines. There are practices that bring certain results: your mind and heart will become purified; you begin to have a liking for God, you like to think about Him, you like to hear about Him or speak about Him, you like to sing His glory. All these things naturally come, and after a time you find you have developed a longing for God. From that point on, you enter into the true spirit of devotion. If in the meantime the grace of God comes to you, so much the better. And, as I said, it does sometimes come. I myself have met people to whom it has come; so I am compelled to believe that such a thing can happen.
Now, this possibility of grace accords with our philosophy of monistic Vedanta: since the Spirit, which God is and which we always are, is our true nature, there is a certain indefiniteness about when it will break out in all its glory and might. But if it doesn’t break out, then we do not sit still, we undergo practices. You see, something which does not happen according to rule is very unpredictable. The moment we consider that fact, we see innumerable difficulties in the path. The mind with which we would seek God, even that mind is itself distorted. There was a saint who used to write beautiful songs, in one of which he said, Mother, You have winked at the mind, and the mind has turned toward the world. The Divine Mother has given a certain impetus to the mind, has given it an outward direction. In one of the Upanishads it is said, Providence has so made the senses that they always go outward instead of seeing the Self within, but some people, desiring to see the Self within, turn their senses inward.3 Some make that effort, but the natural tendency of the senses and the mind is to go outward.