I have heard people, Buddhists I guess you would say, mention submitting to a higher power. It was just in passing, but I wondered if that sort of thing had any role to play in the theory or practice of Buddhism.

I think I would like to "submit", and can do so without losing my mind etc.. Well, I don't know if that makes any sense, but thanks for any guidance.


3 Answers 3


The idea of surrender in Buddhism in general can vary very, very widely, depending on the particular ideology. Some ideologies believe you need to submit totally to a Guru to be enlightened, others do not. It depends on how people have set the system up in the first place. Pureland Buddhism is particularly strong about this point, and I encourage you to look it up.

That being said, it is important to mention that Buddhism is not, at its core, about believing in something or submitting to an ideology.. it is about The Dialectic or Conversation that happens when you try something, find out it is not quite as described, then ask a question about your personal experience and get a clarifying answer, or engage in a debate. That is the dynamic. Discovery through experience, discussion and debate.

So, submission and dominance fall then to the status of Dualistic Thinking, and are no different than black and white, cold and hot, or back and front. Both are illusory... Maya (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_(illusion)).

Surrender in the Buddhist sense, on the other hand, is about letting go of any fixed notion of self, the universe or any other idea, and trusting in experience to guide you to truth. It doesn't mean that you give up.. it means you let go of the strong attachment you have to particular ideas about the world and yourself, and allow mind and body to take you to places where you can experience truth.

  • hello you mention the dialectic and while i appreciate this is off topic and not strictly buddhist, what would you say about the dialectic and self submission ?
    – user2512
    Commented Jan 31, 2015 at 10:32
  • I would say.. I think you may be asking the wrong question :-) To have a dialectic, you need to pose a question for discussion.'What would you say about' is a request for an opinion (which is fine.. its just not really an opening for a discussion). Basically.. ask a hard question and work out the answers between you. Don't assume anyone knows anything you don't.. go through the process of experience, discussion and resolution.
    – T. B.
    Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 1:48
  • Quick question: why is submission dualistic thinking and surrender is not. In the same way submission contrasts dominance, surrender is contrasted by resistance. Isn't that also dualistic
    – user10130
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 17:57
  • That's a very good question. The answer is that everything that can be conceptualized is essentially dualistic, including surrender. Considering surrender is a more facile way to reach the non dual state behind that idea than is submission. In the end, 100% of everything is dual since we are alive. Or.. at least.. we think we are :-) You see, you have to be careful to limit the scope of inquiry, otherwise you will always end up with a sort of nihilistic approach, since at their root, everything is dual, and you will get nowhere. "And then not." - Every Master's final words.
    – T. B.
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 21:32
  • I realized I may have appeared glib in my answer.. let me clarify. Surrender is a better concept to proceed from if you want to reach the non dual experience BEHIND the thing. Submission is not as good, as it is more deeply rooted in culture and biology, and is more difficult to sort out, whereas Surrender is less so. Surrender is also well established in the literature, and various brilliantly scammy masters have created wonderful lies for us to use to accidentally trip over the Truth about that idea. :-)
    – T. B.
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 21:45

I am recently extremely interested in Buddhism, I've read the dhammapada, done alot of thinking and reading about it. However I have not actually done much meditating. My most recent experience in trying or doing meditation was during a moment I was feeling suicidal. I get suicidal thoughts fairly often I think compared to most people.

Anyways, a very short time into it, a part of my mind gave me an incredibly strong thought/order telling me to submit. I 'submitted' (idk how, it's all just mental) and immediately felt much better. Since this experience I have felt more at peace, and so I paradoxically am more empowered. In this case, submission is the cause of dominance.

This experience was hardly dualistic in the usual sense. The concepts have now become merged into a whole, or at least, the opposite result followed the opposite action.

  • Hello Veronica and welcome to Buddhism SE. The answer does not really address the central question which is "... but I wondered if that sort of thing had any role to play in the theory or practice of Buddhism ...".
    – user2424
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 13:27
  • I totally fail to understand how sharing my experience while endeavoring to practice Buddhism, when that experience was one of 'submitting', does not, in fact, centrally address the practice of Buddhism. I didn't touch on theory, but practice. All the other answers I have read have addressed theory. Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 15:10

'Letting go','giving up' or 'relinquishing' ('vossagga') is the core Buddhist practise.

Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu develops the mindfulness enlightenment factor, which is supported by seclusion, dispassion and cessation and ripens in relinquishment (vossagga). MN 118

It is like submission to the Nirvana element, which can dissolve mental negativities.

Monks, among things conditioned and unconditioned, dispassion is reckoned to be the best of them all...Those who trust in the Dhamma of dispassion have trust in the best; and for those who have trust in the best, the best result will be theirs. AN 4.34

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