“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.66)
माम् एकं शरणं व्रज
अहं त्वां सर्व-पापेभ्यो
मोक्षयिष्यामि मा शुचः
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
“You hear this appeal from competing camps. I apply that classification just in terms of sheer numbers, the volume of followers. I don’t know if they are necessarily working to steal members from different groups, but let’s just start with that premise, for analysis purposes.
“What you hear from them is that such and such died for their sins. This savior accepted their negative reactions, and in return he just wants some basic surrender. Pledge allegiance to that person, and you are good to go. You don’t need to go elsewhere. No extensive penance. No requirement for rigorous sacrifice.
“The skeptic sees many holes to the argument. Why not surrender to anyone else? You can just pick a person and say that he died for your sins? Where is your evidence? Is it because the powerful institution tells you so? They have a history of corruption, by the way. They crush dissent. It would only make sense that the primary appeal is illogical and rooted in fear and intimidation.
“But let’s not take the skeptic’s side, for a moment. What if someone really did die for my sins? Why not accept that shelter? Why not follow that path, if there is one? What is so difficult in believing? If only everyone were to agree, maybe there wouldn’t be any problems in the world.”
In the hypothetical case, assume that every person’s sins were washed away. There is a clean slate. No more worrying about conversion or straying from the path. There is no deviation, because every person has surrendered.
If the entire world were free of sin, based on a sweeping declaration, what would happen next? Would there be peace and prosperity? Would everyone get along? Would there be no more disease? Strife, anger, resentment, hatred, turmoil, despair – these things would magically disappear?
Would poverty be wiped away? Would people start telling the truth? Would the powerful no longer take advantage of the weak? Would political leaders cease their deception? Would every doctor heal every patient? Would the hospitals become empty and thus go out of business?
Suppose every person began life with a clean slate. How different would it be compared to the current situation? Time still moves forward. There is accompanying change. There is action and reaction. There are consequences to decisions.
The clearer definition of surrender and someone accepting sinful reactions comes from Bhagavad-gita, and more specifically the conclusion. Shri Krishna, who is addressed as Bhagavan throughout the work, advises the disciple named Arjuna to abandon all varieties of dharma. Give up different kinds of religion and simply leave everything to Krishna.
Except this didn’t mean abandoning work. This promise of protection did not include blanket immunity from consequences to behavior. Rather, there would be a consciousness accompanying the surrender. There would be meaning behind accepting Krishna as everything.
That meaning is a link in consciousness. Known as yoga, this is the connection for every person, who has Krishna’s expansion of Supersoul residing inside them. In this respect, Krishna is never foreign to anyone. They may have forgotten Him since time immemorial, but He never forgot them.
As the existence continues with the passage of time, so there must be activity following full surrender to the savior. Arjuna forged ahead in a military conflict. He did not presume to be immune from the effects of sinful behaviors like lying, cheating, and stealing.
Rather, the person surrendered to Krishna has a better grasp on proper behavior. They may accidentally slip up on occasion, but through the steady link in consciousness the ship eventually finds the proper way again.
अपि चेद् असि पापेभ्यः
api ced asi pāpebhyaḥ
“Even if you are considered to be the most sinful of all sinners, when you are situated in the boat of transcendental knowledge, you will be able to cross over the ocean of miseries.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.36)
If a person claims to have had their sinful reactions erased by accepting a savior, then their subsequent behavior should indicate some sort of change. If a criminal has their sentence commuted by a government leader, this is not carte blanche to commit the same crimes in the future.
In the material world, the source crime is forgetfulness of the Almighty. He may bail me out on occasion, but if I continue to forget Him, I will be within the jurisdiction of the material world.
The only guarantee in that place is repeated suffering. Birth after birth, life after life, I get as much opportunity to forget as I want. No one will forcefully pull me out, precisely because I have not changed desire.
Real surrender is changing desire, shifting the focus from personal interest to Divine interest. This is a subtle art, not easily implemented, requiring practice, dedication, determination, and most importantly, assistance from a higher authority. That person is better known as the guru, and through their grace and kindness we learn the intricacies to surrender and the way to maintain protection moving forward.
Way for protection to maintain,
Such that spiritual life to sustain.
Not that from surrender to see,
That for any behavior free.
Of reactions guaranteed to come,
Folly of intelligence none.
Surrender instead in meaningful way,
Where in transcendental consciousness to stay.