“If you let go of everything,

everything, everything —

that’s the real point!”

 ~Patrul Rinpoche


 A relatively descriptive phrase became popularized in the American vernacular in the last century: “getting hung up”. It signifies an uncomfortable condition of neurotic absorption in and obsession with an object of attention. A compulsive attachment, hard to break, it interferes with one’s ability to function normally and effectively in the objective world. If we investigate the situation in the most relevant context, we can recognize that, for most of us, the dominant object of attention which both fascinates and disturbs us, the prime addiction that hangs us up, is the one appearing right in our own mirror – the one we think of as “me”.

The irony of this predicament is that the “me story” is the one thing we cherish above all else, what we most seek to assert, nurture, and defend, and yet it is not even real. No image of ourselves — good, bad, beautiful, ugly, old, young, wise, foolish, loveable, hateful, ascending, descending, smart, stupid — is real. Rather, this sense of self with which we are so preoccupied night and day, year in and year out, is simply a procession of thoughts, dependently arising and dissolving based on various causes and conditions, with no inherent substance, and yet, amazingly, we assume that it all amounts to some concrete and enduring person.

Rather than recognizing the body-mind-complex as a temporary vehicle by which consciousness expresses itself in this three-dimensional realm, we identify with it to the extent that we are convinced it is who and what we are. Furthermore, because it changes, and because it suffers the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”, and most of all, because it is bound to age and drop away, we live in a constant state of fear and worry.

Even our most exuberant joys and triumphs are tinged with the intimidating fragrance of impermanence, and the fretful challenges and struggles of just maintaining some sort of equilibrium in the threatening environment that passes for our living circumstances are such that we can never fully exhale, relax, and rest.

Even the intellectual acknowledgement that we are not the body-mind-complex will do little to assuage our anxiety, because such recognition is still at the level of conceptuality, and so is not really capable of bestowing any lasting peace at heart. Indeed, there is no strategy by which we can manipulate experience, no formula that we can employ to modify our mind, which will in any significant way alter the looming sense of dis-ease we feel, just by virtue of our taking a human birth.

Anything we add to consciousness merely compounds and complicates our presumed condition, until we finally wake up enough to see that it is all baggage. Even the most profound remedies suggested by the Great Ones to heal our sense of chronic unhappiness are ultimately nothing but added burdens, as long as we still cling to a sense of separate and independent existence.

Interestingly, it is that very sense of failure — the failure of all methods and schemes we have engaged to buttress our “me-story” and control life and relations – which creates an opening for us to finally let go of the struggle. Ego-mind is a clever critter. If we honestly inspect our motives, even our highest so-called “spiritual” ideals, we invariably will find self-interest at the root.

This is why we can’t “do it”, we can’t storm the gates of heaven. It is only in recognizing the failure of all our plans and schemes about liberation that an availability opens up for genuine recognition. With the end of that futile effort to project and protect our dreamy masks and self-images, there is the immediate possibility for us to awaken to that deeper, spacious peace which has been true of us all along.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom, it is not a matter of trying to “be still”. That’s just another hopeful strategy – another doing — which only really serves to reinforce the self-sense. After all, who is trying to be still? Indeed, the one who would surrender is the very one keeping true surrender out of reach.

On the other hand, if we let go of the “me-project”, with all of its props and supports, imperatives and protocols, juggling acts and charades, we can discover something that we have been overlooking for a very long time. We can discover our own inherent peace and stillness, that which has only been obstructed, but never truly threatened by the impermanence and fragility of the body-mind-self. In fact, it is prior to that little drama, and always has been. As it so happens, we have been focusing on what changes, and so have missed that which never does.

The conventional wisdom is that we need to do something, change or fix something, make something happen, fight the good fight, in order to attain freedom. We chase after the latest guru on the satsang circuit, buy up all the recommended books and tapes that promise a glimpse of freedom, fold our legs into pretzel shapes and bow in prostration thousands of times while mumbling esoteric formulas, change our name, our costume, our address – there seems no end to the hoops we jump through.

