The following question was put to Sada-ji (Dr. Sadananda), an eminent scholar on Hindu metaphysics of Advaita-Vedanta (Feb. 12, 1999) on the Advaitin Sangha:
Please explain what is the place of surrender in an advaitin’s search for Self-knowledge?. What should he surrender to? What shall prompt him to surrender?
Editor’s Note: Dr. Sadananda’s answer is given below with minor edits by me. I am not a Sanskrit scholar and so if there are mistakes in my edits, please let me know and I will correct these quickly. Thanks.
Dr. Sadananda answers:
Bhagavan Ramana describes this beautifully in Updesh Sara:
ahami naashabaagyahamaham taayaa|
spurati hRit swayam param puurNa sat||
When the false I falls (ego is surrendered), then in that place aham, aham – I am – I am – swayam spurati – spontaneously rises.
This “I am” that rises is different from the previous “I am” (ego) with notions that I am this and that etc.
This pure and unconditional rising is paramam – supreme (there is nothing beyond it); It is puurnam – Infinite without limitations since limitations belong to “this” and “that”. It is Sat swaruupam – nature of pure existence with no qualifications attached to “I am”.
Where does it rise? Where else but in ones own inner core of personality where “I am” (ego) is currently rising along with notions that I am body, mind, or intellect etc. With the surrendering of ego, the false notions about my self are replaced by the true knowledge of my self. It becomes clear that as the self is in all, all are in myself.
sarva bhuutasta maatmaanam sarva bhuutanica aatmani –
What should I surrender to?
In pure Advaita Vedanta, the surrendering is not someone surrendering to another person.
Advaita teaches through negation of what I am not. In scriptures, this process is given as – neti – neti, etc. I am not this and not this and not this, etc.. Whatsoever can be objectified by me, I am not.
Through negation one ascertains who one is.
Realization of what I am searching for, I am searching with! Do you see the beauty of it?
Tat twam asi – neti neti is a part of the inquiry of who I am not, by negating what I am not. What is left after all negations is the subject who is negating. The subject cannot negate oneself. That I am!
This very inquiry is the surrendering of the ego. As J. Krishnamurthi puts it;
The very observation of ones conditioning releases one from his conditioning. Knowledge of who I am then rises.
In vishishhTaadvaita the knowledge of the Lord rises. There the Lord is different from me yet I am part of Him not independent of Him. The total is one – Creation is the gross manifestation of the subtle existence.
What prompts one to surrender?
There is a famous sloka in the Mundaka Upanishad –
pariiksha locaan karma chitaan brahmano
nirvedamaayaa naasch kRitah kRitena
tat viJNaanaartham sa guru mevaabhigachhet
samit paaNiH strotriyam brahman nishTaam||
At some stage in life – a question arises – what does all this means? One is looking for happiness in all pursuits and one is unable to get an everlasting happiness from the external world and relationships.
By examining ones’ owns action- prompted results, one realizes that by doing action one cannot gain any everlasting happiness. That is the time, the scripture advises the student to approach a proper teacher to guide one self. One should approach a teacher with full humility with an attitude of service to that teacher who is fully established in the truth and who can come down and communicate this knowledge to the student.
So what prompts one to surrender? The clear realization that all other means are not useful to secure what one is looking for – an eternal happiness.