The Joy of Surrender
by Barbara Ann Briggs
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 behaviour in order to make progress on the spiritual path. Surrender implies giving up of those impediments which bind one to a narrow, circumscribed vision of oneself as a particular body, 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, openness, willingness to embrace a wider paradigm of who one is. By surrendering, one becomes whole. One loses one’s individuality and gains universality.
How does surrender happen? Surrender begins with acceptance and adaptability. 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. Waves move fluidly, gracefully, effortlessly forward without straining, without much ado. 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 burden 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 of Lao-Tzu, it 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 one’s way home.
In the words of the saint Papa Ramdas, founder of Anandashram in Kerala:
“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. 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, an 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 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, by whichever term one uses, be it “Shakti”, Universal Mother, God, Brahman, the One, the Creatrix, the source of life itself. One is actually surrendering to one’s own 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 the it, one is surrendering to the unmanifest source of creativity, energy and intelligence at the deepest level of one’s own existence, one’s own 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.
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 abandon, a carefree sense of freedom because it is a release, 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 gives you a greater measure in quality and in quantity which you could not have had by yourself. This new measure of quality and quantity is different from anything you could attain before: you enter into another world, into a wideness which you could not have entered if you did not surrender. It is as if when a drop of water falls into the sea; if it still kept there it’s 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 first and foremost method is simply by relaxing and letting go, just 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 ego, the small self that attempts to control, to manipulate, to force events, people and situations into the shape one desires. The ego tends to interfere with the natural flow of the current of one’s life by over-asserting itself in an effort to gain mastery over the field of change. One becomes anxious when things don’t go the way we want, 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.
In the words of The Mother:
“The most important surrender is the surrender of your character, your way of being, so that it may change. If you do not surrender your very nature, never will this nature change. It is this that is most important. You have certain ways of understanding, certain ways of reacting, certain ways of feeling, almost certain ways of progressing, and above all, a special way of looking at life and expecting from it certain things – well, it is this you must surrender. That is, if you truly want to receive the divine light and transform yourself, it is your whole way of being you must offer – offer by opening it, making it as receptive as possible so that the divine Consciousness which sees how you ought to be, may act directly and change these movements into movements more true, more in keeping with your real truth.”
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 do’s 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, oneness with the wholeness of life. It is a state of eternal freedom in divine consciousness. In this state, one realizes that “I am Everything”, “I am Totality”, “I am the Self of All”. There is no more striving. The purpose of human existence has been attained. One lives in a state of perpetual fulfilment and radiates the light of bliss, peace and purity into the universe. It matters little if one lives a reclusive life apart from society or an active life of service in the world, the influence of one’s consciousness, like the light of a laser beam, is all pervading and uplifting to everyone everywhere.
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 fulfilment…You begin to live 200% of life, full activity and full silence… when we begin to live 200% of life, we don’t feel that we are living anything else, just we are what we are… The state of enlightenment is so fulfilling for everyone because of this: that one wakes up in one’s own total dignity.”