Artist: Priti Ghosh

Artist: Priti Ghosh@Aurobindo Ashram. Click on image for artist homepage

funny quote: Gurus always want you to drop your “ego” so you can be easy prey for theirs! 🙂

as seen on Diamond Sutra Zen’s Twitter feed

The Mother explains the notion of surrender to the Divine

Question : Does not surrender consist in offering one’s work like a good servant?

Answer : Work is a good discipline. But it is not this idea, it is not the idea of a passive, unconscious and almost involuntary submission. It is not that. It does not lie only in work.

The most important surrender is the surrender of your character, your way of being, so that it may change. If you do not surrender your very own nature, never will this nature change. It is this that is most important. You have certain ways of understanding, certain ways of reacting, certain ways of feeling, almost certain ways of progressing, and above all, a special way of looking at life and expecting from it certain things – well, it is this you must surrender. That is, if you truly want to receive the divine Light and transform yourself, it is your whole way of being you must offer – offer by opening it, making it as receptive as possible so that the divine Consciousness which sees how you ought to be, may act directly and change all these movements into movements more true, more in keeping with your real truth. This is infinitely more important than surrendering what one does. It is not what one does (what one does is very important, that’s evident) that is the most important thing but what one is. Whatever the activity, it is not quite the way of doing it but the state of consciousness in which it is done that is important. You may work, do disinterested work without any idea of personal profit, work for the joy of working, but if you are not at the same time ready to leave this work, to change the work or change the way of working, if you cling to your own way of working, your surrender is not complete. You must come to a point when everything is done because you feel within, very clearly, in a more and more imperious way, that it is this which must be done and in this particular way, and that you do it only because of that. You do not do it because of any habit, attachment or preference, nor even any conception, even a preference for the idea that it is the best thing to do – else your surrender is not total. As long as you cling to something, as long as there is something in you which says, “This may change, that may change, but that, that will not change”, as long as you say about anything at all, “That will not change” (not that it refuses to change, but because you can’t think of its changing), your surrender is not complete.

It goes without saying that if in your action, your work, you have in the least this feeling, “I am doing it because I have been told to do it”, and there is not a total adherence of the being, and you do not do the work because you feel it must be done and you love doing it; if something holds back, stands apart, separate, “I was told it had to be done like that so I did it like that”, it means there is a great gulf between you and surrender. True surrender is to feel that one wants, one has, this complete inner adherence: you cannot do but that, that which you have been given to do, and what you have not been given to do you cannot do. But at another moment the work may change; at any moment it may be something else, if it is decided that it be something else. It is there that plasticity comes in. That makes a very great difference. It is well understood that those who work are told, “Yes, work, that is your way of surrendering”, but it is a beginning. This way has to be progressive. It is only a beginning, do you understand ?

(Mother Mirra Alfassa, Questions and Answers, 28 April 1951)

Surrender is not inertia (i.e. tamasic surrender)

Question : “A tamasic surrender refusing to fulfil the conditions” – if it refuses to fulfil the conditions, it is no longer surrender, is it?

Answer : Exactly. But there are many who think that they have surrendered and tell you, “I no longer do anything myself, I have given myself to the Divine, the Divine ought to do everything for me.” This they call surrender… That is to say, it is a movement of laziness and tamas which doesn’t want to make any effort and would very much like the Divine to do everything for you, because that is much more comfortable!

Question : Sweet Mother, here it is written: “But so long as the lower nature is active the personal effort of the sadhaka remains necessary.” I didn’t understand here “so long as the lower nature is active”. How?

Answer : Generally, the lower nature is always active. It is only when one has surrendered completely that it stops being active. When one is no longer in his lower consciousness, when one has made a total surrender, then the lower nature is no longer active. But so long as it is active, personal effort is necessary.

In fact, so long as one is conscious of one’s own self as a separate person, personal effort has to be made.It is only when the sea of separation is lost, when one is not only completely surrendered, but completely fused in the Divine that there is no longer any need of personal effort. But so long as one feels that one is a separate being, one must make a personal effort. This is what he calls the activity of the lower consciousness.

Effort versus Surrender

Question: You have said: “If you surrender you have to give up effort, but that does not mean that you have to abandon also all willed action.” But if one wants to do something, it means personal effort, doesn’t it? What then is the will?

