Prapatti and Saranagati

The following selections on Prapatti is from four sources.

The feminine noun prapatti derives from the verbal root pad + pra (to fall or drop down). The word thus means pious resignation, seeking refuge at the guru's feet. Among the synonyms of prapatti is saranagati (to approach one in search of shelter and protection).

prapatti: (Sanskrit) "Throwing oneself down."

Bhakti - total, unconditional submission to God, often coupled with the attitude of personal helplessness, self-effacement and resignation. A term especially used in Vaishnavism to name a concept extremely central to virtually all Hindu schools. In Saiva Siddhanta, bhakti is all important in the development of the soul and its release into spiritual maturity.

from Adi Da Samraj:

Devotee: Beloved Sri Gurudev, You put a book on The Basket of Tolerance called The Dark Night of the Soul by John of the Cross, and he talks about it....there's not.. even a catharsis, not necessarily as a single event, but as surrender.

Sri Gurudev: Surrender not done, surrender accomplished by God. You have no option, all your options over, so imposed upon that you are dead! That is Prapatti, that is God-Realization, that is true surrender, that is self-forgetting. It is not merely crisis moments that may provoke it or make it necessary - death and other difficult moments you see. You are in that very moment now but you have developed through this self-contraction means to avoid it, to desensitize yourself to the imposition, the force of this very moment.. The force of My Company, the force altogether of existence in this moment.

Chapter 3 - Dawn Horse Testament

My earliest and most basic practice was an example of what is traditionally called "prapatti", or simple, direct, non-technical, and unconditional surrender to whatever is always already the case. It was not a practice informed by any conventional religious philosophy, or by any traditional spiritual philosophy, or by any inherited god-concepts. All that was possible for me was the real practice of divine ignorance, or spontaneous submission to the unknown and unknowable condition in which the conditional self and the conditional world are arising in every moment.

I soon enjoyed a profoundly essential insight into the felt dilemma and the urge to seek that characterize the born self. It became clear to me that the feeling of dilemma and the urge to seek god, happiness, fulfillment, or release via the acquisition of experience, knowledge, or any condition or conditional object at all are not in fact the means for the realization of truth itself. I understood that the problem-feeling and the urge to seek are not a program for the actual discovery of truth, but they are merely symptoms of a curious disease. I observed that these symptoms, which tend to characterize every moment of ordinary existence, are in fact the evidence of the very state that must be transcended if the truth itself is to be realized. It was clear to me that the feeling of dilemma and the seeking - urge are nothing more than a confession that god, truth, or happiness is not presently experienced or known. And this seemed remarkable to me.

Mahamantra meditation is basically the practice of total psycho-physical self-submission to the spiritually self-revealed divine condition. The practice of mahamantra meditation is based on devotional invocation of me via the brain core or ajna door. It is whole bodily love of me, and direct communion with the divine love-bliss. It is to love me with all your heart-feeling, attention, mind, breath, vitality, and body. Truly, it is a simple, single, and total gesture. It is self-transcending, not self-glorifying or self-concerned. Therefore, it is a most profound heart-practice, corresponding to what is traditionally called "prapatti", or complete, unconditional self-surrender to the living or spiritual condition, which is the perfectly subjective self-condition and the perfectly subjective context of all conditionally manifested beings and worlds. And this same self-surrender must characterize daily living as well as meditation.


You Become My Devotee in Your Past as well as in the Present

May 26, 1995

On Friday, May 26, after Granting formal Darshan to retreatants in the inner Courtyard of Aham Da Asmi Sthan, Beloved Adi Da came by car to Qaravi village-He had again consented to gather with His devotees. Beloved Adi Das initial Discourse that evening was in response to a question regarding the nature of Prapatti (or the disposition of complete, unconditional surrender "to whatever is presently the case") in the beginners stages of practice. He then proceeded to Give a very beautiful description of what occurs in the personal history of individuals when they become His devotees. A brief excerpt from this portion of the evening follows:

ADI DA SAMRAJ: Ishta-Guru-Bhakti Yoga is Prapatti. As I was saying the other evening, this is because it does not contain an element that is about measuring the results. And yet it is the precise and fullest giving over of every faculty, surrendered and forgotten in this Communion with Me. And Ishta-Guru-Bhakti Yoga is the principal characteristic of this Way forever, even in the context of the "Perfect Practice" and Ultimate Realization.

