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We practise bhakti, or devotion, in order to achieve communion with the Supreme Master. We look upon Him with faith and reverence. By degrees we become so closely intimate to Him, that every other object loses prominence in our eyes. This is submission to the will of the Master, or in other words, the beginning of self-surrender. It goes on developing as our faith grows stronger. It brings us to a stationary condition, stopping the oscillations of the mind. In due course we begin to feel ourselves overpowered by some great force which drives our mind away from everything else. We become free of unwanted activities, sticking all the time to the right functioning of the organs (the indriyas). Self-surrender is nothing but a state of complete resignation to the will of the Master, with total disregard of self. A permanent stay in this condition leads to the beginning of the state of negation.
When we surrender ourselves to the great Master, we begin to attract a constant flow of the highest divine force from Him. In this state a man thinks or does only that which is his Master’s will. He feels nothing in the world to be his belonging but everything as a sacred trust from the Master, and he does everything thinking it to be his Master’s bidding. His will becomes completely subservient to the will of the Master.
A beautiful example of surrender is presented to us by Bharata, the son of Dasharatha, when he went to the forest along with the people of Ayodhya to induce his brother Rama to return. In reply to the entreaties of the people, Rama gravely replied that he would be quite willing to return to the capital provided Bharata asked him to do so. All eyes were turned towards Bharata, who was himself there to induce him to return. But he calmly replied, “It is not for me to command, but only to follow.”
The Bhagavad Gita too deals with the state of surrender. It is not an ordinary thing to be achieved easily. It begins after complete negation of all senses and faculties for which we proceed by elementary rules of devotion. We submit to our master, thinking him to be a superhuman being. We love him with faith and reverence, trying by all means to attract his attention and favour. For this purpose, we connect our link with him in the light of the worldly relationship only for the sake of facility. We think of him as father, brother, master or beloved. The process, if taken up in right earnest, is greatly helpful to a disciple. The strong link of attraction thus established leads him to a state of devotion and surrender.
The conception of a guru as a mother is, in my opinion, by far the most appropriate and advantageous to a disciple. A mother is the very embodiment of love and affection. Only a mother’s heart can forbear with patience all the troubles and miseries caused to her son, thinking all the while of trying to provide for her son’s comfort and happiness. The same is the position of the real Master or Guru who is the spiritual mother of the disciple. As such, the Guru is always on the lookout for the spiritual welfare of the child, the disciple. It is due to the affectionate attachment of the Guru with his disciple that the attention of the great Father, with whom his spiritual mother is so closely connected, is directed towards him.
A mother’s affection is well known, but people know very little of the Guru’s affection and still less of God’s affection. The function of a mother and of a true Guru are closely similar. The mother retains a child within her womb for a certain duration. The Guru too retains the spiritual child within his mental sphere for a certain duration. During this period, the disciple, like the baby in the womb, sucks his energy and gets nourishment from the spiritual waves of the Guru’s thoughts. When the time matures, he is born in the brighter world and thence his own spiritual life begins.
If the disciple enters the mental sphere of the Guru, surrendering all his belongings to him, it takes only seven months to deliver him into the brighter world. But the process is generally delayed for a considerable time, because while in the Guru’s mental sphere the disciple retains the consciousness of his own thoughts and feelings. Thus we find that the position of the Guru is much the same as that of a mother. The conception of the Guru as a spiritual mother promotes within us the feelings of love, reverence and surrender, which are the main factors of a spiritual life.
Sages have classified disciples under two main heads: the manmata and the gurumata. The former are those who approach the Guru with some particular worldly end in view, such as relief from worldly misery, desire for wealth, etc. They submit to him only so long as they are hopeful in the achievement of their desires. When they meet disappointment in this respect, they are off. For such disciples the question of obedience or submission even does not arise, what to say of surrender.
Gurumata disciples are those who obey the commands of the Master in all matters and try to submit to his will in all possible ways. Submission begins with obedience. When we are deeply impressed by the great powers of a Master of higher attainments in spirituality, we feel inwardly inclined to follow his biddings. But often the effect remains upon us only when we are in his presence, and when we are away we become unmindful of him. Repeated association with him for some time brings us in closer touch with the great soul, and his supremacy begins to be established in our heart. We accept him as our guide in all matters pertaining to our spiritual advancement. The result is that we remember him frequently. When we are perfectly convinced of his superior capabilities, only then our submission in the true sense begins. We go on with it and practise as we are directed. We think of pleasing him by our actions. The idea of right or wrong too begins to assume prominence in our heart, and we feel inclined to refrain from evil. We consequently adopt the line of virtue so that we might be able to please our great Master. It is our primary motive, for we wish to be saved from the miseries of the next life.
But, so far, we reserve to ourselves the right of discretion and are therefore responsible for all our actions, whether good or bad. At a higher stage of self-surrender, such a discretionary power becomes almost extinct, and a man does everything thinking it to be his Master’s will. The question of right or wrong does not at all arise in his mind, or it becomes absolutely certain that by following his Master’s will, he is doing the only right thing, and he does nothing but the right, feeling it to be his Master’s will.