Answer: There is a difference between the will and this feeling of tension, effort, of counting only on oneself, having recourse to oneself alone which personal effort means; this kind of tension, of something very acute and at times very painful; you count only on yourself and you have the feeling that if you do not make an effort every minute, all will be lost. That is personal effort.

But the will is something altogether different. It is the capacity to concentrate on everything one does, do it as best one can and not stop doing it unless one receives a very precise intimation that it is finished. It is difficult to explain it to you. But suppose, for example, through a concurrence of circumstances, a work comes into your hands. Take an artist who has in one way or another got an inspiration and resolved to paint a picture. He knows very well that if he has no inspiration and is not sustained by forces other than his own, he will do nothing much. It will look more like a daub than a painting. He knows this. But it has been settled, the painting is to be done; there may be many reasons for that, but the painting has to be done. Then if he had the passive attitude, well, he would place his palette, his colours, his brushes, his canvas and then sit down in front of it and say to the Divine: “Now you are going to paint.” But the Divine does not do things this way. The painter himself must take up everything and arrange everything, concentrate on his subject, find the forms, the colours that will express it and put his whole will for a more and more perfect execution. His will must be there all the time. But he has to keep the sense that he must be open to the inspiration, he will not forget that in spite of all his knowledge of the technique, in spite of the care he takes to arrange, organise and prepare his colours, his forms, his design, in spite of all that, if he has no inspiration, it will be one picture among a million others and it will not be very interesting. He does not forget. He attempts, he tries to see, to feel what he wants his painting to express and in what way it should be expressed. He has his colours, he has his brushes, he has his model, he has made his sketch which he will enlarge and make into a picture, he calls his inspiration. There are even some who manage to have a clear, precise vision of what is to be done. But then, day after day, hour after hour, they have this will to work, to study, to do with care all that must be done until they reproduce as perfectly as they can the first inspiration That person has worked for the Divine, in communion with Him, but not in a passive way, not with a passive surrender; it is with an active surrender, a dynamic will. The result generally is something very good. Well, the example of the painter is interesting, because a painter who is truly an artist is able to see what he is going to do, he is able to connect himself to the divine Power that is beyond all expression and inspires all expression. For the poet, the writer, it is the same thing and for all people who do something, it is the same.

(Mother Mirra Alfassa, Questions and Answers, 14 July 1954)

Sri Aurobindo on the nature of surrender

The core of the inner surrender is trust and confidence in the Divine. One takes the attitude: “I want the Divine and nothing else. I want to give myself entirely to him and since my soul wants that, it cannot be but that I shall meet and realise him. I ask nothing but that and his action in me to bring me to him, his action secret or open, veiled or manifest. I do not insist on my own time and way; let him do all in his own time and way; I shall believe in him, accept his will, aspire steadily for his light and presence and joy, go through all difficulties and delays, relying on him and never giving up. Let my mind be quiet and trust him and let him open it to his light; let my vital be quiet and turn to him alone and let him open it to his calm and joy. All for him and myself for him. Whatever happens, I will keep to this aspiration and self-giving and go on in perfect reliance that it will be done.”

That is the attitude into which one must grow; for certainly it cannot be made perfect at once – mental and vital movements come across – but if one keeps the will to it, it will grow in the being. The rest is a matter of obedience to the guidance when it makes itself manifest, not allowing one’s mental and vital movements to interfere.

(Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Basic Requisites of the Path)

Distinction between active surrender vs passive surrender

Active surrender is when you associate your will with the Divine Will, reject what is not the Divine, assent to what is the Divine. Passive surrender is when everything is left entirely to the Divine – that few can really do, because in practice it turns out that you surrender to the lower nature under pretext of surrendering to the Divine.

(Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Basic Requisites of the Path)

The vital’s resistance to surrender

I have said that the human vital does not like to be controlled or dominated by another and I said that that also was a reason why Sadhaks find it difficult to surrender to the Mother. For the vital wants to affirm its own ideas, impulses, desires, preferences and to do what it likes, it does not want to feel another force than that of its own nature leading or driving it; but surrender to the Mother means that it must give up all these personal things and allow her Force to guide and drive it in the ways of a higher Truth which are not its own ways: so it resists, does not want to be dominated by the Truth Light and the Mother’s Force, insists on his own independence and refuses to surrender. These ideas of breakdown and personal frustration are again wrong suggestions and the dissatisfaction with the Mother would be. It prevents the confidence and courage necessary for following the path of the Sadhana. You must dismiss these suggestions from you.

