Benefits of Self Surrender
Self surrender is the highest form of bhakti. Self surrender is also known as Atma Nivedana. Eg: Mira, Gopis of Vrindavan. In Kathopanishad it is said, “The Lord chooses that man who has surrendered himself, reveals Himself unto him and bestows the highest wisdom on him.”
A bhakta who has surrendered himself to the Lord will enjoy divine bliss or divine attributes of the Lord. He is freed from the worldly bondage and becomes one with the Lord, which is Supreme and eternal. Even if the surrender is partial, he will continue to enjoy the benefits of surrender in his next birth.
In Bhagavad Gita (ch 9, V, 22) “I personally take care of both the spiritual and material welfare of those ever-steadfast devotees who always remember and worship Me with single-minded contemplation”.
Self surrender makes the bhakta experience the divine grace. He will experience the Lord everywhere. Thus surrender and divine grace are interlinked. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa said that if a bhakta takes one step towards God, He will take ten steps towards the bhakta. Such is the grace of the Lord. It is through divine grace alone that a bhakta’s heart is purified and his mind becomes still. On self realisation, a bhakta attains absolute perfection which is the highest truth.
Obstacles in the path of Self surrender
Ego and desire are the two obstacles in the path of Self surrender
Ego: Ego is the root cause of desires, selfishness, attraction and repulsion. The nature of ego is that it resists surrender. Lord Krishna says “Tameva saranam gaccha sarvabhavena Bharata”- Flee unto Him for shelter with all thy being, 0 Bharata. The body, mind, the intellect and the soul (the whole being) must be surrendered to the Lord. Mind must be thoroughly cleansed of old thoughts. All the old habits must be overhauled for complete surrender. Lord will not reveal Himself even if there is a tinge of ego. It is due to ego that several aspirants do not reach the goal even after several years of Sadhana.
As Lord Krishna states in Bhagavad Gita (Ch 7, V-3)
“Out of many thousands of men hardly one endeavours for the perfection of self realisation and of those so endeavouring hardly one has achieved the perfection of self realisation and of those hardly one knows Me in truth”
Desires and sense of doer ship causes agitation of mind and bondage. An aspirant must keep a constant vigil on his thoughts. There could be several subtle desires in the heart which may surface from time to time. Through constant concentration or meditation, the mind will be able to overcome agitation. All the hidden desires must be discovered and killed ruthlessly. Even if there is an iota of ego or desire, then the surrender cannot be complete. If the surrender is not complete, then Divine grace does not descend in its fullest measure. It is only through arduous and regular practice that an aspirant can make spiritual progress.
Highest form of Bhakti – Para Bhakti
Para Bhakti is the highest form of Bhakti. Renunciation or Self Surrender is the pre requisite for Para Bhakti. In the preliminary stage, an aspirant worships his ishtadevtha or personal deity with shodashopachara puja, like offering flowers, doop, deep, naivedhya etc, reads scriptures, visits temples, practices nava vidha forms of Bhakti and practices meditation. With regular practice, the aspirant over a period of time will reach a state, where his devotion or attraction for God will grow beyond the preliminary stage. His attractions for worldly objects will drop off, resulting in complete renunciation. As renunciation progresses, an aspirant’s actions will become less self centred and devotion to the Lord will become manifold. This is called as supreme devotion or Para Bhakti. Thus in Para Bhakti, there is no worship of the deity nor are any rituals associated with worship observed.
In Devi Bhagavatam, Para Bhakti is defined “as oil poured from one vessel to another falls in an unbroken line, so the mind in an unbroken stream thinks of the Lord, we have what is called as Para Bhakti.” This steady focus of the mind and heart to the Lord is Para Bhakti.
For a devotee of Para bhakta, the whole world is Vrindavan. Namadeva was a devotee of Para Bhakti. He saw Lord Krishna everywhere. When he saw a dog run with bread in his mouth, Namadeva went running after the dog with a cup of ghee in his hand to soften the bread. Such was his devotion that he saw Lord Krishna everywhere. Prahalada was a devotee of Para Bhakta. He saw Lord Hari in Pillar. A devotee of Para Bhakti declares that “the Whole world is Lord Vishnu”.
The preliminary bhakti stage should be practiced for several years. A bhakta should not give up the initial stage of Bhakti like doing puja, falsely assuming that he has attained Para Bhakti. An aspirant must realise that it is only God’s Maya at play. The ways of Maya are myriad. It can trick the aspirant in many ways.
Para Bhakti comes through total unreserved self surrender. Being humble and simple is a pre requisite for a bhakta aspiring Para Bhakti. An aspirant should be ever vigilant about his thoughts. He should always be in the company of devotees and protect himself from worldly temptations and influences. An aspirant should practice bhakti under the guidance of a Guru. An aspirant who has reached the stage of Para Bhakti will be extremely humble, fearless, desire less, anger less, I- less and no attachment for anything. Such a person will enjoy the divine Grace of Lord Krishna.
Para means transcendental or unaffected by material contamination. Para Bhakti is the consciousness that he is an eternal servant of Lord. The Svetasvataropanishad describes Para Bhakti or transcendental devotion as “He who has transcendental love towards Lord and towards his spiritual master is truly a great soul.”
Para Bhakti and Jnana are one and the same. The Lord is Jnana or wisdom itself. He is Consciousness itself. The bhakta will become unconscious of everything else. He is conscious of the Lord and Lord only.
At an advanced stage of Para Bhakti, an aspirant’s conscious of the Lord will also drop off and the bhakta will become the consciousness itself. This stage is the fusion of bhakti- Jnana and Vairagya leading to Self realisation.
