Patañjali’s eight limbs of Yoga make up a philosophy that includes yamas (restraints) and niyamas (observances, the “don’t restrains”). These are interconnected and help us to enjoy virtuous, purposeful, happy, and balanced lives. Ishvarapranidhana is the fifth and last of the niyamas from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. According to the Sutras, In the practice of Kriya Yoga Ishvara pranidhana is one of the three main components, svadhyaya (self-study) and tapas (austerity) being the other two. The observance of these three niyamas together helps for the practice to become a schematic discipline. So, what does Ishvarapranidhana mean in Sanskrit? Ishvara is a name of Shiva that means “supreme ruler of the Universe.” It refers to the Absolute. The term regularly comes up throughout the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, where Ishvara is defined as “a special Self.” The One who is unmovable throughout all of life’s currents. Ishvara is the Divine Consciousness. The force in all of life. Pranidhana has about seven definitions: to apply, to put great effort/energy, deep meditation/contemplation, respectful behavior, enunciation of the fruit of actions, accessing, and prayer. It means to totally recognize something and to honour it. Ishvarapranidhana is to surrender yourself and offer what you do to the Divine. When we move through life in a state of surrender and merging with the Divine, we operate primarily from our Highest Self.
Ishvarapranidhana is part of the deep yoga philosophy which is not necessarily related to “on the mat” practice. It actually encompasses the whole concept of Karma Yoga. It is worth mentioning that Ishvarapranidhana has the most varied interpretations out of all the yamas and niyamas and is among the most misunderstood. In his Yoga Sutras, Patanjali speaks of Ishvarapranidhana as needed to become one with that greater Being. A very similar concept also comes up in the Yoga Upanishads, specifically the Shandilya Upanishad and the Darshana Upanishad. In these texts, the term Ishvara Pujita is the last of a 10-fold Niyama system. Puja is Sanskrit for worship, so in this context the focus is more on worship than surrender, but ultimately it comes down to the same idea.
HOW TO LIVE IN SURRENDER
Ishvarapranidhana is all about living in surrender, letting go, and looking beyond our limited sense of self. Life is a spiritual adventure!
Surrender has a connotation of “giving something up.” What is it that we are giving up? It is the notion of the personal self, giving itself up to the Divine Consciousness. Surrendering does not mean no action. There is action involved for sure! You are however not considering yourself as the “doer” of the action, it is rather the Divine Will acting through you … see it from the perspective that we are all like radio antennas with the capacity to channel of the Divine if we tune our stations to that channel. The kind of surrender we are talking about here comes from deep within your heart. It’s sincere. To be in a state of surrender is not to be powerless. When you surrender, you open yourself up to something much greater. When you are sincere about your ishvara pranidhana, you serve the Highest Consciousness and it is at the centre of your life.
In spiritual life, we are always on the path, and sometimes we sidetrack. Remembering ishvara pranidhana every single step of the way can help us to maintain a sense of purpose and direction in this funny life.
Some things you can do to help you to observe ishvarapranidhana and live in surrender in your daily life are:
1. Understand what Ishvara refers to and contemplate on what this means for you.
2. Cultivate a devotional attitude
3. Practice Karma Yoga
4. Give up self-limiting beliefs, attachments to things and relationships which have served their purpose in your life, and expectations
5. Make a conscious effort to detach from your ego identity
6. Read the Bhagavad Gita
7. Meditate more – experiences in meditation can help you to get in touch with the timeless divine and realize things through your very own experience such as not being the body/mind, which helps you to identify with Spirit rather than all the temporary layers around it.
8. Stay in extended savasana (corpse pose), this is is a wonderful part of your yoga practice to practice surrender in.
WHY LIVE IN SURRENDER
The human mind can be easily afflicted when not mastered. Much pain and suffering arises from being too much in the head – and the unconstructive thinking patterns, limiting beliefs, obsessions, compulsiveness, etc. that can come with that if we are not aware. Ishvarapranidhana helps you reframe your view of life and your goals. With ishvarapranidhana, we can invest our energy in striving for greater oneness. We let go of our selfish, egocentric ways of looking at life and the world around us. We are more focused on connecting with the whole than we are preoccupied with our ego’s agendas. We function as instruments of the Divine rather than individual actors. We face uncertainty with grace and faith rather than fear. We begin to see the bigger picture and surrender to the Divine Force driving the ever-changing flows of life.
Being in a state of surrender can feel relieving like a warm blanket over you, safely sheltered in the Supreme. Here, it is not a shelter of temporary nature like a home, knowledge and other comforts we shelter. It is rather an eternal, timeless shelter that is unchanging and absolute. It feels really warm and comforting to be divinely guided and cared for! The feeling in my heart that we are not alone and are a part of something so immense is a beautifully overwhelming mystical experience for me.
Living in surrender brings you a profound sense of peace in life. When you have faith in the Divine, you trust the unfolding of events as they are meant to happen. Because of being in that state of surrender, you trust that you will be guided through no matter what life presents you with.
You may have heard this one before: Let go, and let God. Ultimately, what we are letting go of is our limited sense of self! And, what better time than the autumn season to let go of all that no longer serves you, and surrender to the flows of life?
Thank you for tuning in to this monthly insights corner, and especially this entry as it is for now my last on this platform. I have very much enjoyed sharing yoga wisdoms and insights with you throughout the last two years.
With gratitude, love and surrender – farewell and be well!