Yoga in action
Let’s start by reminding ourselves of the three Niyamas that make up Kriya Yoga, the Yoga of action – tapas, swadhyaya and the third and final one, Ishwar pranidhan, the most mysterious and puzzling of all. Ishwar pranidhan is generally translated into English as “surrender to God,” or sometimes “God-awareness.” It is puzzling, not the least because God is such an elusive principle to most of us, and also because the idea of surrender often suggests the removal of personal freedom.
Only in this last of the ten Yamas and Niyamas does Patanjali speaks of God – Ishwar. Up till now, the focus has been on self-awareness, self-improvement, behavior, and purifying consciousness. That has all been a preparation. Throughout this preparation, we have moved from self-centeredness and selfishness to selflessness, from “me to we.” Now we take the next step, from “we to Thou.” This is a significant shift in consciousness, a quantum leap into the realm of God where even “we” no longer exists.
God is the great unknown
You may be wondering what God we are talking about here, because God has as many meanings as there are people. In Yoga, God is the great unknown, beyond qualities, beyond comprehension. Everything that is describable or definable has qualities, and while God is also present within the world of qualities, the quality-less state that is beyond definition is really the realm of God. There are other words that are also used for the same divine principle – the Source, the Ultimate, the Absolute.
Remember the state of nirodha or complete stillness we spoke about earlier in this series? That cessation of mental activity in the mind, the ultimate state of Yoga, is also the key to Godawareness. Nirodha and Ishwar pranidhan are intertwined. The next question is: How to get there? The approach needed is the “surrender” part.
The purpose of surrender
When we look at the idea of surrender from a worldly perspective, it can be quite distasteful, because it means to “submit to an authority,” or “to give in,” often with a sense of being forced to do so. The ego generally doesn’t respond well to that. We see this even in the best of relationships when we are asked to give in to the wishes of the other person. Who does this easily, willingly, and cheerfully? People who have fallen madly in love. They are very capable of surrender – they will do anything for the happiness of the other person. Generally it doesn’t last, however, as the ego eventually starts to make itself heard and the lover becomes aware of their own wishes. Most of us have to learn how to let go and give in, which is why family life is such a wonderful training ground for spirituality!
Most of us have to learn how to let go and give in, which is why family life is such a wonderful training ground for spirituality! It is through our relationships that we learn to accept and submit to the other.
It is through our relationships that we learn to accept and submit to the other.
From the spiritual viewpoint, surrender has a very positive significance, just as it does when we are madly in love. Love is a powerful flame. When love is there, surrender does not require any force or coercion. It is something that happens to us; it is not a thought or an action in itself. “Surrender” in this context is not a verb, as it is in the English language. “I” cannot surrender. It happens to us without our active participation and knowledge. In fact, if a person thinks they have surrendered, it is a sure sign they haven’t!
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