Amazing Grace

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Absolute faith is absolute surrender to an amazing grace. A lot many people do not like the idea of surrender, but it is a fact that a lot many who felt there never was a need to surrender, did ultimately surrender – albeit a surrender not in humiliation, but in humility. In legendary singer and poet, Bob Dylan’s words: “You may be the heavy weight champion of the world, but someday you gonna have to serve somebody.” This amazing grace however does not have to be in the direct sense of Almighty God, but often manifests in the shape of what many poets have referred to as “hope”. TS Eliot’s “Four Quartets” comes to mind, an extended poem that followed his earlier one of a similar genre “The Wasteland”, which, after a lengthy tour of the spiritually barren landscape of modern life, ends with the chant Shanti, repeated three times. In the end, all that matters is peace, but peace, as a physical condition as well as a mental state, is illusive. Nobody would know this better than those of us in Manipur. Its quest has also never been easy. In a very paradoxically way, those who have found it are those who have surrendered – in the most sublime cases, surrendered their individual wills to the will of the “Amazing Grace”.

Many, if not most religions actually say this. Earthly life in this interpretation is a punishment, and transition from this temporal existence to the divine is the ultimate meaning. In the Judaic religions (including Christianity) the original sin is what condemned life to earthly existence. Otherwise it would have been an eternity in Eden for the original parents and nobody else. As to how attractive this idea is, is a matter of opinion. The original mother, Eve, probably thought it was a bore so she ate the forbidden apple, out of what is described as a feminine weakness. If not for her original sin, we all probably would never have seen daylight, or moonlight for that matter. It is difficult to say if we should deride what she did or else be thankful. Another paradox of life we suppose – another overwhelming question of “to be or not to be”. To be happy with a secure vegetative life, or else look for happiness in choosing to face challenges even if it means exposure to trouble and misery. The non-Semitic religions say very much the same thing, but in a different way. Take Buddhism for instance, or Hinduism for that matter. Rebirth is perpetuated by individual sins, implying that this cycle will end when sin is banished. As in other religions, earthly nonexistence here becomes bliss. The lure of this bliss, it has been explained, is also what gives suicide bombers the fanatic courage which makes them able to do what they do.

But the Amazing Grace manifests in another more tangible and comprehensible form – hope. To paraphrase Eliot’s “Four Quartets” this amazing grace is like the faith of a passenger in a subway train that stops and becomes stranded for hours in pitch darkness in the middle of a tunnel deep down below the surface of the earth because of a sudden power failure, that power would be ultimately restored and the train would again begin moving. That at the end of even the darkest tunnel, there would be light. Put another way, it is like a test of faith of a child in her father’s love for her and her belief that he would never abandon her, come what may. In pitch darkness where she cannot see anything, in the event of an emergency if she is required to jump from the window of her first floor room, and her father implores her to do so from below with the assurance that he can see her and would catch her, would she jump? She would if she had enough faith in her father. Such faiths give hope. Such hopes salvage. The amazing grace is that way too. For some inscrutable reason which you cannot explain but all the same feel, you know that this amazing grace would not let you fall. Come to think of it, Manipur has been stranded in the middle of a deep, dark tunnel for decades. Yet it has held together, despite all the centrifugal forces threatening to tear it apart. It is reasonable to believe hence that despite all its inherent contradictions, a faith in itself has given it the strength and hope that there would one day be light. What a time to recall the miracle of this Amazing Grace in this auspicious and festive season of a great religion of the world.

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