“The Personality of Godhead heard the appealing voices of His friends, and casting a pleasing glance over them, He began to answer. By speaking through His eyes, He impressed His friends that there was no cause for fear. Then Krishna, the supreme mystic, the powerful Personality of Godhead, immediately swallowed up all the flames of the fire. The cows and boys were thus saved from imminent danger.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 19)Download this episode (right click and save)
You try your hardest. You want this outcome desperately. You have failed previously, but this time you’re taking a different path. You have learned from your mistakes. You try and you try, but ultimately it looks like things aren’t going your way. You throw your hands up in surrender, leaving everything to the Divine will.
This situation is somewhat analogous to the experience of sharanagati, which is surrender in devotion. The Supreme Lord is the managing director of all outcomes. Not a blade of grass moves without His sanction. Even the beating of the heart in the chest is due to Him. He rests within that heart, along with the individual soul.
“The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone's heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.61)
The Vedas provide many examples of sharanagati. We don’t need to rely on only a theoretical exercise. The people who surrendered were often quite capable, but for whatever reason there was nowhere left to turn. In desperation they completely surrendered to God the person, and the joy they received was too great to register on any scale.
1. The forest fire in Vrindavana
The Supreme Lord was roaming this earth on the sacred land of Vrindavana some five thousand years ago. Though only a youth of small frame, soft soles, and gentle disposition, He retained full strength. One time the friends of Krishna were about to be devoured by a blazing fire. This was in a forest area. The boys were all surrendered souls already. They enjoyed the relationship with God in the mood known as sakhya, or friendship. When this fire came, they had no other hope. They could not run away. They could not douse the flames. They relied solely on Krishna, who delivered by devouring the entire fire in His mouth.
2. Underneath Govardhana Hill
Another time devastating rain swept through the area. It arrived so quickly that the people didn’t have time to retreat. They were in danger of being washed away. They had just completed the first worship of Govardhana Hill, at the direction of the same all-attractive youth, Shri Krishna.
The Supreme Lord protects against danger. The people had abandoned the dharma of the annual Indra-puja. It was religious in nature, but since it was in honor of a demigod, there was materialism involved. Abandoning all dharmas in favor of Krishna is known as devotion, or bhakti, and it is the highest dharma.
Krishna acted quickly. He uprooted Govardhana Hill and held it above His head. He urged everyone to get underneath, to take protection from the world’s largest umbrella. The people followed Him, and they relied entirely on Krishna’s strength for the next seven days. The umbrella continued to stay above His head, and everyone got a chance to associate with God in a special way.
3. Draupadi and her sari
The co-wife to the five Pandava brothers, Draupadi was once lost to the Kauravas in a wager. The rival party decided to welcome her to their side by attempting to strip her naked in front of a gathered assembly. This was a great insult, not only to Draupadi but to anyone who cares about right and wrong.
She was a woman, after all, so how much resistance could she apply? She tried so hard to keep the sari from being taken off. When she realized there was no hope, she completely surrendered to Krishna. Thinking of Him alone, she was rescued. The great well-wisher of the Pandavas took the form of the sari. Just as God is unlimited, so the sari became the same way. The enemy were unable to show Draupadi naked.
4. The Vanaras meeting Sampati
Ages prior, Krishna was on earth in the incarnation of Shri Rama, a handsome warrior prince. Rama one time teamed up with Vanaras living in Kishkindha. At the direction of their leader Sugriva, those monkey-like creatures scoured the entire world to look for Rama’s missing wife Sita.
The leading search party grew despondent after not finding success. They had tried, but to no avail. They decided to give up, to surrender in the fight against time. At that moment, the vital piece of information they were lacking came to them. The bird named Sampati approached them, and after talking it was learned that Sita was on the island of Lanka.
5. Hanuman crossing the ocean
Through the help of the Divine, the Vanaras became aware of Sita’s location. They were initially excited, but that changed when they reached the shore of the ocean. Lanka was far away, and there was no chance that all of them could reach it. Again, they were without hope. Personal effort, perseverance, and even intelligence wouldn’t solve the problem.
As in the case of Draupadi and her sari, the Divine will doesn’t always arrive in the manifest form. Sometimes God takes a different form or He sends one of His representatives. The problem for the Vanaras was solved by Hanuman. He was reminded of his mystic abilities by Jambavan. Hanuman then used yoga to expand his form into a gigantic one. With that new shape, Hanuman leaped over the ocean to reach Lanka.
From these examples we see that the Supreme Lord always takes care of the devotees. Not only does He bring His association, but He even manipulates situations so that the highest enjoyment will be felt. There is nothing like the feeling of surrender in devotion, and so that is why the saints always stress it above anything else. They help others to find that surrender by chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Sharanagati, full surrender to Him invested,
All hopes from personal effort divested.
Like cowherd boys in fire’s way caught,
Then Krishna entirety into His mouth brought.
Draupadi into assembly’s view sending,
For her the sari infinitely extending.
And flooding from Indra’s thunder,
Shelter from raised Govardhana under.