Love, Devotion and Surrender
At a satsang some years ago, Baba Ji briefly outlined two different qualities in a human being. He mentioned the lower qualities that we bring with us from previous incarnations, and which we are now trying to reduce or eliminate. And then he spoke about the higher, or spiritual qualities that are inherent in us; these are awakened and gradually developed as we progress on the spiritual path towards God-realization. Chief among these qualities are love, devotion and surrender.
Interestingly, though, the more we try to define these three attributes, the more we realize that they are interconnected and that their common denominator – or rather the underlying pre-requisite – is love. In order to have devotion for the Lord, we must first develop love for him. In order to surrender to the will of the Lord, we must first develop love for him. And as our love for him grows, so do the other two attributes.
Devotion, broadly speaking, has two meanings. One has to do with time. When you ‘devote’, you are giving time to something (for example, you devote time to meditation). We also use the word ‘devotion’ to mean that we have love or loyalty for someone (such as the Master) or that we are enthusiastic about an activity (such as meditation). We can see, then, that to be a true devotee or disciple is to be loyal to the Master’s instructions and to devote the specified amount of time to meditation.
If a person attends to meditation determinedly for the full time every day, but believes they have no devotion, that disciple is mistaken. The devotion is in the effort. Those, too, who struggle to put in the full time, but at least try, will be encouraged by these words of Soami Ji Maharaj in Sar Bachan Prose: “You may not have much devotion, but if it is sincere, it will gradually develop and will eventually become perfect.”
However, about the person who has little or no respect for the Master’s instructions and whose time is taken up with opposite pursuits, Soami Ji points out in another passage in Sar Bachan: “Those who are alive to the external world only, do not know what lies within. Without internal devotion to Shabd, the end in view will not be obtained. Devotion to the Satguru and his satsang externally, and devotion to Shabd internally are both equally necessary.”
An integral part of our devotion will be the giving up or surrender of many of the mind’s pursuits. True surrender is attained only when we go beyond the second region. At our level of consciousness, however, we can certainly take the first steps towards surrender. Again, we can obey the Master’s instruction to sit in meditation each and every day. We can also do our best to accept, with balance, all that comes to us physically, emotionally and in all other ways – the good and the bad; the comfortable and the uncomfortable; the painful and the pleasant.
At our present stage, this is all we may understand about surrender. But if we are sincere in our efforts to live in his will, the Lord will be pleased with us and, as with devotion, our surrender too will develop and gradually become perfect and true. Maharaj Sawan Singh, known as the Great Master, writes in Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. II:
In the ecstasy of his love and in his complete surrender, [a lover of the Lord] considers poverty or wealth, pain or pleasure, health or illness – and whatever else may happen – as gifts from the Beloved, feeling no difference between them. By the grace of love, he rises above these things and remains above the limitations of the body.
The English word ‘surrender’ comes from the Latin word reddere, which means ‘to give back’. Rabindranath Tagore expresses it poetically by saying, “God waits to win back his own flowers as gifts from man’s hands.”
An incident which took place at the Dera many years ago echoes Tagore’s lines. It was the tweflth of December and the morning of Maharaj Charan Singh’s birthday. In those days, there was a daily meeting for foreigners in Hazur’s garden after morning satsang. On this special day, a lady had picked a rose and placed it on the Master’s footstool. Hazur came out from his house, prepared to sit down and saw the rose. “What’s this?” he asked. The lady replied, “It’s for your birthday, Maharaj Ji.” With a twinkle in his eye, he then asked, “And where did you get it?” She had to admit: “From your garden, Maharaj Ji.”
What a wonderful parallel of the way in which the Masters give us of their own love, motivating us to give back to them. It is love which prompts in us the first stirrings of devotion and which impels us towards a rudimentary surrender.
Attaining true devotion and surrender can nevertheless seem well beyond our reach. We’re still in primary school, as it were, learning our ABCs. And whilst Baba Ji would like to see us graduate to a higher class, he also says to us that we should be like little children. Children are blessed with pure and simple minds, and they are also carefree, because they know that their father is taking care of all the details.
