Bhakti Sandarbha 236 : Surrender (Śaraṇāpatti)


Though one cannot really say that any anuccheda is more or less important, certain ones such as this stand out. In the last anuccheda, Sri Jiva concluded by defining vaidhī bhakti and the following section is the beginning of the explanation of the development of bhakti sadhana.

Here, further explanation of faith (
śraddhā) is needed. Though faith was discussed in Anuccheda 204-205, Sri Jiva here discusses the process of surrender as the external sign of faith. 


"According to Rūpa Gosvāmī, the act of surrender takes place to the guru who is the physical manifestation of Bhagavān (BRS 1.2.74). This is also stated by sage Prabuddha to King Nimi (11.3.21). Surrender is not easy for the ego because the very basis of its existence is not surrendering. Therefore, if one does not surrender to a living guru, it is not certain that one has actually surrendered to Bhagavān. The mind is material and functions on the basis of past saṁskāras that are related to non-surrender. Our intelligence is influenced by the material mind, and will therefore rationalize an act of non-surrender to appear like surrender. Thus one will not be able to know the truth of the matter -- that one is really not surrendered. Bhagavān is not physically present to tell us that we are rationalizing our egoistic acts to think of them as genuine acts of surrender. This is the function of the guru. Thus traditionally the student lived with guru so that he could be guided directly. The guru is the litmus test of one’s surrender." (SND)

Remember I am publishing these comments before they have been finalized or put in the form in which they will be printed as hard copy.



Anuccheda 236

Surrender or Śaraṇāpatti

अथ वैधीभेदाः शरणापत्तिश्रीगुर्वादिसत्सेवाश्रवणकीर्तनादयः। एते च प्रत्येकमपि द्वित्रादयः समुदित्यापि कारणानि भवन्ति, तथा श्रवणात्।

There are various divisions of vaidhī bhakti, including surrender, service to the wise such as one’s teacher, hearing, singing and other similar acts of devotion. It is understood from scripture that these divisions of bhakti, whether performed all together or in combinations of two or three, are instrumental in achieving the goal of devotion.

तत्र प्रथमतः शरणापत्तिः। षड्वर्गाद्यरिकृत संसारभयबाध्यमान एव हि शरणं प्रविशत्यनन्यगतिः। भक्तिमात्रकामोऽपि तत्कृतभगवद्वैमुख्यबाध्यमानः ।

First let us examine śaraṇāpatti, or surrender. A person, tormented by the fear of material existence caused by the six enemies [lust, anger, greed, delusion, pride and envy], and being without any other refuge, takes shelter of Bhagavān. Even one who desires only bhakti, being affected by indifference to Bhagavān caused by the same six enemies, seeks refuge in Bhagavān.

अनन्यगतित्वं च द्विधा दर्श्यते—आश्रयान्तरस्याभावकथनेन, नातिप्रज्ञया कथञ्चिदाश्रितस्यान्यस्य त्याजनेन च।

The state of being without any other shelter (ananya-gatitvam) is also shown to be of two types: when one states that there is no shelter other than Bhagavān, or when a person who was previously unaware that Bhagavān is the only refuge abandons the shelter of some other deity.

पूर्वेण यथा (भा. १०.३.२७) —
मर्त्यो मृत्युव्यालभीतः पलायन्
लोकान् सर्वान् निर्भयं नाध्यगच्छत्।
त्वत्पादाब्जं प्राप्य यदृच्छयाद्य
सुस्थः शेते मृत्युरस्मादपैति॥ इति।

An example of declaring that there is no shelter other than Bhagavān is given in this verse:

Terrified of the serpent of death and fleeing to every corner of the universe, a mortal is unable to find a single place free from fear. But having reached Your lotus feet by the will of Providence, he rests in peace, O Primeval Bhagavān, because even death withdraws from him. (SB 10.3.27)

