The Significance of Surrender that Transforms

Nov. 27, 1998

Sri Aurobindo laid down that methods in Purna Yoga must not be physical, but spiritual or psycho-spiritual. He said the principle he had in view was surrender by which the being, consciousness, delight and power of the human being would be given up unto that of the Divine Being.

The Gita speaks of surrender. Bhakti marga also advocates surrender. Is this too the same surrender or is it different? Why has he landed on it? And further, how did he arrive at it?

The Gita’s surrender is the most powerful yogic instrument, but it aims at moksha, not transformation. As Purna Yoga needs to use all the parts of the being, it is obvious that methods chosen by other parts would not suit here.

Asana is the exercise of the body, one of the three parts of the being. Purifying the body emphasises the body, thus excluding other parts. Pranayama concentrates on the breath of the vital. Naturally, mind and body are relegated. The emphasis laid on thought may prepare the mind, not the other parts of the being. If thought is of the mind, and breath is of the vital, what instrument is there for one to choose when the being is his field?

In truth, the being consists of four parts, not only three, as the spirit is also a part of the being. At its origin, Being exists. At the level of the human being, too, it exists and has to exist. What is central to human existence? When the Jnani shunned work, Krishna chastised him saying God himself works and cannot cease working, and how, then, can the jnani stop working? Work is the basis of existence as a human being. Then we must look for the unit of work as its master theme. An act is the master word of work. He who wants to make his whole being do the yoga can use the act as his instrument and field. The act is moved by his own will, the central will of the person.

The Jnani purifies his thought, the hatha yogi purifies his body. As we aim at a divine life, we must aim at divinising our will. Is there a method, an instrument or a field to accomplish this object? There is no human instrument that belongs to the whole being and therefore no method has so far been fashioned for a similar purpose. The field of Purna Yoga is not the individual life, but the entire human life on earth.

How can man act on the entire human life so as to transform it?

Sri Aurobindo says that the goal the Spirit seeks in creation is to render its Force into Form and seek perfection in that Form. We see forms at all levels from the Supermind down to matter. Form is most evident in matter as a stone or table. At the vital level, form emerges as speech, values like courage, emotions like anger, etc. The mental forms cast themselves into thought. There are three further, higher levels, too. At the higher mind, the pre-eminent form is understanding through silence. The higher mind is distinguished from the mind of thought by its capacity to understand without thought. Sight or light is the instrument of the illumined mind. Intuition belongs to the next level of the yogi’s intuitive mind. If intuition knows the external object at this level, at the supramental level intuition knows the same thing, not as object but as subject.

Whatever our instrument, the object of comprehension is an object created by Form. The Force has objectified itself through Form into an object of comprehension. This Form at the supramental level is perfect and loses its perfection as it goes down. At the lowest level of matter, it is almost a formless mass out of which the sculptor often creates a perfect form.

Creation aims at perfect forms in matter. When human life becomes divine life, life forms would acquire perfection. We see that perfection in the creation of the artist and sculptor. If the act is the master word of existence, how can we see the perfection in an act? An act becomes perfect when the supramental force executes in the material plane. The only close analogy we can offer is the subconscious skill of the typist whose mental skill is fully transferred to the physical fingers.

An Andhra poet wanted to write a thousand verses on Uma, an unusual feat. He sat before Ramana Maharshi and wrote. When he finished the last verse, Maharshi asked if he had written all that was told. The spiritual force of Maharshi who himself could not write verses took the form of a thousand verses in the receptive disciple. Here it is the spiritual force of one acting on the material brain of another. In our case, it is the supramental force of one acting on his material plane to create perfect forms.

For this to happen, the human will that has created the material form should be transformed into divine will so that the material force behind will change into supramental force. Is there a method or a process for the human will to transform itself into the divine will? The human will we speak of is not the will of the mind or body.

Nor is it the will of the ego. It is the will of the entire embodied being. For our purposes, japa is a poor instrument, as it concentrates on words, a small part of the mind, one of the four parts of the being. The highest known in yoga is trance that leads to Nirvikalpa samadhi. This too, being a partial method, as it uses only the mind, will not serve our purpose.

