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Season 3 - Episode 1

The Meaning of Surrender

10 min - Practice


Anuradha welcomes us to this season by offering a talk on the meanings of the word surrender—both in English and Sanskrit. We look at the associated words in sanskrit and why the concept of surrender—to make something sacred—is an important one in yoga and in helping an individual get in touch with achieving a greater union within oneself.
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Jul 07, 2017
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What does surrender mean to you? Have you really thought about it? The word surrender plays a very important role in the yoga tradition. The yoga practitioner or the sadhaka is invited to practice surrender as one of the key practices of the yoga journey in order to achieve this highest union of mind, body, emotions, spirit, the self with the world. But how can this experience or this process of surrender help one achieve all of that? So let us try to understand the word surrender and see what it reveals to us. But let's start from what we know about it. So the word surrender in English has many associative meanings with it. So the word surrender can mean giving up or letting go, which is usually summarized by the word sacrifice. Otherwise it can also mean an acceptance. I surrender and accept your will. It can also mean a self offering or a self giving. It can also mean a consecration of everything that one has. But then on the other side, it also has the slight connotation of quitting, of compromise. So when we refer to this term in the yogic tradition, what is being asked of the practitioner with respect to this idea of surrender? One thing that comes through quite clearly when we refer to the term surrender in the picture that it creates in our mind is that there are two entities. Something is surrendering to something else. It could be to people, it could be to a situation, it could be to an idea, but there is this notion of two entities present. So the question is, who is surrendering? And to what is that person surrendering? The second point from there is, who am I? Very important. That's a key question in the yoga world. And what is being surrendered? What for? What happens when one surrenders? What are the advantages? What are the disadvantages? If there were no advantages or disadvantages, one wouldn't ever engage in that process. So it becomes important to have these factors more clearly understood for oneself before one even undertakes this recommendation of the yoga. Is it possible to experience surrendering all the time? Or is it expected that the yogi or the practitioner would once in a while have to surrender some chunk of experience? The words for surrender in Sanskrit give us a little bit of an insight into the qualities of this word or this practice. So let's look at some words in the Sanskrit language that reflect this idea of surrender or that are used synonymously to represent the experience of surrender. And let us see if we can find some insights into the implications and into the process of surrender. One of the words for surrender is abhi dha. Dha in Sanskrit means to place. Abhi is on something. So it is placing oneself on something. You can see that there is already an idea of arising towards something else. There is another word in Sanskrit which is samprada. So samprada, some meaning from all sides, prra, well and dha means giving. So it is a complete giving of oneself from all directions. In the same way there is another word which is samarpanam. Arpanam is an offering. Some again from all sides. So it is an offering of all sides. Samarpanam. Another word is prapatihi. Prapatihi is interesting because it has the root path in it to fall. Prapati means allowing oneself to fall completely into that. And as you can feel the word or the experience of allowing yourself to fall freely, necessarily implies that there is a great deal of trust into what one is allowing oneself to fall. So surrender in that context implies this complete trust in something that one is allowing oneself to rest into, to fall into prapatihi. There is another word which is atma nivedanam. Nivedanam has the root with to know, to obtain, to be. Nivedanam is putting down of what one knows, what one is, what one wants to get, all of that. So one is offering oneself with nivedanam and atma nivedanam. One is conveying this or offering up the self to something else. Alright. And the word atma can also sometimes be used with the term samarpanam. So it is atma samarpanam. Offering of oneself to something or it can also mean offering of oneself to one higher being or to a higher self. Another term is the word sharana gatihi. This is quite often used in the context of especially a teacher, disciple, a knowledge system and the individual.

Sharana gatihi means it is taking refuge. So as you can see when one looks at these Sanskrit words, one gets certain connotations of the words which then become meaningful in the yogic tradition. So we have the idea one of abhidha or placing oneself onto something. Then there is an idea of giving all of oneself. There is an idea of again offering completely. So there is an offering. It is not just a giving but it is an offering which is a slightly more internal and a most sacred action. And very beautifully enough this coincides with the real meaning of the word sacrifice because sacrifice in its original context meant to make something sacred. And if you go into the word in that context then we realize that it was by offering something to something higher that that smaller entity would become more sacred. And it was this process of letting go of what one is, this atma nivedanam, this letting go of one's knowledge, one's who one thinks one is. It's this process of letting all that go that would then allow one to grow and become much bigger than what one is. And that's where the term in Sanskrit which is avasarganam becomes quite interesting because sarganam means to create and ava has this downward movement in it. So avasarganam is a little of a deconstruction of what is allowing the possibility of something higher to emerge or something new, something better to emerge. And so sometimes when we do talk of the term surrender in terms of let's say surrendering to our lower impulses of you know if I'm angry I just surrender to my anger and flow away with that. Especially when we are discussing about the concept of surrender within the yoga context, the idea that one should allow oneself to get carried away with emotions that are more related or emotions, thought processes, ways of being that are more related towards the gravity of our being, we would hesitate to use the word surrender in that context. Surrender in the context of yoga as reflected by the words in Sanskrit would imply necessarily that it is the upward movement, it is the offering of oneself in a complete manner towards something else where we can seek refuge. We only seek refuge in that which we believe will protect us, which will shelter us and that's why we start understanding why the word surrender starts playing such an important role in the practice of yoga and in helping an individual get in touch with the spirit of yoga which is achieving a greater union within oneself. So in our following episodes we are going to look at this word in its multiple dimensions and try and apply it for oneself to see what effect it has on us. And before we launch on that I'll leave you with a practice of a sound because sounds and mantras are regarded as one of the most effective tools to help us experience surrender. It's a shortcut and this is one of the simple sounds that you can practice anywhere, anytime. It is the sound rah. Rah corresponds to surrender. The vibrational effect of rah corresponds to the experience of surrender. So close your eyes, sit comfortably, take a deep breath and do the sound rah. So let the mantra rah resound in yourself and observe if it evokes surrender in you.


Bianca B
1 person likes this.
Thank you, Anuradha. As a writer, this appeals to me greatly
Anuradha Choudry
Dear Bianca Am so glad that this resonates with you! Love and best wishes
Kate M
I'm always excited to explore the subtle nuances of Sanskrit with you, Anuradha!

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