A course in Consciousness

Chapter 19. Surrender, mantra, and trust

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Chapter 19. Surrender, mantra, and trust

19.1. Surrender and mantra practice

According to Ramana Maharshi, either surrender or inquiry is always the final practice. He often talked about others, but said that in the end all others must evolve to one of these before Self-realization can occur. Simply asking God for help is a useful practice if it opens the mind to something new and results in relinquishing the sense of control. However, the biggest obstacle to surrendering to God is the ego's fear of losing control even though it actually has no control.

Question: Have you ever asked for help from God? Did you feel relief?

Surrender to God has even greater benefits when dealing with the debilitating afflictions of every-day life. For example, the well-known 12-step programs for recovery from every known form of addiction and addictive behavior are based on surrender to God. These programs are the only ones that consistently and reliably promote recovery without the use of drugs (which can cause their own addictions). The necessity to surrender to God is made clear in the first three of the twelve steps:

1. We admitted we were powerless over [our addiction] ---that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.

Question: Do you know somebody who is or has been in a 12-step program? Did it help?

If we believe that God is separate from us, surrendering to God is dualistic. In Christianity, surrender is epitomized by the following passage from Luke 22:42 (RSV, http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/r/rsv/rsv-idx?type=DIV1&byte=4782437):

"... not my will, but thine, be done."
On pp. 177-178 of The Final Truth (1989), Ramesh points out that dualistic surrender strengthens the sense of separation if there is a worldly motive or goal behind the surrender (e.g., making a deal with God to get something you want). He then states that the only true surrender is when there is no “one” to ask questions or to expect anything. He describes it as the surrender [to what-is] of the total responsibility for one’s life including all thoughts, feelings, and actions, which means that there can be no individual will or desire, although will and desire may arise impersonally.
Also, in the meditation for February 1 in A Net of Jewels (1996), Ramesh says,
"True surrender means in effect the acceptance of the fact that there is no individual entity with the ability to act independently of God or the Self."

Question: Have you ever tried surrendering to God? What was the result?

Ramana Maharshi advocated a form of surrender which he called Nama-Japa.  Following is a description of this practice taken from pp. 124-25 of Be As You Are (1985) by David Godman:

"Surrender to God or the Self can be effectively practiced by being aware at all times that there is no individual ‘I’ acting and thinking; only a ‘higher power’ which is responsible for all the activities of the world. Sri Ramana Maharshi recommended Japa as an effective way of cultivating this attitude since it replaces an awareness of the individual and the world with a constant awareness of this higher power.


In its early stages the repetition of the name of God is only an exercise in concentration and meditation, but with continued practice a stage is reached in which the repetition proceeds effortlessly, automatically and continuously. This stage is not reached by concentration alone but only by completely surrendering to the deity whose name is being repeated:

'To use the name of God one must call upon Him with yearning and unreservedly surrender oneself to Him. Only after such surrender is the name of God constantly with the man'.


When Sri Ramana Maharshi talked about this advanced stage of Japa there was an almost mystical dimension to his ideas. He would speak of the identity of the name of God with the Self and sometimes he would even say that when the Self is realized the name of God reappears itself effortlessly and continuously in the Heart."

Nama-Japa can be practiced simply by repeatedly thinking the mantra, "God". This powerful practice helps us to see that everything is God (see Section 14.3) and there is nothing but God. It fills us up with immanent God and expands us outward with transcendent God. Whenever we feel alone, empty, separate, or incomplete, the thought of God can bring us wholeness and completeness.

Exercise: Use the mantra "God" for a few days. Do it mindfully! What is your experience?

On p. 212 of Be As You Are, Ramana Maharshi says,

"Good, God, Love, are all the same thing. If the person keeps continuously thinking of any one of these, it will be enough. All meditation is for the purpose of keeping out all other thoughts."
In Section 14.3, we found that we are God. In Section 16.2, we found that we are Love, Now we see that Good, God, and Love are all the same thing. Thus, we are all God, Good, and Love.

Exercise: Think "Love" and flood yourself with light (see Section 16.4).
Now, think "Love" and flood yourself and somebody who annoys you with light. How does this practice affect your feelings about yourself and the other?