उत्तरेण यथा (भा. ११.१२.१४-१५)—
तस्मात् त्वमुद्धवोत्सृज्य चोदनां प्रतिचोदनाम्।
प्रवृत्तिं च निवृत्तिं च श्रोतव्यं श्रुतमेव च॥
मामेकमेव शरणमात्मानं सर्वदेहिनाम्।
याहि सर्वात्मभावेन मया स्या ह्यकुतोभयः॥ इति।

An example of abandoning all other shelter is spoken of by Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa:

Therefore, O Uddhava, abandoning all injunctions (codanā) and prohibitions (praticodanā), all prescribed and forbidden action, and all that is worthy of study along with everything already studied, take refuge in Me alone with your entire being, because I am the Self of all embodied beings. You will certainly attain fearlessness through Me. (SB 11.12.14-15)

"चोदनां श्रुतिं प्रतिचोदनां स्मृतिम्॥" इति टीका च। श्रीगीतासु च—"सर्वधर्मान् परित्यज्य" (गीता १८.६६) इत्यादि।

Śrīdhara Svāmī comments: “The word "injunctions" (codanā) here refers to the śrutis [i.e., the injunctions found in the original four Vedas] and prohibitions (praticodanā) refers to the smṛtis [or the injunctions found in the supplementary literature to the Vedas such as the Purāṇas].”

We find a similar statement in the Gītā:

Forsake all your duties and take exclusive refuge in Me alone. I shall absolve you of all sins, do not worry. (Gītā 18.66)

तस्या शरणापत्तेर्लक्षणं वैष्णवतन्त्रे—

आनुकूल्यस्य सङ्कल्पः प्रतिकूल्यविवर्जनम्।
रक्षिष्यतीति विश्वासो गोप्तृत्वे वरणं तथा।
आत्मनिक्षेपकार्पण्ये षड्विधा शरणागतिः॥ इति।

Surrender is defined in the Vaiṣṇava Tantra:

There are six symptoms of self-surrender: a firm resolve to act congenially to Bhagavān, to forsake all that is unfavorable to Bhagavān, firm belief that Bhagavān will give one protection, deliberate acceptance of Bhagavān as one’s guardian and nourisher, submission of the self, and humility.

अङ्गाङ्गिभेदेन षड्विधा। तत्र गोप्तृत्वे वरणमेवाङ्गि शरणागतिशब्देनैकार्थ्यात्, अन्यानि त्वङ्गानि तत्परिकरत्वात्।

These six items are divided into the whole and its constituent parts. The fourth item, goptṛtve varaṇam, or to accept Bhagavān as one’s guardian, is the aṅgī, or the whole. The reason for this is that the concept of selecting someone as one’s guardian or protector is synonymous with the word śaraṇāgati, or approaching someone for shelter. The other five items are aṅgas, or parts, because they are assistants to this principle.

आनुकूल्यप्रातिकूल्ये तद्भक्तादीनां, शरणागतस्य भावस्य वा।

Acting congenially means to do that which is pleasing to Bhagavān and His devotees or to adopt that which nurtures the mood of surrender. Avoiding unfavorable acts means to reject all that is displeasing to Bhagavān and His devotees or to give up that which is detrimental to the mood of surrender.

रक्षिष्यतीति विश्वासः, "क्षेमं विधास्यति स नो भगवांस्त्र्यधीशस्तत्रास्मदीयविमृशे न कियान् इहार्थः" (भा. ३.१६.३७) इत्यादिप्रकारः। आत्मनिक्षेपः—"केनापि देवेन हृदि स्थितेन यथा नियुक्तोऽस्मि तथा करोमि" (गौ.त. ७.२०) इति गौतमीयतन्त्रोक्तप्रकारः।

Firm faith in Bhagavān’s protection (rakṣiṣyatīti viśvāsaḥ) is expressed in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam:

Śrī Bhagavān, who is the master of the three worlds and of the three guṇas of material nature, will certainly act for my best interest. (SB 3.16.37)'

Submission of the self (ātma-nikṣepa) is described in the Gautamīya Tantra:

I shall act as directed by Bhagavān who is situated within my heart.” (Gau. Tan. 7.20)

यथोक्तं पाद्मोत्तरखण्डे चाष्टाक्षरस्य नमःशब्दव्याख्याने (प.पु. ६.२२६.४१-४६) —

अहङ्कृतिर्मकारः स्यान् नकारस्तन्निषेधकः।
तस्मात् तु नमसा क्षेत्रि स्वातन्त्र्यं प्रतिषिध्यते॥
भगवत्परतन्त्रोऽसौ तदायत्तात्मजीवनः ।
तस्मात् स्वसामर्थ्यविधिं त्यजेत् सर्वमशेषतः॥
ईश्वरस्य तु सामर्थ्यान् नालभ्यं तस्य विद्यते।
तस्मिन् न्यस्तभवः शेते तत्कर्मैव समाचरेत्॥ इति।

Submission of the self is also outlined in the Uttara-khaṇḍa of the Padma Purāṇa, in reference to the explanation of the word namaḥ, ”obeisance,” in the eight-syllable mantra:

In the word namaḥ the syllable ma refers to ego, and the syllable na means the negation of the same. Therefore, the word namaḥ indicates the living being’s relinquishment of the false sense of independence. The living being is dependent upon Bhagavān. Indeed, the very essence of his existence is to be utterly reliant upon Bhagavān. He should thus abandon in all respects, the sense of his own proficiency, separate from Bhagavān. By Bhagavān’s potency, there is nothing unattainable for such a person. Remaining free from all anxiety by taking refuge in Bhagavān, one should engage in activities for His satisfaction. (PadmaP 6.226.41,44-46)

अत एव ब्रह्मवैवर्ते—
अहङ्कारनिवृत्तानां केशवो न हि दूरगः।
अहङ्कारयुतानां हि मध्ये पर्वतराशयः॥ इति।

In the Brahma-vaivarta Purāṇa, it is therefore said,

For those who are devoid of ego, Śrī Keśava is not at all distant. But, for those who are full of ego, mountain ranges stand between them and Bhagavān.

अत एव तृतीये ब्रह्मस्तवे स्वातन्त्र्याभिमानिनः संसारः श्रूयते (भा. ३.९.९) —

यावत् पृथक्त्वमिदमात्मन इन्द्रियार्थ
मायाबलं भगवतो जन ईश पश्येत्।
तावन्न संसृतिरसौ प्रतिसङ्क्रमेत
व्यर्थापि दुःखनिवहं वहती क्रियार्था॥ इति।

Thus in the prayers of Brahmā in the third canto of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, we hear of the material bondage of those who are proud of their false independence:

O Bhagavān, as long as living beings consider themselves to be separate from You due to the influence of the deluding potency, which entices them toward material sense enjoyment, they cannot get free from this material existence even though it is essentially unreal and generates temporary results, which in the end lead only to misery. (SB 3.9.9)

कार्पण्यं (पद्या. ६६) —
परमकारुणिको न भवत्परः
परमशोच्यतमो न च मत्परः इत्यादिप्रकारम्।

Humility (kārpaṇya) is described as follows:

O Bhagavān, there is no one more merciful than You and no one more deplorable than me. (Padyāvalī 66)

गोप्तृत्वे वरणं च, यथा नारसिंहे—
त्वां प्रपन्नोऽस्मि शरणं देवदेवं जनार्दनम्।
इति यः शरणं प्राप्तस्तं क्लेशादुद्धराम्यहम्॥ इति प्रकारम्।

Accepting Bhagavān as one’s guardian is described in the Nṛsiṁha Purāṇa:

When a person takes shelter of Me, saying, "O Master of masters, O Janārdana, I submit myself unto You," I deliver him or her from all miseries. (NṛsiṁhaP 8.29)