As noted earlier, even the motive to surrender is actually a strategy of ego-mind. After all, who is the one trying to let go, if not the one who believes themselves to be bound? In reality, there is no bondage, and thus even “freedom” is ultimately recognized to be a mental fabrication, a designation that applies to nobody. Nobody surrenders. Only surrender surrenders, which is why it cannot be brought about by egoic effort. As the sage Lao Tzu wrote: “By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try, the world is beyond the winning.”

Indeed, any effort to liberate oneself turns out to be just the desperation of the fearful mind, the mind of ignorance, the mind that avoids true self-recognition while claiming it as its goal. In reality, peace is not an attainment, but the actual nature of who and what we are. What can be let go is any effort to manipulate life and experience, and instead just leave everything as it is. After all, what effort is required to notice things exactly the way we experience them?

All we need do is stop putting energy and attention on the imaginary, which includes the dream character we have taken ourselves to be, with all of its complicated patterns of craving and avoidance. Rather than fueling and strengthening our presumed shackles through struggle and resistance, we can let go of the whole premise that there has ever been anyone bound by simply recognizing the place or space within us where that is true, where we already always prior to any struggle — that timeless peace.

When we sit quietly and observe our mind, we can notice a steady stream of thoughts that vie for our attention. However, if we let go of them as they arise, they will eventually diminish. Our normal inclination is to be seduced by our thoughts, constructing a sense of self in the process, but there is a greater wisdom in not believing everything we think. Moreover, denying attention to the passing parade need not turn into a big project or complicated scheme.

In that regard, the Burmese master Ajahn Chah wrote: “The heart of the path is quite easy. There’s no need to explain anything at length. Let go of like and dislike and let things be. That’s all that I do in my own practice. Do everything with a mind that lets go. Don’t accept praise or gain or anything else. If you let go a little you a will have a little peace; if you let go a lot you will have a lot of peace; if you let go completely you will have complete peace.”

Indeed, by refusing to be drawn in by the neural sirens that obstruct clear recognition, a spaciousness replaces the busy-ness of our internal chatter. This sky-like spaciousness in turn allows our true peace to emerge from the background, and thus, little by little, take its proper place as the foundation and guiding light of our life and relations. As Pema Chodron said so succinctly, “We are the sky, everything else is just weather.”

When we recognize the peace that has always been true of us, the ego-mind surrenders the throne, but is not banished from the kingdom. Rather, it naturally assumes its appropriate role as servant, rather than master. We need the self-sense to function in the objective world, and it can act as a valuable navigation tool, assisting us in discovering what we’re made of (which is, after all, a good part of the reason why we took these human forms in the first place). It’s really now a matter of refusing to dwell on any thought, sensation, emotion, memory association, or pretense of knowledge. All that arises is self-liberated by non-attachment, letting go, surrender. This is a great relief!

As one sage remarked, “Thoughts arise and pass away. If the succeeding thought does not arise, the preceding thought cuts itself off.” In that way, the struggle is never given an opportunity to take root, because it is constantly being undermined by the natural attitude of surrender, non-dwelling, release. What might begin with some effort eventually will become spontaneous, if we refuse to fall for the tricks of the mind, and its trap of identification with and fixation on the figments of its own confused designs.

Truly, all that is required is to stop investing our attention and belief in the unreal. Letting go of the unreal includes refusing to grant any enduring reality to anything that we can think, feel, know, or imagine. Ultimately, that simply means seeing what is, as it is. Nothing needs to be given up, except our habitual tendency to fall for the story of me and mine, with all its ensuing strife. When the motive to know and control it all is seen through and released, we can allow ourselves to be lived by the Mystery, which is none other than Love Itself.

We don’t need to run off to India or Japan, or to some monastery, ashram, or temple. We don’t need to spend years at the foot of some bearded guru, tying ourselves in yogic knots or coughing up endless fees for initiations and empowerments. Our happiness, peace, and freedom are already true of us, it’s just that we have been mesmerized by a fable of self-existence that has blinded us to our actual nature. Recognizing that story as just a story, we can let it go right now. Losing oneself to find oneself is more than just a pious cliché, but literally describes the actual process of Realization. Why postpone?

