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The Meaning of 'Surrendering'

By: for on March 28, 2014

Bhagavad-gita 18.73

Many people think of surrender as passive acceptance.

However, surrender involves not just acceptance but also action. The Bhagavad-gita’s conclusion demonstrates this active dimension of surrender. When Krishna urges surrender (18.66), Arjuna responds affirmatively, declaring (18.73) his readiness to implement Krishna’s will.

In surrender, the acceptance is for the circumstances that may well be unchangeable; and the action is for carrying out our duty to serve Krishna. Usually and unfortunately, we begrudge the circumstances, using them to justify our neglect of our duty. Our circumstantial obstacles may be deficiency of talent (If only my speech was more articulate), scarcity of resources (If only I had more money) or paucity of time (If only I could do this next month).

Even if other circumstances might have enabled us to serve Krishna better, his primary concern is not the quality of the result, but the quality of our consciousness. And we improve the quality of our consciousness by unresentfully, undistractedly, unflinchingly choosing to do what we can, with what we have – now. By surrendering thus, we accept the circumstances, understanding them to be the results of our own past karma, ultimately arranged by Krishna’s sanction.

Significantly, if we surrender and do Krishna’s will, we may actually do much better than what we had thought possible under the circumstances. Being omnipotent, Krishna can change the circumstances in inconceivable ways. Being immanent, he can from within our heart give us ideas that we could never have thought of on our own. And even if none of these happen, the act of surrender itself, being a determined subordination of our will to Krishna’s will, comprises a quantum leap in our spiritual progress.

Thus the acceptance in surrender far from being passive removes rationalizations for passivity and sets the stage for devotional dynamism.

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