The idea of submission is rotten in the minds of many Westerners. We are free, and anything that can be construed as a rule or limitation is anathema. The 1960’s free love/drug culture promoted William Blake’s idea that “The Road of Excess Leads to the Path of Wisdom.”
This move towards “unmitigated freedom” was understandable. Organized religion had spent thousands of years focusing on rules for rules sake rather than rules as guidelines for the betterment of humanity. Moreover, the ability to interpret and make new rules created a class of people who used rules as a pretext to power.
The 1960’s generation threw the baby out with the dirty bathwater. Sexual and drug excesses created a wounded generation. The worst cases seem to inhabit the streets of Venice Beach, my place of residence.
This subject has come up as I am rereading parts of Milton’s epic “Paradise Lost.” Satan arrives in hell in the beginning of book four, and mourns his downfall. He realizes he can return to his former place. But that would involve, “submission, and that word disdain forbids me.” Rather than submit, he dives into an existential void. “Farewell hope, and with hope farewell fear, Farewell remorse: all good to me is lost; Evil be thou my good.”
Submission is a four letter word in our culture. If it the word is examined closer, its real meaning can shine forth. The Sikh scripture is full of exclamations of Guru Nanak, the first Sikh Guru, being a slave and a servant to God. This is a recognition that man’s analytical mind is not capable of creating paradise. The mind is necessary, but its perfection is not the ultimate end.
Nanak is forever a slave to the supreme energy. He did not negotiate with it, did not construct it in ways that made him feel superior to it. He acknowledged its supreme power, and became a pure channel of it.
To a large degree yoga is about submitting. Holding an uncomfortable posture for a long time requires letting go. Holding your arm up at a 60 degree angle for 62 minutes is tough to accomplish if you imagine that you are the doer. At one point you must submit to a higher power, and from that point the task will be much easier.