“True Surrender enlarges you; it increases your capacity; it gives you a greater measure in quality and in quantity which you could not have had by yourself. This new greater measure of quality and quantity is different from anything you could attain before: you enter into another world, into a wideness which you could not have entered if you did not surrender. It is as when a drop of water falls into the sea; if it still kept there its separate identity, it would remain a little drop of water and nothing more, a little drop crushed by all the immensity around, because it has not surrendered. But, surrendering, it unites with the sea and participates in the nature and power and vastness of the whole sea.” (The Mother, CWM, Volume 3, p. 115)
What imagery! What a perfect way to describe what happens when the surrender is complete. A drop becomes a sea. The essence of the drop’s existence is in becoming the sea.
I remember that evening from several years ago. Sitting near the sea and thinking if all the water from everywhere somehow ends up into the sea, do the drops of tears falling from our eyes also somehow find their way into the mighty ocean? Now after re-reading these words of the Mother I feel I may have an answer to this rather strange question. Perhaps they do, because otherwise they won’t find their inherent value or purpose of existence. And if they don’t they will anyway get crushed by the immensity around. But this immensity is not outside of us, it is within us. If the tears carry with them the oppressive and suffocating pain of the unmet desires, unsatisfied preferences, and discontented egos, the immensity of all these desires, preferences and egos will itself crush the tears and not allow them to help purify the mind and vital. But the tears that bring with them a hint of a glimmer, however disguised, of the flame that is struggling to keep itself burning amidst the thick clouds of the vital-emotional-mental variety, those tears carry with them the potential to wash us clean and by their eventual journey into the sea show us the path to surrender, to become one with the sea.
May be this analogy is not making too much logical sense, but as I write this it somehow feels right.
A human becomes human only when immersed in the Sea of the Divine.
Here is another thought inspired by this imagery of a drop becoming the sea. The other day I was listening to some ghazals written by Gulzar and one of the verses goes like this –
aadmi bulbula hai paani ka
aur paani ki behti satah par
tutta bhi hai dubta bhi hai
phir ubharta hai phir se behta hai
na samandar nigal saka isko
naa tawaarikh tod paayi hai
waqt ki mauj par sada behtaa….
aadmi bulbula hai paani ka
Here is my quick attempt at translation –
Man is nothing but a bubble of water
and it floats on the surface of water.
It also breaks, also sinks
yet it rises again, floats up again.
Neither has the sea been able to swallow it
nor has History broken it.
Floating eternally on the waves of Time
man is nothing but a bubble of water.
This is one imagery of what it may mean to be a human, struggling to keep the individuality alive. And what the Mother gives us in the quote cited earlier is a way to become the Universal Individual. An individual that is no longer struggling with the tides of the sea and waves of Time, but one that has become united with the Sea and has become an individual of the Future, has freed himself from the chains of the History – of his own, of his times and circumstances, of his ego.
Both images are true in their own way. But on a deeper subtler level, there is perhaps a difference between a bubble and a drop. One is more flaky than the other, is more “on the surface”, more empty and shallow, hollow in fact. The other, the drop carries within itself the potential of becoming the Sea. The bubble is floating on the top for ever and ever, never really existing fully. The drop on the other hand carries the sea within on some level. We first become a drop from the bubble (“individualization” in the truest sense), only then we can become the Sea. But becoming the drop is possible only when we carry within an Aspiration for the Sea, when we reject the flakiness of a bubble, and progressively prepare ourselves for a complete Surrender to the vastness of the Sea.
Surrender to the Divine. How easy it sounds, and yet how difficult it is to actually do it! To do it in the sense that our attitude truly becomes – “Let Thy Will be done.”
Just for a moment ponder upon the sense of ease and calmness one can develop if one can just “let go”. Let go of what? Let go of concerns, worries, and anxieties about the uncertainties of the future. But given that we are such mental and vital beings and we carry a (false) sense of “responsibility” about our lives and our futures, we wrongly assume that we have the capability within us to solve our problems and we keep on trying and trying and trying until we realize that we really aren’t the “solvers” or “agents”. And only then we say- “O my God, I surrender! I give up, I let go”. And at that moment we turn to something beyond us, someone higher than us, to someone in whom we can put all our trust and faith and say – “Now it is all in your hands, O Lord! Help me, help me.” Is this surrender? It sounds like it. But is it really? Or is it like asking the Lord to help us fulfill our desires, asking for assistance in letting our will be done? And of course behind this there is an egoistic attitude that we have tried all, we can’t do it, so now we turn to You. This is not surrender.
It happens when we don’t look around for help elsewhere, when we don’t think we have to first exhaust all the possibilities within our limited capabilities and then turn to the Divine for solving what we haven’t been able to manage. It happens when our very first thought and our only thought is that it is only the Divine who steers our boat and takes us safely through the voyage, who takes care of us through all thick and thin, who not only knows what is in our interest but also gives us what is needed and when, and it is to the Divine only that we give our all, at whose Feet we give up all, all the time. The Sanskrit/Hindi word sharanagati helps a bit more in terms of comprehending the true nature of surrender to the Divine. To Take Shelter, to take refuge. For everything, at every moment, so that His Will may alone be done, for it is He alone who has the perfect wisdom and power and knowledge of all that exists and happens – as beautifully captured in Sri Aurobindo’s words that speak of the essence of the Gita – “Turn all thy mind to Me and fill it with thought of Me and My presence. Turn all they heart to Me, make thy every action, whatever it be, a sacrifice and offering to Me. That done, leave Me to do My will with thy life and soul and action; do not be grieved or perplexed by My dealings with thy mind and heart and life and works or troubled because they do not seem to follow the laws and Dharmas man imposes on himself to guide his limited will and intelligence” (Essays on the Gita, CWSA, Volume 19, p. 557).
