On the spiritual path, one often hears the term ‘surrender’ referred to as a requirement for living life in harmony with a higher power. It is as if one is required to let go of certain limitations or restrictions in one’s thinking and behavior in order to make progress on the spiritual path. Surrender implies giving up those impediments which bind one to a narrow, circumscribed vision of oneself as a particular race, caste, religion, culture, and profession. Of course, all these labels are relevant, but they do not express the highest truth of who one is. Surrender implies expansion and openness—a willingness to embrace a wider paradigm of who one is.
How does surrender happen? Surrender begins with acceptance and adaptability of whateer the cosmos gives us. But surrender isn’t an intellectual exercise. It is a spontaneous letting-go, a willingness to trust, a heartfelt faith in the inherent order in the cosmic design of life. It is only when one accepts what is, that one can surrender to what is to come. To flow with the current of life, one must be like a fluid wave in the ocean. Waves move without any effort carried by the surging magnitude of the ocean. When one surrenders, one feels the mighty force of Nature guiding one’s movement forward; one feels as if one is being carried towards one’s destination by a power greater than one’s individual will. The joy of surrender is that it gives one the ability to live more fully in the Now, to let go of some of the burdens of memories of the past and expectations for the future. One can just be present and live simply, more naturally, with greater freedom. Traditionally, in the East, surrender came naturally because people lived more in harmony with the laws of nature, and they could heed the messages of their inner being.
In the Tao Te Ching, Lao-Tzu says:
The surest test if a man be sane
Is if he accepts life whole, as it is,
Without needing by measure or touch to understand
The measureless untouchable source
Of its images,
The measureless untouchable source
Of its substances . . .
Surrender means to yield. When one yields, one can withstand anything that happens without losing one’s balance. One can be buffeted by storms but not overthrown by the winds of change, no matter how turbulent they may be. One knows deep within the core of one’s being that everything will become right in the end, that one will find their way home.
In the words of the saint Papa Ramdas, founder of Anandashram:
There is no disorder in the Universe because all things happen by the will of God, who is harmony and peace Himself. He always determines things and events for good and good alone . . . The Lord assures us that no storm of life, however terrifying, can overwhelm us if we take complete refuge in Him.
Surrender implies unshakable faith in the cosmos. One is anchored to That which never changes, the basis, or substratum of life itself. One always is anchored to That, but one has simply forgotten it! Surrender implies steadiness, a calm inner stillness ever-present at the depths of one’s being. Surrender implies softness, and the ability to bend but not break. Surrender frees one from worry and fear. One is able to staunchly face the challenges, tribulations, and vicissitudes of life with undaunted faith. Inwardly, one acknowledges that whatever is happening is for the best, even though, outwardly, the reason for the present predicament may not be understood. The law of action and reaction in the Universe is infallible but unfathomable at the same time. With this firm conviction rooted in one’s subconscious, one can emerge victorious from any circumstance.
When one surrenders, who does one surrender to? One surrenders to the invincible power, the cosmos that creates and governs the Universe, the same power that has designed every particle of matter from the tiniest cell to the farthest swirling orbits of the distant galaxies. One surrenders to the expression of that intelligence through the cosmos, by whichever term one uses, be it ‘Shakti,’ ‘Universal Mother,’ ‘God,’ ‘Brahman,’ ‘the One,’ ‘the Creatrix,’ ‘the cosmos’ or ‘the Source of Life itself.’ One is actually surrendering to one’s inner self, the Atman, the soul, the silent inner voice that guides and inspires, without imposing or forcing. The inner Self is the link between individual intelligence and cosmic intelligence, between the soul and God. When one surrenders to it, one is surrendering to the unmanifest source of creativity, energy, and intelligence at the deepest level of one’s existence, one’s being. The process of surrendering is like the process of a wave melting into the rhythmic rise and fall of the ocean. One surrenders to the flow of life, the dance in which the dance and dancer become one.
From my own experience, the process of surrender happens during meditation. When I close my eyes, the individual ego surrenders to the Cosmic Ego, the silent wholeness at the basis of all life. In this state, there is just oneness, stillness, and peace. I have been practicing Transcendental Meditation regularly for more than thirty years. I was born in New York, but have lived in India for more than seventeen years, and traveled the length and breadth of India from Ladakh, Kedarnath, and Badrinath, to Kanyakumari and Rameswaram. During my many yantras (spiritual journeys), I have had to adapt to many unforeseen circumstances. I’m able to surrender to changing situations more and more easily as I feel that all changes are orchestrated by God.
The Persian mystic poet Rumi says:
When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.
When one surrenders to the Self, one is surrendering to the source of all that is good, true, and beautiful in the Universe. This movement brings a sense of renewal, an abandonment, a carefree sense of freedom because it is a loosening of the entanglements created by the mind, intellect, and ego.
In the words of The Mother of Sri Aurobindo ashram:
True surrender enlarges you, it increases your capacity . . . It is as if when a drop of water falls into the sea; if it still kept there its separate identity, it would remain a little drop of water and nothing more, a little drop crushed by all the immensity around because it has not surrendered. But, surrendering, it unites with the sea and participates in the nature and power and vastness of the whole sea.
How does one arrive at such a state of surrender? The foremost method is simply by relaxing and letting go; by BEING SIMPLE; by freeing the mind of worries, doubts, and fears; by smiling at life; and accepting cheerfully whatever comes. By surrendering, one gains the ability to move forward patiently with grace and faith. One arrives at the state of surrender by letting go of the tendency to control, to manipulate, to force events, people, and situations into the shape one desire. One becomes anxious when things don’t go the way one wants, but this anxiety actually creates obstacles on the path of achievement.
As one evolves on the spiritual path, one gradually begins to feel that there is a reason underlying the apparently unpredictable occurrences and challenges one faces and that by deepening one’s awareness of oneself, one can progress toward a state of inner peace and harmony. One becomes a seeker on the path of Self-knowledge. The path to surrender has opened. Like a flower, one’s awareness begins to open up to the inner sun.
When the little ego surrenders to the higher Self, the inner divine nature, then the process of evolution proceeds unimpeded. There are still inevitable hurdles to overcome; evolution is still bumpy; but riding on the crest of the fast-flowing waves, one moves irresistibly forward toward the goal. The result of surrender is that one becomes more and more capable of living spontaneously from the heart, from the core of one’s being rather than remaining caught in the conflict between the mind and heart and ensnared in the configurations of the dos and don’ts of the intellect.
In the words of the great avatar Meher Baba:
Spiritual advancement is a succession of one surrender after another until the goal of the final surrender of the separate ego-life is achieved. The last surrender is the complete surrender, equivalent to the attainment of Truth.
The last surrender is the state of total liberation, the state of enlightenment, the attainment of oneness with the wholeness of life. It is a state of eternal freedom in divine consciousness.
In the words of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of the Transcendental Meditation technique:
Let yourself be possessed by your Self. Once you are possessed by your Self, the purpose of all wisdom has been achieved. This is the end of the journey of life, that is the state of fulfillment. . . The state of enlightenment is so fulfilling for everyone because of this: that one wakes up in one’s own total dignity.
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