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    The Wider Aspects Of The Process Of Isvarapranidhana

    There is a saying by the great sage Vyasa in the Mahabharata which carries the meaning that two terms or two words constitute bondage and two words constitute liberation. The words “I” and “Mine” constitute the bondage of the individual’s soul. As long as one is caught in this “I” and “Mine” business, his state will be a sorry state. There will be now laughing, now weeping; now up, now down; now very loving, now very hating—all conflict and clash. As long as he is caught in the vice-like grip of the two words “I” and “Mine”, this will be his fate. And what are the twin terms that constitute liberation? “Not I, Not Mine” these two terms constitute liberation, constitute freedom. These two terms give ultimate peace and joy and all problems come to an end. The tribulations of the soul, of the spirit, of the individual being, are over.

    This truth is vividly brought out as a sort of a little symbol in the divine drama of the life of Jesus Christ, when at a certain moment, there came into his heart a wish of his own. He began to think: “Could things turn out in a different way than they seem to be heading towards? Maybe, if the matter could turn out the way I want...” Now, Jesus Christ wanted things to turn out in a particular way. And then, due to this one thought, due to this one desire of his, he had to go through the utmost agony, he had to suffer terrible agony for an entire night so much so he went through hell. The suffering, the torture, the torment he underwent is something that cannot be understood, that cannot be explained, that cannot be described. It is said that when a person is in the grip of intense emotion, perspiration comes. But it is said that out of the body of Jesus, in place of perspiration, blood oozed out. Out of the pores of his skin, blood oozed out; so much was the agony. He perspired not sweat, but blood. You can understand what the intensity of that agony, the extent of that suffering, must have been. But at last he said, “No, no, no. Not I. Let it go. I do not want things in my way. Let it be just as You want it”. The moment he said, “Not my desire, not my wish, but let Your wish triumph”, immediately peace came. The moment he gave up “I” and “Mine”, peace came. All the agony came to an end. The torment subsided. And Jesus Christ gave a deep sigh and got up. His ordeal was over the moment the two things “I” and “Mine” were given up. He rose, freed from the clutches of his terrible ordeal, freed from the torture, from the experience of agony, and he regained his composure, found his peace. This is just a very brief summary of a very, very deep philosophical and metaphysical fact, a mystical truth; and this is precisely the situation which confronts the human individual. And this is precisely the situation which in the past confronted great sages who wanted to help the human individual. This is the situation that confronted the science of Yoga. The science of Yoga was faced with this problem to solve, just as the medical science is faced with the challenge of certain physiological, anatomical problems. So, the Yoga Shastra, the science of Yoga, was faced with this problem of the individual in earthly bondage being caught in the vice-like grip of “I” and “Mine” which are spurious and non-eternal products of the Purusha getting involved in Prakriti.

    If an individual gets selected by some talent hunters to play a part in a dramatic performance or a film, what happens to him? The moment he is taken into the whole set-up, a certain part gets imposed upon him as a result of his getting involved in the dramatic performance, the dramatic situation or the film situation. As a result of this involvement he is obliged to get into a certain role, and he then takes upon himself a new “I” and “Mine” according to the part that has been assigned to him in the story. And so, until he gets out of this situation, he is that being. Day and night he has to think of ways and means of being that being—in his way of thinking, in his expression, in his acting, in his talk, in everything. So, this role gets imposed upon him and it continues as long as his involvement in the entire set-up continues. When the whole thing is finished, when the contract is over, if the man gets disengaged from it and does not foolishly sign into another commitment due to greed for big money, then once again he is what he is. He does not have to get involved in the drama, where maybe he loses his son or his wife or gets stabbed or gets murdered. In the same way, getting involved in Prakriti and all the manifestations and other expressions of Prakriti, what happens is that the individual soul gets caught in a certain plot and a certain part, and the whole life becomes nothing but the playing of that part; and this will continue unless and until he manages somehow or the other to get disengaged from this involvement in Prakriti. So, this was the situation that faced the science of Yoga in trying to come to the aid of the individual soul caught in Samsara, in trying to show him a way out of the false “I” and the false “Mine” that comes out of the false “I”. It is because of all this that the great sage Vyasa gave out the very, very significant saying that two words verily constituted bondage and two words verily constituted liberation. “I” and “Mine” constitute bondage; “Not I” and “Not Mine” constitute liberation.

