Offering the Self

Abandon all duties and surrender to Me alone. I shall liberate you from all sins. Fear not.

—Bhagavad Gita (18:66)

Self-surrender, samarpan or atma nivedana is the last stage of bhakti yoga, where there is absolute realization of the soul’s oneness with God. The self or the ego is surrendered or parted with forever as an offering to the Lord, and the devotee is lost in God-consciousness. He has plunged into the ocean of bliss, taken a bath in the sea of nectar and drunk deeply the essence of immortality. He has become an apta kama, a realized sage, for he has attained God, the Divine, and the root of the universe. In this respect, Jesus was able to say: “I and my Father are one.”

Complete surrendering of the self to God makes the devotee feel the reality of divine grace and the Lord’s readiness to bestow help on him at all times. The divine influence streams into his being and moulds it to make it a fit medium for divine realization and divine instrumentality. Surrender and grace are inter-related. Surrender draws down grace and grace makes surrender complete. Surrender starts the purification of the heart, grace completes it. Without grace, complete unification is not possible. It is through divine grace alone that your whole being is galvanized and rejuvenated.

Stages of surrender

The development of vairagya and discrimination is the beginning of self-surrender. These qualities have to be carefully and consciously cultivated. They do not come in a day, but by faithful practice, dispassion, serenity and self-control, can be developed gradually. Surrender is not a thing that is done in a week or a month. You cannot make total surrender from the very beginning of your sadhana. In the beginning individual effort is very necessary.

Once the aspirant becomes fit to tread the spiritual path, a firm resolve to surrender oneself to God or guru is the second step. A sadhaka must be ready to dedicate his life in entirety for the service of his teacher, the service of humanity or for attaining self-realization. When the aspirant goes to his preceptor and falls at his feet, the seed of surrender which was sown with vairagya germinates.

The third stage is when the aspirant starts service of his guru. He does not perform any action which can be considered as selfish. As he advances in his devotion and service, his surrender becomes more and more perfect and complete. His heart becomes purer and purer, and gradually the light of knowledge dawns in him. He realizes the supreme atman which pervades everything. Thus through service of one’s preceptor with utter self-dedication, the heart becomes purified, and ultimately the Lord becomes the preceptor.

Transformation of the personality

What is required is internal surrender. The ego and desire have to be annihilated. You must be prepared for a radical change. You should not stick to your old habits, ways and motives. If you simply say without real inner feeling, “I am thine”, this will not constitute real, integral self-surrender. It should come from the core of your heart.

Egoism, ambition and desire are obstacles in the way of self-surrender. The lower nature must be thoroughly overhauled. All old habits have to be completely destroyed and the whole being should be surrendered. Then and only then does surrender become complete. That is the reason why Lord Krishna says, Tvameva sharanam gachcha sarvabhavena Bharata, “Flee unto Him for shelter with all your being, O Bharata.”

Mark Lord Krishna’s words: ‘with all thy being’. The whole heart, mind, intellect, the subconscious and soul must be given to God without any reservation. To perfect surrender you will have to place your entire personality at the feet of the Lord. Mira did this, so she obtained Lord Krishna’s grace and became one with him.

The stiff, obstinate ego resists surrender. This ego is harder than diamond, reinforced concrete or steel. It is very difficult to melt it. Instead of yielding, the ego clings leech-like to its self-arrogating habits, cravings and desires. It wages a guerrilla war, demanding its secret gratification.

Desire, the stealthy thief

Constant vigilance and ceaseless effort are necessary on the path of self-surrender. Subtle desires which the mind keeps for its own appeasement will try to come to the surface. Introspect and find out the hidden desires that lurk in the corners of your heart through concentration and discrimination, and kill them ruthlessly through regular, silent meditation. Even if there is an atom of desire or egoism, there is no possibility of a full measure of divine grace. If the mind says “I am thine, O Lord”, the ego says, “I must become a great and famous High Court Judge” and the intellect says “I must attain siddhis”, then this is not perfect and unreserved surrender. This is only cheating. You are defrauding the Lord who is the inner witness of all.

If the aspirant is not careful, if there is some waning in his dispassion and spiritual practice, and if he mixes with worldly-minded people, desires which had been suppressed will again manifest with redoubled force. Generally, the aspirant, consciously or unconsciously, willingly or unwillingly, keeps up some desires for his secret gratification. He does not wish to part completely with his desires. Therefore, his surrender does not become perfect and unreserved, and grace does not descend in its fullest measure.

All desires, selfishness, attraction, repulsion and the idea of the body hang on egoism. Kill egoism. Then surrender will become complete. If there is even a tinge of egoism, the Lord will not reveal Himself.

Only when the devotee has completely offered up his ego, when he has made perfect self-surrender without any reservation or any secret desire for his gratification, when he thirsts like a fish out of the water for meeting his Beloved, when he feels the separation from the Lord intensely, when the fire of separation scorches him to the extreme degree, then and only then will the Lord appear before the devotee. Then only will He wipe his tears, feed him with His own hands and carry him on His shoulders.

