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Go Back   Spiritual Forums > Religions & Faiths > General Religion

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  #1  
Old 31-10-2016, 09:27 AM
kingfisher kingfisher is offline
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The scope of effort and grace

Reading through many treads here there often seems two approaches to the so called "spiritual life" - the first where we work upon ourselves and grow towards some goal of "enlightenment" (call it what you will..... ) and the second where in "acceptance", we surrender to the work of grace - a more "negative" way, which some have called the "way of unknowing".

While I tend to favour the negative way, the reality is that I do not sit and just wait for "results". So what is the connection between "grace" and "effort", between "faith" and works", between what Reality itself brings forth and what we as unique individuals bring forth? Surely worth a thought or two?


"By God's grace alone is God to be grasped. All else is false, all else is vanity." (Guru Nanak of the Sikh Faith)

"They who have known God have known also this one certainty; that it was God's grace that led them to it, and framed them in readiness for it, and prepared their heart and mind for it; and it was God alone who lifted them to that embrace." (Swami Abhayananda of the Hindu faith)

The above two quotes are given to help dispel the oft made claim that the way of faith/grace is unique to Christianity and that all other Faiths are "work based". In fact, as I have come to understand it, what is unique to each Faith is how grace is understood to work within it.

To develope this theme, in Buddhism the most "self help" and "works" based expression is that of Therevada, also known as the Southern School. A Therevada Bhikkhu (monk) has said......." at the moment of emancipation effort falls away having reached the end of its scope".

So what is the "scope" of effort and how does our own "effort" relate to salvation by Grace alone?

As I see it - and this is all part and parcel of my own Pure Land way - the quote given above of Swami Abhayananda spells out the fundamental path and answer. Such words are echoed by the Pure Land writer Unno, who has said that "it is a necessary step on the way when that which was once understood and experienced as "self power" (Japanese "jiriki" ) was in fact the working of "other power" (Japanese "tariki" )

Being Buddhist, this is linked with a "non-dual" perspective (non-dual in the sense of "not two".......not in the usual misunderstood sense of being "one", which is another thing entirely)

So we have from the Pure Land "saints" (myokonin)......

"Faith does not arise
Within oneself.
The entrusting heart is itself
Given by the Other Power" (Rennyo)

And to develop such, the words of Saichi, another myokonin....

"O Saichi, will you tell us of Other Power?
Yes, but there is neither Other Power nor self power.
What is, is the Graceful Acceptance only" (From Saichi's Journals)

"The Graceful Acceptance only", when whatever "effort" or "works" we have done - or not done - are recognised for what they are. The work of grace in our hearts.

The work of the Divine Will that "wills that all be saved".

So we unite eventually with the Divine Will.

Just to add, that there is believing in grace and living in and by grace. Just as there is the written word and the Living Word.

For Buddhism, truth is "directly perceived", "beyond the limits of time", "to be personally experienced", "persuasive" and finally "to be understood each for themselves". (There are fancy Pali words for each..... )

But the point is that there is a analytic understanding, but such is never sufficient....we must experience in our innermost consciousness/being all that is implied by any teaching/belief, so that we not only "understand it" but put it into practice. As D T Suzuki says......"There will then be no discrepancy between knowledge and life"

It is for these reasons that I would hold that the ways for grace to come to fruition in each human being are unique for each and therefore infinite in variety - and could never be reduced to the product of one "narrow way" ideology/theology bound to one book, however "holy".

As the zens say......."creation itself is our scripture".

Sorry to have taken so long. If anyone is still there, please throw in your two cents worth..........

Thank you
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  #2  
Old 01-11-2016, 12:06 PM
kingfisher kingfisher is offline
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No takers so far.

As well as effort and grace there is the allegiance to beliefs and doctrines. What is their scope?

The Buddha spoke of the Dharma ( truth ) as being like a raft, "for crossing over not for grasping".

Once we have "crossed over" we leave the raft behind.

Of course, jumping off in mid ocean can cause complications.

