|Vedanta Spiritual Library|
Unit - 03
Lesson - 0303: Unconditional Surrender to the Teacher
By Raja Subramaniyan
Session: 027 - 028
The word 'surrender' does not generally appeal to intelligent people because it indirectly means acceptance of incompetence or incapability. Conventional education has taught us to stand on our own legs. We consider, especially after acquiring many qualifications, that allowing another person to tell us how to live our life as an insult. Most of us do not meet the final requirement of unconditional surrender due to the following five reasons.
Reason 1: Not being able to accept the superiority of the teacher
We can accept the capability of a doctor or a car mechanic without much hesitation. However, we are not willing to accept capability of a teacher of Vedanta. Without any additional qualification, even the teacher appears to be yet another human being.
Lord Krishna is the cousin and childhood companion of Arjuna. Although people in general are aware of his divine background, Arjuna always treated him as his friend.
Similarly, we feel that no one is capable or has mastery of telling us how to live life.
We can learn something only from a person whom we acknowledge to possess higher knowledge in any given field. If we do not accept the superiority of the teacher, learning does not happen. In case of the knowledge revealed in Vedas, this requirement is even higher because the knowledge revealed cannot be confirmed through our five senses. Therefore, we need to trust the teacher completely. If we are not able to see logic in the teaching, we should assume that the fault lies in our understanding and should not doubt the content of the Vedas or the teacher's knowledge. Such devotion comes only when one completely surrenders to the teacher.
Reason 2: Teachings in Vedanta/ Gita seem to oppose our practical knowledge
Arjuna shared his predicament to Lord Krishna with a hope that he will get some friendly advice on how to resolve his specific problem. However, Lord Krishna's words were not comforting.
Whenever we seek advice from others, we generally use the other person as a sounding board of our own thoughts. We would like the other to support us in what we want to do. If the other person says something that is contradicting to our views, we end the conversation and seek advice elsewhere. This is the nature of communication between equals.
Vedanta/ Gita teach us something that is not available from any other source. Besides, it is contradicting our practical knowledge.
Example: Gita says, 'You are immortal'. We know that we are mortals.
In such a situation, it is difficult to surrender to a teacher who contradicts our knowledge. We normally prefer a teacher who agrees with what we already know.
Learning is possible only if we have an open mind without preconceived notion and willingness to accept that our current knowledge could be wrong.
Reason 3: Complete surrender is misunderstood as surrender of intelligence
Blind belief on the teacher is not expected under the pretext of surrender. We are expected to question the teacher after listening to the teacher completely.
Surrendering does not mean that we become a slave to the teacher for the rest of our lives. It means, while the teacher is teaching, we listen without wondering if he is right. We should not do filtered listening, or in other words listen to only what we want to hear and reject what is not acceptable.
There is a vast difference between the attitude of a child and adult student. A child has an inherent trust in the teacher and learns without doubting the words of the teacher. However, an adult will keep comparing the words of the teacher with what he already knows. Even the very first sentence spoken by the teacher will be validated against what is already known. If there is a contradiction, learning does not happen.
We need to become a child learning alphabets or addition of numbers for the first time. We need such devotion and trust in the words of the teacher since Gita is a new subject to us. We have not learnt anything like that ever before. Once we have grasped the content of the message, then we are free to question and validate it against our knowledge.
Reason 4: Effect of wrong teaching will mislead us
Suppose the teacher does not know the solution and is teaching wrongly, a child will take a long time to realize that the teacher does not know. It may happen to us, while learning Gita also. There are many different teachers, teaching contradicting messages, quoting the very same words of Lord Krishna. Since it is a new subject to us, we are incapable of doubting the words of the teacher. Therefore, we must surrender to any teacher (even to a wrong one, since we do not know how to identify the right one) and accept whatever is taught as the true message of Lord Krishna.
