By Suma Varughese September 2008 Surrender is the last step in the seeking game. When the seeker reaches this hallowed spot, he can put down the burden of self and hand it over to God. His job is done. The rest is God’s. Thy will be done I first experienced surrender as a 16-year-old returning home to Orissa after my first semester in a Mumbai college. To complicate matters my father sent me a telegram on the penultimate day asking me to change my route to Nagpur, so he could take me onward from there since he was going home via Nagpur after dropping my mother in Delhi for my third sister’s confinement. I was badly frightened by these last-minute changes, especially since I did not have much spare money. In fact, I just about had enough money to buy a ticket to Nagpur. From there on my father would take care of me I believed and set out. The nightmare began when my father’s train, the Grand Trunk Express, drew in and drew out without my locating him. With mounting fear and horror, I took stock of my situation. I was stranded far from home without money. What on earth was I to do? I remember walking round and round the station bench I had placed my luggage on, my mind examining options furiously. I was sure of one thing. I should not sit down, or else the game was up. I would be lost. For what seemed like a lifetime I walked around in circles, then defeated, sat down and promptly burst into tears. What followed was pure Providence. An elderly Sikh couple, moved by my distress, came over and asked me what the matter was. When I sobbed out my plight, they went and fetched the station master. This saintly man, who must have seen innumerable such situations and could very well have been inured to it, sprang to my assistance like a guardian angel. He bought me a ticket to my destination, and even gave me money to buy a meal for the night. He ensured that I got into the right train and sent me on my way. God bless this man, wherever he may be now. I owe him much.But the interesting thing which I have never forgotten is that help came to me only when I did what I thought was unthinkable – giving up.It might seem that giving up is a far cry from surrender, and so it is when we give up because we couldn’t care less, or do not want to put in the effort. However, when one tries one’s every resource and then gives up, it is not really giving up, it is a letting go, even if it is not a conscious one. Swami Veda Bharati, Life Positive columnist and a Sanskrit pundit and meditation teacher, says that one of the six steps of surrender includes kaarpanya: utter humility and expression of helplessness. Perhaps it is this that I manifested. Conscious surrenderThat form of unconscious surrender happened a few times in my life. Later, after moving into spirituality, surrender happened at different levels. Many years ago, I participated in an exhibition for Life Positive and tried my hand at marketing. Each time a customer walked by without responding to my smile or invitation to hear about Life Positive, I felt as if he or she were taking a piece of my self-esteem with them. Sales began to flag. Suddenly there swept over me a wonderful sense of well-being and assurance. The outcome ceased to matter, and I was immersed in the moment. Calm flooded into my heart and from that place of surety and certainty, I became an ace salesperson. That sense of let-go was one aspect of surrender. AEKTA KAPOORWhen you relinquish control over your life andexpect God to take care of you, He does. At that point I did not yet know that experiences came and went like fireflies in the night and that the spiritual journey was like a spiral staircase, the same insight or experience presenting itself at different times of the journey, each time at a heightened depth and breadth. A couple of years back, surrender visited me once again, this time in a much more complete and conscious way. It came to me that my stuff – thoughts, feelings, actions, reactions, was not really my stuff. It was God’s. Instead of taking credit or blame for them, I simply had to pass them on. That state too, gradually left me. What I feel myself groping towards now is surrender in the real sense of the word. A state in which the ego gratefully relinquishes itself at the feet of the Almighty. Self-will is vanquished and God’s will is all. There is nothing one wants as much as to obey the will of God. Self-will and God’s will become fused – they are one, not two.One of the most beautiful experiences of surrender that I have heard of came from the Sikh scriptures. One of the 10 Sikh Gurus was cruelly persecuted by the Mughal rulers and after severe torture thrown into a prison. One of his followers, similarly incarcerated, looked at him in wonder and asked, “With your spiritual prowess you could free yourself in a trice. Why do you suffer?” The Guru