My friend cringed when he heard that the final instruction of the Bhagavad-gita is to surrender to Krishna wholeheartedly. "Am I a criminal that I should surrender to Him? Better worship a God who is more humble and down-to-earth!"
The word surrender does not usually conjure good images in our mind. As the dictionary confirms, surrender is associated with defeat and despair, and loss of pride and prestige. When an army surrenders to the enemy, it brings disgrace to the nation. A criminal or a terrorist is forced to surrender because he is a nuisance to the society. In this world we find that the winner becomes arrogant and want to humiliate the loser by forcing him to surrender, while the loser is seeking an opportunity to take revenge and settle scores.
But the surrender that Krishna demands in the Gita is far different from the forced surrender of a loser in life. Selective reading of the Bhagavad-Gita may make us think that Krishna is an egoistic God. Certain verses may sound like the speech of a politician, who while campaigning for election promises the voters to eradicate all sufferings of the people if voted to power. But Krishna is not a political leader that He wants to increase His number of followers. His call for surrender is not driven by egoistic claims of supremacy; it is actually impelled by His supreme compassion for all living entities.
Panacea for all sufferings
Krishna' s Godhood does not need our backing as proof. All the Vedic literatures unequivocally declare that Krishna is the supreme. Here are some examples: isvarah paramah Krishna – "Krishna who is known as Govinda is the Supreme Godhead" (Brahma-samhita 5.1); Krishna tu bhagavan svayam – "Lord Sri Krishna is the original Personality of Godhead" (Bhagavatam 1.3.38). "Devaki's son [Krishna] is the Supreme Lord" [Narayana Upanisad (4)]. Even Krishna Himself declares explicitly about His supreme position: mattah parataram nanyat kincid asti dhananjaya – "0 conqueror of wealth, there is no truth superior to Me" (Bhagavad-Gita 7.7).
Surrender to Krishna is a beautiful experience and the most wonderful concept in all of creation. It means to genuinely offer our love to Him. Those who are unwilling to surrender to Krishna with love have to surrender to Him at the time of death. Old age, disease and death are the weapons by which powerful time strangulates us. All great emperors of the world – Alexander, Napolean, Hitler, Aurangzeb – have been swept away into oblivion by the force of time. To the degree we consider ourselves the controller and proprietor of things of this world, to that degree we suffer when we face Krishna in the form of death. That surrender is too painful and immensely horrible.
On the other hand, if we understand our eternal position as the servant of Krishna and humbly accept it, all our miseries will cease to exist. Krishna immediately takes the devotee under His tutelage.
If we take one step towards Krishna, He takes hundreds of steps towards us. Krishna wants us to be happy and is always ready to shower His love upon us. He promises: "Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear." Bhagavad-Gita (18.66)
Krishna the humblest waiting for us
I wish my friend understood how God, although the greatest person, is simultaneously the most humble. Imagine an employee who works for a multi-millionaire becomes inimical towards his boss and starts disobeying and demeaning him. Will the boss tolerate him?
Strangely Krishna does so; He allows the rebellious souls to rebel against Him, and creates the material world for them, so they can satisfy their gratuitous desires. Krishna tolerates all and patiently waits for the moment these souls will realize their folly and turn towards Him.
Krishna' s pastimes with His devotees clearly reveal His humility. One time His childhood friend Sudama came to visit Him in Dvaraka, Being very poor, Sudama was not dressed properly.
His clothes were torn and dirty, and he was emaciated. When Lord Krishna came to know that his friend Sudama has arrived, He immediately rushed out of His palace to receive His friend. He embraced Sudama and made him sit on His own bedstead. He washed Sudama's feet and personally offered him fruits and drinks.
Although Krishna belonged to the royal Yadava family, He never forgot His poor brehmene friend. He treated Sudama as His equal.
Krishna is famous as the charioteer of Arjuna on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra, He didn't mind taking such a humble position for His devotee although He was God Himself.
Thus we see that the supreme proprietor, creator and master of the entire cosmic manifestation is eager to serve His devotees and take a secondary role. We rarely find such examples in the history of the world.
In spite of our brazenness Krishna is ready to accept us again and fervently hopes that one day we will return back to the spiritual world, our original home.
The Wonder of Surrender
My friend abhors the word surrender because he thinks he is not a criminal. But as lawbreakers of the spiritual world, we too have acted criminally. Fortunately Lord Krishna is merciful toward us and eagerly wants us to return back to Him.
Surrendering to Krishna, our original father, does not bring us any dishonor. Our surrender to Krishna is like a patient submitting himself to a doctor for treatment or a child taking shelter of his mother. A patient agrees to abide by the prescription of the doctor for his own benefit; a child experiences love and care on the lap of his mother. Krishna' s clarion call to surrender is for our salvation.
Not everyone surrenders; Krishna understands this: "After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare." (Bhagavad-gita 7.19) If we are not with Krishna, we are undoubtedly with maya, Krishna' s material illusory energy. So either to Krishna or to His material energy, we must surrender nevertheless. In fact every day, knowingly or unknowingly, we surrender to the dictum of our mind and senses, to our insatiable desires, to the demands of our bodies, to our lower self, to so many people in our daily life. My poor friend is a heavy smoker, smoking half a dozen cigarettes daily. He hardly realizes that he has surrendered his life to a life-threat-ening addiction.
Arjuna was in acute anxiety before the Mahabharata war began, but after hearing Krishna' s message he completely surrendered to Krishna and thus paved the way for his glorious victory.
Arjuna said: "My dear Krishna, 0 infallible one, my illusion is now gone. I have regained my memory by Your mercy. I am now firm and free from doubt and am prepared to act according to Your instructions.(Bhagavad-gita 18.73). Like Arjuna, there are many examples in history who achieved incredible fame and glory just by following Krishna' s instructions and the instructions of His devotees. By surrendering to Krishna success is certain in our life; there will be no room for anxieties and miseries.
Surrendering to Krishna opens the door for a blissful and eternal life. "For those who have accepted the boat of the lotus feet of the Lord, who is the shelter of the cosmic manifestation and is famous as Murari, the enemy of the Mura demon, the ocean of the material world is like the water contained in a calf's hoof-print. Their goal is param padam, Vaikuntha, the place where there are no material miseries, not the place where there is danger at every step." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.14.58)"
Purushottam Kumar is a member of the congregation at ISKCON Kolkata. He works as a Senior Business Associate in Tech Mahindra, Kolkata.