So what is the scope of all such things?
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  #3  
Old 01-11-2016, 03:24 PM
MARDAV70 MARDAV70 is offline
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Effort and grace...so...am I wrong in my perception of effort and grace in the vast majority of Christians that make the claims of love and devotion to Christ, yet completely ignore Christ's commandment to "sell all you have and give it to the poor"? Or the many that don't follow "do unto others as you would have them do unto you", "whatsoever ye do unto the least of my brethren so ye have done unto me" or "let he who is without sin cast the first stone"?
Grace is claimed...but where's the effort?

I'm not sure where you mean to go with this, but I really am confused by so called Christians who repeatedly violate and try so hard to find ways to excuse themselves from the above commandments given by, supposedly, Jesus. They're excellent advice, yet are nearly impossible to follow in the society in which we live without living like a penniless vagabond...and I know of no one that does that. Seems to me the 'effort' has nothing to do with 'grace' in such a society.
And then maybe, I'm not really sure what you're trying to convey. I live in the USA where the vast majority of the faithful claim Christianity...and so it's really the only perception of "the scope and effort and grace" I can observe.

I like what Mahatma Gandhi said: "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They don't follow Christ". So very, very true.
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  #4  
Old 01-11-2016, 03:44 PM
Jyotir Jyotir is offline
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Hi kingfisher,

Since all is God, even 'personal effort' as normally seen through ego, is ultimately God acting in and through the individual instrument, and God ultimately is that instrument as well.

As an intellectual conceptualization, this construct is helpful in establishing a direction or ideal for practice, but it is still very different than the direct experience of it.

In the beginning stages of seeking, e.g., a conscious and deliberate spiritual aspiration, when ego is still a substantial presence, a dominant force - there is the unavoidable perception (and necessity) of self-effort, as well as the need for more structured doctrines and methods which are commensurate with that 'objective' perception as an aid to nascent discipline.

Of course, there will be different permutations of this in form, as different traditions have varied premises to begin with, i.e., Buddhism has no 'God', etc., but the basic principle is the same because ultimately, even though there are different paths - they are all based in, are, and lead to One Reality, which allows for those different expressions of that One Self 'divine'.

It's only in the advanced stages where a greatly diminished ego is displaced by the more direct recognition, acknowledgment, and surrender to that Grace, where that so-called 'personal effort' is experienced as one and the same with that grace - all of it as: God the sole doer. The aspirant may even experience themselves as God extending that Grace to the instrument, and alternately as the instrument of reception.

The caveat is that unless and until full and permanent realization is achieved, regression is possible; that although ego may be greatly diminished within a progressive spiritual practice, if a constant vigilance and examination is not maintained, the wrong attitude my re-assert, i.e., pride, jealousy, impurity, etc. - and that ego-force may re-constitute and regenerate itself back into a relatively larger focal and operative presence within the being.


~ J
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  #5  
Old 01-11-2016, 09:22 PM
kingfisher kingfisher is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MARDAV70
Effort and grace...so...am I wrong in my perception of effort and grace in the vast majority of Christians that make the claims of love and devotion to Christ, yet completely ignore Christ's commandment to "sell all you have and give it to the poor"? Or the many that don't follow "do unto others as you would have them do unto you", "whatsoever ye do unto the least of my brethren so ye have done unto me" or "let he who is without sin cast the first stone"?
Grace is claimed...but where's the effort?

I'm not sure where you mean to go with this, but I really am confused by so called Christians who repeatedly violate and try so hard to find ways to excuse themselves from the above commandments given by, supposedly, Jesus. They're excellent advice, yet are nearly impossible to follow in the society in which we live without living like a penniless vagabond...and I know of no one that does that. Seems to me the 'effort' has nothing to do with 'grace' in such a society.
And then maybe, I'm not really sure what you're trying to convey. I live in the USA where the vast majority of the faithful claim Christianity...and so it's really the only perception of "the scope and effort and grace" I can observe.

