“Rise up, prostrate, surrender, embrace, wonder;
Appeal in all the ways to the Holy feet of the Lord.
That brings the benefits of this birth;
Hold Him with reverence; He responds in turn.”
Tirumandiram, verse 1499
We are individually and collectively engaged in a process of transformation which requires a rejection of our old human nature and a surrender to the Divine Conscious-Energy within. Having realized that a life of desire and aversion brings only suffering, we do not seek to escape life here in this world, to depart it in search for some heaven; but rather to purify ourselves of ignorance, egoism, attachment, and all that resists the descent of Divine grace. In doing so we have an arsenal of tooks in Kriya Yoga to facilitate this process. But do we have the will, the motivation, the aspiration, to reject what must be rejected, and to embrace and surrender to the Divine?
The Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother could be summarized in the following two statements: “(1) a steadily mounting ardent aspiration from the side of the sadhaka, and (ii) from the Divine’s side an answering Grace descending from above in response to the sadhaka’s call.” But what is this aspiration? How does it differ from desire? Sri Aurobindo defines aspiration as “a spiritual enthusiasm, the height and ardour of the soul’s seeking…an upward moement of our consciousness through the psychic part of our being towards all that is good, pure and beautiful.” The Mother described it as: “an inner enthusiasm towards the New, the Unknown, the Perfection…a yearning, a longing for the contact with the Divine Force, divine Harmony, divine Love…an inner flame, a need for the light…A luminous enthusiasm that seizes the whole being…a purifying Will, an ever mounting drive.”
It must not be confused with desires, which are manifestations of the ego. The ego seeks to be separate, special, superior, and it manifests desires to strengthen its specialness. Desires are the manifestation of the insatiable thirst and appetite of the separative ego-consciousness. But because of its inherent limitation in power and capability it cannot fulfill its urge to infinite and absolute possession. Hence there is an unbridgeable gap between its insistent demands and actual attainments. This creates constant discontent. Ego forgets that without the abolition of the sense of separation and restitution of the experience of divine unity and universality, it cannot hope to possess the world. For this possession can be effected only in the spiritual way. But ego mistakenly follows its own impossible way which amounts to gathering from outside, from what it feels as not-self, more and more of objects of enjoyment and bringing all these to its voractiously hungry mouth
A genuine aspiration is just the opposite of this. It is intensely aware of the insufficiencies and imperfections of the ego-bound existence; hence it tries to come out of this sordid prison house. Each of its movements is directed not to the ego-centre, but away from it. And by this sole sign a sadhak can recognize whether his or her governing impulse of the moment is of the nature of a desire or of an aspiration. Thus, an aspiration is, in its origin, a thirst arising from the soul, a yearing towards the divine love, light, the beautiful, the good, the pure and progress. There is ardour, even intensity, but no impatience, no frustration.
How to begin to develop aspiration? In stages, which begins with an intense dissatisfaction with the habitual ways of human nature. One may wake up one morning and suddenly realize that you are no longer willing to go on living unconsciously, ignorantly, in a state in which you do things without knowing why, feeling things without knowing why, living contractory wills, living by habit, routine, reactions, understanding nothing. You are no longer satisfied with that. How one responds to this dissatisfaction varies. For most it is the need to know, for others it is to do what should be done to find meaning. Secondly, one seeks ardently to come out of this hollow human existence. One seeks the Truth, Love, Peace, Joy, Being. These are probably still very vague, but he or she must find release from the present state of nauseating imperfections. Third, after some time, because of the persistent insistence of the aspirant, Divine Grace responds, with a temporary piercing of the veil of ignorance, and one experiences the spiritual dimension of life. One sees the Light, feels Divine Love, or experiences Divine Bliss, the Presence, or Truth, depending upon one’s capacity and orientation. It may vary from one person to another, but everything else previously experienced in ordinary life, pales in comparison. Fourth, the opening may close, so one must be careful not to forget it, or to doubt it, but rather keep it vibrant and constantly direct his or her aspiration for its re-mergence. Fifth, the sadhak will find that gradually his or her attraction to the higher life is growing and attachment to the old lower life is falling off. This may manifest not only inwardly in the mental and vital planes, but outwardly with regards to ones friends, even work and pastimes. A new type of yearning and resolution fills the heart and mind, which may express itself like this: “O Lord, I want you and you alone. I do not want anything or anyone else except through you and for you. I want to belong entirely to you and will never allow anything to claim my consciousness. I surrender my all to you. Not my will, but Thy will be done. I am yours alone.” In a sixth stage, the aspiration is so intense, that words and prayers, vocal or mental, are no longer needed, even wanted. There is only the mounting flame of spiritual fire rising steadily upward in the background of profound silence. An intense seeking to belong to the Divine, to be united with it, and to serve the Divine as a perfect instrument, envelopes the whole expanse of the sadhak’s consciousness. It is a great thirst for Love and Truth, for transformation, for supreme perfection.”
