Fix your mind on Me, be devoted to Me, sacrifice to Me, bow down to Me. Having thus disciplined yourself, and regarding Me as the Supreme Goal, you will come to Me. (Gita, 9.34)
Surrendering, in thought, all actions to Me, regarding Me as the Supreme Goal, and practising steadiness of mind, fix your heart, O Arjuna, constantly on Me. (Gita, 18.57)
Surrendering all unto the Supreme Lord is a difficult if not impossible task for must people. This is because they are not aware of the peace such surrender brings. There are many kinds of surrender: there is surrender in war, when the defeated side surrenders in order to preserve whatever life and property remain. This is a willful surrender to a superior force—some thing like a plea for mercy in the hope of avoiding death and total devastation. Then there is surrender in a totally hopeless situation, the surrender of a man, for instance, facing an unavoidable death. And there is also willful surrender to some thing overwhelmingly pleasant—like the surrender to a lover, or surrender to some desire or to the senses. Such surrenders are qualified by extraneous desires and circumstances, but there is a total and perfect surrender—the surrender unto the Will of the Supreme Lord. In the West, Christ is an example of complete surrender unto the Father—He was aware of His impending crucifixion long before it took place, but He surrendered totally and willfully. On the cross His last words were, “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke, 23/46) In the Bhagavad–Gita, Arjuna also surrendered unto the Supreme Lord by engaging himself in the battle of Kurukshetra and killing those he did not want to kill, only because Lord Krishna commanded him to do so.
Since there are many kinds of surrender, there are many degrees of completeness because some types of surrender are more total than others. By and large they all entail abandonment of certain designations: of birth and parentage, of career and material possessions, of mind, of the body and its senses, of doctrines and concepts. Abandonment of delusion followed by submission to the Divine, to the Will of the Father, is the process of surrender. Such a surrender, when it is total, is in reality the abandonment of momentary misery and darkness for an eternity of bliss and light.
We seldom think of it, but every night when we go to sleep we surrender consciousness and all its concomitants—birth and parentage, possessions, mind, body, senses and conceptualization. Our individual consciousness fades as we push off in the night into the somnolent state. It is only our conjecture that we will awake the next morning in the same bed and in the same body. It is conjecture and faith. So surrender and faith do not belong to a few people only—rather they belong to all men, for all men surrender everything when they go to sleep and all men have faith in something, even if it is nothing more than rising the next morning. But this is usually surrender and faith in ignorance. When a man does not know what he is surrendering to or what he has faith in, then he is in ignorance.
What is the process of perfect surrender? Surrender in knowledge principally involves the abandonment of the modes of ignorance and passion and the misconceptions arising from them. The surrender of birth and parentage means that one relinquishes the false notion, resulting from identification with the body, that he is the son of (for example) Mr. and Mrs. Jones, born at a particular time, that his age is such and such, and that he is an American or Russian or Indian because he is born in that particular place. All these designations are attached to the gross body. In actuality, he is spirit-soul, forever free, unborn, unbegot and eternal, not “belonging” to parents or nation, but the sole property of the Supreme Lord. Christ even addressed his earth-mother, “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” (John, 2/4) and also said, “Who is my mother, or my brethren? … Behold my mother and my brethern! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother (Mark, 3/33-35) To say that one is an American or Indian or whatever is the grossest ignorance, for such thought implies identification with the gross body instead of the Supreme Spirit Man was born” … not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John, 1/13) In this regard, misconceptions result in bondage and finally reduce one, by identification with the body, to the status of an animal who might say, “I am a pig and I belong to Mr. Jones’ farm.” Society encourages this attitude in its insistance on “birth certificates” and “identification papers,” etc. Such are the shackles of delusion. In truth, all things are the property of the Creator, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and all things have the tag of the Super-soul. The man in knowledge says, “I am not this body. I am spirit-soul, a part and parcel of the Supreme Soul. I have neither beginning nor end. My bliss is in my eternal relationship with the Supreme Spirit, God.” One can maintain this only after surrendering the false designations of birth and parentage which are attributed to ignorance.