    And in the light of this discovery, in the light of this knowledge, you can understand the special significance of Isvarapranidhana as the fifth of the five Niyamas that constitute the second Anga of Yoga, at a time when the individual tries by various means and in different aspects, to make his entire life-stream ascend and move Godward. But, the most crucial thing is within the area of his personality consciousness. In the outer areas of cleanliness and holiness and sanctity, all right, you start with Saucha. And in the area of going above desires or getting over desires and gaining a mood of contentment—well, Santosh is there. And then, to try to assert the superiority of the spirit over the flesh, the subtle over the gross, the higher aspects of your personality over the pure sensual personality, Tapas is there. Tapas is countering the urge of the sense appetites, countering the drive of the senses towards sense indulgence and object experience. And now, we go into the realm of the content of the person, his thinking, his feeling, his entire approach to life, his view of life, to bring about a transformation in his view of himself as well as in his view of the entire universe.

    False Life in the Context of the Outer Universe

    Svadhyaya is this powerful method of bringing about a transformation in his Samskaras and Vasanas by creating a background of thought, by giving material for focussing the mind. And this interior process goes into a greater depth when we approach Isvarapranidhana, for the self-awareness in the human being in a state of ignorance and bondage is always an awareness of himself in relation to the context of the outer world, which as we have seen is an invalid context, due to its being only a momentary context. The very basis is something that is erroneous, is something that has a fundamental defect in it, the defect of being temporary and changeful. So, always the Jiva is in a state of flux, in a state of agitation, of disturbance, in a state of greater and greater involvement. If you are a government official, you work in one place for three years, create some friends and all that, and afterwards you are transferred to some other place and there you create some new friends and acquaintances. You now feel your separation from your old acquaintances, start writing letters to them, start sending birthday greetings and presents to them, and this process goes on. It means more and more involvement in Prakriti. As these ramifications of acquaintances, friendships and relationships develop, the Jiva’s consciousness gets scattered more and more. There is no longer that unified consciousness towards the centre of one’s being where the Purushahood abides. In this way, the whole life-pattern of the normal human being as it exists militates against the attainment of Yoga, against the attainment of union with the Supreme Reality. The existing life-pattern militates against it. It is the very contradiction of Yoga. If Yoga is the North Pole, the existing life-pattern of the normal individual is the South Pole. So, this is the fate of the Jiva. And this fate arises out of the most crucial and fundamental error that one’s central awareness of oneself is only in the context of the ever-changing outer universe and the people in it, the things in it, the environment in it, the occurrences and incidents in it. We identify ourselves with occurrences, with events, with people, with things, with situations and with the environment in the outer universe. All these factors go to make up the world for each individual and thus each individual has a world of his own. This is the great problem of consciousness. Unless there is a decisive change in this pattern, a decisive alteration in this pattern, the problem will always continue. So, the wise sage Patanjali has given to us this very important Abhyasa or practice to replace our present ego-consciousness which has arisen in terms of the outer context by a new innermost awareness, a centremost gut feeling, as they say, of ourselves in terms of the Reality. This way you begin to become aware of yourself as a being in terms of something that is beyond the world, in terms of something that transcends time and space, in terms of something that is the very opposite of this ever-changing, temporary appearance that is here present. That something is not a temporary appearance, a changeful appearance, but a permanent Reality. And you begin to feel: “That is the ocean; I am the wave. That is the resplendent Sun of suns, Light of lights; I am a ray of It. This is the Supreme Being, father, mother, parent of all; I am Its eternal child”. In this way you create, within the deepest centre of your being, consciousness of a relationship in terms of a principle that is beyond all phenomenal appearance, in terms of a principle that is unchanging, eternal and real.

