Sri Ramakrishna used to say, ‘God reveals himself to a devotee who feels drawn to him by the combined force of these three attractions: the worldly man’s attraction for possessions, the child’s attraction for its mother, and the husband’s attraction for his chaste wife.’ What does this mean? It means that when intense longing for God replaces all worldly desires of the mind, one realizes him and gets his vision and divine touch. Sri Krishna said in the Gita, ‘Abandoning all duties, take refuge in me alone.’ [18.66]
Self-surrender, self-surrender, self-surrender—there is no other way. In this kali yuga [iron age] human beings are short-lived and depend on food. They have to do many things in this short span of life. People have very little energy, strength, renunciation, forbearance, or courage. Their minds are weak and they naturally run after enjoyments. In spite of all these handicaps, one will have to realize God. Otherwise this precious life will pass in vain without one’s accomplishing anything. Surrender to God and wait for his grace—that is the easiest way in this age.
What do we understand by the word self-surrender? Does it mean that we do not have to do anything—that we may sit idly without moving our hands or feet? No, it is not so. One should always sincerely pray: ‘O Lord, I do not know what is good and what is bad. I am solely dependent on you. Grant me all that I need. Take me along the path that will bring me the greatest good. Grant me purity and strength so that I may have constant recollectedness of you.’
Is it so easy to surrender oneself to God? Verbally many say: ‘We have surrendered ourselves to God. We are doing what he is making us do.’ But when we observe their lives, we see that their actions are quite contrary to what they say. If they do anything good, they take the credit for it themselves. They say with pride, ‘We did it, we did it.’ But if there is any mishap, they blame God and say, ‘He is giving us trouble and suffering.’ Most people behave this way.
We judge people by seeing their exteriors, but God is all-knowing, and he looks into their minds. He rushes to that person who calls on him sincerely even once. Be simple. Unite your mind and speech. There is no partiality in his kingdom. . . .
There is no dearth of divine grace. People are not eager to receive God’s grace, nor have they eyes to see his mercy. They only speak big words. Who wants God? Many people spend their lives talking high philosophy, but few practice religion. ‘Gurus are available by hundreds, but rare indeed is a true disciple.’ There are many people around to give advice, but who will follow it? Miseries and doubts cease for that person who follows the teachings of his guru with faith and love. He will not have to run here and there with a restless mind. God supplies all his needs and guides him in the right direction, holding his hand. There need be no anxiety for the one who has been blessed in this way.
One among millions of people is endowed with noble desires, sublime thoughts, and good qualities. And again among such great souls only a few can stick to their ideals to the last. Those persons in whose minds good thoughts have already sprung up should try their utmost to strengthen them and make them permanent. Pray unceasingly: ‘Lord, bestow your grace on me. Give me strength so that I can realize you.’
– Swami Brahmananda
Belur Math, 1914
A Guide to Spiritual Life, p. 66-68