Likely, inevitably, there are all kinds of purifications and so forth, but the sign of maturing and developing in this Way is not that arising conditions change and become more pleasant or ideal or desirable from whatever point of view. The sign of maturing is that your exercise of surrender, your practice of Ishta-Guru-Bhakti Yoga altogether, relative to whatever arises, becomes more and more profound, more and more effective. So that is the aspect that is the Sign of growth - not the measure of whether things arising improve somehow or other. But you know the circumstances in which transitions are made stage by stage, and they certainly involve purifications and more responsibility and so forth. So those kind of changes are also a Sign.


THE PHILOSOPHY OF SADHANA IN VISISTADVAITA: N.S. Anantha Rangacharya, the author, No. 780, V Main Road, Vijaynagar, Bangalore-560040. Rs. 300.

The author has in this work covered in a masterly way the entire philosophy of Visishtadvaita as presented by great preceptors like Ramanuja, Sudarsana Suri and Vedanta Desika. Vaishnavism, as a religious system, has a hoary past. Its earlier exponents were Nathamuni and Yamunacharya who were inspired by the mystic saints, Azhwars. As a system of philosophy it is known as Visishtadvaita. Its main aim is the unfolding of the mysticism experienced and expressed by the Azhwars, implied in the writings of Yamuna and Ramanuja.

Means to liberation

This publication makes a detailed and analytical study of the Sadhana (means to liberation), according to Visishtadvaita. The means to liberation are Karma yoga, Jnana yoga, Bhakti yoga and Prapatti. Of these, the ultimate and unfailing means is Prapatti, which is also called Saranagati and Nyasa. He has explained the chief tenets under three heads: Sadhaka (the aspirant), Sadhya (the object to be attained) and Sadhana (the means to accomplish the end). The Sadhana here is twofold as Bhakti (loving devotion) and Prapatti (whole-hearted surrender). They are not two different means. They blend into one in the ultimate analysis. In fact all the four Yogas blend with each other in a unique way.

When Bhakti becomes intensified, it leads to whole-hearted surrender to God. This final stage is called Prapatti.

The history of the concept of Prapatti is interesting and inspiring. The author has traced it from the Vedas, Upanishads, Itihasas and the Puranas. It finds its culmination in the works of mystics and inspired the Acharyas. Because the spirit of helplessness and surrender to the divine is there in the heart of a sincere devotee, none can claim Prapatti as the exclusive prerogative of a particular philosophy or religion.

The Path of Love - The Life and Teachings of Shirdi Sai Baba Shirdi
Rigopoulos, Antonio (1993)

pp. 281-283

The feminine noun prapatti derives from the verbal root pad + pra (to fall or drop down). The word thus means pious resignation, seeking refuge at the guru's feet. Among the synonyms of prapatti is garanagati (to approach one in search of shelter and protection).

Prapatti has been inherited as a technical term from the Ramanujiya schools, that is, from the immediate successors of Ramanuja, the theoretician of Vigistaduaita Vedanta (the Vedanta School of 'qualified nondualism'). The latter seldom uses the term in his works, and, when he does, he uses prapatti almost in the same sense of bhakti, or indicating a "refuge" leading to the perfection of bhakti.64

The concept of prapatti was especially developed within the Terigalai school, headed by Lokacharya Pillai (c. 1300-27). This school taught that the individual soul (jiva), realizing its own nothingness, should surrender completely to God, passively waiting for the descent of His grace. Thus, it was also called the "cat school" or mdrjdrakiioranyaya, in an analogy to the kitten (the devotee) who is impotent and passive and of whom the mother (God) takes complete care.

