Doctrine of Prapatti
Sri Swami Sivananda
Self-sacrifice and renunciation will lead a person to nobler and higher spiritual pursuits and take him to the pinnacle of spiritual glory and to the ultimate goal of realisation of the Self.
The doctrine of Prapatti, or absolute self-surrender to the Lord, is also spoken of as Saranagati. God is the devotee’s sole refuge and only saviour. Six items are recognised as essentials in Prapatti: 1. the acquisition of virtues which would make one a fit offering to God; 2. avoidance of conduct not acceptable to God; 3. faith that the Lord will always protect him; 4. appeal to the Lord for protection and mercy; 5. a feeling of one’s own littleness; and 6. total surrender. The first five are the means to the attainment of absolute self-surrender.
Sadhana when done in the right spirit and with the right Bhava (attitude), cannot entertain even the slightest ego. It is meant for the annihilation of Ahankara or the ego. Even in the path of devotion, the aspirant has to do the act of self-surrender himself; the Bhakta (aspirant) takes the initiative, and only then does God take upon Himself the responsibility of protecting the Bhakta. The Lord Sri Krishna says: “Come unto Me for shelter, with all thy being. Surrender yourself to Me. Then alone will you obtain My Grace. Then alone will I liberate thee.”
Every individual can work out his own salvation by dedicating himself completely to the Lord. The surrender must be sincere, full and unreserved. This is the secret of success in the path of devotion. Personal contact with a fully developed sage or saint is necessary till the aspirant is established in devotion. This helps one to change one’s worldly nature and to overhaul thoroughly one’s old vicious Samskaras (impressions).
It is extremely difficult to say when, on whom, and how the Grace of God will descend. A mob once came out to stone Mary Magdalene, the Roman prostitute. The Lord Jesus, who was passing by, addressed the mob with these words: “He that is not without a sin amongst you, let him cast the first stone at her.” At the utterance of these words of the Lord, the mob was silenced and none dared to cast a stone at her. Mary Magdalene, from that moment, changed her entire outlook in life and became ultimately, through the Grace of the Lord, a saint. The Lord Sri Krishna says in the Gita: “They who take refuge in Me, O Partha, though of the womb of sin, women, Vaishyas, even Sudras,–they also tread the highest path.” What reason, then, is there for despair? On our part, we have to be up and doing; struggle, exert, practise hard and with unflinching courage do our spiritual Sadhana. The All-Merciful Lord will surely crown our efforts with success. Even the vilest and the lowest of the low can attain salvation. The Lord has given us the word of assurance.
The Lord knows what is good for you infinitely better than you do. To resign absolutely to His Will is even a higher form of worship than visiting holy places and performing all sorts of ritualistic ceremonies. The Lord is waiting with outstretched hands to welcome you with His sweet smiling face, full of love and mercy. Lift up your face and approach Him with childlike simplicity, innocence and frankness (Arjava). Speak out your heart to Him. Do unconditional, total self-surrender (Atma-Samarpana) or Saranagati. If you could do willing, unconditioned, unreserved, absolute surrender, then all your duties and responsibilities are over. From then on God will take care of you in all respects. God will do everything for you, and you will find that favourable conditions are created for leading a virtuous and higher life.
Unconditional surrender to His Grace in every act of your life seems to be the only hope. But when it is actually put into practice (Anubhava), your egoism tries to predominate. Self-assertion takes a prominent part, which we must endeavour to overcome.
Here are some Mantras or formulae for effecting ungrudging and total self-surrender. Repeat them daily several times with all earnestness: “O Lord, I am Thine. All is Thine. Thy will be done. Thou art everything. Thou doest everything.” Constant repetition of this will remove from the mind egoism, selfishness and also the idea of agency. A true devotee of the Lord says: “O Lord, I am Thine. Thou art everything. Thou workest everything. Thou art just. I am only an instrument in Thy hands. I am a non-entity. I can do nothing. I possess nothing.” And thus he destroys his egoism and is able to completely surrender himself to the Lord.
The ten senses, the mind, the intellect and the Pranas have no independent existence. They have no power of their own. They derive their power, energy and light from the Lord. Therefore give up your vanity and egoism. Do not for a moment think: “I have done this great work. My intellect is very sharp and powerful and I am very intelligent.” In reality God does everything. Bereft of His Grace you are incapable of doing anything. All things, animate and inanimate, are His instruments. If you remember these truths, you can free yourself from egoism and the bonds of Karma. You will be able to do perfect self-surrender unto the Lord.
Usually egoism develops through Karmas (actions), ideas of superiority of race, family and caste, possession of physical strength, wealth, intelligence, beauty, a few moral virtues, etc. If you practise introspection and discrimination, the egoism is gradually destroyed and true self-surrender to the Lord is rendered possible, which is a sure means to the attainment of everlasting Peace and Eternal Bliss.