Self-effort and Self-surrender (Part 4)

Practice of Self-surrender coupled with Self-effort

A spiritual seeker practices self-surrender along with self-effort to be free from being deluded by his unripe ego. He never submits to his body, mind, and senses, but asserts himself against them. He surrenders only to the supreme Spirit, which dwells in his heart.

According to devotional schools of Vedanta, an aspirant on the path of devotion has to practice six forms of self-surrender.

1. Thinking of what is auspicious, what is favorable: It is the natural tendency of the mind to worry, fear, and be anxious because of the uncertainty of the future. An untrained mind tends to be pessimistic, looking at the gloomy side of life. But a spiritual seeker cultivates a divine self-image, that he is a spark of the divine Fire, which is God. He believes that with the strength of God within, he can surmount obstacles in spiritual practice. He asserts that his true nature is pure, since he is part of God, who is the greatest Purifier. Says Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita (4.36): "Even if you are the worst among sinners, by the raft of Knowledge alone you will get over your sinful tendencies." And, "There is nothing more purifying than Knowledge [of God]." (Gita, 4.38)

With unflinching devotion to his spiritual ideal a devotee has to cultivate a positive outlook toward life in the world, characterized by pairs of opposites like heat and cold, success and failure, and praise and blame. The devotee learns not to get attached to the pleasurable or hate the painful. He does not think that unfavorable circumstances are something God inflicted on him, but that they are brought about by his karma, or mental impressions. He sees the world as a moral gymnasium where he has come to make himself spiritually strong. He looks upon every difficult situation as an opportunity to grow closer to God through devotion and prayer.

Sri Ramakrishna explains the importance of the right attitude while doing our spiritual practices: "One should have such burning faith in God that one can say: 'What? I have repeated the name of God, and can sin still cling to me? How can I be a sinner any more? How can I be in bondage any more?' " He discourages spiritual seekers from dwelling on their undesirable past, but encourages them to dwell in the present with faith in the divine Name. He says, "If a man repeats the name of God, his body, mind, and everything become pure. Why should one talk only about sin and hell, and such things? Say but once, 'O Lord, I have undoubtedly done wicked things, but I won't repeat them.' And have faith in His name." Faith in His name implies faith in its power to purify our mind and transform our character.

"Thinking of what is auspicious" means consciously filling the mind with noble thoughts. An untrained mind will only think of sense enjoyments. A spiritual seeker is aware that his life is too precious to be left in the hands of his undisciplined mind. Swami Vivekananda speaks of the power of noble thoughts and deeds: "The infinite future is before you, and you must always remember that each word, thought, and deed lays up a store for you, and that as the bad thoughts and bad works are ready to spring upon you like tigers, so also there is the inspiring hope that the good thoughts and good deeds are ready with the power of a hundred thousand angels to defend you always and for ever."

Part 5

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