As aspiration grows, Divine Grace responds and introduces a higher determinism which can transform everything in our human nature. But for this to occur one must:
1. Remove laxity and forgetfulness. To aspire for two minutes, and then to forget for ten hours will not do. Keep the object of aspiration constant in your consciousness.
2. Avoid impatience, which brings depression and rebellion;
3. Concentrate. Focus constantly on the object aspired for; do not allow the mind to wander;
4. Constantly reject everything in your nature which tries to nullify the power of your aspiration.
As long as the sadhaka remains under the control of his lower human nature, it is imperative that he or she make some personal effort for his progress. This personal effort comprises the three operations of aspiration, described above, rejection and surrender. The Siddhas and more recently, Sri Aurobindo have insisted that a sadhaka has to renounce all the habitual movements of the lower nature. These include: the mind’s opinions, preferences, habits, constructions and ideas; the vital nature’s desires, demands, cravings, passions, selfishness, pride, arrogance, lust, greed, jealousy, envy, hostility to the Truth; and the physical nature’s stupidity, doubt, disbelief, obscurity, obstinacy, pettiness, laziness, sloth, unwillingness to change. The goal is the total divine transformation of man’s whole being and consciousness and nature. Every impulse and movement arising within the consciousness of the sadhaka which does not turn them towards the Divine, but is rathered ego-centered, is an obstacle in this path. Needless to say, an ordinary sadhaka’s life is constantly troubled with a ceaseless stream of obstacles. Their identification and removal is the yogic sadhana of rejection. There are three classes of them, however, and a different strategy for each. The three classes of obstaces are those of the past, those of the present, and those of the future.
When the obstacle is a type which he has already conquered in the past, but is simply indulging out of laziness, one should: (a) nip it at its very moment of sprouting, like a piece of dust on one’s sleeve; (b) never brood on it, (c) take as little notice of it as possible, and (d) even if one happens to think of it, remain indifferent and unconcerned.
The second category of obstacles, those of the present, are often appearing in the sadhaka’s consciousness, even overwhelming it at times. But if the sadhaka tries with some sincerity, he finds that he can keep part of his consciousness free from their influence. The attitude needed by the sadhaka to deal with this type is: (a) to apply one’s willpower to resist the impulsion, (b) never to rationalize or legitimize its appearance, but rather to withdraw all inner consent from its manifestation, (c) never to yield any ground, however limited in extent, (d) to act as a heroic warrior against the dark tendencies of behalf of the upward-moving forces of light, (e) turn immediately to the Divine and pray constantly and fervently that these weaknesses and impulses of his or her nature be vanquished and removed.
One should be aware of a few hidden facts regarding the operation of such weaknesses.
Even if one scores a decisive victory over one weakness or obstacles, many others will automatically be vanquished as well. A successful rejection of one will give one added strength to gain mastery over many others. On the other hand, indulging one, out of laziness for example, will cause the sadhaka to lose much strength and fervour in successfully tackling other impulses and weaknesses. A sincere and prompt effort on the part of the sadhaka to confront and conquer all his present day weaknesses as soon as they first appear will make the life of the sadhana full of a joy which is independent of the outer circumstances.
