10th April 1947
This morning, an Andhra youth handed over a letter to Bhagavan in which it was written: “Swamiji! They say that one can obtain everything if one takes refuge in God wholly and solely, and without thought of any other. Does it mean sitting still at one place, and contemplating God entirely at all times, discarding all thoughts, including even about food which is essential for the sustenance of the body? Does it mean that when one gets ill, one should not think of medicine and treatment, but entrust one’s health or sickness exclusively to Providence? From the definition of sthitha prajna given in Gita,
The man who sheds all longing and moves without concern, fTee from the sense of ‘I’ and ‘mine’, he attains peace. (II:71)
“It means the discarding of all desires. Therefore should we devote ourselves exclusively to the contemplation of God, and accept food, water etc. only if they are available by God’s grace, without asking for them? Or does it mean that we should make a little effort? Bhagavan! Please explain the secret of this saranagathi.”
Bhagavan saw that letter leisurely and told the people near him: ” Look! ‘Ananya saranagathi’ means to be without any attachment of thoughts, no doubt, but does it mean to discard thoughts even of food and water etc. which are essential for the sustenance of the physical body? He asks, ‘should I eat only if I get anything by God’s direction, and without my asking for it? Or should I make a little effort?’ All right! Let us take it that what we have to eat comes of its own accord. But even then, who is to eat? Suppose somebody puts it in our mouth, should we not swallow it, at least? Is that not an effort? He asked ‘if I become sick, should I take medicine or should I keep quiet leaving my health and sickness in the hands of God?’ ‘Kshudvyadeh aaharam’, it is said. There are two meanings to this. One is, since kshuth i.e. hunger, is also like sickness, so for the sickness called hunger, the medicine called food must be given; the other is: like medicine for vyadhi (sickness), food for kshuth (hunger) must be given. In the book ‘Sadhana Panchaka’ written by Sankara, it is stated, kshudvyadhischa chikitsyatam pratidinam bhikshoushadham bhudyatam’. It means, for treatment of the disease called hunger, eat food received as alms. But then, one must at least go out for bhiksha. If all people close their eyes and sit still saying if the food comes, we eat, how is the world to get on? Hence one must take things as they come in accordance with one’s traditions and must be free from the feeling that one is doing them oneself. The feeling that I am doing it is bondage. It is therefore necessary to consider and find out the method whereby such a feeling can be overcome, instead of doubting as to whether medicine should be administered if one is sick or whether food should be taken if one is hungry, such doubts will continue to come up and will never end. Even such doubts as, ‘May I groan if there is pain? May I inhale air after exhaling?’ also occur. Call it Iswara or call it karma; some Karta will carry on everything in this world according to the development of the mind of each individual. If the responsibility is thrown at him (the Karta), things will go on of their own accord. We walk on this ground.
While doing so, do we consider at every step whether we should raise one leg after the other or stop at some stage? Isn’t the walking done automatically? The same is the case with inhaling and exhaling. No special effort is made to inhale or exhale. The same is the case with this life also. Can we give up anything if we want to or do anything as we please? Quite a number of things are done automatically without our being conscious of it. Complete surrender to God means- giving up all thoughts and concentrating the mind on Him. If we can concentrate on Him, other thoughts disappear. If mano-vak-kaya karmas i.e. the actions of the mind, speech and body are merged with God, all the burdens of our life will be on Him. Lord Krishna told Arjuna in the Gita:
To those men who worship Me alone, thinking of no other, to those ever harmonious, I bring full Security and attend to their needs. (IX:22)
Arjuna had to do the fighting. So Krishna said, ‘Place all the burden on Me, do your duty; you are merely an instrument. I will see to everything. Nothing will bother you.’ But then, before one surrenders to God, one should know who it is that surrenders. Unless all thoughts are given up there can’t be surrender. When there are no thoughts at all, what remains is only the Self. So surrender will only be to one’s Self. If surrender is in terms of bhakti, the burden should be thrown on God, and if it is in terms of karma, karma should be performed until one knows one’s own Self. The result is the same in either case. Surrender means to enquire and know about one’s own Self and then remain in the Self. What is there apart from the Self?”
That young man said, “What is the path by which it can be known?” Bhagavan replied: “In the Gita several paths are indicated. You are asked to do dhyana. If you are not able to do it, then bhakti or yoga or nishkama karma. Many more have been indicated. And one of the paths must be followed. One’s own self is always there. Things happen automatically in accordance with the samskaras (the fruits of the actions of previous births).
The feeling that the doer is ‘I’ is itself bondage. If the feeling is got rid of by vichara, these questions do not arise. Saranagathi is not the mere act of sitting with closed eyes. If all sit like that, how are they to get on in this world?” While Bhagavan was speaking the bell of the dining hall rang. “There goes the bell; should we not go?” So saying with a smile, Bhagavan got up.