All these years that I have walked on the spiritual path one of the biggest problems has been to control the ego. Surrender to the Guru is one of the biggest tools in curbing the ego and perhaps even more than that surrender to the will of the divine. For me and the same is true of other people, at every point, at every turn there was a sign from god. To me surrender became synonymous with being able to correctly read the will of god. In India frequently people say "I have surrendered to god completely". Sometimes I think this is the fashion statement of the neo-spiritual. The surrender is not in the bending and the bowing to the statue of god but the subtle sign that leads you on the path. Yet one has to be careful not to hallucinate. Often I would ignore a sign for it to repeat itself. If it did again and again then I took it to be true.
Over the years I have come across many people who would tell me that how their Guru or some divine being appeared to them to guide them in a dream or in any other form. Many of these people get so caught up in these experiences that they forget Yoga is about effort, the effort to become divine, to actually work hard to achieve a regular practice of prayer and meditation. Empty words do not transform. But regular practice of the prayers, mantra, meditation do transform one. The danger in following the subtle signs is that we may often read them wrong. God is not a physical entity, for the majority of people he does not stand before us. But our Guru, our spiritual teacher is real; he is right in front of us.
Another statement that I have heard from some people and I term them as pseudo intellectual, people who have money in their pockets, are wealthy, specialize in some worldly thing but misread all else, especially the voices of the poor, the down trodden and the whisperings of love in the hearts of those that seek to connect with god. This statement is "I do not need anything between me and god". To me this statement reeks of an inflated ego and a lack of intelligence.
Sometimes I joke with people, I say god too needs agents and brokers. One of the very senior monks I met would say "The Guru is like a step down transformer. The normal person cannot tolerate the power of God, so god made Gurus. The guru passes on this power at a more tolerable level so that each individual is able to digest it and practice, to increase this divine power". Another way of looking at the Guru tradition is to consider him as your guide and friend, a person who has walked a great distance on this infinite path, who can share his experiences with you, who can guide you and understand your trials and tribulations, stand by you, to support you, to keep you walking on the path. Often what we need is someone to say "Do not be afraid, go on. Everything is fine". That can make all the difference.
One of the other things about the Guru is that he is able to give us advice without any ulterior motive on both spiritual as well as material aspects of our life.
Now is the most difficult part. How does one surrender to the Guru?
Once Guru Gobind the Sikh Guru was travelling in one part of Malva of Punjab. At that time the land around used to be a wasteland due to lack of rain. Along with Guru Gobind was one man who was the head of a village by the name of Dalla Brar. As the Guru travelled along the barren fields he said "Look Dalla what beautiful grain grows here". And Dalla said "There is no grain here". So the Guru looks at Dalla and gently says "Say yes Dalla". Then in the next field he says "What beautiful Mangoes" and Dalla again says "But there is nothing here" and the Guru looks at him and again repeats "Say Yes Dalla". Further in the next field the Guru again says "Beautiful Corn" and Dalla keeps saying no.
Today that area is absolutely green and fertile, but till Dalla was alive it remained barren. Only after his death did the land yield all the Guru had promised.
As I understand one must learn to accept and connect with a higher power. One of our mistakes is that we look at the mistakes of the Guru as a person but we oversee the Guru's divinity. As an aspirant for someone who wishes to become divine is that not a grave and foolish mistake? We should take the best from the Guru and leave what is difficult to accept, though most of the time that is again our own inability.
One of the best Yogi's in the last century was Swami Rama of the Himalayas. He decided to build a Hospital in Jolly Grant between Dehradun and Rishikesh. Many very able doctors from the U.S. came to Jolly Grant to serve Swami Rama and the hill people. There was one particular doctor who was the superintendent of a large hospital in U.S. When she came to Jolly Grant, Swami Rama asked her to go for an interview. On the board to interview her, he placed a nurse who was only a few years into the nursing profession. When the doctor saw this nurse on the interview board she was so insulted that she went back to the U.S. immediately.
That is how the Guru can test a pupil. She had come to Swami Rama, she should have laughed at it and understood what swamiji was upto. But she failed. She lacked surrender. Her ego held her back. She came all the way from U.S. but her surrender was incomplete. The Guru keeps testing his students at every step, few pass. Only those that pass, are fit to connect, the rest simply get left behind.
Once there was another well known saint who had many disciples. The saint knew that his time to bid the world goodbye had come. Among his disciples were many who felt that they were fit to be his successor. The saint decided to test them. So he asked them to make small platforms of mud. Once these were ready he rejected them saying that they were not upto the mark. Then he asked them to rebuild them again. Again he rejected them saying that he did not like the place. They built them again and he rejected them once again. By now most students had lost the will to work. Only two or three of the original remained. After a few more rejections only one remained. The other students by now felt that their Guru had become senile, so they laughed at the lone student and told him that the Guru had gone mad. The student said "You can say whatever you like to me but do not say a word against Gurudev. The whole world can be mad but the Guru alone is Sane. The whole world can be blind but the Guru alone sees." This student built the mud platform about seventy times. Finally the Guru asked him to stop. When his time to leave came he appointed this student as the successor.
The story illustrates the persistence of the student, his faith in the Guru, as well as his ability to follow the command of the Guru. It was his ability to do the work given to him with dedication that earned him the reward among other things. The modern student may argue "But if I were to make mud platforms I would fa
il for most of us are unused to physical labour". And I suppose you would be right in saying that, however as times change so do the tests. This is merely an example and a true one at that.
That my friends, is surrender, that is bowing deep and that is the tradition.