The stages of creation are:

The Absolute – Self-Conscious Being – Consciousness – FORCE – FORM – Supramental Form – Spiritual form – Mental form – Vital form – Material form.

Surrender, we say, is essential for creating the supramental form in the lower triplicity. If so, we may ask, what is essential for spiritual, mental, vital and physical transformation?

We know repetition and fixity make physical form possible. Both should give place to the flow of energy and movement for the physical to be transformed into the vital. The vital is characterised by formless force such as courage. For the vital to be transformed into the mental, the formless courage should now express through the values of mind. It needs to be cast into the mould of forms of thought. Transformation of the mind demands deconditioning the mental instrument of opinions, ideas, etc.

The human act perpetuates Prakriti. The divine act allows Prakriti to blossom into the Divine. Both are in the opposite direction. If human will abstains from acting, it will still preserve its structure. As the act of transformation requires all the energy of the moment, it cannot allow some energy to be expended on the preservation of the structure. It is obvious that the human will must surrender, dissolve and disappear.

The surrender He describes moves the man from egoistic centralisation of rationality to universalised individuality. This change takes place on the surface, the mind, the ego, Time and in the finite structure of events and objects.

It is intense concentration on the present that moves man from Time to Timelessness. Mind that understands one thing at a time should yield place to Supermind that understands the infinite aspects of events simultaneously. It is an impersonalisation and universalisation that moves one from the surface to the depth. By all these processes taking place, either successively or simultaneously,

  • the finite form changes into infinite formlessness;
  • the centre of concentration changes from the mind to that of the being, behind the heart or above the head.

Human energy cannot sustain yoga. Only the universal energy can. For that to enter our system, all human energy must be fully exhausted. No drop of energy should go to preserve the existing activities. Thus, HE arrives at the method of SURRENDER.

This universal energy is now stored in the finite form of the human atomic existence. When that energy is released, it will be able to dissolve the FORM into FORMLESSNESS. It is analogous to the fusion in physics. Such energy is stored in the individual opinion and can be used for social evolution.

Knowledge that releases that energy is knowledge of surrender. Practise of it can bring prosperity at the social level, and luck at the psychological level. At the spiritual level, the same energy helps the spirit to evolve.

To secure an IMF loan of one billion dollars for India is a long, protracted process of diplomacy, public debate and international opinion. Opinion in India is well entrenched with respect to gold. It is for ornaments. Ornaments are prestigious. They serve as much needed security in times of dire need. The growing education of women has not eroded even the fringes of entrenched opinion that ornaments of gold confer social status. What lies behind that opinion is not fully known. Should that opinion yield place to the very prestigious stocks, shares and bonds, can we imagine 300 billion dollars worth of gold vanishing and that much money being put in the hands of development? Some 20 years ago the entire capital of World Bank was only 30 billions when they raised it to 75 billion dollars. Opinions are powerful. Shedding them on one’s own initiative releases abundant energy. Even changing them under duress lifted someone in an uncertain teacher’s job to the professorship of a university and later sent him to the USA.

Sri Aurobindo’s new positions in his yoga are:

  • The spirit evolves through rebirth;
  • Moksha is not the goal, but expressing the transcendent in matter is the goal;
  • It is not conflict, compromise, reconciliation, harmony or union that the spirit seeks, but unity;
  • It is not enough that the yogic effort is full, total, whole or complete, but it must be integral also.
  • This yoga cannot be accomplished by being on the surface in the mind, time, and ego as a finite creature, but one needs to move to the subliminal, timelessness, psychic and away from the mind towards Supermind.
  • Jivatma is not a portion of Paramatma but is Paramatma itself;
  • Ignorance is greater than knowledge and is the greatest power of consciousness.
  • Our aim is not to move from Time to Timelessness, but into the plane of simultaneous integrality of Time-eternity and Timeless eternity.
  • If our view of matter changes, matter will transform itself.

The method he chooses for his yoga must in the end serve all these purposes. For the spirit to evolve it seeks rebirth as mind now carries its experience through memory, which is a burden and an obstacle for spiritual evolution. In rebirth, the physical experience is shed and only the psychic essence is carried over. The method we choose should help the shedding of physical memory in this birth and allow only the psychic memory of essence to act.

