By Swami Satrupananda
Do more. Try harder. I was given this advice as the key to success in life. If you want to get a promotion at work, take on more responsibility. If you want to improve your golf game, practice more. If you are struggling with establishing a new lifestyle habit, try harder. This is the notion that by doing more you’ll be more.
However, yoga approaches it differently and says that surrender is essential.
Surrender can be a scary word. We associate surrender with waving the white flag, an admission of defeat. Surrender can also be reluctantly accepting the current undesirable circumstances. This is not what the yogis meant by surrender. Throughout history, yogis have been people who were not satisfied with their personal status quo. They wanted something different from life. They applied themselves to a greater goal, even though it went against the cultural norms.
So what is yogic surrender?
To understand yogic surrender, let’s compare the underlying principles between modern success and yogic attainment. In the West, we are taught that by doing more you’ll be more.
In contrast, yoga is based on the principle that you are already great, whole and complete. You are not merely great, you are Greatness itself. Any word you use to describe the whole of your being is limited. You are that Divine Essence which is beyond words. The ancient yogis called it “That”.
The problem is, your Greatness is hidden inside, just behind your mind. Since you don’t know your own Greatness, you feel lost, small, unworthy and alone. You look for a replacement. You construct identities around the work you do, the relationships you are in and the places you live. Your mind works hard at creating and maintaining these identities.
This is where yogic surrender comes in. You are already Greatness; you are That. To discover That, you surrender your constructed identities. You give up the notion that you are merely what you do, who you know and where you live. You embrace that you are That. You see and be your own That-ness, and you see it in everyone and everything. Baba Muktananda described it:
Surrender means to become one with That, to merge with That.
You let go of your idea of being small and step into your Greatness. You surrender to your Greatness. It’s a great promise but not necessarily easy. Letting go of your constructed identities can be difficult. They are so familiar. And they are so painful.
A few years ago, I had a busy mind at the beginning of a meditation period. My mind was comparing me to others, and I was ending up on the bottom. I was feeling small. My constructed identity of being someone valuable and worthy was being threatened. My mind wanted to do more and try harder to patch up my shaky constructed identity.
But I couldn’t find a solution that made me feel like it would work. I was scared. If I gave up this constructed identity, who would I be? I didn’t know. Yet I did know the instructions that my Guru gave me for meditation. I followed them and repeated mantra. As I continued to repeat mantra, a shift happened inside. I settled deeper into my That-ness. Then I could see that I was holding onto the constructed identity. The act of comparing myself was what was keeping me small. So I surrendered the comparison. I surrendered my smallness
and I got my Greatness. ,
We can learn about surrendering from a way to catch a monkey. In India, they take a jar with a wide base and a narrow opening. The opening would be just wide enough for monkey to slide its hand into the jar. The jar was then tied with a rope to something solid. A shiny coin or piece of food was placed in the jar. A monkey would pass by the jar and become interested in the treat inside. It slipped its hand into the jar and grabbed the lucky prize. Now, however, the fist, grabbing the treat, was too big to go through the jar’s narrow opening. The monkey was trapped. The monkey had a simple way of getting free. Just let go of the little treat.
But the monkey holds on tight and starts screaming. They gave up their freedom for a little treat.
The same is true for us. We are the ones holding onto our limited constructed identities. And the price we pay is our freedom. We give up our Greatness.
So how do you develop your ability to surrender? Swami Muktananda tells us:
Meditate more and surrender will come.
Swami Muktananda, From the Finite to the Infinite, page 322
Every time you meditate, you experience your own Greatness. The more you experience and know your own Greatness, the easier it is to surrender to your Greatness. Then you abide in your Greatness all the time.
So meditate more, not to be more, but to surrender to your Greatness. It can be a tricky balance to play. I recommend meeting and studying with one who has fully surrendered and lives from the knowing of their Greatness within. They know the yogic path to surrender and want to share it with you. Come meet Satguru Nirmalananda. She will help you surrender to your Greatness.