Surrender of nationality and nationalism, like surrender of parentage and birth, follows when one no longer identifies with the gross body and the designations attached to it. In this age, especially, nationalism is one of the greatest tyrannies. For the sake of country and “freedom,” men are willing to commit innumerable atrocities and transgressions against the laws of God. The first commandment, “I am the Lord Thy God, Thou shalt not have strange gods before Me,” explicitly forbids man to place the commands of his country before the commands of the Lord. In this age, however, the trend is to make the State god. Worship of the State is forced upon the people by brute power, and to encourage this the State promotes atheism and atheistic doctrines. Communism, as practised in Russia and China, is such an atheistic doctrine denying the existence of God and advocating worship of the State. Many people in the United States fear that this country’s pursuit of materialism is quickly leading it into the same atheistic position. When the disciples of the Pharisees asked Christ whether it were lawful to give tribute to Caesar, Christ asked them whose image and superscription they saw on the coin, and they said, “Caesar’s.” Christ then said, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” (Matt, 22/21) Had a man in transcendental awareness, who sees God every where, been asked whose image he saw on the coin, he would have automatically said, “God’s.” A wise man knows that all things belong to God and that God is omnipresent. Of course Christ had an apt reply for the ignorant men who were trying to trick Him, but He would not have given the same reply to a holy man or an incarnation like Himself, for they would have said, “Nothing belongs to Caesar. All things belong to God and it is our duty to render everything unto Him.” In the tradition of spiritual communism, no allegiance, no money, no rendering of any kind is given to the State, but all thing are rendered unto the Supreme Lord. Therefore the abandonment of nationalism in total surrender to God-consciousness is revolutionary in the truest and most radical sense. Even in the face of death, one should be willing and prepared to maintain his belief in the truth that all things belong to God.
Surrender of one’s career, of one’s material possessions, etc. is also very difficult for most people who are trained to place value in these things. Regarding material possessions, Christ said;
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matt, 6/19-21)
When the rich young man asked Him what he could do to have eternal life, Christ said, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” (Matt, 19/21) The reason for the relinquishment of worldly possessions is easy to understand. We should not be attached to that which is ephemeral and illusory, but to that which is eternal. Only the Reality, the eternal, can bestow real happiness upon us. It is ignorance to search for happiness in a dungheap. But the glitter of materialism deludes many, despite constant and consistant warnings from the authorities and the scriptures. Material possessions also give rise to other false conceptions, the sense of “I” and “mine”, when in truth all thing belong to the Supreme Lord. Private property is non-existent among truly God-conscious people. The earth and its possessions belong to the Lord. He alone creates them, He alone preserves them, and He alone destroys them.
Similarly, surrender of the body and sense enjoyments born of passion and ignorance appears like poison at first to people who have been trained to believe that the body and sense enjoyments are to be cultivated. Of all sense-enjoyments, the sex drive is the strongest in all creatures and is the greatest bind to the material world. There have been many examples of great saints and sages falling prey to sexual temptation. Many of the demi-gods, who are themselves attached to sex-enjoyment, send beautiful creatures to tempt holymen into sexual play. “The turbulent senses violently carry off the mind even of a wise man striving for perfection,” Krishna tells Arjuna. (Gita, 2.60) We may of ourselves be able to somewhat restrict our sexual activities, but the desires will still remain. Lord Jesus Christ said, “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” (Matt, 4/28) The only solution is to re-direct the sex-drive into desire for the Supreme Lord. We must dovetail all our desires to Him. The desires themselves come from the Lord, and it is He only who can satisfy them. We must have desires—they are healthy—but we must learn to understand what these desires are really for. Observing that Socrates had an eye for beautiful youths, Diotima, Socrates’ teacher, suggested that if he knew what the beauty in youths really represented, he would be after something else—namely, eternal Beauty, undefiled by human contact.
“This, my dear Socrates,” said the stranger of Mantinea, “is that life above all others which man should live, in the contemplation of beauty absolute; a beauty which if you once beheld, you would see not to be after the measure of gold, and garments, and fair boys and youths, whose presence now entrances you … But what if man had eyes to see the true beauty—the divine beauty. I mean, pure and clear and unalloyed, not clogged with the pollutions of mortality and all the colors and vanities of human life—thither looking, and holding converse with the true beauty simple and divine? Remember how in that communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of a reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the friend of God and immortal, if mortal man may.” (From Plato’s Symposium)
Furthermore, the impossibility of satisfaction in sexual relations is apparent when we recognize such happiness to be conditioned—an orgasm lasts only a few brief seconds, there are many impurities and imperfections between partners, and the body grows old and eventually decays, leaving one impotent and sexually undesirable. Shakespeare also was aware of the futility and squalor behind every sexual act.
Th’ expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action; and till action, lust
Is perjur’d, murd’rous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust;
Enjoy’d no sooner but despised straight,
Past reason hunted, and no sooner had
Past reason hated, as a swallow’d bait
On purpose laid to make the taker mad;
Mad in pursuit and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof, and prov’d, a very woe;
Before, a joy propos’d; behind, a dream.
All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.
