Surrender. Submission. Such words may conjure up images of war and aggression, where the weaker party regretfully yields to the stronger, possibly with thoughts of future victory or vengeance. With such images in mind, we may cringe when we read in the Bhagavad-gita that we must surrender to Krishna. And our qualms about surrender may increase when we see devotees exemplifying surrender by offering dandavat, or lying prostrate in submission before the Lord. But when watered with examples from the sacred literature, the hard green bud of our reservations about submission can open to reveal a soft, fragrant, enchanting rose of exaltation in the deeply satisfying spiritual practice of offering dandavat. One Sanskrit word Srila Prabhupada translates as “surrender” is prapadyate, which literally means “to throw oneself down at someone’s feet.”
Ultimate spiritual realization entails a loving and willing yielding of our self to the Supreme Whole, of whom we are an eternal part. This giving of one’s self, or surrender, is something like a child’s devotion for its mother. In healthy mother-child relationships, children naturally trust that their mother has their best interest in mind.
Surrender to the Supreme Whole is not an abnegation of will but a willful decision to “respond rightly to the dancing of Krishna” rather than dance independently, as Prabhupada writes in Krishna, Chapter 33. He also says that the whole world is full of Krishna’s singing. Those souls whose every thought, word, and action is like a song and dance in harmony with Krishna achieve ultimate surrender and unlimited spiritual bliss. Even materially, harmonious dance performances please the dancers and the audience, each dancer offering individual talent and grace as part of a whole. Surrender to Krishna in response to His singing is the pinnacle of bhakti-yoga, linking with the Supreme in loving devotion.
There are many ways to demonstrate harmony with Krishna, whether as processes to achieve full surrender to Him or as expressions of surrender already achieved. Haribhakti- vilasa (11.676) lists six divisions of surrender: “The six divisions of surrender are the acceptance of those things favorable to devotional service, the rejection of unfavorable things, the conviction that Krishna will give protection, the acceptance of the Lord as one’s guardian or master, full self-surrender, and humility.” Surrender can also be characterized as involving body, mind, and words, as Srila Prabhupada writes in Krishna, Chapter 14: “The best course is to surrender unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead with body, mind, and words and always be engaged in His service.” The activities of the surrendered mind can be further categorized: “In order to achieve pure devotional service, [Bhisma] wanted to invest all powers of thinking, feeling, and willing entirely in the Supreme Being, Lord Krishna.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.9.32, Purport)