I like what Mahatma Gandhi said: "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They don't follow Christ". So very, very true.

Hi, thanks. I'm not really seeking to go anywhere as such. I do like throwing in a few ideas and seeing what comes out.

Christianity I would leave to Christians. It all seems to be about the "Law" and the "spirit", between salvation by "faith" ( St Paul ) and faith/works ( St James ), all apparently confused between the Word as text ( Bible ) and the Living Word ( Christ ) Best left alone.

I approach it from the non-dual perspective of Pure Land Buddhism. There Grace is everything, we are "already enlightened" and our life is simply the surrender to Grace, to that which already is.

But I do find opening threads such as this can prove helpful at various levels of understanding, and gaining - believe it or not - clarity of mind.
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  #6  
Old 01-11-2016, 09:30 PM
kingfisher kingfisher is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jyotir
Hi kingfisher,

Since all is God, even 'personal effort' as normally seen through ego, is ultimately God acting in and through the individual instrument, and God ultimately is that instrument as well.

As an intellectual conceptualization, this construct is helpful in establishing a direction or ideal for practice, but it is still very different than the direct experience of it.

In the beginning stages of seeking, e.g., a conscious and deliberate spiritual aspiration, when ego is still a substantial presence, a dominant force - there is the unavoidable perception (and necessity) of self-effort, as well as the need for more structured doctrines and methods which are commensurate with that 'objective' perception as an aid to nascent discipline.

Of course, there will be different permutations of this in form, as different traditions have varied premises to begin with, i.e., Buddhism has no 'God', etc., but the basic principle is the same because ultimately, even though there are different paths - they are all based in, are, and lead to One Reality, which allows for those different expressions of that One Self 'divine'.

It's only in the advanced stages where a greatly diminished ego is displaced by the more direct recognition, acknowledgment, and surrender to that Grace, where that so-called 'personal effort' is experienced as one and the same with that grace - all of it as: God the sole doer. The aspirant may even experience themselves as God extending that Grace to the instrument, and alternately as the instrument of reception.

The caveat is that unless and until full and permanent realization is achieved, regression is possible; that although ego may be greatly diminished within a progressive spiritual practice, if a constant vigilance and examination is not maintained, the wrong attitude my re-assert, i.e., pride, jealousy, impurity, etc. - and that ego-force may re-constitute and regenerate itself back into a relatively larger focal and operative presence within the being.


~ J

Thanks. Yes, you seem to confirm the words of Unno I quoted in the OP.

I do agree with your judgement/recognition that despite the various "permutations" of the various Faiths, the principal remains the same. This recognition is often lost sight of when words take precedence over actual experience.

The process you describe can get rather messy at times...... Hence a thread such as this.

Thank you.
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Old 01-11-2016, 09:43 PM
kingfisher kingfisher is offline
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Though advocating leaving Christianity alone, there are some words of the Catholic Trappist monk Thomas Merton which relate to this Thread.

The innocence and purity of heart which belongs to paradise are a complete emptiness of self in which all is the work of God, the free and unpredictable expression of His love, the work of grace. In the purity of original innocence, all is done in us but without us. But before we reach that level, we must also learn to work on the level of "knowledge" where grace works in us but "not without us".


(Excerpt from "Wisdom in Emptiness", from the book "Zen and the Birds of Appetite" where Merton engages in a very readable discussion with the Buddhist D T Suzuki. Merton uses some fine Latin phrases to highlight his point, which I have omitted........ )
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Old 01-11-2016, 11:12 PM
bees bees is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jyotir
Hi kingfisher,

Since all is God, even 'personal effort' as normally seen through ego, is ultimately God acting in and through the individual instrument, and God ultimately is that instrument as well.

As an intellectual conceptualization, this construct is helpful in establishing a direction or ideal for practice, but it is still very different than the direct experience of it.