[Note: The mantra is a short, powerful spiritual formula for connecting us with the All--whether we call it God, Reality, or our True Nature. Whatever name we use, the mantra calls up what is best and deepest in ourselves. The mantra has appeared in every major spiritual tradition, West and East, because it fills a deep, universal need in the human heart. Mantras originated in the ancient Vedic religion of India, later becoming an essential part of the Hindu tradition and a customary practice within Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism. In Hinduism, the most famous mantra of all is "Aum" (or "Om"), which represents primordial creation. (The Biblical verse John 1:1 can be interpreted nondualistically as a pointer to the sound of creation: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.") Hear Aum being intoned at http://www.thaiexotictreasures.com/chants_mantras.html, at http://www.nmcnews.org/music/om1.html  (>om--the realm of calm), and at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzqZ3qW7YAk. Many mantras in both Hinduism and Buddhism begin and/or end with "Om". An example in Hinduism is, "Om Namah Shivaya", which means "I bow to the Shiva (God) within". Hear it being chanted at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AczOmID4tPA, at http://www.babaji.net/audio/omnamahshivaya1.mp3 , and at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxU2cPQEPB0. In Buddhism, the most famous mantra is "Om mani padme hum", which is a salute to the Buddha within (hear it being chanted at http://www.circle-of-light.com/Mantras/om-mantra.html ). Sufism has the chant "Ishq Allah Mahbud Lillah", which means "God is Love, Lover, and Beloved" (see Section 16.1). Hear it being sung at http://cdbaby.com/cd/maniko  and at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3-FfXCFMr4.]


In choosing a mantra, experiment with several to find out how each affects you. Pick one that connects you directly to your True Nature, or whose sound goes straight to your core and resonates there. Those that stay in the head will not be as effective.


Exercise: While you are alone, try sounding the mantra "Aum" over and over. To make it eaier, you can do it while listening to it on a CD or website. What is your experience?

19.2. Ramesh's teaching on surrender

Ramesh does not advocate most practices because such practices appear to be done by an “I”, and therefore the concept of “I” is strengthened by them. Instead, he emphasizes the importance of seeing that there is no doer and no choice. He frequently quotes his guru, Nisargadatta Maharaj, who liked to say, “Understanding is all.”

Understanding necessarily begins at the intellectual level. In order for it to be accepted so that it can deepen to the intuitive level, it must be seen to be valid. This requires the seeker to watch and see directly whether decisions happen by themselves or whether he/she is making them. Likewise, the seeker must see firsthand whether thinking or doing are spontaneous or whether there is a thinker or doer. This is the only practice that Ramesh advocates, and of course, if it happens, it happens; if it doesn't, it doesn't. It is a form of inquiry, which generally can be described as looking to see directly what-is. Inquiry will be discussed more thoroughly in Chapter 23.

Ramesh frequently mentions that, for as far back as he can remember, two notions were always with him: 1) the world is illusory, and 2) everything is determined by destiny. Because of this, understanding must have come quite naturally and easily for him. Such may not be the case for others. Direct understanding requires a degree of disidentification from one's thoughts and feelings that is not often found. Much more common is the case in which identification is so strong that disidentification simply through intellectual understanding is impossible. That is why Ramesh encourages the seeker to see directly whether or not there is a doer. That is also why most teachers of nonduality emphasize inquiry as the most effective practice, at least for individuals on the jnana path. For those on the bhakti path, teachers of nonduality will foster love and devotion to the guru, but they will do so only when it is clear to the devotee that guru, God, and Self are the same. Such is the case with Papaji (now deceased, see http://www.papaji.com) and Gangaji (see http://www.gangaji.org).
There is no difference between acceptance of what-is and surrender to what-is because both imply disidentification from doership. Acceptance of what-is is the absence of resistance to all thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations, perceptions, and actions (see Section 17.7). Acceptance does not mean that these are not felt, just that there is no "I" identifying with them. Resistance to what-is is the judgment that it should not be this way, and that we can do something to change it (see Chapter 21). Resistance reinforces the idea of separation and prevents us from seeing that there is really nothing but Consciousness. Therefore, suffering always accompanies it.

Question: Have you ever been told that you might as well "get used to it"? How about to "embrace" it? Could they be forms of surrender?