It is equally important to remember that self-surrender to the Divine is not an escape from action, nor is it an excuse for not making a personal effort. Tamasic surrender is not true surrender. It is an excuse for not doing anything! As the old wisdom goes – God helps only those who help themselves. So we must not cease from personal effort and action, yet at the same time perform all our actions as a consecrated offering to the Divine. And leave it to the Divine Will to decide the outcome of our actions – that is surrender. This attitude of renunciation of all attachment to the fruits of our labour, to the expectations of reward of our labour is essential for true surrender.
Surrender to the Divine also doesn’t mean that for progressing on our spiritual path we give up all personal effort and aspiration, and expect the Divine Grace to do it all. Grace also acts when there is Light and Truth. If we aren’t ready in our being, if the ādhara is not prepared to receive the Grace and Light, we can’t simply expect the Divine to do it all for us. We have to clean the house before inviting the guest. So we must cleanse our inner house first if we truly want the Lord’s Presence there. And this personal effort at purification, this personal aspiration for the Divine is not at all inconsistent with a true and genuine surrender to the Will of the Lord, because only when He Wills is the very first step towards such inner cleansing made. Though of course, all that has gone by before this auspicious moment has been a preparation towards it.
The Mother tells us: “Desires are waves of the vast sea of the obscure lower nature and they pass from one person to another. Men do not generate a desire in themselves, but are invaded by these waves; whoever is open and without defence is caught in them and tossed about.” (CWM, Volume 3, p. 117)
Reflecting on this truth opens up new levels and layers of meaning regarding what has been said earlier about bubbles and drops. The waves upon which the bubble-man is being tossed about in Gulzar’s imagery are perhaps the waves of desires, and by keeping his bubble-self alive the man will continue to experience such tossing about, again and again reviving his sense of the bubble-self from within the clutches of Time and the Mighty Sea. This bubble-man is open to such invasions because it is flaky and without any defense of the inner strength. And hence all that non-stop tossing and turning.
When the bubble graduates to becoming a drop of water, the process of building some inner defenses to protect itself from the waves begins with it. But how long can the drop keep its separate existence? Of course it tries to do so – over and over again. But then only when it gives in and becomes one with the sea it becomes the sea. “Surrender is the decision taken to hand over the responsibility of your life to the Divine.” (CWM, Volume 3, p. 126) When the drop decides to become the Sea, the Grace of the Sea devours it, and in that devouring the drop is born anew, as the Sea.
It is also important to distinguish between mock-surrender and genuine surrender. A genuine surrender is built on a strong foundation of faith and sincerity. Absolute, unflinching, uncompromising faith in the Divine and trust in the Divine Plan and Will. True faith is much, much more than a mental conviction and intellectual belief. Mukherjee defines genuine faith beautifully as “a deep and quiet illumined feeling of conviction arising from the depths of the consciousness when the outer mind and heart are stilled and made pure of all admixture of egoistic desires and expectations. True faith is never misled by the adverse appearances of the moment. It can pierce through the darkening haze of the present and concentrate its steady vision on the truth of the future” (Jugal Kishore Mukherjee, 2003, p. 97). If we can develop and keep at all times this kind of genuine faith in the Divine, never waver from this faith no matter how difficult the present moment may become for us, always rely completely on the Divine and truly know that all that is happening at the moment is as per the Divine Will and that the Divine alone knows the purpose behind it and is gradually leading us to a higher and truer harmony, then alone we can say we have Faith. Sri Aurobindo’s words capture the essence of such faith simply as – “pure, candid and perfect” (as cited in Mukherjee, p. 98).
Surrender to the Divine doesn’t automatically protect us from misfortunes or difficulties. Instead, when one truly surrenders to the Divine and has a true and sincere faith in the workings of the Divine, one is not disturbed by the transitory difficulties on the path, one develops a sense of calm equanimity towards the good and the bad times on the journey, towards ups and downs, pains and pleasures, and sees it as part of the natural course of life. One also begins to see such difficulty and struggle as an opportunity for further growth, the darkness is seen as a prequel to the light that is waiting at the end. One begins to accept all that happens as the Will of the Divine and is able to see the adverse circumstance as part of the Divine guidance working in one’s life.
Going back to the image of the mighty ocean I am reminded of the beautiful words of Sri Aurobindo where he defines Providence –
“Providence is not only that which saves me from the shipwreck in which everybody else has foundered. Providence is also that which while all others are saved snatches away my last plank of safety and drowns me in the solitary ocean.” (Thoughts and Glimpses, CWSA, Volume 13, p. 208).
When one has truly surrendered to the Divine and has the utmost sincere Faith which is an essential requisite for genuine self-surrender, one knows that this snatching away of the last plank of safety and drowning in the ocean is what is exactly needed to come to the other side fully cleansed and renewed. Only when we give up all, we gain all.
Complete and true surrender is also progressive. It doesn’t happen at the turn of a switch. Both personal effort and Divine Grace are again needed here. As we continue to develop an attitude of turning to the Divine for the Supreme’s necessary aid and intervention and as we continue to do so with full faith and trust in the Divine Plan and without imposing our egoistic preferences, we slowly begin to advance on the path of true self-surrender.
– Beloo Mehra
(Beloo Mehra lives in Puducherry, and when not teaching online courses in Research Methodology at Antioch University Midwest in Ohio, USA, devotes her time to studying the works of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, blogging, reading, gardening and just being.)