It is difficult to write about spiritual surrender. It is a sensitive and easily misunderstood subject. I don’t want to make it personal but without a personal narrative it is impossible to explain this principle. Spiritual surrender was the most challenging principle to practice for me.
I started my meditation practice when I was twenty years old but ego training was not part of my practice. My teacher Shrii Shrii Anandamurti did not talk about ego as much as other teachers. I thought ego training was a specialty of Sufism and did not give it much thought. I had a sense of destiny and I was determined to fulfill it. I thought my purpose in life was to become a physicist. I threw myself into it and lived the life of a dedicated physicist. Sometimes harder you try worse it gets. If it is not meant to be it does not happen. All my life I was swimming against the current. I insisted on a physics career, I longed for intellectual glory; I tried in vain to be recognized for my intellectual contributions. I felt honestly and naively that I was going to make an important contribution to physics. I strongly felt that it was my destiny. As time passed and no recognition came I felt more and more frustrated. After our mega project, the superconducting super collider was canceled I quit physics and tried other professions. Nothing worked. I was always the hardest working man around but hard work never led me to leadership positions in the corporate world. I did not want to manage anyone and did not want to be managed by anyone. I just wanted to do research. Independent minded people simply don’t fit the corporate mold. More frustration and unhappiness followed.
Do we have free will? Opinions vary in a wide spectrum. Fatalism at one end, extreme individualism at the other end. Human beings have free will. This does not mean, however, that you can get anything you want. Some people made a lot of money by talking about the “law of attraction.” They say you can get anything you want by simply wishing for it. Don’t take “law of attraction” seriously. More important than the “law of attraction” is the “law of karma”. We have to pay our debts. There are spiritual lessons for me to learn from my career frustrations. Instead of being angry I should try to see the meaning of all this and accept the karmic lesson. It is interesting that it was easier for me to accept my health problems than to accept my perceived career problems. I developed diabetes, I had kidney stones but I never questioned the bodily pains. Career pains were different. Those were caused by ego.
Spiritual surrender is about acceptance of the difficulties in life. It may be that you are paying a karmic debt from your previous lifetime but don’t waste your time speculating about that. Hardships are not always karmic. Sometimes the difficulties in life are signs of spiritual progress. God teaches us lessons that way.
Spiritual surrender is not fatalism. Spiritual surrender is about doing the right thing and not being entangled in the results. You live, you play, you have children, you go through the pain and pleasure, joy and sadness of human life but you always remember that whatever happens in life it happens for a reason and you always remain conscious of the miraculous nature of life. Feet on the ground you reach to the heavens. This is spiritual surrender.
Spiritual surrender is not suicide. Spiritual surrender is about living. It teaches how to live in this difficult world. It is an attitude that reduces friction and suffering. It teaches how to swim in the ocean of life. When we resist God’s will, we sink.
Spiritual surrender is about controlling ego’s never-ending demands and not letting ego push us away from the center of our being. Ego is constantly seeking gratification. Ego sometimes finds entertainment in crude pleasures and sometimes in very sophisticated intellectual activities. Ego always seeks happiness externally. I tried to list typical ego conversations in my post “Ego Says“. Not all desires are bad. Why do I write? Why did I become a physicist? Why do you help people? Ego’s need for recognition is fundamental. This is not bad. If we did not have an ego we could not do good things. Ego wishes for enlightenment too. In fact that’s the only way to attain enlightenment. You have to wish it with all your heart. The law of attraction has an element of truth in this respect.
We all want happiness. Seeking happiness is the basic urge of human beings. Happiness instinct is more basic than the instincts for preservation and reproduction. There is nothing wrong with channeling ego’s desires towards higher and more spiritual goals. There is a subtle danger, however. Ego’s tendency is to look for gratification externally. This eventually leads to unhappiness. Even when you want enlightenment ego looks for it in places or in rituals. External search pushes us away from the center. Spiritual teachers always say “look within”. My intuition tells me they are right but I never understood what they meant by “within”. Now I have a definition: I think that if ego wants it then it is external, if it is about love which is egoless then it is “within”. You cannot look “within” until ego is tamed. Spiritual surrender is about being conscious of ego’s externalizing tendency and try to reverse that tendency.
How do we reverse ego’s externalizing tendency? One way is to do selfless work. You help people. You try to contribute to society in any way you can. In the information age writers have unique opportunities in this respect.
Spiritual surrender is about opening your heart and letting God work through you. A related concept emphasized in Judaism and Islam is the concept of being God’s servant. In fact the literal meaning of the word “Islam” is spiritual surrender but unfortunately this tenet is not sufficiently emphasized. We should be careful with words, however. The word “servant” has negative connotations. What is meant by that word is being receptive to divine inspiration.
God’s essence is in every entity from electrons to viruses, from human beings to galaxies and universes. All entities are transformations of the Cosmic Consciousness. All existence emanates from the Cosmic Consciousness. Being receptive to divine inspiration means being open and receptive to your inner voice. Spiritual surrender develops intuition and when intuition is developed you have clarity.
Human mind is a multi-purposive entity. Humans have many desires. Our minds are attracted to thousand different things. But interestingly, our minds can do only one thing at a time. Some people claim that they can multi-task. That’s an illusion. Our mind can do only one thing in a given moment. We can context switch back and forth but at any given instant we are doing only one thing. God on the other hand is uni-purposive. God has a single purpose; His only wish is to make us return to Him. “God is uni-purposive in motive but multi-lateral in action” as my teacher Shrii Shrii Anandamurti said. God is the ultimate multi-tasker. Maybe the key to multi-tasking is to be uni-purposive. In fact, in spiritual practice we channel all our desires and energies towards God. Even though the mind wants gratification in thousand different ways we try to channel all desires to one goal. This emulates being single-purposive and brings us closer to Him.
God’s attraction is constant but ego resists it. Spiritual surrender is about accepting God’s great attraction, not resisting that pull.
God’s only wish is our happiness. The soul being a reflection of Him wishes only one thing as well. Love. The soul wishes only Love. Therefore God must be Love.
I know it is so hard to practice spiritual surrender when you are suffering, when you are unemployed, when you are ill or when you are depressed. But life still is a miracle. Spiritual surrender is about accepting life as a miracle. It is about saying yes to joy, saying yes to love. It is about offering the colors of your mind to God. It is about letting go of hurt. It is about forgiveness. It is about merging your mind/ego in the infinite ocean of love and bliss.
I surrender to Love.