When we talk about surrender we always talk about the surrendering of ego. That is one side of it. The other side is surrender to the Divine Will, to natural laws or to the wild events of life; this is the meaning of surrender. I have been thinking about this for a long time because, of course, I had a Guru and he used to talk about surrender. In all his books he has written about surrender and faith, and I could not question it because after all he was much wiser than myself.
When I was about eighteen or nineteen I met a lady who was a tantric yogini. She did not know much about the books but she knew the practices. She used to tell me all the time, "Surrender.", "Be like a child, a baby. Be innocent! " I asked her, "How can I be? I am an eighteen year-old young man and I can think so much. I can't surrender! Of course, what you say I will practise but I can't give much more than this to you". She knew the tantric practices and she did teach me a lot of things and I was happy about it, but when she used to say the words "Surrender" or "Be like a child", I knew that it was not possible for me to do what she said. Anyway, that went on for about six months.
Then, when I came to Swami Sivananda that question came up again and again. I asked quite a few swamis there about it but they could not convince me. But it once happened, that there was an ashram servant boy who misbehaved with an elderly swami. I became furious; I told him, "Get out from here!" He went out of the ashram, but in the evening hours when Swami Sivananda was going to kirtan, he prostrated before him and greeted him. Swami Sivananda asked him, "What is the matter?". He said that he was going away. "What for?" asked Swami Sivananda. He said, "Swami Satyananda has asked me to leave the ashram".
So, what Swami Sivananda did was to employ him in his kutir! He became Swami Sivananda's personal servant, and I had to go there seeking that man's permission to go in. When I came to know that evening that he had been appointed there, I stopped going to the kutir. I did not want to be insulted by that man, to have to stand and knock at the gate while he would say, "I'm coming!" (Because I am a big man and I must see that the door is opened.) So I said, "Better not go at all!"
I did not go. I used to send my proofs or whatever reports there were, to Swamiji through somebody else, and Swamiji knew what was happening in rue. Somehow, after a week or so we faced each other, myself and Swamiji. He always used to say my name was not Satyananda but 'Satya se Satyam, maha Satyam'. That is how he used to address me. He would say Swami Chidananda or Swami Paramananda, but in my case he would always say, 'Satya se Satyam, maha Satyam'. He said, "I have composed a song; you will like it?" Then he sang:
Give up a raja, zaminader abhiman,
Give up male-female sex abhiman,
Give up a sannyasi-guru abhiman,
See Brahman in every face.
Abhiman means ego. That song you will find in Swamiji's 'Inspiring Songs and Kirtans', it means:
Give up the ego of a landlord,
Give up the ego of a king,
give up the ego of a sannyasi,
give up the ego of a righteous man,
give up the ego of a virtuous man
and see God in every face, and contemplate:
'I am as humble as a blade of grass'.
This is the surrender one has to practise in relation to one's spiritual life.
However, there is a problem here. Of course, I heard this song from Swamiji and I did realise that what he was telling me was right, but in this complex world, if you do not have your personality, if you do not have your ego, then you are in trouble. You will have a problem because you will be exploited. Swami Sivananda had no answer to this. He was, completely, of one opinion, that whosoever the man is, even if he is a wretched man, even if he is a murderer, even if he has come to plunder, exploit or harm you, you must surrender. That was his philosophy - and he did it - he practised it all throughout his life!
To people who criticised him, who insulted him or spoke badly about him, (of course there were no bad points in him but still there were people who criticised him) he used to give very great respect. Even in the ashram there were sannyasins who used to criticise Swami Sivananda. Four or five of them would sit down and say, "Swami Sivananda's English is hopeless. He sings songs like that... He makes a face like this..." And Swami Sivananda used to send them coffee and tea and cashew nuts!
Swami Sivananda said that those people who do all these things to you are God-sent (because he believed in God). So, when people talk to me about surrender I have two ideas about it: one is the surrender of a bhakta, a devotee of the calibre of Swami Sivananda or Christ and many other saints like Mira Bai. They had completely given up their personal ego and they gave themselves into the hands of God. So God had to look after them. That is the highest surrender. When you are doing sadhana and you are associated with a Guru or with a system of practice, then you should practise it and do not worry at all what the consequences will he, whether you will get a result or you will not get a result. That is called surrender. Surrender means, laying down your arms.
