In the hour or two before the sun rose, I went down to the banks of “Ma Ganga” (the Ganges river).
I accompanied my dear friend and photography ninja, DJ Pierce, who had expressed his desire to dip into the sacred waters.
Where we are in Rishikesh, the waters are pretty clean, and many visitors like to have this magical, albeit bracing experience. Historically, I have not been much of a Ganga dipper. I love this river and have said many prayers looking over her. Yet, I am mostly happy to leave it there.
DJ got into his bathing suit, walked to the edge of the river, and grabbed the thick chain, which was embedded in concrete, right at the bank of the river, to prevent folks from being swept away. In March, Ma Ganga is not particularly high, but the river could still take you for a ride if you are not careful. In August, by contrast, it could sweep you away permanently.
Chain in hand, DJ walked slowly backward, step by step into the river, and rapidly dunked himself a number of times. Then, pulling himself forward using the chain, he walked back onto the steps of the ghat and dried himself off.
A few moments later, inspired, I found myself down to my skivvies, gripping the chain and dunking myself as DJ had done.
After we dried off and said a few prayers for the day to come, we heard some chanting nearby. It was a small group of Krishna devotees, maybe 12 people, gathered around a teacher with a radiant smile and a small guitar chanting devotedly to God.
They were young people, seemingly from many different countries, and they welcomed us with their eyes and by shuffling closer together to make room for us. We sat down on comfy blankets, wrapped ourselves in our shawls, and chanted along with them.
In a few moments, the chanting ended, and the teacher put down his instrument and spoke enthusiastically about relating to God. His scholarship and knowledge of scripture was impressive. He quoted long Sanskrit passages by heart and related them beautifully to life.
He referenced a lecture he had recently given, entitled “The Six Attitudes of Surrender.” Being interested in this topic, my ears perked up.
I promise I will share all six attitudes with the elephant journal community when I can catch up with this man, but in this pre-dawn moment, he spoke about only one:
“When you are in the state of surrender, you will reject anything that gets between you and your relationship with God.”
That concept really blew my mind. I had never viewed surrender in a way that made me feel good about having to do it. But with this one sentence, my view of surrender has been transformed forever.
When the gathering ended, DJ and I headed off to breakfast feeling like we had begun the day right. In fact, it would be fair to say that we were high as kites, spiritually speaking, of course.
A few days later, I found myself sitting at Satsang (a wisdom teaching) led by one of my most beloved teachers, Anand Mehrotra. Anand got onto the topic of surrender. He said, “Surrender is an act of intelligence.”
What a reframe from our Western view that surrender implies giving up, failing, or being weaker than someone else.
As I reflect on these teachings now, I recognize that the entire morning was replete with surrender: the surrender to wake up before the sun, the surrender to dip in the Ganga, the surrender to sit and hear teachings, the surrender to chant to God, and the surrender of any preconceived notion about what is supposed to happen any given morning in my life here on planet Earth.
This is living in universal flow.
I believe it is available to us all. The only way I know to access it is through the intelligent act of surrender.
With love and gratitude to you from the holy banks of Ma Ganga, Rishikesh, India.
Author: Tommy Rosen
Images: Courtesy of DJ Pierce, with permission
Editor: Catherine Monkman