There has to be a basic philosophy in lift: 'Let Thy Will be done'. The word 'surrender' usually implies 'to let oneself go', but this concept has been dealt with in yoga as a form of yama and niyama where the word surrender means 'ishwara pranidhana'. At a certain stage of evolution one realizes that our lives are directed by a higher force which is beyond our grasp, beyond our perception, and yet this force or energy is the source.
How much does one accept things in life as one's own ? If I achieve some success, I generally say that I have become what I am through my own efforts. But if I suddenly fail in the task, if I become a failure in my life, then I generally put the blame on God, or on something which at present carries an abstract meaning by saying that 'Man proposes but God disposes'.
Those who have thought about the relationship between body, mind and spirit, who have thought about the role that we play in our life and in society (and the actual purpose, in terms of evolution of consciousness) generally come to the conclusion that, despite 'everything, our life is certainly being directed by higher Nature. This feeling of oneness, unity or integrity which we aspire for when we speak of surrender, comes with purity of heart and mind, without the coverings of arrogance and ignorance. Once we accept the basic philosophy in life that, 'I am an instrument played by an invisible hand', then there is an automatic dropping away of arrogance and ignorance, maya and avidya or illusion.
There is another aspect which leads us to the experience of surrender, and that is inspiration. In Sanskrit, inspiration is 'prerana', which literally means 'something which moves the spirit'. I am moved by something. Unless I feel a change inside myself, I would not be inspired. For somebody to inspire me there has to be some kind of link, whether it is conscious or unconscious. There has to be a feeling of acceptance from my side.
We might see many people whom we consider knowledgeable, and maybe they can touch some corner of our heart and mind, so we feel inspired to go in a particular direction. Of her people who are unable to touch the right chord within us and create a feeling of non-acceptance, will generally bring us down. There will not be any inner rapport or link, so there will be no intellectual or intuitive interaction between us and the other person. When there is a feeling of non-acceptance there will be no inspiration.
So, something which propels one from inside, to become or to do something is generally known as inspiration. This inspiration is the main force which gives the experience of surrender. There are different types of surrender: 'momentary surrender', due to an out burst of feeling which might last for a few moments or a few hours; 'temporary surrender' for as long as I have the feeling of acceptance within me, as long as I have created a rapport; 'permanent surrender' and 'total surrender'. Permanent surrender may not be total. It might be based on a purely intellectual level, but the feeling of oneness has not yet really come up from inside. The experience of unity has not yet manifested. Total surrender is when the feeling of oneness, integration and unity have been achieved.
Now we should think again about 'ishwara pranidhana' which leads us to the elimination of the blocks of a vidya and maya. Once we, as human beings, have accepted the basic philosophy, 'Thy Will be done', then 'I', ceases to exist and we are carried by the current of divine nature. This is known as ishwara pranidhana. Once that happens it is known as surrender. It can happen between a disciple and guru, a link, a bond which is felt internally.
Remember the story of Milarepa: externally it seems a very straightforward story. The guru had given him a task to build a house on top of a mountain, then after building, to pull it down and build it again somewhere else. Now just think. If Milarepa as a twentieth or twenty-first century person had only accepted his teacher, Marpa, on an intellectual level he would think 'why is he doing that? Is he trying to test me? Is he trying to see if I'm realty determined to follow the spiritual path?' If he thinks this way then that surrender, or that feeling of oneness or integration would be incomplete.
If Milarepa has developed the philosophy of 'Let Thy Will be done' the teacher can ask him to construct and break down the house a hundred times and Milarepa, as a disciple, would not have any ill-will or negative feeling. He would not think, 'my guru is crazy, he's psychotic, he's a lunatic, he's neurotic' though we might be compelled to think like that if we were told to break down this ashram and build another one.
Once that oneness is experienced, formal instructions need not be given, please remember this, because that oneness goes beyond any kind of external, verbal or formal teaching and communication. Then it is simply a contact of soul with soul, spirit with spirit - that is total surrender. Merely accepting the whims of another person is not surrender, because purity of heart and mind both go together. If the heart is pure, it the mind is pure, then there is no internal dialogue or internal dispute which would reflect externally.
In every culture, in every religion, this aspect of total surrender has been emphasized. As an individual, as a human being, I am nothing. What is my effort ultimately? In terms of infinity, what is my contribution? In terms of infinity, what is my effort in life? I take birth, for the duration of life I take up a job, raise a family, become successful in whatever I am doing, get some name or fame, then die. A few days later everyone has forgotten me. It should be emphasized that we can rise beyond our present level of understanding and accept ourselves as part of the higher nature.
The sun is there, so is the light. There is no difference between the light and the sun as it is contained in the sun itself yet, at the same time, we can differentiate between them. Even so, in surrender, within that feeling of unity there is a creative expression of one's individuality.