By Krishnanandini Devi Dasi
On making the choice to trust and obey God.
We were finishing up our weekly Bhagavad-gita class, and I asked for comments and questions from the congregation.
A young lady raised her hand and said quietly, “For me, it means surrendering to the idea of surrender to God. That’s what I will take away from this class.”
When asked to repeat her comments, she said the same thing more loudly. Her remarks struck a chord with the rest of the congregation and prompted some energetic discussion on the topic.
The all-merciful Lord wants to give us shelter, wants to protect us.
In the Bhagavad-gita (18.66) Lord Krishna concludes His instructions to Arjuna with His most emphatic instruction: “Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.” In other words, the all-merciful Lord wants to give us shelter, wants to protect us.
It would seem simple: surrender to God and we don’t have to worry. Everything will be all right. Just what is the difficulty? Why don’t we just surrender? Most thoughtful people will agree that surrender to the all-powerful, all-knowing God is a good idea, that surrender to the merciful God is the surest way to peace, wisdom, love, and eternal life. Yet we struggle with surrendering.
What Does Surrender Mean?
The dictionary defines surrender as “to give up possession of something; to declare yourself defeated; to give in or relinquish, to submit.” So how do we surrender? By relinquishing the false sense of self, the false ego, by declaring our defeat by Krishna’s material energy and submitting to His superior energy, or love personified. This of course is easier said than done. Actually, surrender to God is an expression of faith or trust in God, which culminates in love. Surrender means we accept God’s words and His instructions coming through His pure servants and the bona fide scriptures.
A preliminary step is to just give in to, or agree to, the idea of surrendering to God, to the idea of taking shelter in Him, to just accept that surrendering to Him, accepting His protection, is in our best interest and is the most significant thing we can do. I should acknowledge that God loves me and that surrender to Him is good for me and everyone else.
Surrender to Krishna is glorious.
Generally, surrendering to someone means to accept defeat, and has negative connotations. To give in or acknowledge one’s helplessness or powerlessness is seldom viewed as a positive thing. Sometimes, surrender is even considered shameful. But surrender to Krishna is glorious. Surrender to Krishna means taking shelter of the supreme lover of us all, who is willing and able to protect us.
Usually, in material circumstances, when a person surrenders to his opponent or a stronger foe he is embarrassed, mistreated, or imprisoned. But surrender to Krishna is not like that. Krishna is not our enemy. He is our best well-wishing friend, and to submit to Him is natural.
Surrender to the idea of accepting God’s shelter.
We can do things to help us surrender to the idea of surrendering to God. They include:
· Accepting, at least theoretically, the truth that “I am not this material body. I’m not black or white, man or woman, rich or poor, fat or skinny, old or young. I am an eternal spiritual spark of God. Aham brahmasmi: I am spirit soul.”
· Engaging in practices of devotional service, which cleanse the heart, especially chanting the holy names of God sincerely, regularly, and increasingly.
· Taking everything as Krishna’s mercy. The scriptures repeat often that adverse conditions do not disturb a mature devotee, who takes whatever happens, good or bad, as a gift from Krishna. As Srila Prabhupada said, “A devotee is not disturbed by any adverse condition. He takes that this is a gift of Krishna. Tat te anukampam. “It is Krishna’s mercy. Although I am put into difficulty, it is Krishna’s mercy.” So anyone who takes in that way – mukti-pade sa daya-bhak: his going back to home, back to Godhead, is guaranteed. Because he takes everything as Krishna’s mercy.” (Lecture, Vrindavan, September 11, 1976)
· Obeying God’s words and agreeing to follow His instructions.
· Preparing for initiation by a qualified guru and then keeping the vows one makes during initiation.
· Not being bewildered by changing material bodies, including our own. Factually, material bodies deteriorate; they get old and they die. With a sober mind we should note that every day we are surrounded by death. Our forefathers have died, our friends and neighbors are dying, and we too will die.
· Choosing to take shelter of God, to trust and obey Him. We ask ourselves what we can practically do with our life and abilities to live in a way that pleases Him.
· Looking within to find opportunities to grow. Here is an excerpt from Surrender: The Key To Eternal Life, by Bhakti Tirtha Swami:
If we fully understood our faults, then we would not be in the material world in the first place. Krishna, in the heart and through sadhu, shastra (sacred scriptures), and guru, constantly shows us what it is we need to adjust in ourselves. Humility is so significant that its presence or absence indicates perfectly the degree of a devotee’s advancement. One who constantly looks within to see what has to be eliminated will quickly advance.
