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Patanjali’s Yoga Sūtra-s (YS) I-23 Īśvara (Source)-pranidhānādva (OR continuously and completely offer yourself to)
OR (-va) you can continuously (pra-) and completely (-ni-) offer (-dhānā) yourself to the Source (Īśvara) of all That Is
As the fruit ripens on the trees around me on Cortes Island, Canada, where I am completing my yearly two-month retreat, we too arrive at the fifth and final pathway to that state of Heart called Yoga – sweet surrender. Sometimes this ripening process takes its own sweet time. Like nature, it cannot be rushed. Surrender arrives when we are ready to drop to our feet and let go like a fruit finally drops to the roots (pranidhānā) of its Tree of Knowledge (Īśvara) with perfect timing. It is not in our control, but an act of Grace.
- Abhyāsa– By practicing – (Yoga Sūtra-s) YS I, 12-16
- Vairāgya – By detaching - YS I, 12-16
- Bhavapratyayo – By birth (naturally born in a state of Yoga) – YS I, 19
- Śraddhā – By trusting our Heart - YS I, 20-22 OR
- Īśvara pranidhānā - By surrendering to Source of all Wisdom - YS I, 23 with 24-29
Grace and Effort: The Two Wheels of Transformation
While effort (prayatnam) is needed for pathways 1-4, only Grace (anugrahan) is necessary for this fifth pathway. Surrender (prapatti/saranagati/pranidhānā) to Source by whatever name or form we prefer, only arises with the admission that we can’t do it on our own anymore, that we need help from some power greater than ourselves, or that we choose Truth over illusion, deciding to wake up to what is Real. Any form of surrender works, be it with a personal deity or Truth, itself!
By Grace we Surrender and Finally Let Go
Sweet Surrender only happens when the fruit of our life experience is ripe to fall of its own accord - when its fruit is sweet enough to fall effortlessly to the ground of our Being. The process cannot be forced. We can’t let go (Vairāgya) until the lesson has been learnt. It is only through Grace, that unquantifiable aspect of Life, that we somehow let go and let be when the time is exactly right. It is only through Grace that one day, we wake up and are ready to accept our lives as they stand before us. It is only through Grace that we accept what IS and ISn’t with equanimity and radical acceptance of the way things really are despite all efforts to change their course.
In this Sūtra, the self-reliant jnani yogi (contemplative) of pathways 1-4 becomes a bhakti yogi (a mystic) through the Grace of sweet surrender. She offers her head to her Heart and finally lets go (Vairāgya) of what she thought she had wanted, now accepting what IS instead. The fruit finally falls off the vine to the ground of her Being. She falls into the rapture of a mystical awakening: singing, dancing, and crying out the many names of the Divine with whom she now unites.
Śiva Meets Patanjali
Maha Mṛityunjaya Mahāmantraḥ Tryambakam yajāmahe
Sugandhim puṣţi vardhanam Urvārukamiva bandhanān
Mrtyor mukṣīya mā’mṛtāt
We meditate upon Śiva (the Transformer), the three-eyed one (tryambakam), the Lord (yajāmahe), fragrant (sugandhim) and nourishing (puṣţi) the growth (vardhanam) of all, so that as a ripened squash (urvārukamiva) is liberated (bandhanān) from bondage to its vine, Śiva may liberate us (mukṣīya) from death (mrtyor) for the sake of immortality (mā’mṛtāt).
This great Vedic health mantra has inspired my interpretation of this Yoga Sūtra because it says only when we have fully ripened from our life experience, will be become liberated from the death of suffering. The goal of chanting this mantra is to spiritually "ripen" so that we can be free from our bondage to all things that keep us from spiritual freedom.
My Personal Mantra
Standing firmly with gratitude, on the other side of some intense life lessons on letting go, my personal mantra/affirmation for 2014 has been, “May I accept both what is given and not given with perfect equanimity”. May I also accept what I can and cannot emotionally let go of in this moment, even when I intellectually understand that it is no longer serving me and have tried my best to move on. May Grace help me accept the spiritual ripening process just as it IS, as I patiently await the fruit of Wisdom to drop to my feet with perfect timing.
The Gift of Grace
Although I certainly have much more spiritual ripening to experience, this year, I have finally felt the breakthrough of the breakdown of some very old stuff deep within. Through some intense unhinging life experiences, I was forced to go very deep within and clear away some deep seated patterns that had been holding me back. More to come, as I transform step by step, but the Joy and Presence that have been gifted me this year are profound motivators to keep going deeper, clearing space for more and more Joy (Ānanda)!
Yoga Sūtra Questions
What do you desperately want to let go of but are simply not able to despite all efforts? Can you accept your present attachment as a necessary part of your life lesson, trusting that you will naturally let go of it when the time is right? If you are a theist, can you ask for help from Source, using any name or form of your choosing? If you are not a theist, can you ask your noble Heart to show you things as they are, accepting that Truth with Grace rather than resistance?
This exploration of Īśvara pranidhānā will continue over the next many months to come through further examining Yoga Sūtra-s I, 23-29. We will consider whether surrendering to the Source of all Wisdom is a choice for a Yogi or not, while discovering who Īśvara is as well as how to call upon that Wisdom through our continuous practice of Yoga.
