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The Secret of Surrender

by Chris Tong, Ph.D.

Excerpted and adapted from:

You CAN Take It With You
Dr. Chris Tong

As we have been saying — in effect — in this book and the last two books focusing on death and the after-life (You CAN'T Take It With You and You WILL Take it With You), there is no bigger psychic bully than death, both as a looming inevitability, and as an actual experience. We would like to avoid thinking about death, and avoid death itself, even more than we would like to avoid being in states of boredom, doubt, or discomfort.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

And yet, when we actually die (or have a near-death experience [Moody]), despite whatever wriggling we did to try to get out of it before we just gave in to it — for instance, in the form of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s four predecessors to acceptance of death: denial, anger, bargaining, or feeling depressed), we experience something quite different from what was moving us to deny, be angry, bargain, etc.: we experience the overwhelmingly loving and blissful Presence of God, even to such a degree that we never want to leave It.

Now this sequence is worth examining very carefully: first all the reactions that tend to arise in relation to all the psychic bullies in our life; then, completely giving in or surrendering; then Absolute Happiness.

The secret hidden here is in the discovery that this sequence is not coincidental. In any moment that we completely surrender our selves — surrendering our struggle, our searching for a way out, our reactivity — the Revelation of God is bound to appear in some form (e.g., in the feeling of great happiness).

Let me tell you a couple of personal stories, to give you a feeling for the breadth and power of the point being made here.

flotation tank
similar to the one I lay in

A friend of mine once took me to visit a “New Age” relaxation center whose primary feature was a set of flotation tanks. (This was back in the early 1980’s, when such things were hitting the peak of their popularity.) My friend told me, “You’ll love it! It’s a deeply relaxing experience!” Here’s the way it worked. You go into a private room, undress, take a shower, and then enter the white tank in the middle of the room. The tank is full of a liquid solution that has a heavy Epsom salt concentration that causes anyone lying back in the tank to float, effortlessly. And the tank also has a lid.

So I climbed into the tank, and lay back. It was wonderful! Just floating in that liquid. . . very relaxing, soothing. Then I pulled the lid down. The idea was that you’d stay in this “womblike” environment for about half an hour, undisturbed by any sounds, sights — any sensory stimuli at all — and you would have something like a meditative experience. Then after a half an hour, some gentle music would “bring you back”, and you’d climb out of the tank.

But, in fact, as soon as the lid went down, I felt sheer terror. I suppose it was a kind of claustrophobia. Everything in me wanted to push that lid up again and climb out. Right away! I fought down that immediate impulse, only to find distressing thoughts creeping in. What if the attendant who was responsible for turning on the music forgot? How long might I lay in that tank? And on and on.

The "relaxing experience" had turned into a nightmare. But two things held me in place. The first was the thought that I might very well have a similar feeling of terror when I died, but there would be no “lid to lift up”, no way of “climbing out”. So better to start getting acquainted with such intense feelings now, and somehow learn to practice with them. The second thing was that I had recently begun reading the teaching of my Spiritual Master, and I had some sense of the way things actually work in the realm of the psyche, and I realized that this was one of my first opportunities to see my Master’s words about “surrender” and “feeling” in action in a very personal way.

So I hung in there. I didn’t raise the lid. I simply allowed myself to feel the terror. It got worse. It grew to the point where I felt certain I was going to die. And I continued to just feel it.

And then a miracle happened. In a single instant, all the fear vanished, and I suddenly felt completely happy.

I was blown away by this. I mean, after all, isn’t it completely counter-intuitive that one instant you would be feeling complete terror, and then the next, complete happiness? It didn’t make any immediate sense. But there it was.

I was so happy. I just revelled in that happiness mindlessly without any self-consciousness. At a certain point, the music came on, and I climbed out of the tank. I looked at my watch — an hour had passed! The attendant had indeed forgotten to turn the music on at the appointed time. And I didn’t care.

At another point in my life, my then-girlfriend and I separated. The sadness and sense of loss that I felt was greater than I had ever felt before in such a separation. Over the course of a month, my life was dominated by this feeling of intense sorrow. I was a professor at the time, and, as I’d be walking down the corridors of the school building, tears would suddenly start pouring down my face, and I’d have to do my best to turn in such a way that my students and colleagues didn’t see them.

The intensity of this sorrow kept growing for weeks. Then, one night, as I lay in bed, the sorrow became overwhelming. And something very interesting began to happen. The thought came to mind that I could call a friend, and try to distract myself that way. But even as the thought arose, I simultaneously somehow knew that the pain was too deep for this distraction to relieve it. Then I thought of going to a movie. Same thing. Reading a book. Same thing. And so on. Even as this was happening, another part of me was watching in fascination as I witnessed something I had never really noticed so clearly before: my mind was primarily organized, in every moment, to search for ways to distract me from intense feeling! It was literally like watching a computer program in action. It tried one option. That failed. Then it tried another. That failed. But it systematically stepped through all my usual distractions, one by one. And then it ran out.

There were no more distractions. There was not the possibility for distraction in that moment. I no longer had an option: I had no choice but to feel this sorrow. And so, having no choice, I surrendered. I let the sadness overwhelm me. Just like my feeling of terror in the flotation tank, I felt sure that I was going to die.

And then the miracle happened again — in a single moment, the sadness was replaced by sheer Bliss.