Ours is a life of conflict and compromise and rarely do we meet with reconciliation. But yoga cannot be fully accomplished even by union. That will take us only to the consciousness. Yoga needs to be completed at the level of substance. Again our method must suit these needs.

Any method, however powerful, will not be perfect. Long after monarchy has gone, we see its forms and influence prevailing everywhere. Any change finds the remnants of the old. Such a situation will permit a great change in the same plane. Our aim is at the final plane of Being.

As no trace of remnants should be there and our aim is transformation, the method we choose should leave no drop of energy untransformed. Mother does not act until man has fully exhausted himself. For him to fully exhaust his present energy, Sri Aurobindo chose a method that is not of any one part. He chose the ACT as the occasion and the method as surrender. He called it self-surrender and self-consecration. That way it is voluntary self-giving of one’s self to the Divine. He says perfect self-giving is perfect self-surrender.

The part recognising the whole not only as its origin but also as the concealed inner personality of itself desiring transformation must choose total surrender and nothing else.

Sri Aurobindo said that surrender was difficult. He had moved Truth from above. All those who wished to do his yoga have only to open themselves to the descending Truth. Sincerity and opening are the conditions, surrender is the method. It is the Jivatma that should surrender to Paramatma which means only realised yogis can do this yoga. What Mother and Sri Aurobindo offer us is what only a realised soul can do. By opening to them with sincerity, we will be able to act as only realised souls can do. Opening is an important concept in his yoga.

Normally man wants his desires to be fulfilled. Better individuals seek the fulfillment of their ideals. Desires or ideals both are of the ego. Opening comes only when the ego dissolves. By ego we normally think of pride, selfishness, arrogance, assertiveness. All these are the lower forms of ego. But all that we are is only of the ego. Except Spirit, which we are not aware of, and nature, of which our parts of being are made, our volition, urges, motives, and attitudes are of the ego. He wishes us to reject all that comes from the ego and await the divine inspiration.

When the mental ego thus dissolves, the mind is universalised. We understand the other man’s thought, as he himself is aware of it. Mind’s decision, then, will be the decision of the universal mind.

Mother got rid of her mind and vital and experimented on her body. Her body spread all over the universe. When mind and vital are not there, the physical learns directly and fully. It is then a thousand times more powerful. The Agenda volumes describe this.

When the Britisher left India, India was functioning as before. Even now, 80% of our administration is British. What happened is a change in the rulers, not a transformation of the nation. As the world has not witnessed transformation, no direct example can be given. In metamorphosis, there is a somewhat good parallel to transformation. How much is in common between the caterpillar and butterfly? The past is not altered but transformed. For such a change, the past must go entirely, on its own initiative, which is self-surrender.

Mother says the Supramental being will not have digestive organs. No food will be taken; universal energy will be drawn. Though the form remains human, revolutionary changes are to take place in the structure and components. So, the old should die a death to itself, voluntarily.

For this, the spiritual element in the physical consciousness and physical substance must emerge on the surface and act on their own unimpeded by vital or the mental. As we want mind and vital to be abolished, so also the old physical with its habits, atavism, and fixity should abolish itself transforming itself into Supramental consciousness and Supramental substance. Is there any room here for the past? If no trace of the past is to linger, what method can be resorted to. He chose his own method of surrender. The Gita’s surrender that seeks moksha asks for the abolition of desire and ego. By ego it means the egoistic motive. Sri Aurobindo asks for the abolition of the ego in the mind, vital and physical from its substance itself.

It is possible to mistake submission for surrender. The physically weak man submits to the strong man, overpowered. It could be a grudging submission that waits for an opportunity or a true realisation that he foolishly resisted a worthy leader. In the latter case, it is not only a submission of the body, but mental understanding itself going to the other side. As the mind is won over, the vital too is often won over. The poor trade union leader coming into contact with the rich employer and his luxurious living, and finding that his vital truly enjoys the changed circumstances, is won over to the other side forever. These phenomena exist in varying degrees and each has its own motive force behind.