Para Bhakti reveals to a bhakta that God is both within and as well as outside of everything and that in reality, apart from Krishna nothing exists. In Sukla Yajur Veda (40.1.a) and Isopanishad (1) “Here in this world, whatever moves, everything is pervaded by the Lord or covered by Him. Therefore by renunciation alone, enjoy all things. Do not covet the wealth for anyone else”
Sri Sankaracharya in Vivekachudamani (32) says “Among all paths that lead to liberation, bhakti is supreme. Bhakti is the continuous contemplation of one’s own essential nature. Others say that bhakti is the contemplation of one’s own truth”.
In Bhagavad Gita (ch 13, V 10) “Of those, the Jnani who is always engaged in with constant and single bhakti excels, because I love him and he loves Me”
Role of bhakti
Bhakti plays an important role in the spiritual progress of an aspirant. Bhakti cleanses the mind, purifies the heart and makes an aspirant to progress spiritually. It is through Bhakti that an aspirant gets Jnana or knowledge of the Self, which is God, thus leading him to emancipation. It is bhakti that liberates an individual from the bondage of Samsara to the ultimate goal – Moksha or liberation.
Fruits of Bhakti
God is an embodiment of love, kindness, mercy and compassion. There are several instances in Mahabharata, Ramayana where God has come to the rescue of his Bhaktas. For Eg: When Draupadi was disrobed in the Assembly Hall of Kauravas, Draupadi prayed to Lord Krishna and her honour was restored.
Bhakti is the path to Knowledge. Jnana is the result or fruit of Bhakti. Several sages like Sankara, Madhusudana, and Sukadev who were Jnanis also tread the path of Bhakti to enjoy the sweetness of the loving relationship with God. Bhakti gives the highest and everlasting bliss to a bhakta.
According to Narada Bhakti Sutra (V- 4) the fruits of Bhakti are “Upon achieving that stage of transcendental devotional service in pure love of God, a person becomes perfect, immortal, and peaceful”.
When a man conditioned by materialistic needs comes in contact with a divine soul with the Grace of the Lord, he enters the path of perfection. By constantly engaging in devotional services, he becomes perfect. Such perfection brings peace.
According to Bhagavad Gita (Ch 8,V.15)
“The great souls who engage in My devotional service attain Me, the Supreme Lord, and do not come back to this miserable material life, for they have attained the highest perfection.”
Narada Bhakti Sutra (V- 5) “A person engaged in such pure devotional service neither desires anything for sense gratification, nor laments for any loss, nor hates anything, nor enjoys anything on his personal account, nor becomes very enthusiastic in material activity”.
Due to the lack of knowledge or Avidya or lack of bliss, a man pursues material needs. But when a devotee has attained perfection by constantly engaging in the devotional service, he attains God. Devotion is like fire of wisdom or Jnanagni that will burn all the mundane desires. For Eg: Dhruva started worshipping Lord Hari to get kingdom, but when he had the Darshan of Lord Hari, his desire disappeared.
On attaining God, the Supreme bliss, all other material desires become frivolous. A man, who has attained God, realises that the entire universe is a manifestation of the Lord and all the happenings are only His Lilas. Such a realisation liberates the Jnani from grief, sorrow and hatred.
According to Bhagavad Gita (Ch 13, v13):
“With hands and feet everywhere, with eyes, heads and mouths everywhere, with ears everywhere, He exists in the worlds enveloping all”.
Narada Bhakti Sutra- 6: By knowing which he becomes ecstatic (with overjoy), quiet, and happy in his own Self.
According to Bhagavad Gita (Ch 5, v 21)
“With the self unattached to external contacts he finds happiness in the Self; with the self engaged in the meditation of Brahman he attains to the endless happiness.”
Bhagavad Gita (Ch 3, V17)
“The man who rejoices only in the Self, who is satisfied with the Self and who is content in the Self alone, for him verily there is nothing to do.
A devotee who has obtained the grace of the Lord will channelize all the outgoing energies into spiritual energies. He will be blessed with the Sattva energy from the Lord. He will have no desires and his mind is ever fixed on God and God alone. The senses are under his control that is absorbed in God. He is ever peaceful, and enjoys the bliss of the god.
The bhakta enjoying divine bliss is lost in the divine ecstasy. Eg: Mira would dance on the streets singing about the glory of Lord Krishna.
How does God protect a Bhakta?
In Bhagavad Gita, (Ch 9, V22) Lord Krishna declares “Those who desire My eternal association precluding all else meditate on Me with exclusive devotion; those persons I insure the uniting of their individual Consciousness with the ultimate Consciousness perpetually”.
When a bhakta is engaged in the devotional service of (such as hearing, chanting, remembering, worshipping, serving god or guru, offering prayers, rendering service to others), Lord Krishna, the Lord pleased with the bhakta, will take care of the personal needs of such a bhakta. The Lord also protects the bhakta from any situation that may obstruct Self realization.
Bhagavad Gita (ch 12, v- 6-8) Lord Krishna says “those who, renouncing all actions in Me, and regarding Me as the Supreme, worship Me. For those whose thoughts have entered into Me, I am soon the deliverer from the ocean of death and transmigration, Arjuna. Keep your mind on Me alone, your intellect on Me. Thus you shall dwell in Me hereafter”
God becomes a slave to His devotees. The following line from Lord Krishna sums up about how the Lord protects His devotees: Srimad Bhagavatam (Canto 9.4.63)
‘I am not in my control.
I am in the complete control of my bhaktas.
They have taken entire possession of my heart.
How can I leave them when they have taken entire possession of my heart?
How can I leave them when they have renounced everything for my sake?
He who seeks me in all things, to him I am never lost, nor he to me.’