Elimination is essential because we are already internally connected with Krishna. We are pure, but this purity is covered over. Our spiritual life basically involves uncovering. It is that simple and that difficult. When our faults are revealed, what do we do? Some people who are sleeping will become angry; when you wake them up, they want to be left alone. For this reason, when Krishna comes, most people do not know his real identity. They miss out because they do not want to accept that they are prisoners in a world of illusion.
What are the obstacles to our surrendering?
Time and again we are reminded that (1) we make mistakes, (2) our senses are imperfect, (3) we’re sure to be in illusion, and (4) we have a tendency to cheat or pretend that we know something we don’t, or that we are someone we aren’t.
Remember the wizard in the classic story of The Wizard of Oz? He was fooling everyone, convincing them that he was knowledgeable and powerful when he was just a puny man like the rest of the citizens in Oz. He was a cheater.
These four defects are universal, common to everyone, but we erroneously consider our choices, our decisions, correct and worth adhering to even though they are based on defective information and received from defective senses.
So what are the traps? What prevents us from surrendering?
One is our dogged obstinacy, our stubbornness to yield, to concede the truth that we are not the ultimate doer, enjoyer, or proprietor. We cling to the idea that by our own endeavors we will be happy, wealthy, and famous. We don’t like to acknowledge our ignorance or our powerlessness or our smallness. We want to be the master. We don’t want to surrender to anyone. We are attached to our misconceptions and illusions and don’t want to let them go.
Another trap is that we associate with people who are not surrendering to God. We naturally reflect the activities and thoughts of those we are primarily in contact with, so association is ninety-nine percent of who we are in this life and will be in the next. Regular grateful association with devotees will help us surrender because associating with God’s sincere servants strengthens faith in Him.
Why is surrendering to God so necessary and so important?
Krishna is infinite, and we are infinitesimal. Krishna is the macrocosm, and we are the microcosm. Krishna is the one, and we are the many. Krishna is huge and unlimited, and we are tiny and limited.
If we, at least in principle, accept that we are spiritual beings somehow existing in a nonspiritual, temporary environment, then surrendering to God, accepting His shelter, is the way to return to our original, joyful, eternal position. Surrender to Krishna is mandatory for our ultimate success and freedom. As Srila Prabhupada would say, “God is great. We are small. The business of the small is to serve the great.”
Serving the great is done under the guidance of the guru. “Chaitanya Mahaprabhu made one condition: ‘You have committed so many sinful activities. I shall excuse them immediately, provided you promise that you’ll not commit again.’ This is called initiation – that to the spiritual master or Krishna we surrender.” (Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Mayapur, March 19, 1976)
From the date of initiation by the spiritual master, the connection between Krishna and a person cultivating Krishna consciousness is established. Without initiation by a bona fide spiritual master, the actual connection with Krishna consciousness never takes place.
The scriptures help us surrender.
Studying the Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and other authorized scriptures will help us surrender. “All Vedic literatures advise us to approach a bona fide spiritual master to get free from the perplexities of life, which happen without our desire. They are like a forest fire that somehow blazes without being set by anyone.” (Gita 2.7, Purport)
What are the benefits of surrendering to Krishna?
We will have everything we need and our pure desires will be fulfilled. In his book By His Example, Volume 2, Guru Das quotes Srila Prabhupada:
Your offering is love. And if God accepts your offerings, then what more do you want? He becomes your most intimate friend. If you make God your intimate friend, then there is nothing wanted. You will be fulfilled. You will find that “I have got everything.” And if we become convinced that Krishna is my protector, then how much happier and peaceful we will be.
Offer something. Just be in love and appreciate Him. Then just see how much peaceful you feel, how much tranquility you feel, and how you are protected by Krishna, how you avoid insufficiency, how you become pure, and how you make progress in spiritual life.
One of my godsisters, Akuti Devi Dasi, states it very simply: “We have many opportunities to surrender and shouldn’t let them pass us by, because if we do, we’ll regret it later.”
Srila Prabhupada explains, “There is no need of strenuous effort to free oneself from sinful reactions. One should unhesitatingly accept Krishna as the supreme savior of all living entities. With faith and love, one should surrender unto Him.” (Gita 18.66, Purport, italics mine)
One of the greatest benefits of surrendering to God is happiness.
The great Vaishnava author and guru Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura explains this happiness in his song about surrender. He says to the Lord, “I have become supremely happy by surrendering myself at Your lotus feet. Sorrow has gone far away, and there are no more cares. All I see is joy in the four directions. Your two lotus feet are reservoirs of immortal nectar that grant freedom from both sorrow and fear. Resting in them I have found peace, and have completely given up the fear of worldly existence.” (From Saranagati)
When we make a conscious choice to surrender to Krishna, to accept His shelter, we become more and more aware of His protection. He gives the surrendered soul all protection. That is His infallible word.