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    Isvarapranidhana Or Self-Surrender

    Now we come to the fifth of the Niyamas. It is called Isvarapranidhana. Mostly, in non-technical language, Isvarapranidhana is translated as “surrender to the Divine”. It is Saranagati—offering ourselves unto the Divine. I am now in one position, and in surrender, I change my position and put myself into another position. I centre myself in the Divine. I give myself up and place myself in the Divine for the Divine to do what It wishes with me. So, it is called self-offering or offering of oneself. It is called self-surrender.

    Now, self-surrender, rightly practised, is a great help in achieving the ultimate aim of Yoga, namely, superconsciousness. Superconsciousness is a state in which one is able to go beyond the present state of bondage resulting from an erroneous idea about oneself. In superconsciousness, one transcends error and moves into truth, into right perception; thus moving, one attains illumination, one regains one’s true status of Purushahood. That is the value of superconsciousness; that is the significance of attaining superconsciousness. Superconsciousness corrects the whole error of the human being and puts him back where he belongs.

    When dealing with this state of superconsciousness, which is the ultimate aim, objective or goal of Raja Yoga, in one place the great Maharshi says that that state can be brought about or attained through various means. And in cataloguing them, the sage mentions Isvarapranidhana also as one of the means. It is possible to attain superconsciousness through perfect Isvarapranidhana. If it is whole-souled and hundred per cent, complete and perfect, then, Isvarapranidhana has in it the power to grant you the experience of superconsciousness, which means that this fifth of the five Niyamas is of tremendous help in the actual Yoga process. It means that.

    Bahiranga Yoga and Antaranga Yoga—A Question of Classification

    And what is the actual Yoga process? Concentration, meditation and Samadhi—these three, taken together, constitute the actual Yoga process, the real Yoga. And meditation is impossible with a scattered mind, with a mind in which the outgoing tendency has not been reversed, has not been corrected and eliminated. In such a mind, the outgoing tendency is still very strong and real, and effective meditation is not possible. Therefore, inasmuch as the interiorising of the mind, the withdrawing of the mind from the externals, is an indispensable condition, is a prerequisite, to this real process of Yoga constituted by concentration, meditation and Samadhi, this withdrawal of the mind—what is called Pratyahara—also has been included as an inseparable part, as an integral part, of the actual Yoga process or the inner Yoga. Therefore, these last four Angas—withdrawal, concentration, meditation and Samadhi—are regarded and referred to as the Antaranga aspect of Patanjali’s Yoga, whereas the first four Angas Yama, Niyama, Asana and Pranayama—are generally referred to as the Bahiranga aspect of Yoga or as the outer Yoga.

    There are, however, some people who include Pratyahara also under Bahiranga Yoga and say that the first five limbs constitute Bahiranga Yoga and the last three limbs constitute Antaranga Yoga. I am more inclined to agree with the people who take the first four Angas to constitute Bahiranga Yoga and the last four Angas constitute Antaranga Yoga or the inner Yoga. To me, this seems to be a more logical classification, because “withdrawal” is more related to concentration and meditation, though the practice of this fifth factor, namely, “withdrawal” is something that has to be practised during Vyavahara. So, those who include it in Bahiranga Sadhana have a certain basis, a certain reason, for it, because this withdrawal is not something which you do when you go to your meditation room and close the door and sit on your seat and start doing your meditation. It is something that has to be practised even when you are moving about, even when you are active, dealing with various matters of daily life, though as a specific technique, even after sitting on your seat, a certain practice of withdrawal is involved. But the actual practice of the fifth Anga, withdrawal of the mind, is something that has to be gradually perfected during your active Vyavahara. Here, suffice it to say that whatever be the classification of Pratyahara, this fifth Niyama of Isvarapranidhana is evidently so important and is of such tremendous help and significance even to one’s Antaranga Sadhana that Patanjali has gone to the extent of saying that attainment of superconsciousness is possible also through Isvarapranidhana. It shows its importance. So, we must be in a position to understand very clearly what this surrender means. Now, in what way does Patanjali Maharshi visualise or envisage this practice of surrender? What is his idea about it and in what way does he conceive of it? What has he to tell us about this “surrender”?

    Meaning of Self-surrender

    Self-surrender is a surrender of those factors which stand in the way of our attaining superconsciousness, which as long as we cling to them, will not allow us to move forward and ascend upward. So, in the most general sense of the term, it is a surrender of those metaphysical factors that stand in the way of our attaining the object of Yoga, the ultimate goal of Yoga. Patanjali says that that which holds us bound to Samsara is our present wrong consciousness which has come about due to our involvement in cosmic nature, in phenomenal nature or Prakriti. This present wrong state of consciousness is one where we are identified with passing non-eternal aspects of our personality such as body, mind, name, form, our opinions, our desires, our cravings, our self-importance, our egoistical ideas and our egoistical wishes regarding things. These create problems for us. We want things in a particular way, in such and such a way only. Not in any other way. And if anyone is helpful in fulfilling our desires for things to be in such and such a way, he is our friend. We are well inclined towards him. If someone comes in the way of our having things in the manner we want, if someone comes in the way and upsets our apple cart, then he is to us our enemy. We have ill will towards him. We have negative feelings towards that person, a negative relationship. So, Raga-Dvesha, like and dislike, attraction and repulsion, arise out of our clinging to certain personal desires, to certain personal wishes.

