The difference between our human understanding and effort, and the action of Divine Grace, is the standpoint from which the result flows. The human ego standpoint tries to evaluate everything in reference to itself at the center, and thus, looks to “my effort”, “my results”, “my progress” and measures these things according to the framework of the human understanding. Yet the Divine acts and manifests from its own “divine standpoint” which exceeds the limits of the mental egoistic view, and thus, it can seem incomprehensible to the individual.

Why does someone get chosen for an act of Grace? It is not based on holiness, or morality, or advanced thought, feelings or effort. We cannot identify how or why something suddenly changes and a response comes that we did not and could not expect. What we do not see, or understand, is what role is being played by the wider consciousness carrying out its intention in and through us and the rest of the creation. Thus, the readiness for something new to take place, the preparation of the being, or even just the opportunity for progress, seen from the Divine standpoint, may indicate the time and circumstance for divine Grace to operate.

The role of the individual in all of this is to be receptive and accept the Grace when it appears. There is an apocryphal story of a dedicated seeker who practiced sincerely and who thereby was determined by the gods to be a suitable recipient for the soma, the divine nectar. The head of the gods came down to earth bearing this nectar in a jug but took the from of one of the lowest castes and offered the drink. The seeker refused the drink because of the appearance and outer status of the person offering it. The readiness to accept the Grace was lacking due to an attachment to the social forms of the society.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “I should like to say something about the Divine Grace — for you seem to think it should be something like a Divine Reason acting upon lines not very different from those of human intelligence. But it is not that. Also it is not a universal Divine Compassion either, acting impartially on all who approach it and acceding to all prayers. It does not select the righteous and reject the sinner. The Divine Grace came to aid the persecutor (Saul of Tarsus), it came to St. Augustine the profligate, to Jagai and Madhai of infamous fame, to Bilwamangal and many others whose conversion might well scandalise the puritanism of the human moral intelligence; but it can come to the righteous also — curing them of their self-righteousness and leading to a purer consciousness beyond these things. It is a power that is superior to any rule, even to the Cosmic Law — for all spiritual seekers have distinguished between the Law and Grace. Yet is is not indiscriminate — only it has a discrimination of its own which sees things and persons and the right times and seasons with another vision than that of the Mind or any other normal Power. A state of Grace is prepared in the individual often behind thick veils by means not calculable by the mind and when the state of Grace comes, then the Grace itself acts. There are these three powers: (1) The Cosmic Law, of Karma or what else; (2) the Divine Compassion acting on as many as it can reach through the nets of the Law and giving them their chance; (3) the Divine Grace which acts more incalculably but also more irresistibly than the others. The only question is whether there is something behind all the anomalies of life which can respond to the call and open itself with whatever difficulty till it is ready for the illumination of the Divine Grace — and that something must be not a mental and vital movement but an inner somewhat which can well be seen by the inner eye.”
Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 4 The Divine, The Gods and the Divine Force, The Diviine Grace, pp. 91-94

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at He is author of 16 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.