Have you ever noticed yourself getting annoyed by loud screaming of children playing around you? Have you ever got startled by the sudden flare up of a car alarm and got annoyed when it continued to blow? Have you ever gotten scared of the prospect of failure in the projects you are working on? May be that you are searching for a job and you are not getting any leads and that is frustrating you?
You might say that these feelings were caused by noisy children, loud sudden noise, the tight job market and so on. You may have noticed that other people show calmer behavior than you. So, how can you be sure that your feelings are due to these external circumstances?
Let me come outright and say that it is your ego that is the cause of this. When I say, “ego,” you may say to me, “How can you say that? I don’t get angry at others or try to suppress others. If I had ego I would do such things. But, I don’t.” They are not the only markings of ego. If you feel dejected, get scared that someone may insult you, some situation may not go as you planned, or get depressed, then I would say the ego is active here as well. To avoid this confusion I use the term Narrow Sense of Self (NSS). This says things like, “This is mine,” “I am insulted,” “How could he or she do this to me?” etc. It creates a protective shell around our thoughts and around our behavior. All of us have NSS active, some more so than others. Is it really trying to protect who we truly are or is it just trying to protect itself? When you ponder this question, you will start asking, “What does it mean by, ‘Who we truly are’?” which leads to the question, “Who am I?” Once we know who we are, then we realize that we really don’t need the protective barrier provided by NSS. When this NSS expands to include not only you as you know yourself, but also others around you and eventually the entire universe, to have the Expanded Sense of Self (ESS), then you realize the brahman, the ever-shining Life, Consciousness or the divine expressing itself through the manifest universes. When you have the ESS, your personal barriers or boundaries are not active anymore and you let your true divine nature take over and work through your body. This is what it means when you say, “Not my will, but thine, be done.” You will see no difference between yourself and your surroundings. That is true surrender.
However, we (as the consciousness) are identified with NSS that includes this body and mind (the realm of thought). So, we think that we are protecting ourselves when the NSS is trying to protect itself. NSS itself operates in the realm of thought.
Because of this protective mechanism, we get into a lot of trouble. Some men feel that, if they expressed their affections or vulnerabilities, they would be labeled as, “not being men.” Some even tell their children, especially boys, “Stop crying like a girl.” That statement also shows that they don’t have much respect for women. Sometimes a woman may feel, “If I am proactive and try to get things done in a man’s world, I will be labeled as not being a lady.” This is also NSS acting up. NSS prevents you from being who you are at the core.
Entering the State of Surrender
There are three ways, as far as I know, for Surrender to get established—
- Consciously dropping the resistance because you are helpless,
- Something so sudden or life threatening happens and you enter the state of surrender,
- Constant practice may eventually lead to “dropping of the resistance.”
Let’s discuss each of the above one by one.
Consciously Dropping the Resistance
Some life situation is bothering you. You tried desperately to get out of that situation, but were not very successful. Finally, one day, you throw up your arms and say, “I give up! I can’t do this anymore! Whatever happens I will let it happen!” and just give up. I vocalized these as thoughts, but when this true surrender happens you may not even think of anything at all. Your mind just stops and you just drop all resistance. You may not even realize that it happened. Voila! Something magic starts happening. Your life situation starts turning around for the better. It may not be going in the direction you wanted to steer it earlier. But, when you see the direction, it is taking now, after you have surrendered, you will see that it is actually taking a better path than you first intended. A higher intelligence is working through you now to steer the situation for better.
Let me illustrate that by story from the great Indian epic of mahAbhArata. The epic itself is multi-layered. At the surface it is a great story of love, feuds, magic, and adventure. As you go deeper, you will uncover symbolic, philosophical and spiritual insights that are unparalleled.
In the scene I am going to describe here, drowpadi (see sanskrit transliteration scheme) the wife of the pAnDavAs has been dragged to the royal court of the kowravAs, because prince yudhishTira lost drowpadi in the game of dice to duryOdhana the kowrava‘s crown prince. Since kowravAs always hated the pAnDavAs, they wanted to insult their pride by insulting their beloved wife drowpadi. The kowrava crown prince duryOdhana orders his brother duSSAsana to strip her off her clothes in front of the full assembly. Princess drowpadi holds on to her Saree as duSSAsana pulls on it. A tug of war ensues. Finally, drowpadi unable to protect herself, just gives up the saree and prays to SrI krishna earnestly. SrI krishna then gives her infinite supply of sarees and finally duSSAsana falls down of exhaustion unable to accomplish the task he set out to do.