I always had difficulties about it, even in Rishikesh. The only positive thing was that I was so much impressed by Swami Sivananda's life, by his each and every action and by his behaviour, by his thoughts and philosophy, that I had nothing against him. Many disciples have appreciation for their Guru but there are some things which they do not like about them. Most of you must have experienced that there are certain points which you do not like, but in Swami Sivananda there was nothing I did not like-everything was so nice! His handwriting was so elegant, his speech was so pleasant, his face was so beautiful, as well as his manners, his eating habits, his smile, his replies, his behaviour to people, and his receiving of money. I mean, he was so frank. He would say, "How much money do you have in your pocket", "Give it to me". If I had said that, it would have looked very awkward, but in his case it was like a small child asking, "Papa give me the money". You would never feel offended because his whole voice, his whole attitude, his whole manner was that of a little child telling an elderly man who is taking out his fountain pen, "I'm going to use it!" No one would misunderstand him at all.
As to his behaviour with important men, Swami Sivananda was the one person I have known in my life who India's greatest men in power, politicians, musicians, dancers, artists, painters all used to come and see. He used to honour them so much. When they went from the ashram they were so grateful to him, they were so happy -musicians, dancers, artists, painters, narrators, speakers, magicians, archers, gymnasts, acrobats, or even a madari who makes monkeys and cobras dance. When he used to see one of those with a cobra, he would say, "Call him'' and he used to pay him say fifteen rupees, ''Show me the cobra dance. I'll see the cobra. This is Shiva's garland". Perhaps my constant appreciation of Swamiji must have worked in me as an act of surrender.
I had been to Ramana Maharshi, I had been to Aurobindo. I had been to Ananda Mayi Ma, I had been to Ram Das, I had been to many saints and I liked all of them, but there is something I did not accept. I found something very funny, something very peculiar. I do not have to criticise them, because, after all, they are great men and I have no right to say anything against them, but still I have a personality, if I do not like something in you I do not like it, that's all I lived in Aurobindo Ashram and with many other sannyasins, Swamiji sent me. I liked them, I liked Aurobindo, I liked his style, I liked Ananda Mayi Ma, but I did not like the superstitious things because I am always against them. In Swami Sivananda's case it was funny. Swami Sivananda was such a disciplined person and his ishta devata was Krishna, the playboy. I have always been a very free man, and yet my ishta devata is Shree Rama, the disciplined man. Rama symbolises discipline, principles, dharma, and Krishna, represents joy, mirth, anandam (bliss).
When I left the ashram in 1956 he called me and gave me a hundred and eight rupees. Up till now I have not spent them. They are always in my cash box which I have given to Swami Niranjan. I said, "Don't spend this money! As long as you have this you'll have many zeros to the right side. I have three valuable things. One is these one hundred and eight rupees. Another is the bunch of hairs of Saint Kabir. That came through the Kabir tradition which Swami Atmananda's family is in. It was with her when she was in Munger and she has left it here. The third thing is a small gold coin. During my mendicancy, when I was in Benares I used to sit begging in the streets with my piece of cloth and somebody put it there! After that I left begging. I said, "If a man can give me one golden guinea, what is the need to sit here?" I have told Swami Niranjan, "Keep these items as long as you can'.
After giving me the one hundred and eight rupees Swami Sivananda taught me Kriya Yoga, the same as I teach you people. I take about a week to teach it but Swamiji gave it to me in three or four minutes. He said, "Practise in ujjayi pranayama, moola bandha, uddiyana bandha and vipareet karani mudra", just in three minutes. He did not mention arohan, awarohan; I managed all that later. He just said to practise moola bandha and maha mudra and maha bheda mudra and naumukhi mudra while you inhale up and while you exhale down and stop at two points - that is the two terminal points, bindu and mooladhara. That's all! Then, of course, I consulted some of the books and refined it.
