When most people hear the word surrender, they think of something negative: giving up, losing, being humiliated, or allowing yourself to be controlled or perhaps even imprisoned. However, when used in a spiritual context, surrender also means to give up but here it’s to give up everything that no longer serves you. Spiritual surrender is to stop struggling against “what is”, let go of the smallness of life, and fully embrace its totality.
In the Vedic texts, spiritual surrender is referred to as the “joy of surrender.” It is the wonderful, positive feeling you have when you simply let go. It’s stepping out of all limitations, expanding beyond your usual conditioning, and opening to infinite possibilities. It’s offering up the small self or personal identity to that of the absolute.
When you surrender spiritually, you stop forcing solutions on situations you can’t control and instead trust and have faith that there is a Divine force taking care of everything in a perfectly orchestrated manner. For example, here are some ways in which surrender is further explained:
- In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna, who represents the Divine, tells Arjuna, “Abandon all varieties of dharma[purpose] and simply surrender unto me alone. I shall liberate you from all sinful reactions; do not fear.”
- Spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle says, “Surrender is to say ‘yes’ to life—and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.”
- Author Debbie Ford says, “Surrender is a gift that you can give yourself. It’s an act of faith. It’s saying that even though I can’t see where this river is flowing, I trust it will take me in the right direction.”
The ego loves to control everything. It creates the boundaries and limitations in which you imprison yourself. Surrender allows you to break free and step into what Deepak Chopra calls “the wisdom of uncertainty.” With surrender, you can connect fully with your source where the whole universe conspires to support you. You can become timeless, eternal, infinite, joy-filled, and fearless. Individual aspirations and desires are surrendered to a higher power. Your individual desires dissolve into “Thy will be done.”
Now that you know why surrender is so powerful, the question becomes, how do you surrender? Here are five steps to follow on your journey toward surrendering.
To fully surrender, you must have faith, or as Indian philosopher Sri Aurobindo described it as “The soul’s belief in the Divine’s existence, its wisdom, power, love, and grace.” No need to think of anything else, no need to go anywhere else, no need to deviate anywhere from your goal. It is a state of total confidence and respect for all things. This is to have faith in your spiritual teachers, in the teachings, and in yourself. The faith that helps you accept everything—the good and bad equally.
You also need patience. Faith and patience complement each other. Each is both: the cause as well as the effect of the other. Both are the means as well as the end of the other. Between them they contain a complete code of conduct for a spiritual life. Indian spiritual master Shirdi Sai Baba emphasized them as necessary for harmony and well-being. The patience to allow things to unfold naturally with the understanding that everything you need will automatically come your way at the perfect moment.
Surrender requires you to be aware. You need to remain focused and diligent, and overcome any doubts. While the normal concept of surrender is one of contraction, spiritual surrender is one of expansion. The more you surrender, the more your awareness expands and this can only come when you live with an alertness that stems from love.
Meditation is an act of surrender and the single most powerful tool you have on your spiritual journey. By turning your awareness away from normal activity and settling to quieter and quieter levels of the mind, you can reconnect with your true, essential Self. When you slip into the silent spaces between thoughts, you surrender the small self and all its limitations, to your unbounded, eternal Self. You submerge your own identity into that of the Divine, where “I”, “Me”, and “Mine” disappear into the bliss of oneness.
As part of the daily meditations at the Chopra Center, you can ask yourself four questions:
- “Who am I?”
- “What do I want?”
- “What is my purpose?”
- “What am I grateful for?”
You can ask these questions at the level of your heart or your higher Self and then just listen to whatever answer arises from within, without evaluation. This too is a form of surrender. You are going beyond the ego to hear guidance from your higher being.
In the Vedic tradition’s four paths to enlightenment, Bhakti is the path of love and devotion. This is also the path of surrender. In his Yoga Sutras, Patanjali says that Ishwara-Pranidhana (devotion and surrender) is the most important of the personal codes of conduct (Nyama). The Vedas tell you that devotion humbles the ego, an essential aspect of your journey.
Bhakti Yoga tells you to set aside time each day for the contemplation of the Divine to become attuned to it and its will. To recognize your life as spiritual and develop your finer levels of feeling. Serving humanity in everything you do and seeing everything as Yoga or union with the Divine.
Patanjali also said that devotion and surrender is the path to experiencing unending peace and entering higher states of consciousness. When you give everything to the Divine, you have nothing left to worry about.
Love came and made me empty.
Love came and it filled me with the Beloved.
It became the blood in my veins.
It became my arms and legs.
It became everything.
Now all I have is a name.
The rest belongs to the Beloved.
To Whom Do You Surrender?
This can be a difficult question for many people on a spiritual path. Do I surrender to a spiritual teacher or Guru? Am I submitting or selling myself out to some religious figurehead or deity that I don't even know?
No truly enlightened teacher will ever ask you to surrender your body, mind, or belongings to him or her. If you are fortunate enough to find an enlightened teacher, he or she will only accept what you freely choose to offer. When you become filled with the blessings of his or her pure unconditional love, it is easy to surrender.
Indian yogi and guru Paramhansa Yogananda said that spiritual surrender means “self-offering of one’s will to God.” It is not passive. It is an active surrender to the will of God. The manifestation of God will be different for different people based on their beliefs.
To offer everything to the Divine in whatever form you choose is the first and final step to letting go of the old and building the world that you've always dreamed possible. In fact, although in your possession, nothing really belongs to you, you just temporarily borrow everything.
However, when you truly surrender to any aspect of the Divine, human or otherwise, you are really surrendering to your own being in another disguise. Whatever you need on your spiritual journey isn’t given, it’s received. It’s received by your ability to attune with your own higher Self and this ability develops with surrender, love, and devotion. Automatically you are elevated to your highest level so help doesn’t come from outside but from your own being.
Complete surrender is the final fulfillment of your spiritual life. It isn’t about giving anything up. You don’t have to leave your family, quit your job, give away your possessions, or live in a monastery. Surrender isn’t about doing, it’s about just allowing. Allowing the truth, beauty, purity, and goodness that is and always has been you, to flow effortlessly through you and radiate out into the world.