Total surrender seeking refuge – sharanaagati – is the surest way to moksha, salvation. It is by far the easiest for the one who realises the insignificance of the human life and earthly endeavour in the context of the entirety of God's creation.
Love and adoration of the Supreme Being come out of the realisation that He and He alone is the Saviour, the ultimate refuge and resort, the final goal and aspiration of a human being. If only man starts looking inward and outward with a sense of humility (vinaya) and dedicated faith, he becomes aware of his own ignorance, helplessness and insignificance.
This, however, does not mean that one can shun or escape the performance of duty as laid down by dharma to all human beings.
Shedding one's own ego, ahamkaara (ego sense, myness) needs and acting without ambition or expectation of reward, nishkaama karma, and giving up one's pride of being the doer, are goals surely difficult to reach. What is needed is long training for shedding the ego and keeping away from egocentric actions. When one realises that everything flows down as His grace, one would start acting in total humility with a sense of surrender to become worthy of grace.
The devout, the wise and the initiated do not believe that grace would automatically flow down. The Supreme Being is kind. He is compassion incarnate. But one should earn Grace: win Grace.
Total surrender is the easy way to win grace. Hard work and long, conscious practice (saadhana) till it becomes habit and second nature with no expectation of any reward except being. His servant), both earn and win Divine grace. When action in accordance with dharma, action untainted with ego is performed, one merits and gets His Grace. Some of our great seers went to the extent of asserting that this surrender itself is a matter of Divine Grace. One would do well to pray for this attitude putting his trust in the Lord.
Human life us supposed to be the greatest boon of the Lord in that it makes this surrender easier by one's thinking and action. Being born a human, one is urged to act according to discipline. Dharma is nothing but discipline, behavioural, mental and spiritual.
Saran means 'home', that which gives shelter and protection. For the release from the cycle of birth and death and grief, one has to seek shelter. Sricharana, the Lotus feet of the Lord, are the greatest protection. One has to seek refuge in Him surrendering one's ego and egocentric actions completely. Sharan is an upaya, sensible, worthy means for obtaining the refuge, protection in Divine Grace.
Prapatti and sharanaagati are synonyms meaning the same thing. Performing actions in the spirit of devotion and love and leaving the fruits thereof to accrue to the Supreme Being take one to the Divine.
Sharanaagati, we are told has six angas aspects, limbs, or parts, if you will. The first is anukoolya sankalpa. This implies that one should have the gentle and wise attitude of the mind (sadbuddhi), to begin with. This is essential one has to think of everything he does as a service to the Divine. It is this anukoolya sankalpa (intention of being in tune with the Divine) which erases the feeling of enmity. All creation and all creatures are forms of the divine and hence no need to discriminate, to feel one is a friend and the other not.
The second aspect implies shunning all that is pratikula (opposed) to the divine. This is called praatikoolya varjanam. This means ignoring the inborn qualities or gunas and vaasanas, attitudes, feelings, desires etc., brought forward from the earlier birth or births) and thus one is born with. Since the devotee is one with the Divine it is natural that he shuns everything that is opposed (pratikula) to the divine.
The third is Rakshishyati, the absence of any doubt as to the power, knowledge and the grace of the all-knowing and ever-present Lord.
Goptruttwaavaranam, the fourth, the choice of the Lord alone as one's refuge, protection and leader and the saviour. Since the Lord is all-powerful. He has the competence, the ability to save anyone.
The fifth aatmanikshepam, the investing of one's own atman, that is everything related to one's self, all responsibilities and offering all in complete and total surrender to the Lord, the Supreme Being. There is nothing the individual is capable of achieving without His grace. In this the devotee gives up all ego and egocentric activity in utter dedication and faith in the Lord: the only objective in his mind being the approximation to His Lotus feet. It is here that some believe that in doing this the devotee has no 'doership' (kartutwa), the whole thing being a matter of Grace itself.
The sixth is kripanatwa the totally helpless feeling for refuge in anything except the Lord and His grace. Here there is an anguished call for help, akrandana, for help as we see in the elephant king's frantic appeal.
Of these aatmanikshepa, in a way, inheres the rest of the five other aspects of sharanaagati.
Our scriptures, especially, Srimadramayana has shown us extra-ordinarily great, touching and convincing instances of self-surrender in several characters one after another right from Hanuman, Lakshmana, and Bharata, down to Maareecha, and Kaakaasura. The sharanaagati of these given the situations they had been in, may appear to vary in degree but not in kind. The significant point is that every one of them has had the limitless grace of the Lord. Looking a little deeper into the characters and the situations with an eye for the inner significance would be a very rewarding experience. The thinking minds get the reward of digging deeper and deeper into the veritable gold mine that our national epic is. This in itself is acquiring merit (punya) and deserving His grace.