There are many forms of grace, but three of them are considered to be of great significance: attaining a human birth, having a desire for God-realization, and meeting a saint. If we could realize the significance of human birth, it would not even take a day to attain God. The human body is so important that even Indra, the king of heaven, who is worshipped by human beings, desires to be born as a human himself. The human body is a very complex machine and there is no other body as complex as that of a human. We strive to maintain a very healthy body, yet suffer from many an ailment due to improper habits and the prevailing environment. In addition, an average human suffers innumerable miseries as a resullt of illness and death of loved ones. It is amazing how we humans are able to continue living. However, there is a wonderful power that we humans possess - knowledge.
jñānaṁ hi teṣhāṁ adhikaḥ
There is no other creature, with the exception of celestial Gods in heaven that can match the faculty of knowledge that we human beings possess. We have the power to comprehend who we are, the nature of our body, this world, God, bliss, sorrow, etc. We can inquire into what causes sorrow, and how to eliminate the root cause of all sorrows. We have the power to understand and take the appropriate steps to find the cure. Countless fellow humans, like Tulsidas, Kabirdas, Meera, Nanak and Tukaram, have accomplished this. It is the gift of knowledge that gives immense significance and value to the human body.
Celestial gods possess greater knowledge than us, but they cannot do sadhana, or devotion. They are only permitted to enjoy heavenly pleasures, which are temporary. Also, heavenly happiness is not pure happiness. There is a mixture of sorrow in it. There is constant hankering to attain a higher level of happiness, very similar to what happens on earth. The mental diseases that torture us humans also befall those who dwell in heaven. Consequently, heaven and this world are similar, since both are subject to sorrow, restlessness, dissatisfaction, lust, anger, greed, attachment, envy and pride. The difference is that, we humans can work on improving ourselves (by doing sadhana), whereas celestial gods cannot. It is impossible to earn in heaven, since one only enjoys the rewards of his past karm. There is no option of performing new karm in heaven.
So, the first grace of God is that He gives us a human body. Just think how important a grace this is. Granted that we attained human birth due to our own actions, but it was God who took note of our actions, and rewarded us by making us human. God did all this for us. Actions cannot yield results on their own. Let us say you donated $100,000. This act of charity will not yield fruit by itself. God will have to intervene and give you the fruits of your donation. So, God is merciful in that He rewards us for our actions. Otherwise, we would never have attained human birth.
kabahuṁk kari karuṇā nar dehī | det īśh binu hetu sanehī ||
God has gifted us a human body due to His compassionate nature. Reflect upon this repeatedly; reflect upon this fact thousands of times. We are suffering because we fail to contemplate properly. What are we thinking? "How should I spend my time?" We are constantly planning on how to earn more wealth, constructing a house and leaving behind a large fortune for wife and kids. There seems to be no concern about our own spiritual upliftment. We must think about why we have come to this world. Our lives are wasted in planning how to make the body happy, and we work towards those plans. Still, we fail because our desires keep tormenting us. We may sleep on a bed of gold studded with diamonds, but we still suffer from inside. Happiness comes from within, not from external objects.
So, there is no question of attaining happiness from the objects of the world. In fact, this world is full of stress and anxiety. The greater the wealth, beauty and talent one possesses, more are the worries. Worldly opulence does not bring about happiness. The power of knowledge that we have been blessed with in this human form, should be used towards reaching our goal by surrendering to God and Guru. And we should be in a great hurry to reach our goal. We have no idea how long or short our life is. There are no guarantees. A child may die immediately after birth. A young man may die in an accident right after graduation. We see this taking place every single day. So, we cannot afford to procrastinate.
Prahlad preached to his little friends, "Do not wait for youth." Hurry up. It may never arrive. Similarly, do not wait for old age. Do not think you are too young. Life is uncertain; death is certain. We say, "Dead sure." When it is time to die, there is no power on earth that can save us. Abhimanyu, the nephew of Lord Krishna and the son of Arjun was killed at a young age. His wife Uttara was widowed at the age of sixteen. Imagine! even Lord Krishna, Arjun and Ved Vyas could not save Abhimanyu. Everyone will die at the designated time; reciting prayers will not help.
Therefore, it must be kept in mind that this human body is subject to destruction. A saint by the name of Narayan has said:
do bātan ko bhuli mat jo chahasi kalyān
nārāyaṇ ik maut ko, duje śhrī bhagavān
Along with God, keep death in mind. Do not wait or procrastinate. Procrastination has wasted countless lives of ours.
The second grace is that we have a desire for God-realization. We souls receive a human form with the grace of God. This is the only form of life where a soul can practice devotion and attain God. To be able to practice devotion, we need the grace of God. This grace comes in the form of 'desire for God-realization'.
If we have the hunger to meet God, only then will we try to attain Him. Only a few deserving souls have got this hunger by the grace of God. We can see all around us, there are nearly seven billions humans. How many of us have the real desire to meet God?
Most of us are busy with our daily lives. We may have even heard to the teachings of a great Saint, dispelling all our doubts. Yet, if we do not have the desire to progress on the path of devotion, the human form of life will be a waste. Hence, we have to realize the grace of God and try to develop the desire to meet Him. We must understand that true happiness is not in this world, but in God alone. This will help increase our desire to meet Him. God will surely notice our efforts and grace us such that the desire increases. And this will lead us to the third grace, which is meeting a true Saint.
The last grace is beyond both these graces, and is said to be millions of times greater than any other grace. And that is, meeting with a real Saint - someone who has theoretical knowledge of the scriptures, as well as practical experience of God. The opportunity to meet a true Saint is very rare. And it is even more difficult to have faith in a Saint. Understanding the divine knowledge from the Saint is even more difficult. After this, there is no further grace to be had from God or Guru. We have attained everything there is to attain - the human form, birth in India, association with a Saint, faith in the Saint, and knowledge of what to do. If we still do not practice sadhana and attain God, then:
ātam han gati jāy
kālahiṁ karmahiṁ īśhvarahiṁ mithyā doṣh lagāi
"You have been blessed in every possible way, what are you waiting for?" Yet, we humans come up with many lame excuses. "Oh, my time to practice devotion has not yet come. When the time arrives, I will do it." Another says, "When God inspires me from within, it will happen naturally." Someone says, "It is not in my destiny to practice devotion." These excuses are preventing us from going towards God. This is why the devotee says, "O Lord! You gave me everything, but I procrastinated." We kept on saying, "I will do it; I will do it," and saying this, we breathed our last. We must no longer procrastinate. We must put our plan into immediate action and begin our sadhana, or devotion at the earliest.
It is of prime importance that we realize these three important graces of God and follow our Guru's instructions to reach our goal.