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Prapatti In Hinduism

In Hinduism, Prapatti is surrender to one’s self at the feet of Bhagavan and is a Vaishnava concept. As the sole refuge for salvation of, it is called prapatti. This concept is derived from Pancaratra. One of the Pancaratra texts depicts the confession of a surrendering devotee thus:

I am the repository of all offenses (sins). I have no virtue whatever, nor do I have any protector other than you. You shall be my sole means of deliverance.

This mental realization is surrendering unto Bhagavan as the sole refuge (Sharanagati). This mental state totally effaces the ego. In the thought “I take refuge in you”, the “I” is suggestive of the ego. Our acceptance is just the fruition of His continuous efforts to save the selves and take them unto Himself.

The process starts with making the ignorant learn the truth of the real nature of the self and its relation with the Supreme. This is brought about by the preceptor, who is none other than an aspect of Bhagavan in human form. He teaches first the eight syllables – Om Namo Narayanaya. The om is the essence of all Vedanta or Upanishads. It symbolizes the fact that the self, which is of the nature of knowledge and knower, is the inalienable possession of Bhagavan. The other two words spell this our more clearly as “I am not mine; I am all for and of Narayana.” The self is but a vassal of God. The essential meaning of the above formula is “I belong to Narayana in toto. Let me be accepted in His service.” The second is in two sentences and explains the first in greater detail. It is called dvayam and is often referred to as mantra ratna (the gem of all mystic formulas). It runs as follows:

I take refuge at the lotus feet of Narayana, inseparably associated with Shri and Lakshmi, His chief consort. I seek to be accepted in the service of this inseparable divine couple.

The third mantra is actually several pronouncements, made by Bhagavan in his incarnations as Rama, Krishna and Varaha. It is the assurance given by Bhagavan to Mother Earth when He incarnated as a wild Boar to lift up the earth from the waters of the deluge. Bhagavan says – I remember my devotee who remembered me and when he was sound in body and mind; when he is in death-bed, insensible as a piece of stone, I think of him and personally take him to my abode of bliss.

The seeker of salvation has the choice of several paths as taught in the Bhagavad Gita and other scriptural texts. The self is the sole possession of Bhagavan and totally subservient to Him in all ways. This realization should result in the negation of one’s free will. All that one can and should do is to totally efface all ego and self effort and surrender one’s very being unto Him.

This path of total prapatti (surrender) is open to all, irrespective of all other considerations like birth, knowledge, competence, purity and the like. The great mystics of Vaishnavism preached and practiced this path as also did the preceptors. – You may remove all my ills and accept me or you may totally reject me; I am clear that I have no means or preceptor other than you – declares Nammalvar (Tiruvaymoli, 5.8.8 and 6.10.0).

Ramanuja, the great Vaishnava preceptor, declared in his magnum opus, Sri Bhashyam, that devotion to Bhagavan in the form of meditation is the unfailing means to salvation. Though surrender is extremely simple, since it is only a mental acceptance of one’s helplessness and the protective grace of Bhagavan, it requires at the same time a deep-rooted mahavishwasa (faith) in the saving grace of Bhagavan.