GUEST POST: Swami Muktibodhananda
As a yoga student becomes more engrossed in the theory and philosophy of yoga the subject of ‘surrender’ arises. I personally began my yoga journey in 1972 and have since found that this aspect needs clarification in order for the process to unfold naturally and spontaneously. Surrender is what happens naturally when a person prepares to go to sleep. If you think, “I have to sleep now”, it doesn’t happen. It takes preparation to sleep, all-be-it unconscious. You lie down, process the day, relax (may be not completely if you are stressed) and in most cases the body knows what to do to get you to sleep. You surrender into sleep because you have done so since you were a foetus without any resistance or conscious thought of how to do it. Surrendering into sleep is part of the human experience. In yoga practice ‘surrender’ is used in relation to the ego. A yoga aspirant surrenders the ego in meditation allowing it to subside into the transcendental consciousness. Words are easy to expound, however, imagine going to sleep while being fully aware of the process, that is how easy it is to truly meditate, that is how easy it is to allow the ego to merge into the source that has produced it! The ancient yogis, therefore, have elucidated various methods enabling this process to unfold naturally; the two most common paths are karma yoga and bhakti yoga.
The Bhagavad Gita expounds both of these paths. Chapter 18, verse 66, describes the importance of attaining the final stage of surrendering to the highest reality. ‘Renouncing all religious duties, take refuge in/surrender only to me (Krishna as the ultimate state of consciousness) for I will liberate you from all misfortune. Be without despair.’ It is important to understand this in relation to who Krishna is in this statement. Krishna is, a human being, a king and guru who lived 5,000 years ago, he is the representative of transcendental consciousness. It is in this context of transcendental consciousness he is saying ‘only surrender to me’. What he is not saying is surrender to a person. When you surrender to a person you lose your self-autonomy and ability to think for yourself, you shut down your ajna and manipura chakras, you abdicate self-responsibility, this goes against everything for which yoga stands.
Yoga promotes vairagya, discrimination. When you have a yoga teacher and/or guru to advise you, definitely listen to what they say, weigh it up by discriminating is this information true and useful and how much do you value the information. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali describes vairagya as a state of mind free of desire, when the mind loses desire even for the worldly objects or those described in a tradition or scripture (Chapter one, verse 15). Therefore, listening to what you are being told to do with an objective outlook is vairagya. Patanjali also promotes five niyama, positive habits, of a yogi. One of these is Ishwara Pranidhan, which can either be translated as profound meditation/contemplation on Ishwara, transcendental consciousness or surrender to transcendental consciousness. There is no mention of surrendering to a person. I cannot iterate enough, the path of yoga does not promote blind faith in another person; yoga promotes freedom. People on the path of yoga may try to control other people. It is your choice to find out and choose what is right and good for you. Yoga is a path of self-empowerment and there are as many paths as there are people.
About Swami Muktibodhananda:
Swami Muktibodhananda is a world-class exponent of the Satyananda Yoga system. Beginning yoga at a young age, she met Paramahansa Swami Satyananda, her guru, in 1976 and decided it was time to fully commit to the yogic path. Muktibodha lived in India for 10 years studying, teaching and practising sadhana under the direct guidance of Swami Satyananda. During that time she authored Light on Hatha Yoga Pradpika and Swara Yoga, the Tantric Science of Brain Breathing, first published by Bihar School of Yoga. Since then she has written and had published Energy the Spark of Life, a book about yoga and personal growth for men and women.