Ramesh also speaks of witnessing, which is Awareness without identification with doership. In resistance, there seems to be a "me" that is resisting, while in witnessing, there is no "me" and no witness. Thus, we can see that awakening, witnessing, acceptance, and surrender are all equivalent to each other, while resistance and doership are also equivalent to each other.

In the meditation for November 8 in A Net of Jewels (1996), Ramesh says,

"The arising of a thought, emotion or desire is something beyond the control of the organism. The nature of the mind can be either to "take delivery of" and get involved in it or, when the "me" is not there, the arising of it is witnessed and it disappears."
A dramatic example of pure witnessing without a witness can happen when one is startled by something unexpected. An extreme example of this occurs when we are driving and suddenly we become aware that an accident is imminent and inescapable. In that split second, the body reacts instinctively while thinking stops. After the collision, the "I" reappears and may think, "There was nothing I could do". That is more true than the "I" realizes.

Question: Have you ever had such an experience?

In the meditation for May 9 in A Net of Jewels (1996), Ramesh says,

"If the mind watches its own operation, then there will always be comparing and judging: 'This is good, this is bad, this is whatever.' That is not witnessing."
When Awareness identifies with rumination, judging, and thoughts of past or future, there is always suffering. Ramesh terms this the "horizontal" involvement of the mind with its thoughts, feelings, and emotions, horizontal meaning occurring within time. (He refers to the spontaneous awakening from this involvement as a "vertical" appearance from outside of time.) For example, a common experience is one in which a stimulus, either external or internal, causes an unpleasant memory to appear in the mind, triggering the same emotions again. The mind becomes (horizontally) involved with the experience, which is replayed over and over with the purpose of self-justification. This involvement is equivalent to what we called identification at the third level in Section 11.5. The mind takes possession of (identifies with) the victim image and all of its attributes of aggrieved innocence, helplessness, and self-righteous anger.
When we awaken from this horizontal movement, the involvement is cut off. (This is a universal experience in meditation.) As the seeker matures, the involvement is cut off earlier and earlier, until it arises only momentarily before it is cut off. This is the stage just prior to awakening, and is described by Ramesh as the "who cares?" state (see p. 132 of Ramesh's 1999 book, Who Cares?).
Daydreaming is a common example of Awareness being identified with thoughts, feelings, and emotions. During this involvement, we are lost in the past or future, and there is no freedom or awareness of being aware. Awakening occurs at the instant that we realize we have been daydreaming. There is no elapsed time in this awakening because it occurs outside of time. This is a moment of pure witnessing in which there is no "me". It is usually followed immediately by the return of the "me" in "normal" consciousness.

Exercise: See if you can see whether there is a "me" present during the transition from daydreaming or ruminating to “normal” consciousness.

Even when we are passively observing our thoughts of judgment, fear, or desire, if there is the sense of an observer being present (see Section 23.2), there is still identification. Nevertheless, each time we are aware that this is happening, identification has weakened, and as the understanding continues to deepen, suffering continues to decrease.

19.3. Trusting Awareness

Pure Awareness is our true nature. It is What-We-Are. Pure Awareness never changes. Everything else does. That is why it makes sense to trust pure Awareness and why it makes no sense to trust anything else. We are conditioned to trust everything and anything except what is trustworthy. Trusting Awareness takes responsibility out of the hands of the ego, which cannot be trusted, and puts it in Awareness, which can be trusted. The proof that Awareness is trustworthy comes with our experience of greater relaxation, peace, and freedom as we trust It.

Exercise: Trusting Awareness requires practice and self-reminding until it becomes automatic. Any feeling of irritation or dissatisfaction can be a reminder that we are still trying to trust the ego and to trust Awareness instead.

Furthermore, any practice that helps us to realize our true nature as Awareness is a useful practice. A simple practice is to think the mantra "Awareness" as often as we can remember to. This will help to dispel the illusion that we are a separate "I" and to become what we really are.

Exercise: Think the mantra "Awareness" as often as you can remember to. Do you experience transcendence of the individual "I"?

A mantra must be mindfully thought, not mechanically. Being Awareness happens when we remember that we are Awareness. Like other spiritual practices, the practice itself shows that nobody is doing it (see Section 18.4).

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