तदपि त्रिप्रकारं कायिकत्वादिभेदेन, यथोक्तं ब्रह्मपुराणे—

कर्मणा मनसा वाचा येऽच्युतं शरणं गताः।
न समर्थो यमस्तेषां ते मुक्तिफलभागिनः॥ इति।

This acceptance of Bhagavān as one’s guardian is done in three ways—with the body, mind, and speech. This is expressed in the Brahma Purāṇa:

Even the lord of death, Yamarāja, is unable to punish those who have taken shelter of Bhagavān Acyuta with their actions, minds, and speech, for they have become eligible to taste the fruit of liberation. (BrahmaP 216.84)

व्याख्यातं श्रीहरिभक्तिविलासे (ह.भ.वि. ११.६७७) 

तवास्मीति वदन् वाचा तथैव मनसा विदन्।
तत्स्थानमाश्रितस्तन्वा मोदते शरणागतः॥ इति।

Acceptance of Bhagavān with the body, mind and speech is explained in the Hari-bhakti-vilāsa:

One who has surrendered unto Bhagavān, who with his words exclaims, "O Bhagavān, I am Yours!" who truly adopts this mood within his heart, and who with his body takes refuge in the holy places associated with Bhagavān’s pastimes, experiences great inner satisfaction. (HBV 11.677)

तदेवं यस्य सर्वाङ्गसम्पन्ना शरणापत्तिः, तस्य झटित्येव सम्पूर्णफला, अन्येषां तु यथासम्पत्ति यथाक्रमं चेति ज्ञेयम्।

Those whose surrender is complete in every aspect previously described will swiftly attain the full result of that surrender. Those whose surrender is not complete, but is deficient in some aspects, will attain a result in accordance with their actual degree of surrender.

तामेतां शरणापत्तिं श्लाघते (भा. ११.१९.९)—

तापत्रयेणाभिहतस्य घोरे
सन्तप्यमानस्य भवाध्वनीश।
पश्यामि नान्यच्छरणं तवाङ्घ्रि
द्वन्द्वातपत्रादमृताभिवर्षात्॥

Uddhava has glorified this surrender in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam:
O Bhagavān, for those whose hearts are scorched by the threefold miseries on the blazing path of material existence, I see no refuge other than the cooling shade of Your lotus feet, which are like an umbrella emitting a delightful shower of nectar. (SB 11.19.9)
शरणागतानां सर्वदुःखदूरीकरणं निजमाधुरीणां सर्वतोवर्षं चात्राभिहितम् ॥

In this verse, Uddhava declares that Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet dispel all the miseries of those who take shelter of Him, and that they unrestrictedly shower such persons with the nectar of their sweetness.

॥११.१९॥ उद्धवः श्रीभगवन्तम्॥२३६॥



Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj

Śrī Jīva describes the various divisions of vaidhī bhakti, foremost being surrender. Surrender here means taking shelter of Bhagavān. In the material world everybody has some sense of independent ego, although in truth nobody is independent. Everyone is encaged in the mind-body complex made of material nature. The material nature belongs to Bhagavān and we have no control over it. Yet out of ignorance that gives rise to ego and we imagine ourselves to be independent, as Kṛṣṇa says,


prakṛteḥ kriyamāṇāni guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ
ahaṁkāra-vimūḍhātmā kartāham iti manyate


All actions are performed by the senses made of prakṛti. One whose mind is deluded through egoism thinks, “I am the doer.” (Gītā 3.27)

This is the cause of pṛthag-bhāva, the separatist mentality discussed in the previous anucchedas. This is more true at present where the whole upbringing of a child is to make her think independently and egoistically. Promotional speakers are also expert in exciting our ego and making us think that our destiny is entirely in our hands. There is no other force besides our own mind. These are all anti-devotional ideas that sell nicely because they are very soothing to our ego. Therefore, if we want to be aware of Bhagavān, the first thing we have to do is to give up this false idea of independence.