In the beginning stages of seeking, e.g., a conscious and deliberate spiritual aspiration, when ego is still a substantial presence, a dominant force - there is the unavoidable perception (and necessity) of self-effort, as well as the need for more structured doctrines and methods which are commensurate with that 'objective' perception as an aid to nascent discipline.

Of course, there will be different permutations of this in form, as different traditions have varied premises to begin with, i.e., Buddhism has no 'God', etc., but the basic principle is the same because ultimately, even though there are different paths - they are all based in, are, and lead to One Reality, which allows for those different expressions of that One Self 'divine'.

It's only in the advanced stages where a greatly diminished ego is displaced by the more direct recognition, acknowledgment, and surrender to that Grace, where that so-called 'personal effort' is experienced as one and the same with that grace - all of it as: God the sole doer. The aspirant may even experience themselves as God extending that Grace to the instrument, and alternately as the instrument of reception.

The caveat is that unless and until full and permanent realization is achieved, regression is possible; that although ego may be greatly diminished within a progressive spiritual practice, if a constant vigilance and examination is not maintained, the wrong attitude my re-assert, i.e., pride, jealousy, impurity, etc. - and that ego-force may re-constitute and regenerate itself back into a relatively larger focal and operative presence within the being.


~ J

What does an aspirant do then, and wasn't everything almost like a waste? It's painful to know that gap too.

Great post btw.

Great inquiry, kingfisher, thanks/welcome
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  #9  
Old 02-11-2016, 09:50 AM
kingfisher kingfisher is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beesliketoplay
..........and wasn't everything almost like a waste?



kingfisher......welcome

Thanks for the welcome.

For me the only way past the sense of "waste", the "whys" or whatever, has been the fundamental Buddhist stance of "seek to pull the arrow out, do not seek to speculate just how it got there"

The arrow of suffering is undoubtedly there - we look inside or outside. Looking "outside" in our world with any sensitivity/empathy at all can become almost unbearable. Hearing the words of the Buddha:- "I teach this and this alone, suffering and the ending of suffering", we respond or not. To respond is to come out from under the blanket, to cease being satisfied by looking the other way, and the "quest" is on. Asking where it ends is also futile - more speculation.

Just to add, the "silence of the Buddha" in respect of metaphysical questions is well documented.

This can be drawn from a Theravada Text......A monk, Kassapa, is questioning the Buddha....

"Then is suffering caused by oneself?"

"Do not put it like that Kassapa"

"Then is suffering caused by another?"

"Do not put it like that Kassapa"

"Then is suffering caused both by oneself and another?"

"Do not put it like that Kassapa"

"Then is suffering neither caused by oneself or another?"

"Do not put it like that Kassapa"

"Then there is no suffering?"

"It is not a fact that there is no suffering: there is suffering, Kassapa"

"Then does Master Gotama (the Buddha) neither know nor see suffering?"

"It is not a fact that I neither know nor see suffering: I both know and see suffering, Kassapa"


In effect we are being asked to "come and see" (for oneself), or in Pali "ehipassiko".

(The same sort of exchange can be found for much else.......life after death, the beginnings of the world, etc etc)

And the Christian mystic Meister Eckhart has said "Love had no why", which possibly appears incongruous amid such words ( ) yet for me is not.

Thank you
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  #10  
Old 02-11-2016, 02:59 PM
Jyotir Jyotir is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beesliketoplay
What does an aspirant do then, and wasn't everything almost like a waste? It's painful to know that gap too.
Hi beesliketoplay,

What does the aspirant do?
Be practical within the spiritual orientation.
That means to persist with a cheerful determination, vigilance, sincerity, patience, willingness, and devotion.

Nothing is lost. Any previous effort - even if failed, but with the proper attitude, becomes the foundation for further work.

Consciousness is fluid, plastic. Therefore focus may change.
It is the consistency of focus that eventually bears fruit, whatever the direction.
So regression can be 'painful, but similarly, progress can be inspiring.

Accordingly, this is the wisdom of discrimination, the essence and substance of practice:
Consistently focus on what is inspiring, not what is painful.



~ J
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