    “Not mine, O Lord, Thy Will be done, not mine”—this is the other end of the pole. It is at the North Pole and the common human consciousness is at the South Pole. Unconsciously, the human individual is always engaged in trying to make things just as he wants them and in no other way. And if some obstacles crop up in the way, he will try to remove those obstacles and somehow or the other see that things are as he wants them to be. And, in this clinging to one’s selfish desires lies the seeds of all like and dislike, all quarrel, all disharmony, all discord, all conflict, all clash, all hatred, all vengefulness, all desire to retaliate, all sorrow. By clinging to our own desires, we lose our peace of mind. This is Samsara, this is life. This is why no human being is always happy, no human being is at peace with himself. Man is always in a state of agitation, because by the very nature of things, all things do not go the way he wants them to. The world has a will of its own. It also wants things in its own way. And there is always a variance between the way in which we want things for ourselves and the way in which the world is prepared to give things to us, and this perpetual tension is life. And, therefore, the human individual is not satisfied, not content, not at peace. He is not happy. Our worshipful Master gave the dictum: “Adapt, adjust, accommodate”. He gave it within the framework of the social milieu: he gave it within the framework of human affairs, of human relationships. But, within the framework of our interior life, of our spiritual life, where we are related to God, it is not merely a question of adapting, adjusting and accommodating with God. It is bowing to the Will of God. It is surrendering to the Will of God. It is a question of saying: “Thy Will be done, not mine”. It is a question of giving up “I” and “Mine” and saying to God, “Nothing belongs to me; all belongs to You” and then behaving and living like that, reacting like that. Surrender means to tell God: “You will be the one to lay down the rule, not I. You will be the one to pilot the ship, not I”. It means surrendering to the Lord the conduct of our life and to be content to make our life in the way He wants it to be made, surrendering our self-wishes regarding things and conditions and remaining happy in whatever condition He may keep us.

    Marjara Nyaya—The Illustration of the Cat and the Kittens

    Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa explained this spiritual state of surrender by citing the analogy of the cat and the kittens. The cat lays little ones and then the life of the kittens is completely in the hands of the cat. Wherever she keeps the kittens, the latter are satisfied. And then, taking the kittens one by one by the scruff of the neck with her mouth, the cat shifts the location of the kittens. In this way, the cat shifts her kittens a number of times from one place to another; and wherever the mother cat places the kittens, the latter are satisfied. They say that the cat sometimes shifts the kittens seven or eight times within the course of a month or two. It has got some instinct. It does not want the little ones to be in the same place; maybe it thinks that some enemy will come to know of it and then the little ones will be in danger. So the cat keeps shifting her little ones from one place to another and all that shifting the kittens take up quietly. The little kitten just curls itself up and allows itself to be picked up by the scruff of the neck and taken wherever the mother cat deems fit. Sri Ramakrishna says that this is the nature and condition of the devotee who has surrendered himself to the Lord. Such a devotee does not want to have any say in any matter. He allows the Lord to do what He wants with his life. This is one aspect of Isvarapranidhana—the surrender of one’s self-will or individual will, the surrender of one’s personal desires, especially those in the Tamasic and the Rajasic aspects.

    Normally, we have a demanding nature, an insisting nature, an obstinate nature. And we say, “I want things only in this way”. Here it must be noticed that there is a difference between tenacity and obstinacy. Tenacity is a Sattvic virtue; obstinacy is a Tamasic vice. You will have to know where you are being obstinate and where you are being tenacious. And where you can truly and properly say, “Yes, this is only tenacity”, you can allow it to remain. But if you think it is obstinacy, then you must give it up, you must surrender it. This is one aspect of surrendering the ego principle to the Will of the Lord.

    Metaphysical Implication of Self-surrender

    Secondly, we have been trying to consider right from the very beginning that philosophically speaking, our present state of consciousness is a vitiated state of consciousness. It is not a normal state of consciousness, because the normal state of consciousness is its absolute state. Whereas, our present consciousness is in an abnormal state where it is characterised by error and ignorance, where the truth is completely overshadowed by the cloud of ignorance. Just as the moon hides away the sun completely during a solar eclipse, this metaphysical aberration eclipses our pristine, glorious, natural, eternal state and leaves us in a vitiated state of consciousness, which is a wrong state of consciousness, which is a state of darkness.

