Or (dva), inner peace can be achieved through complete devotion and surrender (pranidhana) to God or a higher power (isvara).
PRACTICAL LIVING Sutra I.20 talked about the importance of having trust in ourselves and in life, a feeling deep inside that gives us energy to keep on going. Some people develop that inner faith or trust naturally. Some develop it through faith in a God of their choice. Patanjali does not say what God someone should believe in. He is just saying that if one has an inclination towards an organized religion, or if someone has a belief of their own that brings them to a better place mentally, then this is the perfect object of meditation for them. If something brings us to clarity, then let’s dedicate ourselves to that.
The ‘dva’ means ‘or’. So Patanjali is clearly recognizing that there are different people in the world, with different needs and walking different paths. Throughout the first two chapters he offers different solutions for cultivating a calmer and clearer mind. For some, prayer and complete devotion to God may be one of the solutions. The ‘or’ also refers to using this devotion to a higher power together with other tools that he offers. The important thing is to always be practicing something, whatever takes us to a more peaceful place. So one may profoundly relate to this sutra, or not. Either way, it’s okay.
It’s important to point out that isvara can be a number of things. It can mean God. But it can also refer to anything that is not us, that we trust and helps us become better people. In this case, isvara can be a yoga teacher, a grandmother, the image of the moon, a group of people that make me a happier person…basically anything or anyone that I connect with on a deeper level. ‘pra’ means light. You may relate to the concept of an inner light, something beyond your body and your mind? The concept of light is similar to the concept of purusha (our true nature, soul or spirit) that Samkhya (the philosophy which Yoga is closely related to) proposes (see History).
IN THE YOGA WORLD This sutra introduces the Yoga of surrender (bhakti-yoga). It is suggesting an alternative option for those whose personal faith (see sutra I.20) is insufficient, or for those who thrive on the path of love, service and total surrender to something other than themselves (isvara). Mastering isvarapranidhana is very difficult since it requires absolute surrender, overcoming our deepest fears, and complete detachment from the “I-am-ness” concept. This means surrendering the ownership of the things we do, as well as the fruits of their actions to God, achieve self-knowledge through the grace of God. In this state, we no longer do things for ourselves, we do them as service for a higher force, whatever that may be.
There are many ways of achieving samadhi (complete absorption). There is not one unique way. We are lucky that Patanjali had the wisdom to realize that. Just because we have a particular way of experiencing life, this does not mean that everybody else needs to experience it in the same way. By offering this sutra and the ‘or’ in this sutra, Patanjali makes this point clear.
For those of us who have faith in something bigger than ourselves, then consequently, trust from within begins to grow stronger. The stronger our inner trust is, the easier it is to live a meaningful life, one which takes us from pure sensorial pursuit to one with pleasure plus purpose. Inner trust also makes it easier for us to accept that there are certain things that we have no control over in life. If we can focus on the quality of our actions and let go of the results, we are beginning to understand this sutra.
decades. Her faith is deeply ingrained. When one asks her complicated questions, her answers tend to be simple: have faith in God, or trust life. I am sure this answer would not have gone very well for me 10 years ago, but today, I understand her a little bit better. She is a big believer in the power of prayer, in the power of placing your attention on something that will give you qualities that you would like to achieve. Her devotion to her students, to her family, to her dharma (calling) is phenomenal. Her faith gives her the energy, the enthusiasm, the intensity required to teach continuously from 8am to 6pm, with 10 minute breaks in between. I am half her age and I am not sure I could follow this pace. Her faith gives her strength and stamina, and that I find amazing! Thank you Menaka for the power and simplicity of your words, your presence and your transmission of life teachings!
Do you have any experiences you would like to share? Please interact as much as you like – everyone will learn from your personal experiences!
Thanks and we will look at how Patanjali defines isvara next week!