So, if I think about it I have made a surrender to him! In the case of that servant boy I would not say that I had surrendered to Swamiji, or else I would have said, "Okay, if Swamiji wants him to be there, let him be there! What do I care? I'll go to the Kutir; let him insult me!' But I did not think that way. I said, "No, I will not go there!" But, otherwise, I think I had made a surrender, because the concept of an ashram, the Bihar School of Yoga, did not come to me through my own mind. No, I did not plan it. It came to me because he contacted me. I did not contact him, I do not even know how to contact him- If I had to contact him I would not know the way. Of course, I would like to contact him for every problem, but I do not know how to. He contacts me. That means it is his will.
On the day when he left the body, in the middle of the night (I was in 'Ananda Bhavan', Munger), I received a very clear-cut message. I had an inner awakening. I went into meditation that night and saw everything as clearly as if it was happening outside. When I came out from that awakening, for maybe one, two or even three minutes I did not know whether my present state was the dream or that awakening had been a dream, because the inner awakening was so clear that for a few minutes I thought that was the reality and now I am dreaming about Ananda Bhavan. I realised the truth after some time.
In 1976 I purchased this land from an ex-ruler at a price of one hundred thousand rupees - nothing! After the purchase I had all the title deeds and everything properly done. However, there came a problem. This happened to be an historical site and there was a lot of problem in the Assembly and Parliament and the Archaeological Department, and this and that. I am a person who does not like all those things. To fight for material prosperity and property is the last thing I would do! No, when I have renounced my parents and my family and property, my future and everything, why should I fight for this property? Damn it! I told these people, "No, I will leave it! I will go! That ashram is enough for me! I do not want to fight". But Parliament said, "Bring an injunction through the Supreme Court or the High Court, stop the Government, ..." I said, "No, I am not going to do anything!" I had absolutely decided to withdraw the swami who was looking after this affair.
The same night I dreamt very clearly that near the kitchen, at the back gate, a cow with a bell came in and walked near the pump house. There was some sort of snake, I do not remember exactly what sort, and the cow kicked it away. The snake just disappeared. The next day, or maybe a day later, an important wire left Delhi to the District Magistrate from the Prime Minister. Indira Gandhi had been out of power at the time I had these problems, but within twenty-four hours of her being back in power, she sent the wire to the District Magistrate: "Release the property". She had known that I was in trouble but she could do nothing because she was herself in trouble. Of course, I did not approach her. In the meantime, the director of Archaeology in Delhi (who happened to be from the same village as Swami Sivananda) cleared the property. The wife of the Archaeological Director of Bihar was a Sanskrit scholar and she knew me very well. She told her husband, "Right or wrong, clear it !" Within no more than seventy two hours everything was all right.
So, you see this cannot happen unless some higher power, the power of Guru, makes me the medium. I am the medium, the channel, and I cannot become the channel unless my surrender is complete. Electricity cannot pass through wood because it is not a good conductor. It can only pass through conductors made of copper or aluminium wire. So, in order to be a conductor for electricity you have to be a good conductor not a bad one. If a disciple, a devotee has not surrendered he cannot be a good conductor. If he is a good conductor that is proof that he has surrendered. So, I consider, although I have failed in my surrender many times, it comes to my mind, that I have done it! Yes, I have surrendered.
Even going abroad - it was never in my mind I Going out of India in 1968 was never in my mind! It was an idea that was given to me. I am never confounded by problems because I think, "Why should I worry?" But sometimes things did come to my mind - ''What should I do?" - and I do not find an answer. I do not want to find an answer mentally or intellectually - I just leave it! So I say, "If an answer is to come, it will come, I don't care!" Answers do come very clearly, not many times, not every day, or even every year, but once in two or three years. Then I can hear Swamiji's voice clearly, sometimes in English, sometimes in Hindi, sometimes in Tamil - the three languages in which I used to converse with Swamiji.
It is very difficult for me to explain exactly, what surrender should be because I have always been a very difficult person, even in the ashram. There was another very bad incident I can tell you. It was at about 10.00 a.m. The ashram rule was that first the food was picked up in a tiffin carrier. A swami used to carry it to the Vishwanath Mandir (temple). The food was offered there before the deity and puja used to take place - bhog (offering), as it is called. Then tulsi leaves and Ganga jal (water) used to be sprinkled on it before the food came to the kitchen, where it was mixed with the, rest of the food. Only then the bell used to go. That was the tradition, the rule, the discipline of the ashram.