We should remember that the Master is in control of all that happens to us, and we should therefore trustingly hand over all our cares and worries to him. Similarly, it is only with the pure, uncluttered mind of a child that we can begin to be receptive to the Shabd. This must be why Jesus advised us to become like little children.
We can all appreciate the words of the child-poet Mattie Stepanek, who sadly passed away at the tender age of thirteen. Mattie once said, “People tell me I inspire them – and that inspires me. It’s a beautiful circle, and we all go around together, with and for each other. What a gift!” In his poem, Heartsong, Mattie wrote:
I have a song, deep in my heart,
and only I can hear it.
If I close my eyes and sit very still,
it is so easy to listen to my song.
It makes me feel happy.
Happier than ever.
Happier than everywhere
and everything and everyone …
My Heartsong sounds like this:
I love you! I love you!
Despite his few years, Mattie felt the oneness of all creation. Elsewhere, he described each living thing as a bright colour in a mosaic, each human being as a bright, colourful thread in a tapestry, and he had a true sense of that greatest of human qualities, love. The Great Master says in Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. II:
Love is to be found in its original form in every human being. God is love and the soul is a part of him; therefore, the soul is also love. But because the soul is concealed under the coverings of the mind, love is also concealed along with it.
It is only the negative human attributes which hinder our progress on the path. In a discussion on love and devotion in Die to Live, Maharaj Charan Singh says:
As long as the mind is dominant there’s no surrender, there’s no living in the will of the Father; there’s no elimination of the ego. You can achieve real surrender only when all coverings are removed from the soul. Then the soul shines, it becomes perfect, and then it is capable of merging into the perfect Being. That is real surrender, that is real love, that is real devotion.
So how do we achieve this? Real love can only be found through spiritual practice. Through meditation we will experience the all-pervading power of the Shabd. Shabd is love, and the more we meditate, the more we will develop love for the Lord. The more we meditate, the more we will love others, because, in loving the Lord, we will see the Lord in everyone else. Maharaj Sawan Singh writes:
In actual practice, the first essential is to awaken love of God by means of repetition and then by contemplation. As we repeat the five Holy Names, our attraction and love for Him increases. When a lover remembers Him and becomes fully absorbed in His remembrance, then God turns the lover’s attention towards devotion by His divine grace. Simran, done with faith, produces a unique feeling in the heart. By doing simran, a feeling of bliss and divine influence fills the heart. This state is produced sooner or later, according to the individual devotee’s sanskaras. The third part of the spiritual practice is listening to the Shabd. God is Shabd, and God is also Love. Therefore, Shabd is Love. As the soul contacts Shabd, Love flows out from within.
Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. II
It follows that, if we are seeking to love, our prayer to the Lord should be only for that. Since God is love and the Master is love personified, this explains why, when we do ask the Lord for anything, we are encouraged to ask for him and for him only.
This also explains why we are irresistibly attracted to the Master: because he is love personified – in fact the personification of all the spiritual attributes. Our attraction to him stems from our recognition of those qualities in the Master and makes us long to be just like him. As we look at our Master, we are reminded of who we really are and we long to merge with him.
The Great Master says, “Love unites two hearts into one and thus removes duality. In such a state, it is not possible to separate them – just as milk and water, if mixed, become inseparable.” Sant Dadu Dayal says:
Where God is, there I am not;
where I am, there God is not.
Narrow indeed, is the palace;
it has no place for two, O Dadu.
The union of love is the purpose of our lives. It can take us years, a lifetime, or more. But if we just take the first simple steps, we will get there. Our love for the physical Master will engender devotion to him, and will automatically result in surrender to him. And surrendering to the will of the Master will enable us to bring the mind under control, because we will be giving it a taste of the nectar of the inner love – the Shabd. In other words: through meditation, our love for the Master’s form will finally culminate in our love for the formless.