Once Hotei, the legendary “Laughing Buddha”, encountered another sage on the road. The sage asked him, “What is the realization of The Buddha Way?” Hotei immediately plopped his sack down on the ground in silent answer. “Then,” asked the other, “what is the actualization of The Buddha Way?” At once the Hotei swung the sack over his shoulder again and walked on.


About Bob OHearn

My name is Bob O'Hearn, and I live with my Beloved Mate, Mazie, in the foothills of the Northern California Sierra Nevada Mountains. I have a number of blog sites you may enjoy: Photo Gallery: Essays on the Conscious Process: Compiled Poetry and Prosetry: Verses and ramblings on life as it is: Verses and Variations on the Investigation of Mind Nature: Verses on the Play of Consciousness: Poetic Fiction, Fable, Fantabulation: Poems of the Mountain Hermit: Love Poems from The Book of Yes: Autobiographical Fragments, Memories, Stories, and Tall Tales: Ancient and modern spiritual texts, creatively refreshed: Writings from selected Western Mystics, Classic and Modern: Wisdom of a Spirit Guide: Thank You!
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31 Responses to Surrender

  1. says:

    Thanks, Bob


  2. marcel says:

    Thank you wholeheartedly Brother!

  3. Bob OHearn says:

    You are most welcome!


  4. Bob OHearn says:

    “All you need is to give up your “learning,” your “ignorant” and “Enlightened,” pure and impure, great and little, your “attachment” and “activity.” Such things are mere conveniences, mere ornaments within the One Mind.”
    ~Huang Po

  5. Pingback: Just Let Go | Candace Thoth

  6. Bob OHearn says:

    “The ego is a monkey catapulting through the jungle: Totally fascinated by the realm of the senses, it swings from one desire to the next, one conflict to the next, one self-centered idea to the next. If you threaten it, it actually fears for its life. Let this monkey go. Let the senses go. Let desires go. Let conflicts go. Let ideas go. Let the fiction of life and death go. Just remain in the center, watching. And then forget that you are there.”


    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

  7. Bob OHearn says:

    Nisargadatta Maharaj: Each seeker accepts, or invents, a method which suits him, applies it to himself with some earnestness and effort, obtains results according to his temperament and expectations, casts them into the mound of words, builds them into a system, establishes a tradition and begins to admit others into his ‘school of Yoga’. It is all built on memory and imagination. No such school is valueless, nor indispensable; in each one can progress up to the point, when all desire for progress must be abandoned to make further progress possible. Then all schools are given up, all effort ceases; in solitude and darkness the vast step is made which ends ignorance and fear forever.

    The true teacher, however, will not imprison his disciple in a prescribed set of ideas, feelings and actions; on the contrary, he will show him patiently the need to be free from all ideas and set patterns of behaviour, to be vigilant and earnest and go with life wherever it takes him, not to enjoy or suffer, but to understand and learn.

    Under the right teacher the disciple learns to learn, not to remember and obey. Satsang, the company of the noble, does not mold, it liberates. Beware of all that makes you dependent. Most of the so-called ‘surrenders to the Guru’ end in disappointment, if not in tragedy. Fortunately, an earnest seeker will disentangle himself in time, the wiser for the experience.

    Q: Surely, self-surrender has its value.

    M: Self-surrender is the surrender of all self-concern. It cannot be done, it happens when you realise your true nature. Verbal self-surrender, even when accompanied by feeling, is of little value and breaks down under stress. At the best it shows an aspiration, not an actual fact.

    Q: How to bring the mind under control? And the heart, which does not know what it wants?

    M: They cannot work in darkness. They need the light of pure awareness to function rightly. All effort at control will merely subject them to the dictates of memory. Memory is a good servant, but a bad master. It effectively prevents discovery. There is no place for effort in reality. It is selfishness, due to a self-identification with the body, that is the main problem and the cause of all other problems. And selfishness cannot be removed by effort, only by clear insight into its causes and effects. Effort is a sign of conflict between incompatible desires. They should be seen as they are — then only they dissolve.

