What is Surrender? Beautiful answer and analogy by Sri Sathya Sai Baba
Sharanagathi vs Surrender - a world of difference
The dictionary defines surrender as ‘give up, hand over or submit to authority’. Therefore, surrender is oft understood to mean capitulation or backing down. It connotes weakness and an inability to resist. It is considered as the last resort of those who are not brave enough because the brave would rather lose everything than surrender! However, Sharanagathi (which is translated into English as ‘surrender’) is very different. It is also a sort of ‘giving up’ but it is not capitulation. Instead of weakness, it connotes strength, humility and wisdom. It is the first resort of the brave because those that aren’t brave do not deserve the peace and joy that it brings.
So, what is this Sharangathi (surrender) which is completely opposite in it’s meaning compared to the surrender that is defined in English dictionaries? Here is a lovely episode in which Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba explained to a college student the spiritual meaning of surrender and it’s beautiful benefits.
After the successful conduct of the Athi Rudra Maha Yagnam at Prasanthi Nilayam in August 2006, Swami (as Baba is lovingly called) decided to conduct the same in the city of Chennai in January 2007. It has been my experience that Swami always ‘blesses’ more than 2 birds with the same stone! The visit to Chennai was no exception with multiple things being achieved by it. The Chennai Citizen’s Conclave held on the 21st of January was one such ‘bird’ which was blessed but that is a separate story by itself.
Quick glimpses of the Chennai visit
For the Athi Rudra Maha Yagnam, Swami had picked several students to accompany Him. The ‘duties’ of these students involved delivering a speech each during each day of the Yagnam. My classmate, Jagdish Chandra, was one among the several students who were part of Bhagawan’s entourage. This beautiful dialogue on the true meaning of surrender happened between Jagdish and Swami. Just as I am grateful to Arjuna for asking his doubts of Lord Krishna, am grateful to Jagdish for this dialogue with Swami because the message is as poignant as the Bhagawad Gita. In fact, I feel it is a concise summary of the Gita.
This narration is in Jagdish's own words now.
Clarification by Guru on Guru?
“I was to give a talk the next afternoon at Thiruvanmiyur. The previous evening, as we were having dinner with Bhagwan, Swami enquired as to who would be speaking. Swami had decided the order of the speakers beforehand, and so, I knew it was my turn. I presented myself accordingly.
“Yemi maatladutavu (What will you speak)?”
“Swami I would speak on Swami as our Guru...''
“Aha! What is the meaning of Guru?”
“Swami, in the sacred texts it is stated that, in the word GURU, 'Gu' stands for Gunateeta (beyond attributes) and 'Ru' stands for Roopavarjita (beyond forms).”
“Alanti vallani yavarinena choosava (Did you ever come across someone, a Guru, like that)?”
I was awestruck for I was in the very presence of such a Being, my Guru. I pointed my folded hands towards Swami and said,
“Swami meeru (You Swami)!”
“Kani naaku roopam unde (But I have a form)!”
Swami was referring to the contradiction to the definition of Guru which I had chosen.
“Swami roopam undina lekapoyina, meere na Guru (Swami, with or without form, I know only you to be my Guru)!”
Swami smiled. He then asked me the details of my talk which I told him. I was happy at the interest he was showing in my talk. However, at the end of our conversation, surprisingly Swami said to everyone around,
“Naaku telusu, me andara manusulo chaala doubts unnayee. Ee rozu annee clear chestanu. Adagandi. (I know, you all have a lot of doubts in your mind. I will clear those doubts today. Ask!)”
A dialogue on surrender with God
It was not merely manna from the heaven but verily the heaven itself! Each one of us chose to ask what was innermost in our hearts. When my turn came, my question was,
“Swami, Sharanagati ante yemi (Swami, what is the meaning of Surrender)?”
“Sharanagati ante neeku yemi artham ayyinndo, mundu adi cheppu (First you tell me what you have understood of the word Sharanagathi).
“Swami, of what little I have read and heard from elders, offering my everything to God is Surrender...”
“GOD DOES NOT WANT ANYTHING FROM YOU SIR!” Swami said, “At every point in time if you remind yourself - ‘Whatever is happening is good for me’ - then you have surrendered to me.”
Swami continued to explain.
“Do you know how to drive a car?”
“How many gears are there in the car?”
“Yes! First, second, third and fourth gear. There is also a reverse gear. Tell me, is there any problem when the car runs in the first gear?”
“What about the second or third or the fourth gears?”
“No problems Swami...”
“Then where is the problem?”
I just shrugged in ignorance. Swami answered His own question.
“The problem comes when there is a change of gears! So what do you do when you change gears in a car?”
“Swami, we use the clutch”
“Correct! When you use the clutch, the change of gears is smooth. Similarly in life, there are gears - front and back - HAPPINESS, SORROW, HAPPINESS, SORROW. Just as in car, our lives too continue whether we are in happiness or in sorrow but the problem arises only when there is change or transition from happiness to sorrow and vice versa. For life too there is a clutch. The clutch for life is the thought that,
‘Idi Naa Manchi Kosame (Whatever happens is good for me)'."
The problems while changing gears
Come to think of it, all problems come only when we transition from joy to sorrow or vice versa. When we fall into sorrow from joy, there is frustration, irritation, anger and depression. When we are exalted to happiness from a sorrowful situation, there is pride, ego and attachment. All of them are harmful. Instead, when dropping into sorrow from joy or vice versa, if we say,
“This is good for me. That is why Swami is gifting it to me”, then none of those negativities will arise.This technique will ensure that we don’t float in the skies nor bury ourselves underground. It makes sure that our feet are firmly on the ground. It will lead us to be equanimous and thus, permanently peaceful.