The Vadagalai school, headed by the famous master Vedantadeshika (c. 1360), taught that divine grace cannot release a person from his karmic responsibilities, and that the bhakti attitude presupposes activity. For this reason, the school became known as the "monkey school" or mdrkatakigoranyaya, in an analogy to the new born monkey who actively clutches his mother and does not let go.

Prapatti is not subject to any kind of limitation, be it spatial, temporal, or social. Lokacharya Pillai declared that the guru's love for a bhakta who has totally surrendered to him may bring divine grace upon the pupil, nothing else being required.

The way leading to prapatti may be delineated thus: first, the determination to be faithful (dnakuya-samkalpa). The will must be definitely oriented towards Ishvara, that is, all actions, thoughts, and feelings must be dedicated to God. At the same time, there must be a renunciation of all resistance and opposition (pratikulyavarjana), the relinquishing of all ideas of "I" and "mine." At this stage, the devotee, convinced that the Beloved will protect him/her in all situations (raksisyatiti visvasa), shows a complete trust in Providence and in the promises of Ishvara.

The next step is atmaniksepa. This term may be understood as "entrusting oneself to God," that is, an act of submission: the abandonment of one's self in oblation to the deity (atmatyaga, atmahavis).

There are three samarpanas, "deliverings," that the prapanna must perform. First, the devotee must renounce gains (labha), in the form of merits or consolations, that he/she might derive from virtuous conduct. Secondly, the devotee must give up all feelings of protagonism: this attitude is technically known as "relinquishing the burden" (bhara) and signifies the radical silencing of the will. In a way, one could say that the bhakta abandons all claims relative to a "heroic" act of surrender. Thirdly, he/she must "deliver" the entire being to Ishvara, that is, abandon all pretenses at being an individual jiva bearing specific traits (svarupa). Human initiative can only extend so far.

The last stage is called "poorness of spirit" (karpanya) or "nullity" (akincanya) and constitutes the perfection of prapatti. It is characterized by a condition of total vulnerability: the awareness of being wholly impotent, thus accepting all that happens as Ishvara's grace. One then "belongs" to the deity, having renounced all individual rights.

One must be fixed (ekdnta) on one's Lord or guru, cultivating an attitude of vigilant receptivity, so as to be able to intuit his or her will.65

Nyasa Dasakam consists of 10 slokas on prapatti. It is common practice to chant these during the daily worship (tiruvArAdhanam) in houses. This stotram is the prapatti done by Swami Desikan at the feet of Lord Varadaraja of Kancipuram. Thus all the slokas are addressed by Swami Desikan from him to Bhagavan, and thus are in the form of "I surrender to you", "I pray to you", etc. However, the purpose for which our purvacharyas have preserved these words of Vedanta Desika and presented to us is for us to follow his example. Therefore, the meaning of the slokas is presented here in the form of what a prapanna should observe.

The underlying thought conveyed is that a prapanna chooses an acharya, learns the five angas (elements) of prapatti, surrenders the total responsibility for his protection to Bhagavan by following these, dedicates all he possesses to bhagavad-kainkaryam (Godly service), and enjoys the bliss of Sri Vaikuntham in this world through this kainkaryam. Because he has surrendered the total responsibility for his protection to Bhagavan, He ensures that the prapanna reaches moksham at the end of this life, and the prapanna is thus relieved of the cycle of re-birth, and unites with Bhagavan and continues the kainkaryam to Him in Sri Vaikuntham afterwards.

Sloka 1

Prapatti consists of three steps.

1. Surrender one's atma (self) - Recognize that this Atma is not independent but is subservient to the Lord. This is called svarUpa samarpaNam.

2. Surrender the responsibility for our protection to the Lord - this is called bhara samarpaNam.

3. Whatever benefit arises out of our existence, this also is surrendered to bhagavAn, and there is no part in it for us - this is called phala samarpaNam. Prapatti involves getting the knowledge of this principle from an acharya and making this dedication of our atma to the Lord - this is the prapatti that leads to moksham.


Prapatti Sloka MP3 Audio file

MP3 sloka