Even as a boy, Surdas was gifted with a unique faculty. He could interpret omens and also help people in recovering things they had lost. His father, who used to act as a priest, performed a ritual and was given two gold coins, which some rats carried away at night. When his father began searching for them, Surdas led him to the place where the rats had hidden them. Similarly, he once helped a landlord find his missing cow. Out of gratitude, the landlord got a hut built for him. Surdas felt disturbed as his services were much in demand and people would crowd around him. He left the village to be away from such consultation as he felt it was coming in the way of his devotion. He also spent some time in Runakta. he was trying to concentrate on his devotion at various places, when he happened to meet Vallabhacharya at Gau Ghat. After this meeting a transformation came about in Surdas’s life. He became a follower of the Vallabha Sampradaya and a fulltime poet-composer to highlight Krishna’s exploits. The acharya appointed him as musician of the Srinath Mandir in Gokul, where the poet started spending a major portion of his life.
Several stories are current about the poet’s devotion to Krishna. Once, Surdas fell into a well. He earnestly prayed to Krishna for help, and was miraculously brought out. At that time Radha was also by Krishna’s side. Surdas grasped her anklets. Radha requested him to let go of her anklets. The poet-saint said that being blind, he could not ascertain the truth of her identity. So, Krishna blessed him with vision and he had the darshan of both of them. After that Krishna asked Surdas to seek a boon. Surdas reportedly told Krishna that he would prefer to remain blind as he did not wish to see anything else with those eyes that had had the darshan of Krishna.
Another famous episode narrated about the blind saint-poet was about his ability to describe the murti of Krishna as it was. Vitthalnathji, the son of Vallabhacharya, wanted to test him. He asked his son, Giridharlalji to dress Krishna only in a garland of pearls. The saint-poet burst out laughing on ‘seeing’ the murti of Krishna bereft of clothing. He instantly made a bhajan and started singing. The purport of the bhajan is as follows:
See the Lord (Hari) is stark naked,
He looks beautiful in every limb,
Clothed in pearls,
His nakedness adds to the beauty in every limb,
Surdas joins the maidens of Vraj in the laughter.
After this incident, everybody was convinced of his unique ability to see his beloved Lord, even though he could see nothing else.
The ashtachhapa poets were supposed to be the companions of Krishna in their past existence. Akrura, who was reborn as Surdas, had incurred the wrath of Krishna for impersonating him. He had done it to help Satyabhama who felt neglected, as Krishna was showing more attention to Rukmini. She threatened suicide if her Lord did not come to her and then she became unconscious. Akrura was distressed at the turn of events and wanted to save Satyabhama at any cost. He took Krishna’s form and announced to Satyabhama that Krishna had come. On hearing his name she regained consciousness. But Krishna was not amused. As a result of Krishna’s curse, Akrura had to take birth as the blind poet. Satyabhama was also cursed and was born as a servant maid.
Surdas’s meeting with Akbar, the Mughal emperor, came about in a fortuitous manner. The emperor praised Tansen for his skill as a musician. He wondered if there was anyone who surpassed him at singing. Tansen mentioned Surdas’s name. A meeting was arranged and Surdas became a favourite of Akbar. It is worth noting here that Akbar did not insist on Surdas singing Akbar's praises. He did issue a command once, and Surdas replied by singing in praise of Krishna. The song and Surdas' devotion impressed Akbar.
Surdas suffered a serious illness at the age of 103, and two years later he passed away in 1584 CE to attain the divine abode of Shri Krishna.
Surdas raised the status of Hindi by writing a religious book in Hindi. Before this, most of the books on religious topics used to be written in Sanskrit. His Sur Sagar is the Bhagvat Puran in Braj language. It celebrates the exploits of Bal Krishna and highlights his lila.
Besides Sur Sagar, the poet wrote Sur Saravali, Sahitya Lahiri and Nala Damayanti.