turned to him with what I can only imagine to be the most joyous smile in the world, and replied, “Because I love to do the will of God.”I have often thought about his reply with utter reverence. What a spirit! To embrace suffering because if God had not willed it so, it would not have been. The great lovers of God are distinguished by their absolute faith and devotion to God. So filled are they with love and gratitude that they would willingly die a thousand times if it would further the Divine design in anyway. Their devotion and unflinching faith in the rightness of God’s way have made them unquenchable sources of inspiration for the rest of us, as we struggle along the path, whining and cringing, unable to see beyond our noses, unable to grasp the magnificence of God’s design for our lives, unable to let go. How then can you and I reach this limpid state of surrender, this boneless way of being in which we melt into submission? How can our rigid, opinionated, fearful, control-obsessed natures expand into the vulnerability, innocence, trust and faith needed to look straight at life’s terrifying uncertainties with a peaceful, accepting heart? A great deal of work is called for before we qualify for surrender which is why it is considered to be such a high state of mind.Says Sri Bhagavan, founder of the Oneness Univercity, a spiritual movement based in the South with a mission to bring enlightenment to the world, “The Alwars (Vaishnavaite saints) placed surrender as the highest spiritual attainment, even beyond mukthi or the dissolution of the illusory separation from the Divine. They sang ‘mukthi vendam, mukthi vendam’ meaning ‘we do not want mukthi’. They were lovers who feared total union, since they would miss out on the blessing of communion and worship. They craved the bliss of separation so they could surrender and live in love.”What is surrender?Before we begin the journey, let us define terms. What is surrender? Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now, has as usual a clear and precise definition of the state. “Surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life.” For Eckhart and perhaps for many pursuing the path of jnana (knowledge), surrender does not have to be to Divinity, it can be to the circumstances of life. For the traveller on the path of bhakti (love), however, surrender is generally to a personage – either to guru, a personal God or even impersonal Godhead. Swami Veda Bharati uses the equivalent Sanskrit terms atma samarpana and sharanagatih. The first term means rendering of oneself fully and with homage; and the other means taking refuge in.Sharanagatih (taking refuge in) consists of six steps. One resolves to be in accord with the Divine; one renounces the discord in oneself; one trusts in God’s protection; one consciously chooses Him as protector; one throws oneself at his feet; one experiences utter humility and helplessness. There are many steps one must travel to reach surrender but let’s skip the preliminaries and arrive at the stage of faith. Faith that is real and based on personal experience. Faith that enables you to recognise that you are not the prime mover of your life. Says Purnima Coontoor, a freelance writer and editor, “I recently found my guru, Swami Nimishananda, in Bangalore. He told me, ‘Don’t worry. I will take care of you.’ Even your own family would not say such a thing. As a result I find myself so happy these days. I can’t worry even if I wanted to.”It is this reassurance that faith gives us. We know that we will be taken care of. That we are not alone in the journey of life. And that by discerning and following the principles of life, we can actually align ourselves with the Higher Power and thereby travel towards happiness, success and whatever else we look for in life. Life is not beyond us. This awareness blunts the terror of living in a world without guarantees and builds our inner security. Through faith we plumb into the changeless in a world of change. And we anchor ourselves there. The more our faith is justified, the stronger it grows.Says Aekta Kapoor, deputy editor of Marie Claire magazine, “I once met this Art of Living teacher, Rajalakshmi, in Gurgaon. I’d taken across a box of imported butter cookies for our first meeting. Wonderingly, she asked me, ‘Why did you get cookies? Why not flowers or something regular?’ Later, she explained that a few days before that, she’d had the urge to eat oranges and some student had brought two kilos of oranges for her, saying, ‘I just saw a thelawala outside with these oranges and thought I’d get them for you.’ Then when she’d felt like eating butter cookies, I showed up. “Material help would always pop up when she needed it. She cited it to the fact that decades ago, she had given up her job in fav
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