The usefulness of sharaNAgati is showcased by the Lord through the following verse:
bhaktyA paramayA vApi prapattyA vA mahAmune |
prApyo.ahaM nAnyathA prApyaH mama kai~NkaryalipsubhiH ||
When sharaNAgati is attained, the Lord accompanies, compliments and hand-holds one through the journey till phala prApti. The AchAryas who have identified sharaNAgati as the chief upAya among various others point us to the fact that it is possible to use the Lord, who is the phala pradAtA and the phala as also the upAya through ananya sharaNAgati. Based on this principle, several schools of thought identify bhagavAn directly as the mokShopAya and reject other means that they see as inferior. mokShopAya can be classified into two: siddhopAya and sAdhyopAya. sAdhyopAya is the means of attaining siddhopAya who is the Lord himself. Bhakti and sharaNAgati are two such sAdhyopAya-s. As explained in various other posts, it is pArA bhakti that grants mokSha and this is not easy to attain. Even sAmAnyA bhakti is not easy to develop and requires various qualifications on the part of the upAsaka. As an a~Nga to attaining bhakti, which itself is anga to attaining the mokShakAraka j~nAna, sharaNAgati is an important upA~Nga of mokSha sAdhana. In other words, bhakti is specifically sAdhana bhakti and sharaNAgati is sAdhya bhakti. The other term for sharaNAgati is prapatti, which is explained thus: prapattirvishvAsaH. Surrendering oneself completely to the Lord, without any attempt to protect oneself or one’s well-being is the ultimate goal of prapatti. When one understands oneself to be incapable of attaining a lofty goal, such as mokSha, he may approach an all-powerful Entity who, on attaining prIti towards the seeker, can grant the icChita vastu without any effort on the part of the seeker. The only effort of the seeker is towards the prIti of the Supreme. This is the upAya adopted by bhakti yoga schools that teach sharaNAgati.
It should be understood that prapatti is chiefly taught for ashakta-s or those who are incapable of bhakti, an element of which is upAsana, due to lack of qualities such as jAti, guNa, manodharma etc. Even those with such lacking, if fuelled by a tIvra Arti to attain the parama puruSha, can adopt the path of sharaNAgati to gradually undergo chitta shuddhi. This process is aided by the pratyakSha sahAya of the Lord who now acts as the caretaker, hand-holding one through the various stages of purification.
There are three key elements of prapatti which are to be grasped before ascertaining one’s qualification for it:
1. sambandha jnAna – Establishing the relation between oneself and the Lord. This is attained through the shAstras, guru etc.
2. Akinchanya – A clear analysis that leads to the conclusion that one is really incapable of the anuShThAna of karma, bhakti or jnAna yogas.
3. Ananyagatitva – A firm determination that there is no other protector or refuge other than the Lord. This is attained by understanding the various vibhUtis of the Lord such as sarvaj~natva, mahatva, sarvashaktatva, paramakAruNikatva etc.
Also, another qualification for sharaNAgati is the identification of bhagavatprApti as the only goal by the aspirant. sharaNAgati, when adopted, can be of two forms: pravrtti or nivrtti. Though sharaNAgati involves no other effort on the part of the sAdhaka, it cannot be overlooked that sharaNAgati in itself is a big effort.
kadA dUrIkartuM kaTuduritakAkolajanitaM
mahAntaM santApaM madanaparipanthipriyatame |
kShaNAtte kAmAkShi tribhuvanaparItApaharaNe
pATIyAmsam lapsye padakamalasevAmR^itarasam ||