Sweet Surrender: the Key to Spiritual Progress
As I prepare to visit South Africa after almost two years in India I have been recollecting and reflecting on some of the lessons learnt and movements that have taken place within me during my stay at the sacred abode of Lord Arunachala. One word stands out prominently - “SURRENDER”.
Jesus on the night before his death prays:
“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (The Bible: Matthew 26:39). And his last words on the cross, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (The Bible: Luke 23:46). In those last moments Jesus exemplifies for us the importance of surrender as we journey back to union with God.
Continuous surrender to the Divine Will is essential on the path towards God-realisation and absolute surrender is the final step towards ultimate Oneness with the Source of Being. A huge part of this surrender for me has been the realization that nothing concerning “my” life is ultimately in my control. Yes, I “make” decisions and try to “choose” discerningly but the outcome is obviously in the hands of a Higher Power.
Ramana Maharishi says:
The Ordainer controls the fate of souls in accordance with their destiny.
Whatever is destined not to happen will not happen, try hard how you may.
Whatever is destined to happen will happen, do what you may to stop it.
This is certain. The best course, therefore, is for one to be silent.
This thought may sound terrifying to one who is used to the illusion that “I am in control of my life and destiny”. Even on the spiritual path the idea that “I am the one who is choosing to walk this path” can be deceiving because at some point you realise that even the desire to return to God is a gift of grace.
At a certain stage, last year, I was quite confident about my sadhana (spiritual practices) and the routine I was following, and then unexpectedly when all seemed perfect, I was knocked by a motor-bike, resulting in a minor fracture to my upper left arm, which rendered it incapacitated for about six weeks. Suddenly, I couldn’t keep my routine or spiritual practices - yoga, meditation, visits to the temple and ashram, giri-pradakshina (walking round the mountain) all ceased. I was forced “just to be”, and while this proved frustrating at first, I slowly began to find myself in a state of awareness which I usually experience in the depths of meditation, yet, I was not doing “anything” to make it happen – this was all the grace of Arunachala! Siva in the form of the silent immovable hill was doing the work of awakening the soul to its essential nature of blissful awareness. It is all His work! We just have to surrender, surrender and surrender… and even that act of surrender is a gift of grace.
The old song still rings true for me:
All to Jesus I surrender; Now I feel the sacred flame.
Oh, the joy of full salvation! Glory, glory, to His Name!
The way I see it is like this - a river is flowing towards the ocean… Imagine each of us is an individual drop of water that makes up the river… if this drop of water had the ability to resist the flow and go some other way it could try… but eventually the river will win out and the drop of water will end up flowing into the ocean. God is the Ocean and the flow of the river is his Shakti or the Power of his Holy Spirit pulling us back home. I can try to resist, but in the end I will find the pull of love too strong to resist.
In Hindu philosophy this process will continue from birth to death to rebirth to death… until the soul returns Home. The love of God never gives up on the soul until it rests back in the place from which it came. Surrender is yielding to that flow. Although at some point the drop of water will have to flow over rocks and difficult paths, sometimes very beautiful paths, and at other times not so scenic paths… surrender says I am on my way Home… so I yield! Hence, being still or silent is not about inactivity, it actually involves participating fully in the world by playing our part, while yielding every moment to the flow of life, and trusting that all is the divine play drawing us back home. This surrender is not a once off thing but a continuous act of loving trust that we must offer moment by moment to the One who is absolute love and grace.
Other than Arunachala, another sacred place that has a strong pull on me is Chidambaram where Lord Siva-Nataraja dances the cosmic dance. In the last few months I’ve visited this temple twice for a few days during the time when Lord Nataraja receives abishakum (ritual of anointing). In these days one can see the image of the Lord clearly as he is brought out of the inner sanctum. One of the beautiful features of Lord Nataraja is his raised foot. His hand elegantly points to that foot indicating that it is the place of liberation. Those who surrender at the raised foot of the Lord will be raised from the illusions of this world and drawn back into the heart of God. During one of my meditations before the ChitSabhai (the hall of Consciousness where Lord Nataraja manifests the cosmic dance) I heard a voice in my heart say, “What do you have to fear, you who take refuge at the raised foot of Thillai’s dancer?” Surrender frees one from the fear and anticipation of life.
When we surrender to the Divine we will find that we are able to dance and be still at the same time. In other words, we will find ourselves participating fully in the life of the world as destined for us, and yet irrespective of what life brings, we will find ourselves abiding in the immovable center of bliss.
Yenrum Anbudam – with all my love,