Self-effort and Self-surrender (Part 6)

Practice of Self-surrender coupled with Self-effort (continued)

3. Faith in God's saving power: A sincere seeker has strong faith that God will save him under all circumstances. Life in the world is characterized by polarities, like pleasure and pain, praise and blame, and success and failure. These opposites always occur in pairs. When we seek the one, the other comes in uninvited. Ignorant of this truth, people seeking pleasure are surprised to experience pain. It takes a long time for them to understand that pairs of opposites are part of life. A spiritual seeker tries to remain unaffected by them by offering both to God. To those who are wise in the power of discrimination, the world is an abode of misery (Bhagavad Gita, 8.15). What gives us happiness today is proved to be a source of misery when we grow in wisdom. Sri Krishna teaches the one discipline to practice in this ephemeral world: "Having come into this joyless, impermanent world, worship Me." (Gita, 9.33) We are not exempt from misery because we are devoted to God. Rather, we might face more misery in life. However, a devotee is not stung by misery since he has strong faith that God will always protect him. In fact, this faith gives him much needed calmness to analyze any problem before him and arrive at a possible solution. Sri Krishna promises in the Gita that His devotee does not perish. (Gita, 9.31) The devotee derives strength from this promise and frees his mind from anxiety. In all difficulties he relies on the strength of the divine Power in him.

4. Always preferring God's protection: A true seeker prefers God's protection to his own meager self-effort. He prays to God for a solution to the problem before him, and does what he can to solve it, surrendering his effort to God. He looks upon every adversity as an opportunity to turn to God in prayer and feel secure in His protection.

5. Offering oneself to God: The simple act of prostrating before an image or picture of one's spiritual ideal can be practiced as an act of self-surrender. While bowing down before God the devotee offers his body, mind, and soul to Him. Repeated practice of self-surrender to God reduces our attachment to body and mind, strengthens our will, increases our awareness as the Spirit, and brings us closer to God. As he moves closer to God, the devotee grows in detachment from the world. He looks upon every activity as worship of God. He offers all work and its results to God. His sense of being the doer gives way to the feeling that he is an instrument in the hands of God. Swami Turiyananda, one of Sri Ramakrishna's monastic disciples, describes self-surrender: "Self-surrender means to practice contentment by thinking that wherever the Lord keeps me is for my good; to unify one's will with the will of God; and to practice evenmindedness in happiness and misery, gain and loss, and so on."

6. Feeling Helpless: The devotee finds all worldly supports frail and inadequate. He turns to God out of sheer helplessness. Feeling helpless is not a low tamasic quality but a spiritual virtue for him. It is not weakness, but implies that he prefers turning to the Spirit to relying on matter. Swami Saradananda, another of Sri Ramakrishna's monastic disciples, describes the qualities of such a devotee: "Whatever may be the circumstances, good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, he does not care. He is happy, he does not grumble. He never stops repeating the name of Mother and looking up to Her for consolation and consideration."

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