The True Meaning of Surrender (Saranagati)
“Let me, Thy prey, Surrender unto Thee and be consumed,
and so have peace, O Arunachala!
I came to feed on Thee, but Thou hast fed on me;
now there is peace, Oh Arunachala!”
(Five Hymns to Arunachala - #28)
The first presentation on Saranagati (Surrender) concluded with an understanding of the nature of surrender as being a concentrated and definitive movement of the mind and heart towards God. Sri Krishna extolled us to “Fly unto Him, and take refuge in Him alone”. Sri Ramana Maharshi’s guidance gave us the conviction to “abide by the will of God and not make a grievance of what may not please you, for distress often leads men to faith in God. Therefore you must only trust God. 1
Without doubt, these words are full of Truth and inspiration. But, as is often said in the scriptures of both East and West: “Inspiration is one thing, the effect it has on our life and sadhana is quite another.” Soothing words do soften the sorrow of the human heart, but too often their effect fails to translate into lasting progressive movement towards God. Even if we are truly motivated to “Take wings and fly to the shelter of the bosom of our heavenly Father”, we remain human by inheritance, and thus a sybarite by nature. One may be really very zealous in his austerities and vows in the beginning, but if one is not on a very proper guard, slowly the vigor will be relaxed, comforts will creep in the mind and man will be caught very miserably. For this very reason, an understanding of the nature of “surrender” pales in significance when compared with an exact knowledge of “What “saranagati” practically is, and more importantly, how it is done?”
For clarification of this most essential question let us now rely further on Bhagavan and the Bhagavad Gita as our Guru, as our “Spirit of guidance.” Taking their hands of Guidance and Blessing, may we proceed onwards to the “further shore”.
“Blessings on your journey to the further shore beyond darkness!”
(Mundaka Upanishad 2.2.6)
A visitor once asked of Bhagavan: “What is self-surrender?”
Bhagavan replied: “It is the same as mind-control. The ego submits when it recognizes the higher authority of the Atman. This is the beginning of surrender... “Complete surrender to God means giving up all thoughts and concentrating the mind on Him. If we can concentrate on Him, other thoughts disappear. If mano-vak-kaya karmas, i.e., the actions of the mind, speech and body, are merged with God, all the burdens of our life will be on Him.” Bhagavan continued with a quote from the Gita:
ananyas cintayanto mam ye janah paryupasate tesam nityabhiyutanam yogaksemam vahamy aham
“Lord Krishna told Arjuna in the Gita,
Those men who worship, directing their thoughts to Me,
Whose minds do not go elsewhere;
For them, who are constantly steadfast,
I secure what they lack and preserve what they already possess.
(Bhagavad Gita IX, verse 22)
Bhagavan continues and explains: “Arjuna had to do the fighting. So Sri Krishna said, ‘Place all the burden on Me, do your duty; you are merely an instrument. I will see to everything. Nothing will bother you.’ But then, before one surrenders to God, one should know who it is that surrenders. Unless all thoughts are given up there can’t be surrender. When there are no thoughts at all, what remains is only the Self. So surrender will only be to one’s Self. If surrender is in terms of bhakti, the burden should be thrown on God, and if it is in terms of karma, karma should be performed until one knows one’s own Self. The result is the same in either case. Surrender means to enquire and know about one’s own Self and then remain in the Self. What is there apart from the Self?” 2
Here, very definitely, Bhagavan is guiding us towards a practice of what will culminate within an effective meditative process of Atma Vichara. Many of the most learned Sanskrit scholars define “vichara” as a process primarily of “reflection” and secondarily as “enquiry”. We can see the efficacy of this within the guiding words of Bhagavan above in relation to “surrender”.
In order to, “Place all the burden on God, and do our duty merely as an instrument, for God will see to everything”, we surely must ‘somehow’ invoke and perceive THAT VERY PRESENCE. Otherwise, how in heaven or on earth are we to “throw our burden on the Lord” if we do not know the place where to drop off the delivery!
The followers of all religions uniformly face the same dilemma; how is God to be found? All who seek to solve this ‘mystery of life’ find guidance in the saints. It is not essential to become a saint in order to find God, nor is it necessary. What is essential is that someone did it, and through their compassion they shed ‘light on the path’ that we may follow as we proceed onwards toward attainment.
1) Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, recorded by Sri Munagala Venkataramiah, Sri Ramanashramam 2006, Talk 43.
2) Guru Ramana, S.S. Cohen, Sri Ramanashramam 2006, p. 56. Letters from Sri Ramanashramam, Suri Nagamma, p. 225-227.