One day a professor, Ganga Sharan Sheel, came to the ashram, Swamiji liked him very much, because during his mendicancy days he used to move about with Swamiji and sing kirtan and bhajan. He told me, "Swami Satyananda, give him food". I said, "Swamiji, puja is not over!" He said, "He is also, God serve him first!" I said, "But then why do you make that rule? If he is God, then I am also God and everybody who eats food at 10.00 a.m. is also God! Why did you make the rule that the food must be offered first to Lord Vishwanath, sanctified and brought back to the kitchen before anyone is served? Where is the rule today?" I took the bunch of keys. I said, "You look after the kitchen!" Swamiji was about ten or fifteen yards from me and I threw the bunch of keys at him and said, "You look after the kitchen!"
Straight away, I went into my room and closed myself in for three or four days. I did not open it. I was so angry, so suffocated, so frustrated. I did not know what to do! He was my Guru! I could not beat him! I could not abuse him and I could not complain to anyone! I did not know bow to make peace with him. You see, sometimes it becomes very difficult to make peace even if you want to. Being an egoistic man, I did not come out at all, for three, four, or five days. Then, finally my body gave way. I went down to the kitchen and quietly took a little food! All the swamis were quiet, they did not disturb me. When I was coming back he met me on the way. He said, "Om Namo Narayanaya. How are you?" I said, "I am all right". He said, "Will you have a cup of coffee?" I said, ''Yes". I thought, at least that could be a point of reconciliation, Swami Sivananda never took coffee. No, never! But he used to keep coffee, particularly for me. Whenever I used to go to him about some work he used to make coffee. So I took coffee. He did not mention this incident at all to anybody and never admonished me by moralising "Look here, God is in every face!" He knew that I was suffering from a disease called EGO and he knew it was very difficult for him to perform an egodectomy on me. So he thought, "It's better to keep quiet".
Of course, there were disciples in Swamiji's ashram like Swami Chidanandji. Whatever Swami Sivananda said he used to do, whatever! No questions! But they have not become the mediums. You see the point? I had become the good conductor! So, it is very difficult to define what surrender is and what the shape of ego is - what is ego? Does it mean that when I have a personality, I have views, I have principles and I am arrogant about them, that I am not a disciple? I am also a disciple because I have accepted Swami Sivananda as my Guru, one hundred percent, maybe even one hundred and ten percent, not ninety nine point nine, nine, nine percent! No, one hundred percent! There is no question! Even if he employed that boy in his kutir, knowing, very well that he had been dismissed by me and that it will be a great insult to me, he is my Guru and has done it purposely, in order to perform the egodectomy operation, on me. He did not do it with a bad motive, but a good motive. A sadhak or aspirant has to be very humble. He should not be offensive. He should not be bitter and he should not be revengeful. I knew that; intellectually I understood everything, but still I could not accept it!
This has been the central teaching of all. Christ, Mohammed, Swami Sivananda and all the Hindu scriptures talk about surrender - atma samarpan or sharanagati. Then many questions come. If you have surrendered to your Guru and he asks you to murder someone will you do it? If I ask you to do some bad job for me, to take a little bit of heroin and deliver it to somebody in London - will you do it? When does surrender have to apply and when do you keep your own personality? You have to draw a line of demarcation somewhere.
Sometimes the Guru can ask these things. There is a story of one of the great heroes of India, a young man from Maharashtra, near Goa and Konkan. His name was Shivaji. One day his Guru, Ramdas, called him and told him, ''My stomach is paining! Get me the milk of a tigress!" The milk of a tigress! Even a donkey's milk you cannot get without receiving a kick! But he had to accept that and go. Of course, because he had so much faith and belief in his Guru he developed the power to hypnotise the tigress, milk her and bring the milk to his Guru. That is considered to be the power of surrender, faith. In the Bible, in Christ's life, it is also found. You know the term "Doubting Thomas". When Christ came to him after the Resurrection, Thomas refused to believe it was really his Master. On another occasion when a group of Christ's disciples started walking on the sea, as soon as they doubted they began to sink. So, when you have doubt then the power of the mind fails. Some of Christ's disciples had strong faith in him, others doubted. In order to overcome these doubts you have to be a disciple with absolute, unbreakable and unchallengeable faith!