Ishvara pranidhana, worship of God; directing actions, thoughts, feelings and aspirations towards the Divine
It is life (God) that fulfills things and not what we call “I”. We can welcome each moment with an open heart through devotion, trust and active involvement. Ancient wisdom tells us that “rather than rowing against the current, rather enjoy the ride and reflect the view.”
Surrender to God is Ishvara pranidhana. This is the practice by which we consecrate our every action and life to the higher divine force. Surrendering one’s own will to God’s will, transform this affirmation into prayer, “I am in God the Father, and God the Father is in me.” Abandoning oneself means considering every work as that of the Heavenly Father and renouncing all claim to his ways. This can be accomplished by a devotion that must take full possession of the one who aspires to the state of yoga.
There is no loss in surrendering one’s will at the feet of God. By surrendering the will to the Divine, one’s will becomes one with the Cosmic Will. The aspirant becomes one with the Heavenly Father. Self-surrender makes the devotee feel the reality of the Divine grace of the Heavenly Father, who offers help at all times. Divine Grace pours into the aspirant’s being and moulds him into a channel of manifestation suitable for Divine instrumentality and realisation.
Sometimes external factors become responsible for the effort to which we have been or are subjected; and because the heart is absent there neither is the feeling of happiness present. When the heart is not involved in action there can be no talk of joy. Therefore, it is suggested that the practice of self-control, be coupled with deep knowledge and spiritual aspiration, which is indicated by svadhyaya (sacred study), and Ishvara pranidhana, which is worship and surrender before God the Father for the realization of the ultimate purpose of life.
The purpose of sense control, sacred study and worship of God is unique: the affirmation of the supremacy and ultimate value of the Divine. This requires persevering effort and can be an intense effort on the part of the mind to prevent, on the one hand, the penetration of impressions and desires that are connected with the external world and, on the other hand, to create impressions of a positive character in the form of love for God. Ishvara pranidhana invites us to put an end to habitual impressions received from outside (from objects) and to allow only those impressions that are conducive to contemplating the Divine Reality. This manifold effort – namely, a positive effort of control and restraint of the senses from direct action in regard to external objects, a deep sacred study in a state of transfiguration that is dedicated to the liberation of the spirit from one end to the other, and a constant reminder in the mind that God is All, with a renunciation of self in favour of His supremacy – constitutes a very high and important practice.
In all our daily aspirations, worship of God plays a high role because action, worship and knowledge are the stages of one’s ascension.
The ideal chosen for the purpose of meditation practice must be such as to attract our full attention and invoke devotion and love. The love and aspiration aroused in our heart by our chosen ideal is the power that will lead us to it. That is why the concept of Ishvara was naturally introduced by the sage Patanjali as an ideal to be attained and accepted in order to concentrate the mind in the practice of higher yoga.
Without a process of divine transfiguration, we cannot love a being in its entirety, for each has a limitation. Although we may be attracted to a particular person or thing in the moment, in certain circumstances, for our own reasons, this attraction cannot continue for long, because it will only exist as long as emotions overwhelm us. Thus, finally, the sage Patanjali believes that no ordinary human being can be an object of adoration. Therefore, we must have a concept of a Supreme Personality – a Supreme Being who is not an ordinary human being and who is free from the results that flow from actions. Thus, for all practical purposes, Ishvara is none other than God.
Since God is different in the general conception of people, we reach this stage by different means and in different situations. It is the moment when the aspirant finally gives up the ego and surrenders to destiny. For Patanjali, the fruit of perfection in Ishvara pranidhana is the Divine Ecstasy “Samadhi”.