According to Rūpa Gosvāmī, the act of surrender takes place to the guru who is the physical manifestation of Bhagavān (BRS 1.2.74). This is also stated by sage Prabuddha to King Nimi (11.3.21). Surrender is not easy for the ego because the very basis of its existence is not surrendering. Therefore, if one does not surrender to a living guru, it is not certain that one has actually surrendered to Bhagavān. The mind is material and functions on the basis of past saṁskāras that are related to non-surrender. Our intelligence is influenced by the material mind, and will therefore rationalize an act of non-surrender to appear like surrender. Thus one will not be able to know the truth of the matter -- that one is really not surrendered. Bhagavān is not physically present to tell us that we are rationalizing our egoistic acts to think of them as genuine acts of surrender. This is the function of the guru. Thus traditionally the student lived with guru so that he could be guided directly. The guru is the litmus test of one’s surrender.

We must become aware of our six enemies in the form of lust, anger, greed, delusion, pride and envy. Lust, kāma, is the root cause of all the others. When there is an obstruction to the fulfillment of one’s lust, one gets angry. If it gets fulfilled, then one gets greedy. Both anger and greed result in delusion. One cannot see things as they are. This leads to pride, which culminates in envy because a proud person cannot tolerate another’s progress. In the material world, conditioned beings are tormented by these six enemies. Usually people only think of enemies outside, but the real enemies are within. Even those who desire bhakti and have not yet achieved it are subject to these. The solution is to surrender to Bhagavān.

Śrī Jīva says that one surrenders in two ways. The first is that a person tries everything else but fails in solving the problems of material life, and then finally surrenders to Bhagavān. The example of this is Gajendra whose leg was caught by a crocodile. First he tried to release himself by his own power. Then he got help from his family members, but still he was unsuccessful. Finally he gave up and just surrendered to Bhagavān.

The second type of surrender comes when someone out ignorance surrenders to something else or some other person but later on realizes his mistake and surrenders to Bhagavān. The example of this are the brāhmaṇas of Mathurā who were first surrendered to Varṇāśrama-dharma but later surrendered to Kṛṣṇa.

Śaraṇāgati has six parts to it. The fourth step, accepting Bhagavān as one’s protector is the intrinsic feature of surrender and the other five are natural outcomes of that. Therefore, Śrī Jīva calls this the main surrender and the rest as its parts. The first two parts are not related only to Bhagavān but also to His devotees. That means a surrendered person does not act in unfavorable manner to devotees, but only in a congenial manner. There is a subtle difference between the third and fourth parts. In the third, one has the faith that Bhagavān will protect him, but in the fourth one consciously calls for help as Gajendra did or Draupadī called for Kṛṣṇa when she was being disrobed by Duḥśāsana in the assembly of the Kauravas.

There is also a subtle difference between the fourth and the fifth parts. The fourth one is to depend on Bhagavān for protection, that is to call for Him in some precarious situation. The sixth one is to not do anything for oneself and consider oneself as fully dependent on Bhagavān like an animal that has been purchased by someone is fully dependent on his new owner for its survival.

Humility means to consider oneself completely insignificant in front of Bhagavān. This was seen in Sanātana Gosvāmī in his dealings with Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī writes that perfection in surrender comes in proportion to the surrender.


Bhakti Sandarbha 235 : Vaidhī Nirguṇā Bhakti
Bhakti Sandarbha 234 : Svarūpa-siddhā Niṣkāmā Bhakti
Bhakti Sandarbha 231-233 : Svarūpa-siddhā Bhakti and the Three Gunas
Bhakti Sandarbha 228-230: Mixed Bhakti desiring only pure bhakti
Bhakti Sandarbha 226-227 : Kaivalya-kāmā Bhakti mixed with karma and jnana
Bhakti Sandarbha 225 : Three Divisions of Saṅga-siddhā Bhakti
Bhakti Sandarbha 224 : Three Motives Behind the Offering of Karma
Bhakti Sandarbha 222-223: The Result Of Karma is Under the Control of Bhagavān
Bhakti Sandarbha 218-221: Karma Offered To Bhagavān Destroys Karma

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