    The Real Spirit of Isvarapranidhana—Surrendering the Egoistic Will to God’s Will

    From that time onwards, Yoga takes on a real meaning and significance to you. Until then, it is only a sort of play. It is only a sort of game. It is like going into a club to play carrom or billiards; it is toying with Yoga. There is no depth. There is only an intellectual interest or an urge of the sentiment, but there is no real need being felt for Yoga. “Without Yoga I cannot live. I need Yoga. Yoga is my very life; I cannot exist without Yoga” that sort of feeling is not there. But that sort of feeling starts from the moment you have begun to know what Isvarapranidhana is. When you begin to understand the full implications of Isvarapranidhana and Isvarapranidhana has started to work within your consciousness, then Yoga becomes to you something very, very indispensable, something very, very serious, like food for a hungry man, like breath for a man who is drowned in water. That is the crucial turning point in your relationship to this science of Yoga, in your relationship to Sadhana. From then onwards you cannot live without Sadhana. Sadhana becomes to you your indispensable daily nourishment without which you cannot exist, without which you cannot live and grow. Until then, Yoga remains only an interest of the intellect, a feeling or a sentiment. But, Yoga becomes a spiritual urge within you, a spiritual hunger within you, a spiritual need for you, when you begin to dwell in the spirit of Isvarapranidhana. Then only you can say, “I cannot live without God”. Then Yoga becomes to you like water to a thirsty animal wandering in the desert for days on end with a parched tongue and a body burning with heat. Isvarapranidhana, thus, is the turning point in your attitude, in your feeling, about Yoga. And what this Isvarapranidhana implies is told by Vyasa in the Mahabharata where he says that the two terms “I” and “Mine” constitute bondage and the two terms “Not I” and “Not Mine” constitute liberation. How this pronouncement of Vyasa was exemplified in a significant episode in the life of the holy Master Jesus was also mentioned earlier in this chapter.

    Now, to give another illustration. It is common knowledge that children who have never been disciplined by their parents pose a problem to themselves and to others. Such children have never known rules of conduct. They have never been told by their parents: “This is the rule for everybody; this is the way you must be”. They have never been instructed how long they can be out of the house, within what time they must be back in the evening, how they should behave, how they should mind their studies, how they should keep their bedroom, when they can see T.V., when they should not see T.V., what their table manners should be and so on. If all these rules had been laid down, the very same children would have been altogether of a different type. Children who have been properly trained, when they go to school, pose no problem to their teachers, because they have already been brought up well along a certain pattern. They are well behaved. They know that a certain thing is done and that a certain thing is not done. But, in the case of children who are completely indisciplined, they have a run of the home, they have their own way, they do what they like; and their parents are helpless, they do not take any interest in their children. When these children are sent to school, they always turn out to be the headache of their class teacher. They are a botheration and a disturbance to their class-fellows too. On the whole, wherever they go, in whichever environment they may be placed, they turn out to be problems. Wherever they go, they always go as agitations, as disturbances.

    Now, in the realm of Yoga, in the realm of Niyama, in the realm of Isvarapranidhana also, the same situation prevails; the same truth holds good. You have to say, “O Lord, I place myself entirely in You. Let it not be as I wish, but let it be as Thou wishest. My whole life is in Your hands. I place myself—body, mind and soul—in Your hands”. In this way, the Yogi, the Sadhaka, must learn to abide by the Will of God, must try to find out the Will of God. He must learn to place himself at the feet of God in obedience. He must surrender the inveterate urges of the ego principle and the demanding desire nature of the mind and the turbulent urges of the sense appetites at the feet of God. He should place all of these things under the governance of the Will of the Divine. He should put himself under Divine control, Divine supervision, Divine direction. He has thus to liberate himself.

    How to Know the Will of God?

