The Art of Surrender
Expectations – we all have them. Perhaps we feel that life and our circumstances owe us more than we’ve been given. And on an internal level, once we’re initiated we expect to see the light, hear the sound, and have all the experiences that our spiritual books talk about as soon as we start sitting for meditation.
After some time, reality hits. Some of us will meditate for years and get no obvious results. We started off full of enthusiasm when we were initiated, but slowly that enthusiasm has dwindled down to almost nothing – even though our Master gives us the reassurance that he himself will escort all the initiated souls to Sach Khand. He will drag us there kicking and screaming if necessary. (But by the time he has wooed us into submission, we will no doubt want to gallop off to Sach Khand as fast as we can, probably with our Master saying, “Whoa! Not so fast!”)
Most of the Sant Mat books reassure us that in spite of a seemingly uncontrollable mind, we really will make the grade one day. It is, in fact, as inescapable as death and taxes! For many of us though, the path remains a struggle. At the same time it seems there’s value in the struggle. Every great achievement has been accomplished by those who have patiently accepted their struggle.
The greatest athlete creates his winning ability by getting up every morning when no one is around to notice, and by pushing himself to the brink of his own limits. Or take the artist. We see the final painting and we think how talented the artist is. But there are very few artists who can just paint a beautiful picture. A true artist keeps refining his work as he reaches for perfection. No one else knows what struggles he went through to reach the final work.
Stephen Hawking is an astrophysicist at the University of Cambridge and perhaps one of the most intelligent men on earth. He has advanced the general theory of relativity further than any person since Albert Einstein. Unfortunately Hawking is afflicted with the motor neuron disease ALS, which will eventually take his life. He has been confined to a wheelchair for years, where he can do little more than sit and think. Hawking has lost the ability even to speak, and now he communicates by means of a computer that is operated by the tiniest movement of his fingertips.
Hawking has admitted that before he became ill, he had very little interest in life. He called it a pointless existence marked by sheer boredom. Then he learned he had ALS and was not expected to live very long. The ultimate effect of that diagnosis was extremely positive. “When one’s expectations are reduced to zero,” he said, “one really appreciates everything that one does have.” Suddenly each small pleasure becomes precious. By contrast, those who believe life owes them a free ride are often discontented with its finest gifts.
Looking to ourselves, perhaps we lack appreciation for the great gift that we have been given. So, when the question arises as to why the Master doesn’t just take us up now, the answer given most often is that we are not yet ready. Perhaps the truth is that when we are ready, we will accept all that we have as his gift. And through this acceptance we will understand that every effort is a step closer in our return to the One.
We are here in his perfect timing and we will progress by his grace. There are really just two things that we are responsible for – our effort and our attitude. The rest is all his work. It is for us to follow the instructions of Master and leave the rest to him. And we need not be too concerned whether results appear in our meditation or not.
Still, we know all too well the frustration we feel when our expectations are not met. And we may often feel that he is disappointed in us – we may feel we aren’t living up to his expectations of us, or that we don’t measure up – but he is always accepting and encouraging us without judging us. The Master asks us to be patient and to persevere in our efforts. Second only to suffering, waiting may be the greatest teacher in godliness, maturity, and genuine spirituality most of us ever encounter. But we cry out to him and say, “Master, give me patience – but I want it now!”
The Master does the job given to him by the supreme Father extremely well. He patiently draws his sheep to himself in different ways and then fulfils the massive task of keeping them motivated on this path, which is often very slow. The Masters have watched their marked souls progress through all the species of creation. Can there be greater patience than that?
Rome was not built in a day. Great things cannot be done in haste. Those of us who, after having put in a little work, want results immediately are foolish to do so. Impatience will lead us nowhere. It will waste the labour or efforts we have already put in. Therefore, it is advisable to learn this lesson and translate it into action: The key to the accomplishment of any big task is labour, patience and perseverance.
Our attitude in meditation should be to present ourselves to the inner Master, devoid of purpose and agendas, with no expectations of results or inner visions. Putting aside all worries and desires, we should release all preconceptions. With single-minded and gentle attention fixed on the simran or the sound, we are to become receptive to the way of Shabd. As we go about the business of our spiritual work, we will slowly start expecting less, persevering more and developing more patience. We will slowly start learning the virtues of letting go of our expectations and living in his will. And then, once we let go and surrender, there will be no expectations.
In the Hindu religion, Lord Krishna is greatly loved and respected by his devotees. Whenever we see a picture or idol of Lord Krishna, he is always with his flute, which is known as his murali. Once his disciples asked the murali, “What merits does our Lord see in you, that he holds you so lovingly and tenderly day and night that you might drink deep the nectar of his lovely lips? Will you not reveal that secret to us?” The murali replied:
My dear friends, I know neither magic nor any art of attraction. I do not possess any merits either. Ignorant of everything, I am simply a forest reed, all hollow within and bereft of any beauty. Krishna, my lord and lover, calls this quality of mine the greatest virtue and is extremely pleased with it. Over and over He whispers into my ear this excellent teaching: ‘Empty yourself and I will fill you.’ I have realized its truth, and I obey it to the very letter.
So, like the flute, we should pursue the art of surrender. Then all expectations will disappear and we will resonate with and see the truth in what the Muslim saint Bayazid said:
At the beginning I was mistaken in four respects – I concerned myself to remember God; to know Him; to love Him; and to seek Him. At the end, I saw that: God had remembered me; His knowledge of me preceded mine of Him; His love had come before mine; and He had sought me before I had sought Him.