Why, I ask, do I want to write about this?
Here’s a thought:
This phrase, “surrender to the Lord” has deep meaning to hundreds of millions of people on our planet – Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and others.
It is also a phrase that has very little positive effect on millions of others, or in many cases, makes them want to run away.
So it is an important concept. If more of us could get more clarity about both the sublime and the disturbing interpretations of this phrase, that could be a good thing.
It is these two words, “surrender” and “Lord” that cause the biggest impacts for either attracting or repelling people.
Throughout history there have been good authorities (kings, judges, land-owners, bosses, etc.) and bad ones; but all equally had to be called “lord.” So when put together with the word “surrender”, the phrase can naturally be interpreted as a need for unquestioning deference and obedience.
How is that historic, very “earthly” interpretation compared to the spiritual interpretation? Is there a close fit? Or not?
I’m not a religious scholar, so I can’t dig deep into the exegesis of the phrase as it occurs in different religions. But I recently came across the phrase in a newish translation of a very old spiritual text that I’ve been reading, and I particularly liked the interpretation that I found there. It seems to be an interpretation that many people from different religious as well as non-religious people can resonate with.
The book is the very short “Yoga Sutras” written over 2300 years ago and translated late last century by Alistair Shearer. In Chapter II, the “eight limbs” of Yoga are listed.
The second ‘limb’ is called “rules for living” and in verse 32 which lists the 5 rules, the 5th rule is translated as “surrender to the Lord.”
The translator’s introduction explains it this way:
“’Isvatrapranidhana is a compound of ishvara ‘Lord,’ and pranidhana ‘devotion, surrender, application.’ Technically, ishvara is the name given to the very subtlest level of relative creation. This is the realm of the personal God, the creator, as distinct from the impersonal Godhead. Devotion is a means of cultivating the finer levels of feeling, without which no real progress on the spiritual path is possible. It may be directed in various ways – to one’s concept of God, a teacher, a loving partner, or humanity in general – depending on the context in which it arises. The end result, the awakening of the finest levels of feeling, will eventually lead the devotee to appreciate the subtlest level of life.”
So, in this ancient text, ‘Surrender to the Lord’ means: Appreciating the finest qualities of life, and ultimately, transcending one’s own ego in the presence of the subtlest understanding of reality.
Fortunately, more and more people on earth, both religious and non-religious, agree that it is entirely wrong to use force (including physical, psychological, political or economic force) to require obedience to God or to interpretations by religious authorities. Surrendering to the Lord means in fact the opposite – giving up, or outgrowing, the use of force to control any person’s relationship to God. I believe that a thoughtful study of the most revered religious texts of all major faiths will confirm this view.
If we can finally complete the transformation of thought from use of the ‘earthly’ (power-based) sense of ‘surrender’ and ‘Lord’ to the intended spiritual sense, that will truly be an important breakthrough, and will help end needless suffering, and release great potential for dialogue and positive change.