Yoga Therapy International’s Certified Yoga Therapist Program is now Internationally Accredited!
You haven’t heard much from me since February because I have been working on a big project! Yoga Therapy International‘s Certified Yoga Therapist (CYT) Program is now accredited with the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT)! It has been a rigorous process and was not easy to achieve, a living experience of tapas (Yoga Sutra-s II-1).
This improvisational-based kirtan group co-creates music together once a month with audiences of 20-30 people at Open Door Yoga, 1651 Commercial Drive, (enter from Gravely). Vince Gowmon, Maggie Reagh, Marvin Entz, and Dave Fogel will guide you through call and response devotional singing of Sanskrit mantras and original English songs, which open the heart and free the mind. Expect to get ecstatic!!! Join Spirit Voice on Facebook for more information.
The fourth route to Yoga through śraddhā (faith, trust, enthusiasm, interest, motivation), can be fanned though never taught. The more intense the śraddhā, the faster we arrive at our heart’s deepest desires, so fanning the fires of faith should be a priority for teachers, encouraging their students’ transformation.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sūtra-s (YS) I-21
Tīvra (very high)-samvegānam(speed) āsannaḥ (be there – arrive)
The more śraddhā we have, the faster we will arrive at our goal of samadhi (enlightenment).
Patanjali’s Yoga Sūtra-s (YS) I-22
mṛdu (low) madhya (medium) adhimātra(high)-tvāt tatō (that)’pi(further) viśeṣaḥ (differentiates)
Śraddhā can be further differentiated by these three levels: low, medium, and high.
Faith is Taboo
The word “faith” immediate triggers ideas of being controlled and manipulated by a belief system that is not based in logic or science. In the West, we left the Dark Ages, the “Age of Faith”, in the 11th century with the early medieval universities, and later with the rebirth of art, culture, and humanism during the Renaissance. This culminated with the Age of Enlightenment/Reason, which questioned the authority of church over state and religion over science. Even though during the postmodern era, philosophers started to question our addiction to science and discursive logic, with its clearly defined subject-object relationships, most of us still revert to a modernist Enlightenment viewpoint that claims reason, logic, and science reign supreme over superstition, faith, and ignorance of the facts. If faith is equated with intellectual laziness and naïveté, why would we want to fan these fires of faith?
The Universe is Friendly
Contemporary metamodernist philosophers such as Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker in Notes on Metamodernism are trying to bridge the gap between reason and faith as well as absolutes and relativism with an informed naïveté. They offer a bridge between the modernist faith in science and the post-modernist mistrust of it. They present a way to believe that life has meaning and purpose without falling back into superstitious belief systems. Chaos is tempered by knowing that there is an intelligence that pervades the whole.
This cultural shift can be seen in rhetoric from politics to sporting events. Barack Obama’s 2008 speech to Democratic Assembly asserted “Yes, we can change.” The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics’ motto for Team Canada was “I believe”. Both point to an optimism that was made mechanistic by the modernists and naïve by the post-modernists. Metamodernism bridges that schism of world views, restoring our faith in a life that often feels uncertain.
Trusting that the Universe is friendly, that our Life has a certain logical flow, and that we are on Earth to learn, can all help us live happier lives that feel safe to embody. In order to move forward in our lives with any goal, we need a good dose of faith. We would not even wake up in the morning if we didn’t have faith that the Sun would come up and shine on us again. To some extent, we need to believe that most things will continue to flow as they did yesterday. We need to believe that things are semi-permanent to survive the constant flux of life events. Depressive realism is a labeled as a psychological abnormality for a reason. We have to have faith and hope to survive our lives, which are constantly challenging us with unforeseen changes.
The Mind is Not as Smart as the Heart
As my monk friend Matthew used to say to me in India, “The mind is just not sharp enough to penetrate reality.” According to the Yoga tradition, practicing being present is the only way to bypass our addiction to thinking that the mind will free us from our suffering. We need to find ways to create space for our Hearts to be heard away from the daily grind of obligations and tasks. With that practice, we will start trusting (śraddhā) the wisdom of our Hearts, our intuition, and our deepest sense of Self. This faith will bring us much more comfort than a harsh intellectualism that refuses to believe in the impossible or the unseen worlds of the mystic.
Believing in your Self and your Life
When we have learnt to trust our Hearts over our heads, we have developed a level of wisdom that cannot be taught but can certainly be encouraged by our teachers and friends. As that trust deepens, the innocence (from Latin “to not harm”) of our presence expands. We start to radiate an authenticity that others can feel. We feel less fear about outcomes and more certainty that Life will provide us with exactly what we need at any given moment. As my Yoga Sūtra-s teacher, DV Sridhar once said to me over 10 years ago, “Live as if everything in your life is perfect and see what happens!” Now that is Faith!
Yoga Sutra Questions What do you believe in? Is your level of faith high, medium or low? Is it enough to motivate you to transform your life into the one your Heart is asking for? If not, how can you fan its fires to inspire such change?