Self-effort and Self-surrender
(continued from previous
Self-effort Coupled with
self-surrender refers to a very advanced stage of spiritual life, so
self-effort is indispensable for a spiritual seeker at every stage. In
fact, it is very important for him to combine self-effort with the
practice of self-surrender.
Coupled with self-effort, the practice of self-surrender can save us from
relying on our puny ego. It can guard us from self-deception. Until our
mind is properly trained and brought under control, it does not begin to
act as our friend. It remains our enemy. It is true that nothing happens
except by the will of God. But we think we have a little free will, and we
have to channel it in the right direction by right thoughts and right
actions. The more we exercise our will in the right direction, the greater
is the mastery we gain over our body, mind, and senses, and the more we
manifest our hidden, divine strength. We deprive ourselves of this
possibility when we do not exert ourselves by right thoughts and actions.
Sri Ramakrishna explains with an example: “Just as when a cow is tied to a
post with a long tether, it can stand at a distance of one cubit from the
post or use the whole length of the rope, so it is with the free will of
man. A man ties a cow with the idea ‘Let her lie down, stand or move about
wherever she wills within that area.’ Similarly God has given man some
power. And He has also given freedom to use as much of it as he likes and
in any way. That is why man feels he is free. But the rope is fastened to
the post. And mark this: If anyone prays to Him in all humility, He may
remove him to another place and tie him there; or He may lengthen the
tether or even remove it completely from his neck....If the practising of
sadhana were in the hands of man, all would have undertaken it. But how is
it that they can’t? There is however, one thing: He does not give one
more power if the little that is given is not properly used. This is why
individual effort and perseverance are necessary.”
key to proper practice of self-effort coupled with self-surrender lies in
the understanding of what in us practices these disciplines. The Katha
Upanishad, using the imagery of a chariot, explains the different levels
of our being. The body is compared to the chariot, the Self associated
with body, mind, and senses to the master of the chariot, the buddhi to
the charioteer, the mind (manas) to the reins in the hands of the
charioteer, and the five sense organs (the ears, skin, eyes, tongue, and
nose) to five horses fastened to the reins. The idea is that the Self is
attached to buddhi, mind, and the senses—in that order. If the horses are
not broken in, and the charioteer is asleep, the chariot does not take the
master to where he wants to go, but wherever the untrained horses take it.
On the other hand, continues the Upanishad, if the horses are well trained
and the charioteer is wide awake, the chariot reaches the destination.
Similarly, teaches the Upanishad, a person who has his mind and senses
under control with the help of an awakened buddhi reaches the goal of
human life, which is Self-realization.
worldly people the buddhi is asleep, because it is held captive by mind
and senses. Self-effort consists in the seeker identifying himself with
the buddhi in order to gain mastery over body, mind, and senses. This
requires assertion of the will over the mind and the senses.
Self-surrender consists in the awakened buddhi offering itself to God, the
Self within. The most important point is that the seeker should not submit
himself to mind and senses, but assert his will against them. He
surrenders only to the Self within.
(To be continued)
Meditation & Its Practices