This is the last Niyama, and for me, the most important one. Ishvara can take on a varied spectrum of meanings, depending on the context (it differs based on the era and the philosophy of each school of Yoga/Hinduism), such as “personal God,” “God with form,” “King,” “Supreme Guru,” “Supreme Being,” “Ruler of the Universe,” or just “God.” Ishvara is translated as “The Best of Rulers” or “The Owner of Choices,” but there are way too many contradictions and disputes over the semantics of this word. In this last Niyama, rather than seeing Ishvara as separate from us (i.e., “God with form”) we shall see it as “God in us,” or “God as us”—the infinite consciousness. Pranidhana, on the other hand, simply means to “surrender,” “devote,” “dedicate,” or “submit.” Ishvara pranidhana thus means to “surrender to God,” “devote to the Supreme Guru,” or “dedicate to the Supreme Being.”
Literally, the words composing this Niyama signify “submit to the Owner of Choices.” This means “surrender your life to The Best of Rulers.” When you surrender the false self to God—the true Self ; when you surrender your personal self to the impersonal Transcendence—you give all your choices away.
In other words, anything that happens, it’s okay. You will neither reject nor embrace it because it’s all God’s will. This is surrendering your entire life to God. Surrender to the path, becoming a wave in the ocean, trusting the ocean’s nurturing embrace. Allow care. After all, you yourself are the ocean; you just aren’t fully aware of it yet. This is the stuff that the lives of saints are made of.
Patanjali considers this final Niyama pivotal, holding immense power to propel towards Samadhi. It’s Yoga’s ultimate aim. It is that important. “From surrender to God, comes the ultimate Samadhi.”
The Science or Art of Self-Realization?
There are many forms of meditation, and I have found that two of the most powerful ones are Kriya Yoga and Kundalini Yoga. They provide a fertile
ground for our minds so that we can realize our immortal origin and timeless essence, wherein our individual consciousness “goes back” to whence it
came, “reuniting” with God. Many people call spiritual practice a “science”—the science of SelfRealization. I have a few issues with such a description. No flawless formula ensures an individual’s return to their source or self-realization. Absolute adherence doesn’t guarantee this. Just look at the fact that most disciples of gurus or organizations who purport this to be true haven’t become Self-Realized. Why is that? Because some things just can’t be quantified.
Let’s take a look at chess. Chess is a game where all of the information is present at all times—there are no unknown variables or hidden information. It’s all known. There may come a time when a super ultra-advanced quantum computer will be able to solve chess in its entirety. Theoretically, it is possible to develop a formula to never lose at chess (though impossible at the moment because of computational limitations), or checkers (the latter of which has already been done ).
However, we cannot do that with Self-Realization . Because we cannot measure or quantify certain factors. Among them, the essential one that simply cannot be measured is surrender. I’ve mentioned surrender in all of my books. This is because surrender is the secret essential ingredient that makes all this journey and practice actually work. The intense desire for Freedom that I’ve mentioned in a previous chapter is intimately connected with surrender—they go hand-inhand.
As your desire to know yourself increases, so does your surrender. They are basically the same—the greater the desire, the greater the surrender, just like the more gasoline you pour into a fire, the longer and stronger it will burn. Surrender has to be infinite—that’s how one can become enlightened! If your surrender is still not infinite, you will not realize your true essence.
In our lives, we typically carry around the baggage, hardships, and traumas of our personal stories, as well as our current sources of anxiety and problems. When we perform spiritual practice, we must let go of all these unnecessary burdens. If we can let them go without looking back, we feel
freer, more alive, and younger, and our meditation will then go much deeper. However, regardless of how profoundly you abandon your personal
burdens during meditation, you must go one step further and let go of the one who lets go (the “I”). Sooner or later, this will become the most imperative “step” in your spiritual journey—as it was in mine. It just requires discrimination/discernment.
The relinquishing of the ego is the most transcendental undertaking in the whole of meditation. It is much more difficult than the letting go of your personal burdens, or than paying attention to the breath or restraining the lifeforce. You can allow yourself to fine-tune your identity (by purifying the mind, letting go of your burdens, acquiring a higher level of concentration, etc.), but letting go of it altogether—that’s a different story.
Surrender is a complex process, yet paradoxically simple, which is why the mind has a hard time “getting it.” If you are still in the first steps on your
spiritual path, you should not put too much emphasis into understanding it; rather, you should do your best to practice according to the instructions. With time, as your power of consciousness increases (i.e., you “attain” a higher level of discernment or insight), you will become more conscious of what surrender is and how to “apply” it. Surrender is one of the essential aspects of both the yogic and a more general spiritual path. Genuine surrendering doesn’t demand rituals, worshiping figures, or anything of a similar nature—it is much deeper than that. It is the unceasing “act” of letting go “toward” your own Self Meditation awakens discrimination, which in turn gives rise to the “ability” to properly surrender, which in turn increases the power of meditation, which increases discrimination, making surrender even more powerful, and so on.
This cycle goes on and on until all three merge into one and become the perfect ground for enlightenment. It can be said that you can put any of the Yamas and Niyamas into one of these three (meditation, discrimination, or surrender). Can you do it? It’s a fun exercise that requires some degree of awareness, but it can help you see how everything is interlinked. When they become one, you will have successfully graduated from all of the Yamas and Niyamas presented in this book. That’s the whole purpose—to unify them! With the perfect ground for enlightenment having been established, it’s inevitable that you will realize your true nature. After all, it’s your ultimate destiny—one that not even you can deny
The Truth about Grace
Imagine that you have a rubber ball in your hand. If you squeeze it, it will contract, but as soon as you let go, it will spring back to its original spherical shape. Surrender is letting go of this contraction, allowing the natural state to unfold. Your inherent desire for happiness, which is your true state of being, is Grace in action. Grace is precisely like the rubber ball going back to its original state. It’s akin to the force always pushing the ball to restore its original form. The squeeze, on the other hand, is your individual consciousness, a contraction of the original state.
Every time you immerse yourself in Maya, it’s like the squeeze on the rubber ball. But even though you may think you are an individual consciousness, this individuation is just a reflection of the transpersonal consciousness. The consequence of this individuation, of this contraction, is searching for happiness (searching for the original state, the pristine spherical form of the ball). If you seek happiness in Maya through materiality, relationships, status, or anything related to form and duality, you are paradoxically trying to get the ball to its original state by squeezing it further. This obviously won’t work. What works is recognizing that the “pull” to the original state is ever-present, and to then stop resisting it.
Grace is ever-present, but it is often neglected or ignored. However, when you transcend into a higher level of consciousness, you realize its omnipresence. Rather than fighting against it by immersing in Maya, you surrender to it. Once you surrender to Grace, it acts faster on you and in a more powerful way, because you are no longer resisting it in its pure state by chasing illusions (squeezing the ball). Surrendering to Grace is allowing the rubber ball to come back to its natural state, rather than unknowingly forcing it to stay contracted. Surrendering yourself to Grace, which is always pulling you back to your original state, is Ishvara pranidhana.