With regards to the third category of obstacles within, the deeply hidden potential weaknesses. How to recognize them? At their first appearance, almost the entire portion of the sadhaka’s being gets abnormally disturbed, agitated and churned up. Their roots are so deep and extensive that the sadhaka feels that they are an intrinsic and ineradicable part of his being; one is not at all persuaded of the basic undesirability of these weaknesses. With their appearance, the sadhaka loses for the time being the lucidity of his consciousness, as if in a storm. A preponderant portionn of his consciousness is still deeply infatuated with these surging weaknesses and blindly hankers to fulfil some strong desires through the medium of their manifestation. It would be foolhardy to attempt to eradicate such a weakness unaided, before one is sufficiently prepared. There is a real danger of suppression of its outer manifestation, leading to an internal conflict with that major portion of the sadhak’s nature which obstinately clings to the attachment. An explosion is inevitable, disrupting the balance of the being. So, one should avoid as far as possible these intractable difficulties, and not to allow them any occasion for manifestation. Rather the approach should be as follows: (a) to hold the difficulty or weakness in front of one’s consciousness, without becoming scared by it or identified with it, (b) to carefully look for its root cause or source, (c) to try to discover what part’s of one’s nature are secretly nurturing a fascination for this particular weakness, and are thrown into a turmoil at its slightest beckoning, (d) maintain always a spirit of calm, quiet detachment, throughout the above observation, even if what is exposed is very ugly; (e) maintain an ardent aspiration for the eradication of the weakness in question, addressing an earnest prayer to the Divine for assistance. Such a prayer and aspiration coupled with a thorough self-examination will progressively turn these intractable obstacles first into manageable obstacles of the second class, and finally into easily detachable ones of the past.
Self-surrender to the Divine at all times and in all circumstances is the key to the sadhana of Integral Yoga as well as the Kriya Yoga of Patanjali, who said “Ishvara-pranidhanad-va,” (“Or because of one’s surrender to the Lord, one achieves cognitive absorption, ie. Samadhi.) Yoga Sutras I.23) “My God and my all” summarizes its heartfelt expression. The day that a student surrenders to the Divine, the Divine itself intervenes in the life of the student and helps to remove all difficulties and weaknesses, and brings joy into the consciousness with its Presence.
For this to occur the prerequisites are: (1) the student must feel the vanity of one’s own power, (2) he must believe with all his heart that there is Someone called Divine who really exists, loves him, and has the omnipotence to do anything according to Divine wisdom, and (3) the student must turn to the Divine alone as his or her sole refuge.
In the surrendered state of consciousness whatever one does, or feels, all movements are made as an offering to the Supreme Being, in absolute trust, freeing oneself of responsibility for oneself, handing over to the Divine all of one’s burden.
There is much resistance and obstruction in the sadhaka’s habitual consciousness and nature that works against this surrender. One must unreservedly resign oneself to the sole guidance of the Divine. How to know if one has done so? Sri Aurobindo has given a detailed description of the inner mood of a truly surrendered sadhak:
“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 realize him. I ask nothing but that and his action in me to bring me to him, his actions 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… 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.” - Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga Cent. Ed. P. 587
Consequently, it is the Divine itself who takes charge of the entire course of the sadhak’s sadhana. “If one gives oneself to the Divine with trust and confidence and even if one cannot do so fully at once, yet the more one does so, the more the inner help and guidance come and the experience of the Divine grows within. If the questioning mind becomes less active and humble and the will to surrender grows, this ought to be perfectly possible.” Letters on Yoga, pp. 586-88
So, if the power of self-surrender is so potential, then why does man fail to do so? “Why is it not done? One does not think of it, one forgets to do it, the old habits come back. And above all, behind, hidden somewhere in the inconscient or even in the subconscient, there is this insidious doubt that whispers in your ear… and you are so silly, so silly, so obscure, so stupid that you listen and you begin to pay attention to yourself and everything is ruined.” The Mother.
Does personal initiative then cease? No, the ordinary sadhak’s consciousness and will is far from being united with the Divine’s Consciousness and Will; one is still living in the separative ego-consciousness, with all of its likes and dislikes, so the essential principle to follow is to surrender the fruit or results of one’s actions to the Divine, otherwise it is only for the ego’s satisfaction that one acts. One must maintain the following attitude:
“The Divine is my sole refuge; I trust in Him and rely on Him for everything and Him alone. I am utterly resigned to His Will. I will see to it that no obstacle on the way nor any dark mood of desperation, ever make me waver from my absolute reliance on the Divine.” – Sri Aurobindo.
However, this should not make the sadhak complacent. One should not feel that there no effort on the part of the sadhak, that the Divine will do everything for them. Sri Aurobindo’s words make this very clear: “But the supreme Grace will act only in the conditions of the Light and the Truth; it will not act in conditions laid upon it by the Falsehood and the Ignorance. For if it were to yield to the demands of the Falsehood it would defeat its own purpose.” There are conditions for everything. If someone refuses to fulfill the conditions for Yoga, there is no use in appealing for Divine intervention.
