This is the last of the niyamas listed by Patanjali in the Yoga-sutras. Ishvara is translated as Supreme Being, God, the Creator, Ultimate Reality, or True Self. Pranidhana means to fixate, surrender, or dedicate. Practicing Ishvara Pranidhana is similar to karma-yoga. As with karma-yoga, we detach from our egoistic tendencies and sensory desires when performing our duties, and we focus on our task. Doing this, our task becomes more meditative, which brings us closer to our True Self.
It is a noble act to detach from our ego and selfish desires because then we are not only interested in doing things that we know we are good at. Tasks are not chosen based on confidence; the concern is not with winning a prize. It’s less likely that you will take on projects that only benefit yourself. Instead, you may choose projects that benefit the whole.
Have you ever found yourself criticizing others for their efforts? It’s easy to stand on the sidelines and criticize, to be cynical, to be the person who explains that someone is wasting their time and what they are trying to do will never work. But how can you know that? Maybe it will work. Maybe it would work if you got up and joined them in their efforts and your attitude changed from “That will not work” to “It’s not about the end results. It’s about the efforts, and efforts are not wasted; they are a pathway.”
People often say, “Why would I do that if no one will offer me a reward?” A reason to do things that are not rewarding is that rewards do not really make you feel so great anyway. All rewards have an ending. When you have reached the ending, you are now at that low point again.
As explained in the Deeper Dimensions of Yoga by Georg Feuerstein, PhD, liberation is an even-temperedness. Our minds maintain an attachment to momentary pleasure. When we accomplish the most challenging physical posture of yoga or when we feel the benefits of our breathing practices, our experience is then compared to other experiences or to other people, leading us to a feeling of envy. The pleasure we experience is also shadowed by the fear and reality that our happiness will come to an end.
Ishvara Pranidhana is when we surrender to the Ultimate Reality, or our True Self. It is liberating. It’s seeing a bigger picture, that everything is connected. Living becomes more alive because we do not get stuck within thoughts about our likes or dislikes. Instead, we find ourselves more connected to the people in our lives and being present in the moment.
Proofread by Leona B. Hunt, BA, proofreader