This story has a physical layer. The level of duSSAsana creating a huge problem for drowpadi and her resisting the problem vehemently. When she gives up the struggle, SrI krishna appears and shows a way to solve the problem. But, he does not appear until she gives up the struggle. Help does not come until her (the NSS’s) efforts end and she comes to a state of helplessness, and all her thoughts of protecting herself cease and she stops worrying about her physical body.
At a symbolic level, drowpadi symbolizes us trying desperately to solve our problems (symbolized by duSSAsana creating problems). Struggling and resisting the problems and trying to find solutions, but unable to find solutions, because we are actually trying to protect ourselves from the problems rather than solving them, is symbolized by drowpadi holding on to her saree tightly and struggling against duSSAsanAs brutal strength. But, when we drop that struggle completely, and reach such a helpless state that we don’t care to solve the problem anymore (symbolized by drowpadi releasing her grip on her saree and letting it go), then the inner intelligence, a deeper and higher intelligence (symbolized by SrI krishna) starts to emerge and take over (symbolized by giving unlimited supply of sarees) to solve the problems (symbolized by duSSAsana collapsing unable to peel off the infinite layers of clothing). When this true surrender occurs, then our life truly takes on the course that was divinely intended.
Something Very Sudden and Life Threatening Happens
Near Death Experience (NDE) can instantly put one into a state of complete surrender. As you may have heard, people who experienced NDEs, saying that they saw light of God, Christ, SrI krishna, or angels, and that their life changed completely. During NDEs, they may have witnessed their own inner divinity as the forms they describe. Some may forever remain in that state of surrender and others may revert to their old way of living.
Constant Practice may Eventually Lead to Dropping of the Resistance
Spiritual practices are, in general, picked up by people because they seek Self-discovery, Enlightenment of whatever state they are seeking and whatever they mean to them. Note that all spiritual practices are done only for one reason to remove impurities and attachments from your consciousness, so that the inner divinity shines forth—to go from NSS to ESS. There are people who get attached to practices they are doing, some get attached to the experiences they may have during process—bliss, joy, Ananda whatever. Some others start collecting techniques because they keep feeling that the techniques they are already practicing are not taking them anywhere, so those new techniques may be helpful.
All the practices and experiences are still in the realm of thought. To progress you must let go of the experiences you have on the way and not get attached to them. As you are involved in spiritual practices, the techniques may fall away by themselves. Do not resist that. How do you know it is okay for the techniques to fall away? It feels right to your body, even though your mind may say, “Don’t stop the techniques, because it may offend the guru” or something like that. Body has the infinite intelligence built in—it knows.
Even Lord buddha had to eventually stop all the practices and give up before he attained enlightenment or nirvAna. I kept saying you have to reach a state of “giving up” or become “helpless.” By that I did not mean you should verbalize (or think), “I give up. I can’t do anything.” You will know, right away, that it is not surrender, since as soon as you have that thought, you will get the thought, “Don’t give up so fast, there should be a way.” As long as we try to mentally surrender to a situation, there is a counter thought that occurs with a question, “Have I surrendered? Is this true Surrender?” and so on.
As far as I know, giving up or becoming helpless is not a mental thing. When that giving up happens, you don’t even know. Only indication is that all internal struggle ends and calm and peace enter you and you are not agitated any more. That is the state of surrender.
The state of Surrender, which is the free flow of life itself, cannot be rendered by thought, it is a state beyond thought. When you are in that state, you don’t even know if you are in that state. Sometimes that state will not remain permanent, because mental noise comes in again, then you know what that state feels like–I don’t mean you will know the state itself, but its effects on what you do and your brain state. Things happen without any effort on your part. Your brain state will be so deep that nothing can shake you. Once you are in that state and you have tasted the effects of it, you would want to be in that state forever. The state of surrender leads to a state of total presence.
It would be so great, if everyone on this planet got into this state of surrender and presence—all strife, famine, exploitation, everything that is being perceived as wrong in this world will come to an end. World peace will truly reign. I believe that this is already happening—one person at a time. It will surely happen in a few centuries time, if we don’t annihilate ourselves by then. If this article inspires even one person think in this direction, I will be very happy.