I had a conversation a few weeks ago with one of Bodhi’s, our oldest son’s, friends from taekwondo. His family is fundamentalist Christian and is good friends of our family. We were talking about religion and our beliefs and views, and he shared that he loves Jesus because Jesus “did all the work” for us, and we don’t need to do anything other than get out of the way. I agreed with him and said, “yeah, and there’s layer upon layer upon layer of that.” He didn’t seem to understand that statement but was confused why I was totally agreeing with him but not self-identifying myself as a Christian, and he asked me why I am not. (And I am totally OK with people being Christian and identifying themselves as that. I have to say that since there may be some who would misconstrue my words.)
I gave him a little of my history, which includes having been raised Christian and going to church every Sunday till I was 15. I also told him that Christianity, as I was taught, was a one-time deal: you accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, and then you’re good to go, nothing really more to do, other than live a good life. I like to work and practice and have liked to for a very long time, and I also like practicing on the spiritual Path, too. Though our conversation got cut short, I later came to a succinct conclusion that, yes, from one perspective it is totally true that God has “already done it all” for us already, and that all we need to do is “get out of the way,” the bottom line for me is this: if there’s still a “me,” it’s in the way. Period. As long as there’s some seemingly individual and separate entity, a “me” or an “I”, it is in the way of God BY DEFINITION. So it is equally true, from one perspective, that there’s some serious “work” to be done in the removing of that block. As Amma and other Self-Realized Souls have said, “there are only 3 problems in the world: I, me and mine.”
My younger “brother” and I did have a meeting place in our conversation since he had been training intensively in taekwondo with Bodhi, and they were even traveling to Winston-Salem 3-4 times a week for competition team sparring training for a couple of years. He said that during that time he realized that the harder he worked and the more he put of himself into the training, the more he got out of it. I say, same thing on the spiritual Path.
So in the end, surrender is the thing AND on the Path to the “final” Surrender, there will probably be a lot of apparent work to do. Amrit Desai founded Kripalu Yoga in which I was initially trained and which “aims” toward the experience of complete surrender to Prana (Life Energy) and God. (And yes, he did experience a fall and all memory of him was purged from the Kripalu Center in the mid-90’s.) In the 70’s and 80’s, from what I heard, he was teaching people yoga as a surrender practice and teaching people to follow their inner guidance and voice, similar to what I suggest at the end of my classes. What he found, though, was that, especially for those new to yoga practice but even for those with some practice, the practice devolved into just indulging the desire for yummy sensual experience and laziness and didn’t lead to the transformation of the person or of consciousness that Yoga seeks to bring about. He came to believe that yoga practice should begin with willful practice, meaning deliberate, purposeful practice, which is what almost all yoga practice in the West is (and sadly is often not much more than that). My perspective is that with the foundation of a deliberate and systematic exploration and practice, one can explore the limits of oneself, one’s body, beliefs, emotions and mind, and come eventually and naturally to a place of genuine surrender. If we begin with surrender, he called it “premature surrender,” we are almost guaranteed to get either laziness or sensual-indulgence or both. If we surrender without being conscious of WHAT we are surrendering, and without good training and serious and long-term practice, we end up just surrendering to our lower nature and our weaknesses and not to the God Within. If we aren’t willing to work and effort toward realizing our True Self, we won’t realize it. If we aren’t willing to work on our close relationships, they won’t be that great either; why would it be different in the Inner World?
So if I want to realize and experience the Peace and Bliss of the Self, if I want to experience the Oneness that the Yogis speak of, if I want to experience and commune with the Love of God, (BEFORE dying and going to heaven!) first I have to introspect and see if I’m really willing…. and then eventually to see and acknowledge and love and move beyond all the ways that “I” am unwilling and that “I” am already and only blocking those experiences. If I want to sit on the couch and have God hand those experiences to me without “paying the price,” then the best I’ll get is carrying that fantasy to my grave. The time for Total Surrender will come… and, as far as I can tell, it takes TREMENDOUS strength of body, mind, will and heart, coupled with a huge dose of humility, to be able to contain, sustain and hold it. That’s what yoga, pranayama, chanting, meditation, selfless service and all the other yogic practices are for: to build a strong enough container to be able to handle the intense energy of Total Surrender. Thanks for joining me on the journey to That!