(Sri Aurobindo in the book “The Mother”, Section on “Opening and Surrender to the Mother”)

17 thoughts on “Surrender

  1. Dr.K.S.Vasudevan

    I remember to have read somewhere that The Master explaining that ‘surrender’ does not refer to ‘saranagati’ as it is sometimes mistaken, but actually implies ‘samarpan’. Can someone locate me the exact reference of this explanation/statement ?

    1. Sandeep Post author

      The closest match that I can find is in his correspondence with Dilip Kumar Roy. See the highlighted sentence below. I guess consecration is a better word?

      In this process of the descent from above and the working it is most important not to rely entirely on oneself, but to rely on the guidance of the Mother and myself and to refer all that happens to us. For it often happens that the forces of the lower nature are stimulated and excited by the descent and want to mix with it and turn it to their profit. If there is the assent of the sadhak to the Divine working alone and the submission or surrender to the guidance, then all can go smoothly. This assent and a rejection of all egoistic forces or forces that appeal to the ego are the safeguard throughout the sadhana. This is the reason why in this Yoga we insist so much on what we call Samarpana—rather inadequately rendered by the English word surrender. If the heart centre is fully opened and the psychic is in control, then the is no question; all is safe. But the psychic can at any moment be veiled by a lower upsurge. It is only a few who are exempt from these dangers and it is precisely those to whom surrender is easily possible. The guidance of one who himself 1s identity or represents the divine is in this difficult endeavour imperative and indispensable.
      (Dilip Kumar Roy, Sri Aurobindo to Dilip, Vol 2, Sept 7 1934, page 116)

  2. auroselvan

    i am trying my surrender so imperfectly repeatedly like a bird hitting a ceiling.the vital is the great obstacle to the sadhana. i have read this surrender articles here once again. i pray mother to accept my surrender

  3. Pingback: What is True Surrender? The Mother and Sri Aurobindo explain... | Transformation Yoga |

  4. Sandeep Post author

    An exchange between Sri Aurobindo and a disciple Nagin

    Nagin: When I asked for the permission to go to see the festival, the Mother said: “Comme vous voulez” (“As you like”). What should I understand by that answer? I thought, as long as we are subject to the lower Nature we cannot expect any freedom (of action): the Mother’s order is our law. Since she did not give me any definite reply I gave up my desire to see the festival,

    Sri Aurobindo: She meant that it was of no importance one way or the other. It is when you are free from the lower Nature that her will is the Law. The lower Nature is constantly disobeying the Divine Will.

    Nagin: What I meant to ask you was this: so long as we are bound to the lower Nature what does the Mother actually intend by leaving the responsibility to us by saying, “Comme vous voulez”? Only if one is a little advanced, one can make the best use of such a freedom.

    Sri Aurobindo: When one is advanced one does not ask for freedom, but to obey the Divine Will.

    (Nagin Doshi, Guidance from Sri Aurobindo, vol.1, p 108)

  5. ipi

    They [faith, surrender and samata] have to be put into every part and atom of the being so that there may be no possibility of a contrary vibration anywhere.

    Sri Aurobindo
    (Letters on Yoga; Part I; PP 584)

  6. Pingback: The laissez-faire approach of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  7. Mark

    Quote by M.P. Pandit on the topic of Surrender:

    “Surrender, in the spiritual life, means a complete entrustment of oneself to the Divine or the Guru who stands for the Divine. One lays oneself without reservation in the hands of the Divine. Though it takes a long time to arrive at this full surrender, one has to have that as the governing Idea and regulate one’s life in accordance with that truth. For, it is in the measure of the sincerity with which the seeker follows this principle of surrender in every detail of his life that the fact of surrender establishes itself more and more comprehensively in his being.

    A seeker of this line of sadhana leaves all cares for the safety of his life to the Divine. He does not exercise is personal preferences, anticipations and take protective measures on his own, taking upon himself the responsibility for the well-being of himself and those for whom he is responsible. He does not, for instance, insure his life and his possessions against the common dangers by subscribing to Insurance policies. For his safety lies in the Divine and he sees it as a lack of faith, a sign of the hollowness in his professions of surrender to take these usual precautions in the way of the worldly people. Not that he does not take reasonable care of himself. He has to do it, in fact, he owes it to the Divine to take measures consistent with his consecration to the Divine for the safeguarding of what belongs to the Divine. he takes normal care and trusts the Divine for the rest. He does not tempt fate by foolhardiness or ignorance.