    Q: And what remains?

    M: That which cannot change, remains. The great peace, the deep silence, the hidden beauty of reality remain. While it can not be conveyed through words, it is waiting for you to experience for yourself.

  8. Bob OHearn says:

    “Each time we let go of something, We experience another level of freedom.”

    ~ Traleg Kyobgon Rinpoche

  9. Bob OHearn says:

    “Doubt: The more you learn of what is possible, the more expectations you place upon yourself. When you fail to meet those expectations, you learn more how to doubt.

    Unlearn how to doubt by unlearning to expect. Expect nothing. You are the process, not the end result. Simply create with joy and observe value within that process.

    Unconditional love is that which is left when you remove all those parts which are simply the journey. The story. The games you play. The philosophy of what life is and is not. It is the surrender of consciousness, to emptiness. All that you are is given to all that is. What remains is your pure ever-present spirit. Unconditional love has no conditions. It cannot have for it is emptiness. It is complete acceptance. Complete acceptance means no resistance. Where there is emptiness there is no resistance. You may say emptiness is not unconditional love, for it is actually this, or is actually that, yet in doing so you have already applied conditions to it. If you attempt to attach a thought to unconditional love, it is no longer empty, therefore no longer unconditional love.

    My point to make in relation to doubt (expectation) is this…
    Why should the accumulation of spiritual knowledge demand conditions of you within expectation? It is because that knowledge has not been aligned to wisdom. As was mentioned, knowledge without wisdom achieves nothing. Conditions are divisions. Divisions within your knowledge creates doubt. It also adds more into emptiness, thus, pushing it further away.
    When you are busy trying so hard to achieve something spiritual, little have you realized the conditions (divisions) you have placed in front of you. If it is your spirit you aspire to connect to, then there must be no division. There must be no condition. There must be no doubt. Simply unconditional acceptance. Where there is unconditional acceptance, there is unconditional connection. Emptiness.
    Within this, do not then assume to expect what spiritual growth should look like, feel like or sound like. The doubts that you create in connection with spirit derive from the expectation that it should be experienced in a certain way. Many will dictate that spiritual growth and progress occurs this way or that way. Perhaps it does to them, but they are all expectations and conditions. Things you need to do in order to become this or that. Things you need to do to become ‘more spiritual’. Nonsense – you are already spiritual. You are already Spirit.

    I have often said, with knowledge comes responsibility. That is because knowledge is energy, and you are responsible for your own energy. When you place energy within emptiness, that emptiness becomes a thing. You now inherit the responsibility of that which you have created out of emptiness. Expectation comes when one thing seeks to bring some-thing else into emptiness. When all things are surrendered back to whence they came, the silence fills the emptiness. What is the silence? ”


  10. Bob OHearn says:

    Surrender, let Silence have you.

    Surrender to the source,
    Surrender to awareness,
    this is the only place of protection.

    Surrender your heart and you will know all.
    Surrender to Consciousness and Bliss.
    Surrender means to surrender your bondage
    and to simply be Freedom.

    Surrender is the ego bowing down to its Source.
    No more demands or commands,
    but putting all in the hands of Source.

    Submit to Consciousness and Bliss
    and you will be happy.

    Surrender the addiction to your senses.
    You don’t need to stop them,
    but you need to have perfect control over them.

    Ego is a poor driver of these five horses,
    but the Atman charioteer will not make a mistake.
    Surrender the reigns of your senses to the Atman.

    As the river surrenders to the ocean,
    surrender yourself to the Self, the Source.

    And if you find you are still swimming
    on the surface of the ocean:
    stop swimming and you will sink into the depths of Love.

    ~ Papaji

  11. Bob OHearn says:

    “Of course, when there is total surrender, complete relinquishment of all concern with one’s past, present and future, with one’s physical and spiritual security and standing, a new life dawns, full of love and beauty; then the Master is not important, for the disciple has broken the shell of self-defense. Complete self-surrender by itself is liberation.”

