When most people hear the word surrender, they think of something negative. Giving up, losing, being humiliated, allowing oneself to be controlled or perhaps even imprisoned. However, when used in a spiritual context, surrender also means to give up but here it’s to give up everything that no longer serves us. Spiritual surrender is to stop struggling against “what is”, to let go of the smallness of life and fully embrace its Totality.
In the Vedic texts, spiritual surrender is referred to as the the “joy of surrender”. Joy is the wonderful feeling we have for no particular reason so here surrender is simply letting go. It’s stepping out of all limitations, expanding beyond our usual conditioning and opening to infinite possibilities. It’s offering the small self or personal identity to that of the Absolute.
When we surrender spiritually, we stop forcing solutions on situations we cannot control and instead trust and have faith that there is a Divine force taking care of everything in a perfectly orchestrated manner. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna, who represents the Divine, tells Arjuna, “Abandon all varieties of dharma (purpose) and simply surrender unto me alone. I shall liberate you from all sinful reactions; do not fear”.
Eckhart Tolle says, “Surrender is to say “yes” to life — and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.” Debbie Ford said, “Surrender is a gift that you can give yourself. It’s an act of faith. It’s saying that even though I can’t see where this river is flowing, I trust it will take me in the right direction.” The ego loves to control everything. It creates the boundaries and limitations in which we imprison ourselves. Surrender allows us to break free and step into what Deepak Chopra calls “the wisdom of uncertainty”.
With surrender we connect fully with our Source where the whole Universe conspires to support us. We become timeless, eternal, infinite, joy-filled and all fear is eliminated. Individual aspirations and desires are surrendered to a Higher Power. Our individual desires dissolve into “Thy will be done”.
How do we surrender?
To fully surrender we must have faith or as Sri Aurobindo described it as “The soul’s belief in the Divine’s existence, its wisdom, power, love and grace.” No need to think of anything else, no need to go anywhere else, no need to deviate anywhere from your goal. A state of total confidence and respect for all things. This is to have faith in your spiritual teachers, the teachings and faith in yourself. The faith that helps us accept everything, the good and bad equally.
We also need patience. Faith and patience compliment each other. Each is both, the cause as well as the effect of the other; and both are the means as well as the end of the other. Between them they contain a complete code of conduct for a spiritual life. Shirdi Sai Baba, emphasized them as necessary for harmony and wellbeing. The patience to allow things to unfold naturally with the understanding that everything you need will automatically come your way, at the perfect moment.
Surrender requires us to be aware. We need to remain focused and diligent and overcome any doubts. While the normal concept of surrender is one of contraction, spiritual surrender is one of expansion. The more you surrender, the more your awareness expands and this can only come when we live with an alertness that stems from love.
Meditation is an act of surrender and the single most powerful tool we have on our spiritual journey. By turning our awareness away from normal activity and settling to quieter and quieter levels of the mind, we reconnect with our true, Essential Self. When we slip into the silent spaces between thoughts, we surrender the small self and all its limitations, to our unbounded, eternal Self. We submerge our own identity into that of the Divine, where “I”, “Me”, “Mine” disappear into the bliss of Oneness.
As part of our daily meditations at the Chopra Center, we ask ourselves four questions – “Who am I? What do I want? What is my purpose? What am I grateful for?” We ask these questions at the level of our heart or our Higher Self and then just listen to whatever answer arises from within, without evaluation. This too is a form of surrender. We are going beyond the ego to hear guidance from our Higher Being.
In the Vedic Tradition’s four paths to enlightenment, Bhakti is the path of love and devotion. This is also the path of surrender. In his Yoga Sutras, Patanjali says that Ishwara-Pranidhana (devotion and surrender) is the most important of the personal codes of conduct (Nyama). The Vedas tell us that devotion humbles the ego, an essential aspect of our journey.
Bhakti Yoga tells us to set aside time each day for the contemplation of the Divine to become attuned to It and Its will. To recognize our lives as spiritual and develop our finer levels of feeling. Serving humanity in everything we do and seeing everything as Yoga or union with the Divine.
Patanjali also said that devotion and surrender is the path to experience unending peace and enter higher states of consciousness. When we give everything to the Divine, we have nothing left to worry about.
Love came and made me empty.
Love came and it filled me with the Beloved.
It became the blood in my veins.
It became my arms and legs.
It became everything.
Now all I have is a name.
The rest belongs to the Beloved.
To whom do we surrender?
This can be a difficult question for many people on a spiritual path. Do I surrender to a spiritual teacher or Guru? Am I submitting or selling myself out to some religious figurehead or deity that I don’t even know?
No truly enlightened teacher will ever ask you to surrender your body, mind or belongings to him or her. If you are fortunate enough to find an enlightened teacher he or she will only accept what you freely choose to offer. When you become filled with the blessings of his or her pure unconditional love, it is easy to surrender.
Paramhansa Yogananda, said that spiritual surrender means self-offering of one’s will to God. It is not passive. It is an active surrender to the will of God. The manifestation of God will be different for different people based on their beliefs. To offer everything to the Divine in whatever form we choose is the first and final step to letting go of the old and building the world that we’ve always dreamed possible. In fact, although in our possession, nothing really belongs to us, we just temporarily borrow everything.
However, when we truly surrender to any aspect of the Divine, human or otherwise, we are really surrendering to our own Being in another disguise. Whatever we need on our spiritual journey isn’t given, it’s received. It’s received by our ability to attune with our own Higher Self and this ability develops with surrender, love and devotion. Automatically we are elevated to our highest level so help doesn’t come from outside but from our own Being. Complete surrender is the final fulfillment of our spiritual life. As we’ve heard, surrender isn’t about giving anything up. We don’t have to leave our family, quit our job, give away our possessions or live in a monastery. Surrender isn’t about doing, it’s about just allowing. Allowing the truth, beauty, purity and goodness that is and always has been us, to flow effortlessly through us and radiate out into the world.