Spiritual surrender is not an admission of defeat – it is a vehicle to victory
In contemporary idiom, the word “surrender” conjures strong negative imagery. When a warrior is overpowered and has no way to resist or escape, he surrenders, which is a reluctant, often resentful, admission of defeat.
This negative conception may make us recoil when bhakti wisdom urges us to surrender to God. However, spiritual surrender is an entirely different ball game, as can be seen from how it is demonstrated in the Bhagavad-gita.
In the Gita, the first mention of surrender comes in the beginning when Arjuna surrenders to Krishna, admitting his inability to figure out the right course of action and seeking knowledge of dharma (02.07). This is the only reference which somewhat resembles the negative stereotype of surrender.
How the Gita’s conception of surrender is positive is revealed as its thought-flow evolves. It (07.14) declares that those who surrender to Krishna will cross over worldly illusion. Here, surrender is shown to be eminently positive, as a means to attain victory in the war against illusion. And the fundamental illusion is that God and we are antagonists – that his definition of pleasure is opposite to our conception of pleasure. Gita wisdom counters this illusion by explaining that God is our greatest well-wisher; he wants us to attain the greatest fulfillment by realizing our eternal nature as his beloved, blissful parts.
When Arjuna understands Krishna’s omni-benevolence, he responds to the call for surrender (18.66) with a whole-heartedly affirmative reply (18.73). He declares that the Gita’s message culminating in surrender has helped him overcome his illusion and doubts. And the Gita concludes with a prophecy of the surrendered Arjuna’s imminent victory in the upcoming war (18.78).
When we too open ourselves to Gita wisdom, we will see surrender as supremely empowering, as the cherished vehicle to life’s ultimate victory.
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