    ~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

  12. Bob OHearn says:

    Just the idea of wanting to awaken is a mistake.
    Just the feeling that I want to become awake,
    I want to become self-realized,
    I want to be liberated, is a mistake,
    for it’s part of the thinking process,
    and the thinking process can never liberate you.
    There are no thoughts that can liberate you.
    There are no emotions or feelings that can liberate you,
    awaken you, make you free.

    It is only when you keep still, when you stop trying,
    sort of when you give up.
    For when you give up, are you not surrendering?
    When you give up all hope of ever getting anywhere,
    you’re really surrendering.
    And that’s a good sign.
    You’re surrendering your ego, your thoughts, your feelings,
    and then you become still.
    It is in the stillness that things begin to happen, in quietness,
    when things begin to happen.
    Not when you’re making noise, but when you’re quiet.

    ~Robert Adams

  13. Bob OHearn says:

    “So let go, put everything down, everything except the knowing. Don’t be fooled if visions or sounds arise in your mind during meditation. Put them all down. Don’t take hold of anything at all. Just stay with this non-dual awareness. Don’t worry about the past or the future, just be still and you will reach the place where there’s no advancing, no retreating and no stopping, where there’s nothing to grasp at or cling to. Why? Because there’s no self, no “me” or “mine.” It’s all gone. The Buddha taught us to be emptied of everything in this way, not to carry anything with us. To know, and having known, let go.

    Realizing the Dhamma, the path to freedom from the round of birth and death, is a job that we all have to do alone. So keep trying to let go, and to understand the teachings. Really put effort into your contemplation. Don’t worry about your family. At the moment they are as they are, in the future they will be like you. There’s no one in the world who can escape this fate. The Buddha told us to put down everything that lacks a real abiding substance. If you put everything down you will see the truth, if you don’t you won’t. That’s the way it is and it’s the same for all, so don’t worry and don’t grasp at anything.”

    ~ Ajahn Chah, ‘Our Real Home – A Talk to an Aging Lay Disciple Approaching Death’

  14. Bob OHearn says:

    Pema Chodron: “If I were translating shenpa it would be very hard to find a word, but I’m going to give you a few. One word might be hooked. How we get hooked.”

  15. rahkyt says:

    So sublime…and seemingly simplistic! If it were so, everybody would be doing it, eh? 😉

    • Bob OHearn says:

      Each in their own time comes to the mountain that they cannot go around, remove, or climb over. What happens next will determine everything!

      Thank you for your kind appreciation, Brother!

  16. Chrisd says:

    Hi Bob, wonderful blog you seem to have going here. Thank you.

    I recognize the truth to it, but I have a remark. That necessary sense of failure does usually seem to have to be preceded by “ego” effort. I did many retreats and days of sitting until I could see there was a mountain :p and I see a similar mechanism happening with my brother. He strongly feels he needs to get away from this country/place and considers he might even spend the rest of his life in a monastery. Some people say its a matter of development for the ego until it can be dropped, which only happens through effort in the right direction. Roberts for example in her book what is self?

    For me following the simple truth of what you’re saying here seems to be the way now, but I’m inclined to tell my brother to just go for the monastery asap to go through that part of the ego’s development. He imagines it’s because of this “corrupt” society that he might leave it. My imagination was the pursuit of enlightenment.

    Penny for your thoughts, what would you tell my brother and similar people in his situation?

  17. Bob OHearn says:

    Greetings, Chris, and Thank you for your comments!

    I can certainly relate to your brother’s sentiments. In fact, I have addressed this issue at length here:

    Sri Nisargadatta also made a pertinent comment in regard to the matter:
    “Nothing stands in the way of your liberation and it can happen here and now, but for your
    being more interested in other things. And you cannot fight with your interests. You must go with them, see through them and and watch them reveal themselves as mere errors of judgments and appreciation. Discard every self-seeking motive as soon as it is seen and you need not search for truth; truth will find you.”

