Others may think themselves fit, but I do not think myself sufficiently developed to take responsibility for myself. I am the most reckless, mean, worthless and useless. Please accept me and give me any service at your feet. I can no longer rely on myself. I have come to take shelter of your holy feet. You are my Guardian.” This is sharanagati, to accept Krsna as one’s absolute Guardian.
No process of service can be perfect without sharanagati, and certainly there can be no entrance into the higher domain. As such, sharanagati is the very life and essence of devotion. It must be present in every form of service. Without sharanagati our devotion will only be an imitation of service, not devotion proper. It will only be a lifeless activity. Therefore sharanagati is the first condition.
If one is unable or does not have the opportunity to perform different types of service in the beginning, but he has only sharanagati, he will get everything in the near future. Sharanagati will give us everything. It is the most basic and fundamental substance in the devotional world. The whole structure of devotional service is based on sharanagati. Prahlada Maharaja says that the whole of Vedic knowledge is based on atma nivedanam. You must give yourself wholly.
You must give yourself to the Lord. The substance of all devotional activity is to give yourself in surrender. Sridhar Swami in his commentary about sravanam kirtanam visnu smaranam has said, that if everything is dedicated to Him then all these things can be recognized as bhakti, otherwise it is all bogus. If I hear, chant, etc. to fulfil my own purposes then it is no longer bhakti. Whatever I shall do, it is for Him. Then whatever will be done will be accepted as bhakti. It is the foundation on which bhakti stands.
Without sharanagati all karma, jnana, yoga will not be bhakti. Bhakti means that the result will go to the Lord. I am a slave to my Lord. I have got no independent personality to keep any independent property. I am wholly His servant. Whatever I shall acquire, everything I own is His. He has got the right to do anything with me that He likes, according to His sweet will. With this feeling, whenever we perform kirtan, or smaranam, etc. that will be devotional activity. When that is withdrawn, everything will go to hell. Just as when the stage, where the dancing is performed, is drawn away, then the whole thing comes down.
Saranagati means self-dedication. Then the activity of the dedicated self will be bhakti. He msut do everything on behalf of Krsna, keeping Krsna in sight, having no separate interest. Consciousness of separate interest has made us separate form Krsna. Only when the common interest of everything is with Krsna, then it will be bhakti. Sravanam, kirtanam, etc. are mere forms, not life. In order to have a living devotion saranagati must be there.
Exclusive connection with Krsna means exclusive identification with the interest of Krsna. Since Krsna is not seen there must be connection with guru and vaisnava. First there must be self-abnegation to the extreme and then, according to the degree of surrender one will be benefited. There are particular characteristics of each level of surrender according to the different rasas such as santa, dasya, sakhya, etc. And in each of these there will also be subdivisions. But without saranagati all are mere formal activities, devoid of the very life therein, and they will be something other than bhakti, other than self-dedication. The land of dedication is what we want, not the plane of exploitation or renunciation.
The criterion is found in the sastra that if we satisfy our Gurudeva we will satisfy Krsna. And if Gurudeva is dissatisfied with me then Krsna is surely dissatisfied. In Puranas we find a good example written there. Lord Krsna is the sun, the lotus is the disciple, and guru is the water around the lotus. If the guru withdraws then the sun will dry and burn the lotus. The lotus will be happy as long as the water is supporting and protecting the lotus. The sun’s rays will cheer the lotus, help it grow and give vitality to it. So the position of Gurudeva has been depicted nicely here.
The guru may be seen in different rasas of different types, but not much should be made of the differentiations. According to the situation of my heart his infinite potency may be seen in changing moods, figures, etc. Guru is always there, my guide to the absolute.
Krsna is there within Narayan, but there is a difference in their functions. Similarly Guru is there but with a different function. Thus in Narayan, Laksmi, gopis, etc. we find distinction and non-distinction. The gopis when they are in the form of Laksmi they serve Narayan. And Laksmi, in her inner heart, has got the position of the gopis who are serving Krsna in a particular way. So there is a continual connection between them all, distinction and non-distinction. Both should be maintained simultaneously. We should have respect for the differences, but we must not ignore the inner substance. The relative and the absolute must be taken together. In this way we always have to harmonize both these great teachings – sarva dharman parityajya and sva dharma nidhanam sreya.
Gaura Hari bol! Gaura Hari bol!