    Now, what is the metaphysical anatomy of our state of consciousness? How can we study it? If we want to know the state of our bones after an accident, we take an X-ray picture and hold it against the light and we are able to see the exact condition of the injured or cracked bones inside. The state of the inside anatomy is projected before us in a clear manner so that we understand what exactly to do to bring about a correction, a readjustment, to set the bones straight. In the same way, if we could know the inner structure of the wrong state of consciousness in which we are said to be, if we could see its metaphysical anatomy, how exactly it is, this abnormal vitiated state of consciousness, then we can know how to liberate ourselves from it, how to transcend it and go beyond it and regain the right state of consciousness. Our present state of personality consciousness is a state of consciousness characterised by an awareness of ourselves in relation to the outside world. We are aware of ourselves in relation to other people here in this world, in relation to certain places in this world, in relation to certain conditions in this world, in relation to a certain environment, and in relation to certain things. We know of ourselves only in such connection, in such context. So, our entire awareness of ourselves is in the context of the external universe, is in the context of the external conditions prevailing around us. And here lies the fundamental blunder. Here lies the fundamental mistake. Why is it a blunder? Because of the simple fact which no one can deny that this context is not the correct context. Again, why? Because, this context in only a temporary context. It is a passing context, it is not our real permanent context. The context itself is ever changing and it is also in time. It is thus a purely transitory, impermanent context.

    How can you base your knowledge or awareness of yourself upon such a transitory and impermanent context? That knowledge itself is bound to be wrong, is bound to be erroneous, because, the moment this impermanent context changes or comes to an end, the knowledge based upon that also will fall to the ground. It will prove to be invalid. It will prove to be an error. This is the fundamental blunder that underlies your present knowledge of yourself, your present awareness of yourself. You are making it dependent upon a factor which itself is a two days’ affair, a temporary factor, a passing factor. If you base your awareness upon a temporary factor, then, when that factor itself vanishes, the ground under your feet will be cut down. And down you will go. Your present awareness of yourself is completely related to a context which is itself passing and temporary; and even when it is there, it is not stable but changeful. Therefore, your present awareness is not the correct awareness. You must give it up in favour of the correct awareness. You must detach your awareness from the passing, changeful world outside and attach it, relate it, to the imperishable, everlasting Atman within. This giving up of your present wrong awareness is the second aspect of Isvarapranidhana or self-surrender.

    You know of yourself now in relation to a changeful and impermanent time-space context and you know that this context did not exist before you were born in this world and this context will cease to exist the moment you discard your body. Then where are you, what are you? What truck do you have with this environment and with this framework? This you have to think about. And as long as this state is allowed to prevail, how can you expect superconsciousness to come? How can you realise your Purushahood? That is knowing of yourself in terms of eternity and infinity and a state beyond all these outer factors. In Purushahood you go beyond phenomenal nature, whereas this entire thing which you see in which you are involved is part of phenomenal nature. And your whole consciousness of yourself seems to depend upon this Prakriti only. You know of yourself only in relation to this Prakriti. Whereas, superconsciousness is a state where you have to transcend this, go beyond this, know yourself in essence as you are, and not as you seem to be in the situation in which you are now placed. Now, what are you going to do about it?

    The second Anga, namely, Niyama, was propounded by Patanjali specially with the object of giving a new turn to your consciousness, a new direction upward, a Godward direction to your life, a truthward direction to your life and life-style. The Niyamas take you through a series of processes in bringing about this new turn and the most important step in this direction is Isvarapranidhana. In Isvarapranidhana you are required to completely get rid of your present wrong consciousness based upon the outer context of the temporary phenomenal environment and to develop within you a consciousness where you know of yourself in relation to the Eternal. “What am I? I am the eternal part of God. I live in Him, I dwell in Him, I live and move and have my being in Him. He is my be-all and end-all. He is my source and origin. He is my present support and sustenance. He is my ultimate resting ground. He is my ultimate goal. My entire life is in Him from beginning to end.” This sort of consciousness should be evoked by you from within. You have to remove or uproot your consciousness from its present basis, from its present context in Prakriti and plant it in a new element, in a totally new principle, namely, God, the Cosmic Being, the Satchidananda. “I shall no longer continue to think of myself in terms of this outer world. No! Henceforward I will be aware of myself only as a being rooted in God, as a being dwelling in God, as a being related to the Divine. And I will know of myself only in terms of God, in terms of Eternal Reality, in terms of the Divine Being, in terms of the Universal Soul and certainly not in terms of this passing environmental context.” Such should be your resolve. Such is the essence of Isvarapranidhana so that by the act of Isvarapranidhana you evoke within yourself a new consciousness or a new awareness about yourself which replaces the old awareness which is the very basis of all your suffering, of all your problems. And trying to grow in this new state of consciousness is not a single act. It is a continuous struggle, a continuous attempt, a ceaseless continuing attempt. You must go on being based in that new state of consciousness, again and yet again, because no matter how many times you try to take that position, you will come back into this phenomenal world once again. Again and again you must continue to go back to that new state of consciousness which you are determined will be your real ground, your real atmosphere. So, Isvarapranidhana is a continuous Abhyasa and the Abhyasa should be kept up continuously.

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