Understanding The Meaning Of Surrender In Hinduism
As per the Bhagavad Gita, this world is defined as the “Karma Bhoomi”. The plane of “action” that flows in accordance with a natural law of Cause and Effect. This makes you wonder how can the very act of surrender – letting go – while on a plane of action be the way to doing anything? How can this be an empowered way to navigate or even live this life?
These thoughts often offer themselves for contemplation in my conversations and have been an integral part of my exploration of the impulse of ‘doing’. Where does the impulse of doing arise from? And what are its nuances? And how do we know which action is the aligned action that truly serves? In my early days, depending on my mood, the word Surrender would either offer up a mental image of bowing down to one’s higher power or generate an energy of rebelliousness against any kind of discipline! I am sure many can relate to that. 😉
Surrender cannot apply to your True Self as unlike The Not-Self (Ego/False self/Conditioned self), it does not hold on to anything. Its very nature is awareness. In its state of inner stillness, it allows all that arises in the Now. Letting go, giving up, getting out of the way is only for what grasps, clings, imposes, insists, and looks to find control. Surrender is a request to the Not-Self to step into a space of radical trust so it can pause its personal fervent doing and efforts. In the need to feel powerful and fulfilled, the Not-Self feels the urge to “do” so it can find meaning and feel like it matters. Surrender to the Not-Self can feel terrifying because it is its death. It truly takes the deepest faith and uncommon courage to accept that it doesn’t know, has no real control, and yet willingly submits to the unknown it fears most. One may describe Surrender as a power move of the Not-Self from within its identity, where it chooses to move out of the way so it may align with that which still remains a mystery but is felt as more true, real, and does the true doing.
Only the Not-Self surrenders. One can only give up/let go what one is not.
In the context of doing, most of us commonly define and understand surrender as a state where we let it all go by offering all of ourselves to a higher authority. We accept all that has and will come our way as the wish of the divine. Someone or something probably “up” there decides it all as it knows better and more than us. God decides, orders, judges, serves and we are here to accept, obey, follow, and endure, believing it is all for our own higher good. We thus interpret and allow all that is happening as the way it is deemed to be. Is it a wonder then that this way of relating to life and all that is has us feeling choiceless and disempowered. Much of this arises from the misinterpretation of understanding the depth and meaning of what was conveyed in many different religious texts.
The perception of hierarchy belongs to the frequency of the Mind that sees all things in polarities and binaries. Good vs Bad, Yes vs No. If it sees things in relation, then it applies levels of what it thinks is better or worse. In seeing a God as the all mighty and powerful, it abdicates its own power and ability to choose and play. Surrendering as a way of living this life is not about bowing out of our responsibilities. We as sovereign beings here are an integral part of creation at large and have a fundamental part to play in the co-creation of life. And we cannot align with it as long as we are identified with and as our Not-Self. The conditioned Not-Self arising from the belief of lack and scarcity follows its own agenda. As long we are functioning through our life as the Not-Self, we are lost, distracted, and committed to its agenda. An agenda that very rarely ever aligns to what is serving.
To surrender to the way things are is to stop resisting reality; to stop using current ways of thinking to try to pretend things are different than what they are. Surrendering this way becomes a precondition for change, not an obstacle in our action-oriented life. This path offers us the clarity of knowing where our true power lies. What part of the equation in our circumstance can we impact to effect change?
5 steps in empowered surrender
1. Standing in and as awareness and seeing with radical honesty and clarity the complete circumstance that is playing out in front of us. This includes the happenings in the Body-Mind as well.
Observe all that arises without getting attached to the Mind that jumps into meaning-making.
2. From the above step now you will clearly be able to discern what aspect of what is happening can be owned and impacted by you.
What part of this is my responsibility to act upon?
And what is not? This crucial step of discernment is very much influenced by who we believe or identify ourselves to be.
3. We acknowledge and note where we hold the power to create change.
What one (or couple) action will make the most impact?
What will serve the highest good?
4. Playing our part in surrender.
Doing what needs to be done to the best of our ability.
Allowing in complete surrender the rest of what we cannot change.
5. Last but definitely not the least, this step helps us observe how our action has created the new. What is reflected back is the breadcrumb that invites our participation to the next step. And so it goes on.
To the Not-Self this way of life is a practice. A practice that continues till it is perhaps touched by grace or awareness into consciously recognizing and realizing its true identity in and as Awareness.
“Surrendering of “what is not” IS surrendering to “what is”.
The mind-body realm
The biggest surrender of these times in my experience is the surrender of the Mind in and through which the Not-Self functions. Our bodies which in bondage and under the onslaught of this Mind’s beliefs and concepts suffer as well. They lose their ability to translate with clarity the wisdom that flows through them. Therefore, true surrender is not a simple “Yes” thought. It’s an energetic full-bodied inner stance. It’s a YES to life that you are ALL in. This asks the Not-Self to commit with radical faith and trust to be life’s co-creative counterpart so that what transpires will serve all involved at the highest level. Empowered surrendering is not covert insistence on a particular outcome or undertaken for personal gain. This is a path that is traversed knowing we are one with all and life itself. The more we learn to align ourselves with our True Self the more fluid this path becomes.
One of my all time favorite reads on this topic is the Tao Te Ching 道德經 by Lao Tzu (Wise Old Master) which describes so simply and eloquently The Way of the Tao; Living the effortless life in surrender.
To me, this way of surrendered living is an invitation to a dance where I am allowing life to lead me into my next step — moment by moment — as we create magic together. To live our most meaningful, intentional, joyful life is to find and live in and as True Self/Awareness. Till the conscious spark of our own recognition happens, we can choose to completely surrender to this way of life by allowing our Not-Self to not become an obstacle in the way of the grand flow.
The spirit of empowered surrender is to fully and effortlessly love, live, learn, evolve, and play in this experience together knowing we as The Mind know absolutely nothing and that what is already in creation as creation lives and plays in us as us.
“Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.” — A Course in Miracles