    Having gone to the seminary, and then to the monastery, I can understand those choices. One thing I did notice is that spirituality is often approached as an escape, in the belief that one can avoid the challenges that life presents if they are able to cloister themselves within the safety and security of some spiritual practice or community. What they invariably fail to recognize is that true spiritual opportunities are being presented to them right where they are, and so it is comparable to leaving one’s home in pursuit of their home. That is the humorous thing about most seeking. If one is not happy right where they are, they are going to carry that unhappiness with them wherever they go. Life is the true teacher, and it is not elsewhere. The gifts it presents may not always be comfortable or easy to receive, but they are exactly what we need, and it is only the ego-mind which tries to talk us into believing that the truth is to be found in a cave or temple or on top of a mountain. When one stops running away and confronts their given situation, with all that entails, then true spirituality is possible. Thus, one must be very clear about their deepest motives.

    Perhaps you are right, perhaps he needs to find these things out for himself by spending some time in a monastery, although he will quickly come to realize that everything he is running away from about the world is there too.


  18. Bob OHearn says:

    “Many of us are attached to a number of things that we think are crucial for our well-being. Although we may have suffered a lot because of them, we’re afraid to release these things to which we’re attached. We may be attached to a person, a material thing, or a position in society. We think that without that one thing, we won’t be safe. We need to have the insight that will give us the courage to release this attachment so we can finally be free. Joy and happiness can be born from releasing, from letting go of our ideas and attachments…”

    ~Thich Nhat Hanh

  19. Piers Ede says:

    Very struck by this supremely eloquent piece of writing. Will be reading here regularly from now on.

  20. Bob OHearn says:

    “Get out of the construction business. Stop building bridges across the raging waters of samsaric existence, attempting to reach the ‘far shore,’ nirvana. Better to simply relax, at ease and carefree, in total naturalness, and just go with the primordial flow, however it occurs and happens. And remember this: whether or not you go with the flow, it always goes with you.”

    ~ Nyoshul Khenpo

  21. Bob OHearn says:

    “Once you become familiar with releasing whatever is arising, without any preferences, you get so familiar with letting go that there’s no tendency to want to hold on to anything.”

  22. Bob OHearn says:

    “Surrender is the radical insight that we cannot bring it about.”

    ~ Dr. Hugo Maier

  23. Bob OHearn says:

    Be crumbled.
    So wild flowers will come up where you are.
    You have been stony for too many years.
    Try something different.

    ~ Rumi

  24. Bob OHearn says:

    “Though it seems like it would be hard not to struggle, it really isn’t. What makes it seem hard is that our sense of self, our ‘little me,’ is trying to not struggle, and as long as we, as a sense of self, are trying to not struggle, the very intention to do so sets up a tension inside us, a sort of psychological and emotional tightness.

    Relaxing and letting go of struggle isn’t something that the ego does – yet we often get our egos involved in trying to make letting go happen. To even say, ‘Let go of struggle,’ isn’t quite right. All that’s required is that you begin to notice that place within you that’s not struggling. To do this means there’s really no future for which to hope. In fact, the idea of future is one of the barriers of awakening to our true nature. This is because the future keeps us looking at something other than what’s happening right now. If you were to ask yourself, ‘Even before I try to stop struggling, even before I try to relax and find peace, is peace already here?’ Then just be quiet for a moment, and listen.”

    ~ Adyashanti

  25. Bob OHearn says:

    “There is only one mind; it is not that there are two minds, one recognizing the other. In the very moment of recognizing, it is like a knot that is untied. We don’t have to do anything further than that, leave it untied.

    In the moment of looking, it is already seen. It is not that later on we come to see. Why? Because mind and mind essence are very close.

    The second reason is that it is not that mind essence is something that we have to get our sights on; it’s not like that. It is not that we need to hold the awareness on it for a while, like one or two minutes and slowly it will appear within our experience.

    Since there is only one mind, the moment you recognize, it is simply a matter of letting go. The thinker or knower of that moment is just like a new knot, like a new thought. The moment you abandon it, it unties. We are already arrived at where we need to arrive at, we are already in the nature of mind.”

    ~ Tsoknyi Rinpoche

  26. healthylivingandfriends says:

    Nice blog… thanks, Bob! I’ll be reading a lot on the next couple of days. 🙂

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