Pray to God fervently: “O Lord! Make my will strong to resist all temptations, to control my senses and lower nature, to change my old habits, and to make my surrender complete and real. Enthrone yourself in my heart. Do not leave this place even for a second. Use my body, mind and organs as instruments. Make me fit to dwell in you for ever.”

Beyond ambition

Do not expect that everything should happen in the way that you want. Instead, live to carry out the divine purpose. Do not think of those ambitions which the mind likes to gratify. The irrepressible ego will assert in various ways and refuse to give up its old ways. It will try to get everything from the divine. That is the reason why aspirants do not make any substantial progress on the spiritual path even after practising sadhana for several years.

Do not make plans and do not speculate. Keep the mind and intellect passive. This is the secret of surrender. Allow the divine will and grace to work through your mind and senses. Become silent. Be at ease. The physical body and the mind are offered at the altar of the service of the Lord, who is the manifest form of every being.

Do not ask the Lord for liberation. As long as the subtle desire for liberation lingers in the heart, you cannot claim to be a true devotee. Though the desire for emancipation is of a sattwic nature, it is still selfish. This indicates that the surrender is not yet total and unreserved. To ask for liberation is a variety of hypocrisy. Can a true devotee dare ask anything of the Lord, when he knows fully that He is an ocean of love and compassion?

Gifts of adversity

After surrendering to the Lord, you should not grumble, fret and fume when any trouble comes. You should not complain to the Lord, saying, “Oh Lord, you have no eyes, you do not see my suffering, you have no compassion for me.” If you complain like this, then where is your surrender? The Lord knows what is best for you and He does what is best for you. His ways are mysterious – know His ways and become wise. It is only the raw bhakta who speaks ill of God when he is in distress. He says, “I have done twenty-five lakhs of japa. I am studying the Bhagavatam daily. Yet God is not pleased with me. He has not removed my sufferings. God is blind. He has not heard my prayers. What sort of God is He? I have no faith in Him.” Later, he comes to realize that the Lord has done exactly the best thing for him.

A real bhakta will always welcome grief and sorrow so that he may not forget God even for a second. Kunti Devi prayed to Krishna: “O Lord! Let me be in suffering rather than happiness, so that my heart and mind will always be engrossed in remembrance of you.” In difficulties and struggles, God will give you the strength and inner peace to bear them. Face the difficulties and the battle of life with a smile. Become a brave soldier. Difficulties come to intensify your faith, to strengthen your will and power of endurance and to turn your mind more and more towards God. Do not be obsessed about the body and appearance. Instead, remain assured that God will sustain and take care of the body as long as it is required for further service. Worry not about your future, about money, your health. God will take care of you.

Art of offering

In self-surrender the devotee offers everything to God, including his body, mind and soul. He keeps nothing for himself. He loses even his own little self. He has no personal and independent existence. He has given up his self to God. He has become a part and parcel of God. God takes care of him and treats him as Himself. Grief and sorrow, pleasure and pain, the devotee treats as gifts sent by God and does not attach himself to them. He considers himself as a puppet of God and an instrument in His hands. He does not feel egoistic, for he has no ego. His ego has gone over to God.

The devotee has no sensual craving, for he has no body, since it has been offered to God. He does not adore or love his body, for it is God’s business to see to its welfare. He only feels the presence of God and nothing else. He is fearless, for God is with him at all times. He has no enemy, for he has given himself up to God, who has no enemies or friends. He has no anxiety, for he has attained everything by attaining His grace. He does not even want salvation. He merely wants God and nothing but God. He is satisfied with the love of God, for by that there is nothing that is not attained. What is there to be attained when God has sent His grace upon the devotee? The devotee does not want to become sugar, but wants to taste it. There is pleasure in tasting sugar, but not in becoming sugar itself. So the devotee feels that there is more joy in loving God than in becoming one with Him. God thus takes complete care of the devotee. “I am thine,” says the devotee.

Joy of surrender

There is no loss in total, unreserved self-surrender. It is not at all a bad bargain. It is a mighty gain indeed. What He wants is your whole heart, fully charged with pure love. If there is the slightest tinge of selfishness, you cannot attain Him.  The spiritually hungry and thirsty aspirant who yearns for the vision of the Lord is quite willing, eager and happy to consecrate his body, life, mind and soul at His feet. The Lord will then give of Himself in a similar measure. For such a devotee, freed from all wants, desires and cravings, there is nothing but God-consciousness. Even against his own wishes the devotee becomes one with the Lord and loses his individuality. This is the law of being. The highest truth is absoluteness and the soul rises above through different states of consciousness until it attains absolute perfection when it becomes identical with God. This is the culmination of all aspiration and love.