Saranagati: Surrender

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Shelter - Perfection of Desire

Shelter‘Saranagati’

People in this world actually claim they 
possess, land and sky and water,
but they try to forget
That everything that they build
and everything that They kill,
was handed to them by your free will
Second hand gods,that’s all we are
Not creating… manipulating,
and leaving the scars
Robbing form the earth
and stealing from the trees
Not out of need but greed
and false prestige
But it’s all yours! What can we own?
Not family, property… It’s all on loan
But our miserly minds,
of “I”, “ME”, and “MINE”
Fight in wars for what’s not ours
So here’s my plea For saranagati; surrender

I’m trying to understand you’re the Supreme Friend
You’re beside me and you guide me
like no one else can
Help me see you in everything
and everything in You,
When will I appreciate all that you do?
Even pain in this world is to help us see
the reality of material misery
Please help me transcend, I want it to end
Happiness without you, I can just pretend
And because you’re so kind,
you give us a mind
to choose to love you or leave you behind
Forgetting reality, we create this duality..
and I’m sick of this fallacy…

You’re the roots of creation
and we’re just some leaves
By fulfilling your desire, we find our relief
Enjoyment apart from you
just creates more grief
These leaves become dry, we cry,
and drop with the breeze
I’ve tried to gratify my senses,
but what have I gained?
This so-called pleasure
is just a cessation of pain
Fooled myself with love, again and again.
Attracted by romance
and smashed in the end
Surrounded by people, but left all alone.
And even amongst friends,
I felt far from home
We’re one with each other,
but You’re different from me
Like a drop from the sea
If we want to be free…
Saranagati: surrender

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura originally published Saranagati in 1893. 50 Bengali songs outlining the six-fold process of submissive surrender unto the Supreme, Sri Krishna. The New York hardcore/punk band Shelter recorded a song of the same name based on the same teachings and released it in 1990 on Equal Vision records as the ‘No Compromise’ ep. The track began with the ‘japa’ chanting of the Hare Krishna Maha-mantra by the Hare Krishna movement’s founder A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who is a disciple of Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s son, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. In keeping with the lineage of disciplic succession by paying homage to the current teacher in the line, the track began with the words ‘sit properly’ in which Prabhupada was instructing one of his disciples not to slouch while doing the group mantra meditation!

After the mantra was heard for a few seconds the unforgettable repetition of the songs bassline kicked in followed by the drums, and Ray (now Raghunath) Cappo’s vocals. The song started softly and gradually built to a crescendo up until the chorus of almost screaming “Saranagati”!! A very heartfelt plea. The song begins by pointing out the huge discrepancy in this world of claiming proprietorship over the earth’s resources, ‘playing God’, and the destruction mankind has caused in recent history due to this mentality.

The rarer blue vinyl pressing of the 7″ ep with the Sanskrit of one of the Gita’s verses and Matsya-avatara, the fish incarnation

The end of the first verse begins to point out the real proprietor of the material energy, though without naming Krishna specifically. Remember, the audience for this band consisted of punks and kids into the hardcore scene in the early 1990’s, many (or most) of whom would have been staunchly atheistic – and with ample reason, having seen the hypocrisy of modern religion and thus rejected it wholesale. Myself included! Little did we know there was a genuine alternative and songs like this warmed us to the idea that there was something more out there, even if at that time it was pretty difficult to grasp…

The second verse talks sweetly how God (remember a 3 letter word amongst peers that was almost like saying a 4 letter word to your parents!), is actually a friend, the most compassionate benefactor of all living beings, and from whom we’ve turned away from and caused ourselves so much suffering and entanglement in the world of illusory happiness. It mentions the duality created by the situation of trying to enjoy the material world – pleasure/pain, heat/cold, good/bad etc.

The songs third and final verse mentions the ‘roots of creation’, as the Vedas state that by watering the root of a tree all the branches and leaves are nourished – so by serving the complete Whole [Sri Krishna] all the parts and parcels are nourished and become happy. Without that we’re left only with sense gratification which is merely the cessation of suffering, distraction, and so-called love and romance which again being the reflection of true spiritual love only ends in misery.

‘Surrounded by people, but left all alone’, and I think we have all experienced that at times the existential loneliness that can’t be filled with anything but the reconnection with our maker. The song ends with the chorus again, a plea of Surrender. As stated in the conclusion of Bhagavad-gita, ‘abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me’ Krishna says, ‘I will deliver you from all sinful reactions, do not fear!’.

Sri Krishna is in the hearts of all as Paramatma, or ‘Supersoul’. Cappo’s music label Supersoul Recordings took it’s inspiration from that name.

Fear is a constant factor in material consciousness as we struggle for survival, and the material nature is so overwhelmingly powerful we cannot fight it with or tiny strength. But Krishna is omnipresent and in the hearts of all and arranging whatever is necessary for us to come back to our original position of loving service, bhakti.

One of the first bands to include Krishna Consciousness in their music were NYC’s Cro-Mags, which paved the way for bands like Shelter and 108 to become so influential.

I for one owe an unrepayable debt to this band and early songs like this, without which I can’t see how I could have opened my mind to the spiritual path. As singer Raghunath states in a TV documentary on the band in 1996, “We think we’re so open minded in our culture, but it’s not a fact.” I used to think I was open minded but when we’re challenged with the often harsh truths of the Vedas we realise we’re not open to the ideas that seriously undermine our own illusions, and seem to refuse to admit our position is one of suffering! With humility though we can accept and understand these profound teachings laid down by ancient sages that not only had the wisdom to see things as they are, but great compassion to rescue the fallen souls of this degraded age of Kali-yuga: the age of quarrel and hypocrisy.

In 2009 Bhakti Eric from the US started a website with the title ‘Sit Properly’, taken from what Prabhupada had said to his disciple when chanting. The site is now defunct but click the image to view an archive of it

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