One essential condition is faith. Genuine faith is a deep and quiet illumined feeling of conviction arising from the depths of one’s being, when the outer mind and heart are stilled and made pure of all egoistic desire and expectation. It can pierce the haze of adverse movements of the moment and concentrate on the ever-present truth. It is not a fair-weather friend, nor is it merely based upon reasoning or willpower. True faith shines like a flame; it is self-existent and independent of circumstances.
Does this mean that the surrendered sadhak will face no difficulties or misfortunes? In this world of dualism, with all of its ups and downs, and contradictions, its meaning lies in this opposition. “It must be an evolution which is leading or struggling towards higher things out of a first darker appearance. Whatever guidance there is must be given under these conditions of opposition and struggle… through the double terms of knowledge and ignorance, light and darkness, death and life, pain and pleasure, happiness and suffering; none of the terms can be excluded until the higher status is reached and established.” –Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga p. 1627
While an effective surrender does not necessarily ensure the sadhak against all future storms and stresses; it does assure the absolute security of the sadhak’s spiritual health even in their midst. No promise is made that the path will be a sunlit path of rose petals; what is promised is that He will lead the surrendered sadhak to his cherished spiritual goal through every possible misfortune in life. The surrendered sadhak also knows that misfortunes and suffering are not in vain, but are sanctioned by the Divine for fulfilling a necessary spiritual purpose whose significance will be revealed in time. The surrendered sadhak knows and feels that the Divine is not far away or absent during his suffering, but sitting in the heart of his acutest difficulty, guiding from there the course of circumstances to lead the sadhak to union with the Divine. The surrendered sadhak also knows that if faced with courage, patience, and right attitude, in a spirit of surrender, every difficulty bring great spiritual benefit. Finally, the surrendered sadhak knows that there is an underlying purpose leading to some future spiritual good. His mantra remains: “Let Thy Will be done always and everywhere.”
Having heaped the fuel of devotion onto the fire of aspiration, and having rejected all that seeks to smother the growing flame of inner realization, it now remains to dive into the fire of tapas, of self-surrender. Surrender of the contracted ego’s petty perspective to the expanded bird’s eye view of the higher Self. Here are suggested practices to cultivate surrender:
1. By abiding as the Witness, as pure consciousness, at all times, in all circumstances. Whatever karma brings, one never ceases to stand firm as the Seer, in para-vairagya, supreme detachment.
2. By cultivating mental silence. The mind creates the delusion of separateness, and the intellect divides unceasingly between this and that; when their chatter subsides one beholds the absolute Oneness of all, and the background comes to the foreground; so when faced with difficulties, go beyond the surface. “Be Still and Know.” The guidance will come.
3. By surrendering fear, lust, anger, and all desires, remaining poised, neither liking nor disliking, neither having nor not having, neither gaining nor losing, but remaining in that place of balance, transcending the dual opposites that worldly attachments afflict one with.
4. By remembering “This too shall pass,” when things go well and when things go badly. Banish all moods of trepidation, worries, and anxieties regarding the possible course of life. The slightest appearance of fear or worry should make the sadhak alert and begin to immediately rectify the flaws in his attitude, renew his resolution, and establish his consciousness in a state of tranquil trust in the Divine.
5. Reaching for the Divine above, with utter faith in its providence, by practicing the “complete surrender pose,” lying face down, completely vulnerable, with arms outstretched above the crown, the seat of the guru, to the Supreme Being above, hands together, in sacred union.
6. By piercing the veil of dark thoughts, which habitually envelope one, seeing psychically the bright light of consciousness beyond them.
7. By opening oneself to intuitive guidance, putting and keeping the mind in a calm receptive state, listening to the inner guidance or insight, which comes spontaneously.
8. By accepting things as they are, seeing the lessons which every situation brings, and beholding the perfection that they lead to.
9. By cultivating patience, especially when expectations are not met.
10. By remembering “Om Namah Shivayah”: That (Supreme Being Shiva) I am!
11. By seeking the immanent one in the midst of all changes; the underlying Supreme reality which transcends all. “Watch for God in the events of your life. See only the hand of God in it all.”
Om Tat Sat