(Shakespeare, Sonnet 129)
When one begins to understand that one is really seeking the Lord when looking for happiness in sex-enjoyment, than one can begin to make progress in properly directing this drive. There is also sexual enjoyment in the spiritual world but it is far different. Transcendental sex enjoyment is eternal, infinite, undefiled by material contact and indescribable. The love men and women experience on earth is but a limited and perverted reflection of the great ocean of love and bliss that is in the spiritual world. But a man will not set aside one pleasure until he receives a greater one. Therefore Krishna says, “The objects of the senses fall away from a man practising abstinence, but not the taste for them. But even the taste falls away when the Supreme is seen.” (Gita, 2.59) So the surrender of sexuality is easy when a greater pleasure awaits a man, but impossible when he gets nothing in return. “Rama” means “Enjoyer.” Krishna and His consort Radha represent the pleasure principle on the transcendental plane. One who abandons earth-lovers for the Divine Lover is never disappointed. “Not the desirer of desires attains peace, but he into whom all desires enter as the waters enter the ocean, which is full to the brim and grounded in stillness.” (Gita, 2.70) A man who is constantly aware of the unchangable Reality within never looks outside for enjoyment. For him no agitation is created by the objects with which he comes in contact during his life on earth.
Incidently, in this connection hatha yoga has led many people astray in its emphasis on body development. Many hatha yoga teachers only incidentally mention union with the Supreme Lord as the goal of all yoga. Instead they advertise that their students look and feel younger longer and enjoy healthy sex lives into their old age. Instead of liberating the individual soul from attachment to the body, hatha yoga more often has the opposite effect in that it fosters bondage to the flesh through emphasis on the body. Christ said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John, 3/6) St. Paul also warned, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall be also reap. Far he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” (Galatians, 5/7-8) Like hygiene and college gym courses, hatha yoga is a materialistic science. Real yoga is not concerned with maintaining and repairing a faulty, obsolete engine, but with doing away with the engine altogether.
There are other pitfalls of sense gratification—for example, overindulgence in food is often a pitfall for the man who has only succeeded in sublimating the sex-drive. There are many other material enjoyments too that must be relinquished before man is totally free. The body also must be surrendered, as Christ surrendered His body at the crucifixion. Many men surrender their bodies to the armies of the world without taking a second’s thought. Socrates surrendered his body when he drank the hemlock. He also preached the immortality of the soul.
And when you see a man who is repining at the approach of death, is not his reluctance a sufficient proof that he is not a philosopher but a philosoma, not a lover of wisdom, but a lover of the body, and probably at the same time a lover of either money or power, or both. (Socrates, from Plato’s Phaedo)
Socrates considered the body an unnecessary encumbrance for the man in pursuit of wisdom, for it is always getting in his way. All men know that the body must eventually be surrendered, but the wise, established in the eternal and unmanifested Self, neither fear nor avoid this surrender.
In surrendering the body unto the Supreme Lord, one surrenders “the Field” with its constituents: I-consciousness; understanding, or the determining faculty; energy; the ten senses, namely ears, eyes, nose, tongue, skin, hands, feet, vocal organ, and the organs of evacuation and generation; the mind; the five objects of senses, sound, sight, touch, smell, taste; desire; hatred; pleasure; pain; the aggregate, the combination of the body and the senses, intelligence; and fortitude, the state of mind that maintains body and mind. Finally Krishna advises the total and complete surrender of all doctrines and concepts. “Abandon all dharmas and come to Me alone for shelter. I will deliver you from all sins; do not grieve.” (Gita, 18.66) This then is the epitome of devotion to the Supreme Lord—the willful surrender of everything into His hands. In the West we are given the example of Christ as perfect sacrifice and surrender.
Surrender can either be gradual or sudden. This is the age of Kaliyuga, an age characterized by disagreement, ignorance and sudden death. In this age it is best not to waste time. Mankind is already on the brink of a nuclear holocaust. Total surrender unto the lotus feet of the Lord is the only solution. In the Fifteenth Chapter of Bhagavad-Gita, Lord Krishna gives the example of the Asvattha Tree. “Asvattha” literally means “that which does not endure till the next day.” Because of its changing nature, the entire phenomenal (material world is compared to the Asvattha tree.
They speak of an imperishable Asvattha Tree with its root above and branches below. Its leaves are the Vedas, and he who knows it knows the Vedas. Above and below spread its branches, nourished by the gunas (goodness, passion and ignorance). Sense-objects are its buds; and its clustering roots spread downward in the world of men, giving rise to action. Its true form is not comprehended here, nor its end, nor its origin, nor even its existence. Having cut down this firmrooted Asvattha with the strong axe of detachment, one should pray, “I take refuge in that Primal Being from whom has streamed forth this eternal activity,” and seek that Goal from which they who have reached it never return. (Gita, 15.1-4)