If we do not surrender, we cannot learn the message of Lord Krishna. How do we know that our teacher to whom we surrendered has given the correct solution as taught by Lord Krishna? The proof of the pudding lies in eating. If our problem is solved forever, then it does not matter whether the teaching is correct or wrong.
Example: The old man with cataract in both the eyes becomes nearly blind. He went to an eye surgeon who does not have any educational qualification to practice medicine or perform a surgery. However, the old man regained his eyesight after the surgery and his eyes have become normal. Will he have any grudge against the 'pseudo-doctor'?
We need to have such an attitude. While the operation is being performed, the patient should have complete trust in the doctor.
Unlike the eye-operation, which can go wrong if we trust a quack, learning Gita from a wrong teacher will not make us blind permanently. Even if the teaching is completely off the mark, we will be benefited. A child is taught addition wrongly; say 2+2 equals 5. However, the damage is not permanent. When the child realizes that the teacher is wrong, it will be better off than a child who is taught 2+2 equals 4 in the first place. This is so because this child knows why 2+2 cannot be 5. Similarly, if we are to learn from a wrong teacher, our knowledge becomes stronger. We will know the teaching is wrong if it does not solve our problems permanently. We can move on to another teacher.
However, it is essential to surrender to the teacher for us to gain the knowledge completely. We can test the knowledge only after gaining it and not while the teaching is going on. We must surrender to the teacher completely like a child and learn the complete message of Gita.
Reason 5: We do not know that our mind is incapable of removing its limitation
All our past education, knowledge and intelligence might prevent us from surrendering. All through our life, we have been trying to correct the environment in order to solve our problem. For the first time, we are going to turn our attention inwards and solve the problem in such a way it does not recur. This technique cannot be learnt from any book (including Gita and Vedanta). Therefore, we need to surrender to a teacher who has mastered this art.
Our sense of incompleteness is not physical in nature and therefore material resources cannot make us complete. The problem is in the mind and we need to resolve the problem only through knowledge.
Experience and knowledge do not always coexist. We assume that as we gain more experience in living life, we will learn to deal with problems in life in a better way. This is not true.
Experience may lead us to higher level of knowledge in any other field but not in the matter of how to live life happily. This knowledge can come only from a teacher who teaches the content of the Vedas. Experience can just prepare our mind and make it mature enough to gain the knowledge.
Our experience shows that we have been continuously working to solve some problem or other and we are never in a position where there is nothing more to do. This means we do not know how to solve all our problems completely. Only when we understand this fact through retrospection or observing others, our mind is mature enough to receive the teaching of Gita.
One who has worked hard and progressed well in material comforts can see the futility of prosperity. Young Siddhartha was brought up in a perfect environment with no trace of suffering. He could see the futility of prosperity when he realized that old age, disease and death cannot be conquered by wealth. Similarly, Arjuna was quite a competent person and he could see that not all his material and physical strength could give him what he wanted. Therefore, he declares to Lord Krishna that he is confused and does not know what to do. Only at that stage, he surrenders to Lord Krishna completely with a request for guidance as described in the verses 4 to 9.
Chapter 2: Wisdom is the solution [Verses: 04 - 09]
2.4 Arjuna asked: Oh Krishna, how can I fight against adorable Bhisma and Dhrona in this battle with arrows. who are worthy, of my worship?
2.5 It is better to live in this world by begging than to live at the cost of the lives of my noble teachers. If they are killed, our soil will be tainted with blood.
2.6 Nor do we know which is better--conquering them or being conquered by them. Those, whom if we kill we should not care to live, are now standing before us on this battlefield.
2.7 Now I am confused about my duty and my intellect is deluded. In this condition, I am requesting You to tell me clearly what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple. Teach me who has surrendered unto You.
2.8 I can find no means to drive away this grief, which is drying up my senses. I will not be able to remove it even if I win an unrivaled kingdom on earth and heaven.
2.9 Sanjaya said: Having spoken thus, Arjuna, told Lord Krishna, "I shall not fight" and fell silent.