    Similarly he is not restless on any account. He has the conviction that what is good for him–good for his spiritual growth, not necessarily for the mundane interests–will come to be if only he leaves it to the Divine. What is necessary comes to him. If, for instance, it is needed that he should have a particular knowledge, circumstances so develop that the knowledge is either offered to him or he is placed in situations where he imbibes it naturally. This applies not only to knowledge of the higher kind but to that also which may be described as knowledge of the lower kind. For instance, information about men and things. If he is sincere he does not need to go about looking for it. What is necessary will come to him unsought from one source or another. All that is required is that he should have the firm faith that the Divine sees to it what is to be done is being done.

    For him everything that happens is the best that can happen. Best under the circumstances. Whatever best promotes his growth and the growth of those who are dependent upon him, in the context of the prevailing conditions, that alone happens. In a sense, this truth though specially applicable to spiritual seekers of the type we are now considering is also true in a general way in the universe. For there is a Divine Being overseeing and guiding the entire movement of the creation, a supreme Grace intervening at every important step and furthering the evolution. And under these conditions, only the best can happen–the best that could have happened at the moment in the juxtaposition of the short range and the long range interests of humanity.”

    (Selected Works of M.P. Pandit Vol II: The Mother)

    Initially, when I first read this, it appeared a bit ‘fantastic.’ No less, this clearly had to been Pandit’s experience and perhaps the experience of those no longer in a separated state, i.e, an advanced stage of spiritual attainment.

    1. Sandeep Post author

      Nice passage. I may not respond to each of your comments, but keep ’em coming. I can post some of these as separate blog posts.

      Mark: Initially, when I first read this, it appeared a bit ‘fantastic.’ No less, this clearly had to been Pandit’s experience and perhaps the experience of those no longer in a separated state, i.e, an advanced stage of spiritual attainment.

      Yes, its written based on his experience. True surrender comes when one no longer wishes to be separate.

  8. Mark

    Thanks for your reply Sandeep! I’m mainly sharing additional insights on some of your topics. Hope they will be of service to you and others 🙂

    Sandeep: True surrender comes when one no longer wishes to be separate.


  9. Pingback: Ways of navigating this blog | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  10. Pete

    It seems to me that surrender is very much related to “Equality” as described in Synthesis part IV Chapetrs 11-14. I was having a hard time accepting a recent situation and it gave me anxiety. In my attempt to surrender I began reading the chapters. It really helped. It lifted my heart and mind to a higher level. That is why I love Aurobindo. His writings change my consciousness as I read. he reframed my life struggles in the higher perspective.

  11. Sas

    Surrender, that always forces the Grace to act, is when the seeker has tried his absolute best efforts, painstakingly checked out each and every solution (to the problem he is seeking, it may be God realisation, or quietening the mind, or even any extremely complex material world’s problem’s solution)..he has gained the extreme conviction that it is IMPOSSIBLE for his absolute best efforts to solve it and it cannot be solved by any other human also (since he has himself tried all methods).. then he drops all personal efforts, drops all “guards”, and surrenders to the Divine Will. True Surrender always comes in a crisis or a situation which is extremely critical for the seeker. The seeker has exhausted all faith in his best abilities and he only knows how hard he has tried everything to make it work. In such situations, the Grace is SURE to act. But that total surrender can only come in a crisis not in some artificial psychological situation created in the mind of the seeker by reading some books! Surrender is real and what follows is Grace. God becomes indebted to such a surrender and He has no option but to send His Grace. But the seeker, obviously, when fully surrendered , doesn’t have expectations from God or from Grace. He just says, “Lord, I have exhausted all ways, all efforts, all paths. Whether I live or die, You do what you think is best”.

    1. Sas

      Really enlightening content…Once I met Mr Shradhalu in the ashram and tried to do pranam at his feet, but he ran away and later I followed (spied on) him, he went to the samadhi and transferred my pranam to the samadhi 🙂

  12. mike

    l put the link for Shradhalu above, but this latest one l found excellent. For those interested in things like mediumship, contacting the dead etc..


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