The Gift, then, provided by the moment of our death, or our near-death, is that death forces us — with overwhelming strength — to completely surrender, and then it reveals to us the Fruit of doing so. My Spiritual Master, Adi Da Samraj, elaborates:

In some sense the greatest power of all, the greatest Grace of all, therefore, is unqualified pain. As long as you have an option, some way to slip and slide out of your dilemma, your difficulty, your egoic “self-possession”, you will tend to take the way out or otherwise just be confused. All of you must have had some moments in your life when the pain, the confusion, the forcefulness, of the intrusion of the difficulty of life was so profound you could not figure anything out about it, you could not make an emotional gesture to escape, you could not do anything physically about it, you could not do anything socially about it, or anything else. It was so confusing, so overwhelming, so profound, it was not even that you could surrender but surrender was inevitable. You nakedly felt beyond yourself, relieved of your apparently independent self, the egoic self eliminated by that most profound intrusion. . . .

And then there is a kind of beatitude, not necessarily Divine Enlightenment every time such a thing occurs, but a kind of beatitude, continuous with what Is. In such a moment, you must be given up to What Is, whatever It Is, and there is no choice about it. . . .

You are all the time fearing death and great pain and the most dreadful of consequences. If any of those things did happen, a beatitude would be inevitable. But there is a great lesson in pain. In pain, you can allow that very same condition of beatitude to coincide with your ordinary life. You can allow it. It can become the greatest principle of Yoga, the greatest principle of [Spiritual practice]. You will allow, even embrace, great discipline, great devotion, great service, great meditation, great heat, great tapas, knowing that in such circumstances there is always beatitude, because no choice is available to you.

The great [Spiritual] Realizers know this secret. I know it. If you can come to the point of allowing such complete and total surrender, so that you never avoid it, so that in fact it becomes the condition of existence, then life is beatitude, existence is beatitude.

There is a secret in such surrender that is most fundamental to [Spiritual practice]. Allow yourself to be cooked, to be burned alive, to avoid nothing. To be, in this moment, in such a place where surrender is not even your only choice, where it is only inevitable — this is the secret of most effective [Spiritual practice]. It is the secret of renunciation. It is why renunciation is the secret of Realization, bereft of all means, all strategies, only There, without resorts of the egoic kind, in Place with the One Who Is, only devotion and not by choice. There is no choice. Giving yourself no choice whatsoever is the greatest principle of [Spiritual practice].

Avatar Adi Da Samraj

Be God-made, God-born, with God allowed, God Existing, and with no alternatives — this is the great Secret. The greatest Realizers, the greatest renunciates, all know this Secret. This is why they do what they do. But if you are only mediocre, always trying to avoid the great Imposition of Reality Itself, then you always have an option, some way to slip or slide to the right or left, always some way to desensitize yourself to the great Condition, not to mention all conditions. To become so humbled, so ground up, that there cannot be anything but Divine Enlightenment, this is the Secret. Mark my words!

You are all maintaining options that is what I am telling you. You always have an option. Even suggesting to yourself, “I would choose always the option of surrender and devotion” still gives you room. You should give yourself no room — devotion absolute, imposed to the absolute degree so that no gesture even can or even need be made, but only God Is. That is the Secret.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj, The Incarnation of Love

So what is actually going on here? How can we make sense of this general principle, as well as all the demonstrations of it — my own personal ones, and the large number of accounts of near-death experiences — which all seem to point to the same conclusion: “complete surrender restores Happiness”?

The thing that we are (unconsciously) doing in every moment (which, in the context of psychic bullies, is made most obvious) is avoiding feeling fully. The surrender that took place in the experiences I described is fundamentally a psychic surrender, in which we simply cease to avoid feeling fully:

Remarkably enough, the reason you are so disturbed about the facts of life that might make you fearful, sorrowful, and angry is that whenever something arises that you might appropriately be angry, fearful, or sorrowful about, you do not feel it completely. You limit your feeling of even these reactions. And you certainly limit your feeling of the circumstance, or the condition that is arising. You are always exhibiting the evidence of limited feeling, obstructed feeling. If feeling becomes limitless, if you do not contract, then feeling becomes Being Itself — no reaction, no contraction, Feeling without limit. That Feeling goes beyond fear, sorrow, anger, and conventional happiness and loving attitudes.

What is It? It is Love-Bliss. It is the Self-Existing and Self-Radiant Force of Being, without the slightest obstruction. It is Divine Enlightenment. It Divinely Transfigures the body-mind and becomes a Power, a Great Power, and — because now you are looking at manifestation through this color, this “one flavor”, this Free Force or Free Energy — It even allows you to interpret everything differently. Now you will not be saying that manifest existence is evil or suffering or sinful, or that others are unloving, that we are mortal, that we are going to die, that it is a terrible life, and so forth. Instead, you will regard all of manifest existence to be pervaded by Love-Bliss. Not merely Bliss coming at you from every direction, but Love-Bliss, Self-Existing and Self-Radiant, Radiating from every direction in the Place where you Stand, as you, and everywhere, altogether. It has no center, it has no bounds, it has no limits. It is Free Energy. And, in the midst of Free Energy, you are Free as attention, not limited, not obstructed in your attention.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj, Feeling Without Limitation


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This is Part 3 of the three-part series, "Transcending Life and Death in God". You may also be interested in these related titles:

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