Self-effort and Self-surrender (Part 2)

Complete Self-surrender

Referring to those who have totally dedicated themselves to God, Sri Krishna makes a promise in the Bhagavad Gita (9.22): "Those who worship Me, meditating on Me with no other thought and ever devoted to Me-to them I carry what they lack and for them I preserve what they already have."

Again, in the last chapter of, the Gita, Sri Krishna emphasizes total surrender: "Abandon all dharmas (both good and bad) and come to Me alone for shelter. I will deliver you from all sins; do not grieve." (18.66) Sri Ramanuja explains in his commentary that relinquishing all dharmas means the complete renunciation of the sense of agency, and attachment to action and its results in the practice of karma-yoga, jnana-yoga, and bhakti-yoga, and realizing God as the agent, object of worship, the means and the end."

The above verses speak of a very advanced stage of spiritual life when an aspirant who has practiced self-effort to the utmost realizes that by his own effort he cannot realize God. God reveals Himself to him in proper time out of His grace. The seeker totally surrenders himself to God, and God assumes his responsibility. Total surrender is thus preceded by intense spiritual disciplines. Sri Ramakrishna illustrates this truth with a parable: "A bird sat absentmindedly on the mast of a ship anchored in the Ganges. Slowly the ship sailed out into the ocean. When the bird came to its senses, it could find no shore in any direction. It flew toward the north hoping to reach land; it went very far and grew very tired but could find no shore. What could it do? It returned to the ship and sat on the mast. After a long while the bird flew away again, this time toward the east. It couldn't find land in that direction either; everywhere it saw nothing but limitless ocean. Very tired, it again returned to the ship and sat on the mast. After resting a long while, the bird went toward the south and toward the west. When it found no sign of land in any direction, it came back and settled down on the mast. It did not leave the mast again, but sat there without making any further effort. It no longer felt restless or worried. Because it was free from worry, it made no further effort."

But before the bird could sit quiet with total resignation, it had to tire its wings by flying in all directions. Similarly, the spiritual seeker who has exhausted all his self-efforts for God-realization completely surrenders himself to God. Swami Shivananda, one of Sri Ramakrishna's monastic disciples, speaks thus of total self-surrender: "It is true that complete self-surrender and taking refuge in God do not come in a day. It is an uphill task. All the practices you undertake-worship, study, japa, meditation, hard austerities-all that is meant for leading you to take refuge in Him. And above all, God's grace is needed. If one goes on meditating and reflecting on God and praying to Him with undivided attention, He becomes compassionate and grants this extremely rare self-surrender."

Part 3

Back To Top