the problem with surrender and devotion

August 3, 2022 |


I once had a teacher who said, ‘The problem for us is that we spend all our time collecting information without ever applying what we learn, so our mind’s are overdeveloped and our hearts are closed’.


Ok. The teacher wasn’t just providing commentary on the way we approach things these days (although she was certainly doing that), she was outlining one of the teachings from the Bhagavad Gita, specifically as it relates to surrender and devotion.


You’ll know that, at the beginning of the story, Arjuna (who, by the way, was a very impressive student) found himself in a crisis. There he was – a warrior – on a battlefield, tasked with going into battle against an army filled with his relatives and friends.

There’s a backstory to this, of course, but even with the backstory, Arjuna wasn’t vibing it. He told Krishna it wasn’t dharmic.

Arjuna’s moment of doubt sets the scene for the rest of the story, which chronicles Krishna’s process of trying to change Arjuna’s mind. Krishna says to Arjuna (and I’m paraphrasing here), ‘You’re a warrior. You go into battle all the time. If the opposing army was full of strangers you’d have no qualms about fighting at all. The issue for you isn’t dharma, it’s that you have a personal connection with the people across the field. You’re acting from self-interest and trying to pass it off as yoga’.


Obviously there are things in this scenario that feel a bit unsettling (like justifying violence using spiritual principles) but the battle, in this instance, is a metaphor for the internal struggle between our higher and lower self. Krishna is trying to make Arjuna understand that there’s more to the situation than meets the eye (isn’t that always the case).


The purpose of the story is to externalise, for us, the tug-of-war we each experience between our attachments and our discernment, between our short-sightedness (the part of us that feels fearful) and the empowered part of us (that trusts because it understands the bigger picture).

(What’s the bigger picture? You’ll have to read the text 😉

Arjuna’s doubt highlighted for Krishna that, although Arjuna was a diligent student, he (like us, sometimes) had an understanding of yoga that was mostly intellectual. When the rubber hit the road, he wasn’t able to surrender because he didn’t have the courage of his convictions.

There are points in all of our lives where the rubber hits the road, and we have to give up what we think we know so the next step can be revealed.


From yoga’s perspective, that requires two things in particular: surrender and devotion (possibly also things we have a relationship with in theory, but which feel harder to apply in practice … and that’s ok, because isn’t it so often the case that the things we have to tussle with bear the most fruit in time).

This is what we’ll be exploring in The Embodiment Project next month. If you’re not already a member, I’ll love to have you join me! You can sign up for a free 7-day trial here.

Or, if you want to dive deeper into this (and other stories like it) you can sign up for more information about the 300h YTT (which begins in September) where we’ll explore the Bhagavad Gita (and some other equally epic texts) in-depth.

Posted in BLOG

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.