Preparation, Effort and Unearned Grace: A Recent Sohbet

Peace, one and all…

Here is the text of a recent sohbet, on the theme of effort and grace.

May the hearts of the lovers be opened.

‘They ask thee about the new moons. Say, “They are markers of time for mankind and for the ḥajj.” It is not piety that you should come to houses from their rear, but piety is [in] he who is reverent and comes into houses by their doors. So revere God that haply you may prosper’
(Quran 2:189, The Study Quran)

Someone imagines that he can rid himself of his negative qualities by means of his own labour and striving. When he struggles and makes every effort possible only to be disappointed, God says to him, ‘You thought it would come about through your own power and action and effort. This is the law I have established, that is, that whatever you have you should expend it in My Way – only then does My grace arrive.

‘We say to you, ‘Travel this infinite road with your own weak legs’. We know that with your weak legs you will never be able to accomplish the journey – in a hundred thousand years you could not complete even one stage of the journey. But when you make the effort and collapse and fall down, unable to take another step, then God’s loving grace will carry you. Just as a child, while it is nursing, is carried, but when it grows older it is left to walk on its own, even so now when your strength has left you, God’s grace carries you…

‘Now that you no longer have the means to continue, behold Our grace and favour and loving-kindness, how they swarm down upon you. Even after a hundred thousand strivings you would not have seen so much as a tiny bit of this. So ‘celebrate the praise of your Sustainer, and ask His forgiveness’ [Quran 110:3]. Seek forgiveness for your thoughts and conceit – you thought that all this could come to you from your own striving. You didn’t recognize that it all comes from Us. Now that you have seen that it comes from Us, seek forgiveness’ ‘For He is inclined to forgive’ [Quran 110:3].

Fihi ma fihi, Discourse 17

Within God’s presence, there is no place for two I’s. You say ‘I,’ and He says ‘I’ – either you must die for Him or He for you so that duality might disappear. However, His dying is impossible and inconceivable, because ‘He is the Ever-Living, the One who does not die’. He is so gracious, though, that if it were possible He would die for you so that the duality might vanish. However, since it is not possible for Him to die, you must die, so that He may manifest Himself to you and thereby eliminate the duality.

Fihi ma Fihi, Discourse 6

Do you remember how you came into existence?
You may not remember
because you arrived a little drunk.
Let me give you a hint:
Let go of your mind and be mindful.
Close your ears and listen!

To be tightly attached to the world is immaturity.
As long as you’re an embryo,
all you think about is sipping blood.
There’s more to be said,
But let the Holy Spirit tell it.
You may even tell it to your own ear.
Neither I, nor some other ‘I’, needs to tell you,
you who are also I.
(Excerpted from Masnavi 3.1289 – 1303)

I do not tell you to give up effort,
but you need to remember who the Doer is;
you can trade only with God’s capital,
and when you offer it, in return,
you are taken in as one returning home.
In the beginning you have Him only,
and so it will be at the end,
and in the middle there is no one else.
Abu al-Hasan al-Kharaqani

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