Have you ever come across the phrases “surrender yourself to life” or “surrender your soul”?
These are popular mantras often presented as the ultimate solution to life’s challenges. But does surrendering truly hold the answers?
Does giving up control and relinquishing power actually help us in difficult situations? Let’s explore the origins of the word “surrender” and its connection to ancient Indian texts to uncover the truth.
The term “surrender” originates from the Old French word “surrendre,” meaning “to give up” or “to yield.” Initially used in feudalism and warfare, it referred to yielding one’s land or military position to a higher authority.
In these contexts, surrender was often associated with weakness or defeat and accompanied by conditions for safety or security.
Over time, surrender’s meaning expanded to include various contexts, such as surrendering oneself to a cause, belief, or relationship. It typically involves letting go of control or relinquishing power in physical, emotional, or spiritual aspects.
Ancient Indian texts like the Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads extensively mention the significance of surrendering. However, the true meaning has been lost in translation.
For example, Bhakti yoga discusses “Sharanagati,” loosely translated as surrender in English. Sharanagati combines “shara,” meaning shelter, and “agat,” meaning one seeking shelter. So, whenever surrender is mentioned in translations, it actually refers to taking shelter.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna mentions taking refuge in Him in Chapter 18. The Sanskrit verse “tam eva sharanam gaccha sarva-bhavena bharata, tat-prasadat param shantim sthanam prapsyasi shashvatam” translates to “Take refuge in Him alone with all your being, O Bharata. By His grace, you will attain supreme peace and the eternal abode.”
Similarly, in another verse, Sri Krishna says, “maam hi paarthavyapaashritya ye ‘pi syuh paapayonayah striyo vaisyastathaa shoodraas te ‘pi yaanti param gatim” (BG 9.32), which means “O Partha, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth, women, vaisyas (merchants), as well as shudras (workers), can approach the supreme destination.”
It’s crucial to differentiate between surrender and sharanagati. Surrender implies giving up control, while sharanagati is about seeking shelter.
When we surrender, we relinquish control to an external force. In contrast, practicing sharanagati means taking shelter in a higher power without losing control over our lives.
Some argue that we cannot control external circumstances, and it’s better to surrender and let the universe determine our fate. However, we must also take responsibility for ourselves.
For example, if it starts raining during winter when we have a severe cold, we should seek shelter under a tree instead of leaving our fate to the rain.
In a spiritual and learning context, we practice sharanagati, seeking shelter, rather than simply surrendering. We must take responsibility for our lives and actions instead of relinquishing control to external forces.
Our teachers and gurus serve as guides, much like GPS systems, directing us toward our goals. However, it is ultimately our responsibility to exert effort and take action.
In the epic Mahabharata, Sri Krishna could have ended the war in one day but chose to guide Arjuna toward the right actions. It was Arjuna who had to perform his duties, just as we do in our lives.
So, are you ready to take responsibility for your life and embrace sharanagati rather than surrender?