Let us go to the fundamentals to more fully comprehend surrender. Our theory of creation states that Being, by conscious choice, through self-absorption, became matter, the non-being. The final strand of creation is not matter but mind. Matter is only subconscient will. Presently, human life is dominated by matter. Matter has come, by an inversion, to rule mind which it is in its origin.

Sri Aurobindo’s position in yoga is,

  • Now Matter rules over Mind.
  • It has to change into Mind over Matter.
  • This he says is possible if the Mind changes its view of Matter.
  • Mind has to understand that Matter is only its subconscious will.
  • This he terms reversal of consciousness.
  • When this reversal takes place, the mind can further attempt to regain its link with the Supermind.
  • The change to Supermind moves man from the surface to the depth.
  • The tapasvi moves from Time to Timelessness and is lost to our world that is in Time.
  • By moving to the depth, the subliminal and to the Supermind, the sadhaka is moved from Time-eternity to the simultaneous integrality of Time-eternity and Timeless-eternity.
  • The reversal of consciousness dawns on the separative ego as knowledge of the not-self. Man realises he is not the ego but really a part of the not-self and that knowledge releases in him the urge for unity with the not-self.
  • By this, the Spirit comes into its own and is able to move matter at its will.
  • Once the boundaries of ego vanish, the finite is on its way to being Infinite.
  • This is a process of total transformation, not a change of any measure.
  • The ACT, which so far perpetuated Prakriti, now allows the being of becoming to emerge into its own.
  • It is an act of self-knowledge, self-realisation, Self-discovery that issues the Delight of knowledge emerging from Ignorance which is Lila.
  • HE called this ACT “self-surrender.”

The fullness of Transformation

We talk of Matter being transformed into Supermind as full transformation. We know of the earlier stages where the vital transforms itself into mental, even matter’s mental transformation.

Man first understands in the mind. He allows his mind to educate his vital and body slowly. Conscious skill that is clumsy, thus becomes perfect subconscious skill. This is the process of the subconscious body becoming consciously mentalised. At that point, efficiency is greatest. There is a further point. Presently we can only leave that subconscious to itself, withdrawing the conscious mind. The next greater stage is to exercise that efficiency consciously. Man is yet to attain it.

Sri Aurobindo brought the Supramental consciousness to act on his physical consciousness. Mother carried the experiment to her physical substance. She speaks of her becoming the Divine for 15 minutes. During those fifteen minutes, her physical substance was fully possessed by the Divine consciousness or became the Divine Substance.

Devotees in their lives see FORCE acting and performing miracles. In a moment of opening, the force enters the vital or physical and acts fast. When the Force enters the physical substance and stays there, transformation is complete. Mother says while the force was there, she began to think and it left.

One may ask how to do it! How to surrender to the Divine? The above gives a conceptual, mental explanation of what surrender is. This is knowledge, but knowledge without power. It becomes power only when the knowledge is understood by the physical. Mental knowledge takes a long time to act, since it has to move to the physical, whereas the physical can and will act the moment it understands. It cannot wait. It does not wait. Between the stage of mental knowledge and physical power lies the vital energy. For the one to become the other, the vital energy of passion must be released. When the passion is consuming, the physical opens.

For one to passionately want to become the Divine, he must have seen the Divine. How can one be passionate about what he has not seen? It is not enough that the soul or mind sees, for neither of them have the power of energy. The vital must have seen the Divine. The spiritual part of the vital is Pranamaya Purusha. Pranamaya Purusha does not see the Divine directly. It can reach the Jivatma or Psychic. After realising the Jivatma it is well on its way to Paramatma or Moksha. After realising the psychic, it expands into the universe. From there it reaches Ishwara in the Supermind. Ishwara is the Divine that creates. It can assume the status of Self-Conscious Being or even permit one to rise to the Absolute.

Transformation is complete when the psychic rises in the material plane to Ishwara and carries on the evolution of the body. For this, the psychic in matter, in the cells, should awaken and act. Mother calls it cellular consciousness. We start aspiring in the mind through non-stop thinking and remembrance, move to non-stop feeling the Presence before the cells awake. When they awake and call the Divine, we are in the final stages of transformation. When Mother was there, Her body was in flames and she felt like howling all the time.