This is what Krishna told Arjuna in the Kurukshetra battlefield.
sukha-duhkhe same krtva, labhalabhau jayajayau
(The one who is equanimous in happiness-sorrow, profit-loss, victory-defeat, is the one who has truly surrendered !! )
"Whosoever, follows this, I assure him complete feeling of surrender towards me!" Swami declared to Jagdish that day. But, it did not end there. A very interesting climax ensued.
A lesson to be imprinted for life
The next day's proceedings of the Yagnam turned out to be catastrophic as there was a problem with the PA system at Thiruvammiyur. Swami was apparently upset as things could not be heard properly. Though Jagdish delivered his speech flawlessly, it seemed flawed thanks to the PA system. Swami seemed to look at Jagdish as if to say that He wasn’t happy with his talk. The confirmation came when they returned to Sundaram, Swami’s abode in Chennai.
Swami looked at Jagdish angrily and said,
"Yemi baaga maatalad ledu (You didn't speak well at all).”
Jagdish’s heart sank! The sole purpose of doing anything - including speaking in the Divine presence - is to make Swami happy. Even though the whole hall had applauded, it meant nothing to Jagdish because Swami was upset. He did not have the strength to face Swami even during the dinner session. Ironically, that very day, he was seated closest to Swami for dinner! Swami frowned upon him and asked one of the senior devotees,
"E abbayi yela matladedu (How did this boy speak)?”
Oblivious of what had happened until then, the devotee started heaping praises on Jagdish! Every word was like a scratch on Jagdish’s bleeding heart and he continued to sit with his head down. He was very sad.
Swami simply ignored Jagdish and the words of the devotee and said aloud,
“Yemi baaga maataladledu (Didn't speak well at all)!”
Then came the biggest jolt for Jagdish. Swami looked at him and said,
"Sharanagati gurinchi okka mukka kuda mataladaledu (You didn't even speak a word about Surrender)!”
He was referring to the conversation that took place the previous day.
In spite of all his dejection, Jagdish’s mind revolted. He was screaming inwardly,
"Swami this is unfair! I was not supposed to speak on that topic. My topic was GURU! Why are you doing this to me?"
Immediately Swami asked,
"Yemi Raa Nee Sharanagathi (What is your Surrender)?”
Jagdish was hit by a thunderbolt. The noise in his head was instantly silenced. He realized that he had grasped the theory the previous day but had failed in the practical exam on this day! He had been shifted from joy to sorrow and he hadn’t applied the clutch of surrender by saying,
“This is all good for me.”
And even as he understood, a smile seemed to blossom on Swami’s face. There was so much love. Jagdish was now in tears. He went to Swami and said,
"Tappu ayyipoyindi Swami, kshaminchandi (I made a mistake. Please forgive me Swami)!”
Swami smiled at him and said,
“Your speech was good.”
This time, Jagdish did not float. He remained grounded. He knew that Swami’s praise for him was not because of his glory. It was because it was good for him.
The Prayer of Surrender as written by Swami to a devotee...
For long, the source of this prayer was unknown. It was attributed to the 'wall at the entrance of the Western Canteen in Prasanthi Nilayam'. Imagine my joy when a dear devotee sent me a copy of the letter that Swami wrote to their family long ago and the words exactly match this! Here goes the English translation(the letter image follows)
"Why get agitated? Let Me take care of all your business. I shall be the one who will think about them. I am waiting for nothing else than your surrender to Me, and then you do not have to worry any more about anything. Say farewell to all fears and discouragement.
You demonstrate that you do not trust Me. On the contrary, you must rely blindly on Me.
To surrender means: To turn your thoughts away from troubles, to turn them away from difficulties that you encounter and from all your problems. Leave everything in My hands saying, "Lord, Thy will be done. Thou think of it." That is to say, "Lord, I thank you, for you have taken everything into your hands, and you will resolve this for my highest good."
Remember that thinking of the consequences of a thing is contrary to surrender. That is to say, when you worry that a situation has not had the desired outcome, you demonstrate that you do not believe in My love for you —you prove that you do not consider your life to be under My control and that nothing escapes Me.
Never think: How is this to end?... What is going to happen? If you give into this temptation, you demonstrate that you do not trust Me. Do you want Me to deal with it — yes or no? Then you must stop being anxious about it! I shall guide you only if you completely surrender to Me. And when I must lead you on a different path than the one that you expect, I carry you in My arms.
What seriously upsets you is your reasoning, your worrying, your obsession, and your will to provide for yourself at any price. I can do so many things when the being, in his material necessities as in his spiritual ones, turns to Me saying, "You think of it," and then closes his eyes and rests quietly.
You will receive a lot, but only when your prayer relies fully upon Me. You pray to Me when in pain so that I intervene, but in the way you desire it. You do not rely on Me, but you want Me to adjust to your requests.
Don't behave like sick ones who ask for a treatment from the doctor, all the time suggesting it to him. Do not do that, but rather, even in sad circumstances, say, "Lord I praise and thank You for this problem, for this necessity. I pray You to arrange things as You please for this terrestrial, temporal life. You know very well what is best for me."
Sometimes, you feel that disasters increase instead of diminish. Do not get agitated. Close your eyes and tell me with faith, "Thy will be done. You think of it." And when you speak thus, I accomplish a miracle when necessary. I think of it only when you trust me totally. I always think of you, but I can help you completely only when you rely fully on Me."
The Letter in Telugu
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© 2011 Aravind Balasubramanya