Today, on three separate occasions, I heard some popular spiritual teachers speaking about surrender. There was something deeply off about it, not in alignment with spiritual Truth. That’s the reason for this post. As important as surrender is to the spiritual path, it needs some clarity.
Each of these teachers were speaking about surrender as something to avoid fully embracing. They were teaching about balance, a popular spiritual teaching today. This was in regard to students who have been abused by certain spiritual teachers. They felt that it was because they had fully surrendered to these teachers and didn’t use enough discrimination. Their advice was to seek a balance between complete surrender and personal determination.
Wisdom and Common Sense
On the surface this sounds like wisdom or even common sense. You don’t surrender your autonomy, independence, or judgment. You don’t surrender your self. There are many popular spiritual teachers who teach this. “Surrender is good, of course, but only up to a point. There has to be a balance.” You’ve probably heard this before – the balance of the Divine and the human.
Of course the ego loves this. It’s safe. It’s not dangerous. It avoids the danger of dying or extinction. What appears to be wisdom, practicality and common sense, is based entirely on fear. And fear is the source of the ego, illusion and what keeps us from waking up. So what seems like wisdom to the ego is actually just another strategy to avoid waking up. Because waking up is the death and extinction of the egoic separate self. It’s not that it no longer exists. But it is no longer believed, no longer identified with, and to the ego that’s death. It’s the death of the illusion of a separate, independent self.
Some Clarity About Surrender
That I heard three different popular spiritual teachers speak about this at different times on the same day made it clear that some clarity was needed.
I’m certainly not advising anyone to surrender completely to these abusive teachers. They are also not awake. Awake beings do not act in this way. That is the ego. An awake being no longer experiences a separate personal identity. That illusion has been fully surrendered. In this way the type of desire and need that these abusive teachers exhibit cannot happen. There is only acting in the highest benefit of all, because there is no separation from all.
What We Surrender To
First, we have to understand what we surrender to. We don’t surrender to a person, whether it’s a spiritual teacher, a guru or a zen master. What we surrender to is Truth. What we surrender to is the Something More that is beyond all thoughts, concepts and beliefs, beyond all persons. This may and does appear in awake spiritual teachers. But it is not them. It is Truth expressing Itself through them. And that is what we surrender to, fully and absolutely, with no reservations, resistance or attachment. How do we know it’s Truth? This same Truth has always been in us. There is a resonance. Truth speaks to Truth.
What We Surrender
In addition to knowing what we surrender to, we also need to know what we surrender. We surrender everything. We surrender our identity as a separate self. We surrender our thoughts, knowledge and beliefs. We surrender our perceptions of the world, ourself and others. We surrender all attachments and resistance. We surrender the world and ourself. We surrender everything. Clearly this is not very popular to the ego. Many spiritual teachers have still not surrendered themselves in this way and this completely. They prefer balance. Surrendering is never going to be popular. But it is the only way we can awaken. There is no other way.
Truth Outshines Illusion
Some awakened beings have such a powerful awakening that Truth completely outshines all illusion. This can happen in a single night as it did for Eckhart Tolle and Ramana Maharshi. It’s rare, but it does happen. But this too is surrender. It just happened completely in a single day. All thoughts, concepts, beliefs, the world and the self identity were surrendered in one moment because their realization and experience of Truth was so powerful it completely dissolved all illusion.
Usually It Happens in Stages
Most of us need to do this in stages. It’s not a problem. We do this step by step, continually surrendering more. And as we do, as the surrender is deeper and more complete, we experience all the rewards that come with surrender, so we continue.
At some point, we’ve surrendered everything and Truth is revealed as always having been here. It was simply covered up by what we were afraid to surrender, by our attachment and resistance.
Fear is why we don’t surrender. The egoic self identity is based in fear. Our attachment to it and its survival is why we don’t truly awaken. We may experience moments of freedom, as many spiritual teachers have, but then the fear returns and we “play it safe.” We seek a balance between being awake and being asleep. It sounds good to the ego, but this balance is an illusion. This balance doesn’t exist. We either fully surrender the illusion or we don’t.
Spiritual teachers who have abused their students create a great deal of harm. Maybe the worst harm they have done is to increase the fear in seekers. Even these three popular spiritual teachers seem to have fallen victim to this fear. This is why they’re not awake. They’re not fully surrendered. And their advice encourages their students to also remain afraid and avoid waking up.
It’s Not Rocket Science
Awakening is not rocket science. Although to hear many teachers talk it seems to be. There are so many practices, approaches, philosophies, theories, teachings and explanations. But it’s not nearly as complicated as all that. Most of these complicated theories are simply more ways to avoid surrendering. It really comes down to surrender. We surrender the illusion to Something More, to Truth. Fear is a great obstacle. But if we’re truly determined to live in Truth, we surrender anyway. Not to a person, but to Truth. Yes, it takes some trust. This Truth cannot be seen, named, described or even imagined. Yet it is very real, infinite and unchanging. It’s the only thing that is truly reliable in this world or any other. And you CAN directly realize and experience it. Right now and always it is more intimate to you than your heartbeat. The only price of admission is your full and complete surrender. You pay everything and in return you get everything. The good news is you’re only paying with illusion, what is temporary, what cannot last. And for this you receive what is eternally True. It’s a highly beneficial exchange.
The one who doesn’t want to surrender completely is also an illusion. This is the main illusion that you surrender. It is the one seeking balance. The surrender of this is the final step before awakening to Truth. You cannot walk through the gateless gate of Truth dragging this illusion of a separate self. That has never worked.
Surrender is essential. There is no other way. You can surrender easily, effortlessly, willingly and even joyfully. Or you can succumb to fear and resist, fight and struggle. The second approach is what most of us do. That’s why surrender and awakening seem so difficult and are so uncommon.
In Satsang, surrender is happening too. But there is less struggle, less resistance. You’re with others who have surrendered or are in the process of surrendering. It doesn’t seem so bad. Everyone is happy and at peace. The teacher, if he or she is awake, fully surrendered, seems to be an embodiment of freedom, peace, love and joy. How bad can it be? Of course not bad at all. In fact, there is nothing more precious in all existence.