    Here a problem arises. Theoretically you may say, “O God, I put myself into Your hands”. But, God does not seem to have any direct communication with you. Who is this God under whom you are putting yourself? He does not seem to be a close acquaintance of yours. You do not know Him; you have not seen Him. He does not appear to you and say, “Okay. I am very pleased that you have put yourself under My control. Now, from henceforward, do this, do that”. He does not say that. He is still a concept to you. He is still a remote factor, a concept. So, how are you to successfully and effectively practise Isvarapranidhana? How to? This is a real-life situation. God is remote, God is unknown, God is strange. You do not know Him. You have only a feeling about God. God is only in your inside sentiment, and that sentiment too, is not a very clear, well-defined or vivid sentiment, but just a vague sentiment, an idea. We use the word “God”, but we do not have a tangible sense of the reality of God. When you stand before a temple, you may have, for a moment, a feeling that is an apparently tangible reality; but otherwise, the moment you leave the place, then it is all once again something abstract and abstruse. So, to this abstruse principle, to this abstract being, how can you make surrender? How can you place yourself at its disposal? If you want to place yourself into the keeping of someone, you must know something fairly clear and accurate and concrete and tangible and definite about that person. That is not the case with yourself and God. And yet, you have to practise Isvarapranidhana.

    In this connection, it is necessary to know the various aspects in which a Sadhaka is expected to practise Isvarapranidhana. Our scriptures abound in directions in this regard. The Vedas are regarded as the word of God, the breath of God, and we firmly believe that they contain the manifestation or the expression of the Will of God or what God wants us to do. How God wants us to live our life, how He wants us to know, think, feel and act—again and again this is repeatedly expressed in the scriptures. Therefore, in the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, it is clearly said that if you wish to attain your highest welfare, you must fulfil the dictum of the scriptures. Live your life in accordance with the directions that are given in the scriptures. If you simply say, “I do not care, the scriptures are superstitions”, then, no good will come out of it. Because, knowing the scriptural teachings is the only viable method for us to know the Will of God, because in bygone times, God had come and expressed His Will before great sages and He had made plain what He wished man to do, how He wished man should live his life. So they say that you should try to know the gist of the scriptures and try to make that your guide. That means you surrender your self-will, your egoistical inclinations and urges and desires, to the Srutis, to the Sruti Vakyas. Our life should not be Ashastriya. It should be Shastriya.

    Progressive Training in Effacing the Ego-consciousness

    Again, in our culture, at different stages of our individual life, we were shown personalities under whom we were to put ourselves in obedience and whose bidding we were to do. It is all a question of habituating yourself to a certain pattern, a question of growing into a certain pattern. If the whole pattern at the back is one of indiscipline at home, the same pattern is going to manifest later on in school. But, if the basic background, the foundational pattern, is one of discipline, order and obedience, that is going to manifest later on when you change your field of life. It is necessary, therefore, for a Yogi, for a Sadhaka, to grow up in a certain mould and that training becomes invaluable when he enters the field of Yoga. Therefore, to achieve this end, the Srutis declare: “Matri Devo Bhava, Pitri Devo Bhava”. Because, the earliest part of the individual’s life is lived under the care of one’s parents, one’s father and mother at home. The scriptures say, “Look upon them as your God. Look upon your mother as God, look upon your father as God. Obey them, carry out their words, carry out their instructions. Do not defy them. Put your ego in subordination to your parents”. It must be noted, however, that this scriptural injunction is with reference to ideal conditions. It is with reference to ideal parents, wise parents. It is certainly not with reference to, it cannot be with reference to, drunken and fighting parents who have as their main profession dishonesty, treachery, cupidity, stealing and robbery. No. The scriptural injunction is valid in normal circumstances. So, under normal ideal conditions, “Matri Devo Bhava, Pitri Devo Bhava” is the training, the preliminary training for effecting total surrender to God later on. Thus, Isvarapranidhana starts in the individual right as a child at home, and then, when the area of its activities slightly shifts from the home environment to the school environment, the scriptures say, “Acharya Devo Bhava. Let your God be the being who now awakens your understanding, who brings to you knowledge, who teaches you, who initiates you into the fascinating adventure of knowing the world around you”.

    In a higher dimension of spiritual life, if you take a spiritual teacher, if you learn spiritual things from him, then, bow down to him, place your ego at his feet, humbly question and try to seek knowledge. “Tadviddhi Pranipatena Pariprasnena Sevaya”—this is what the scriptures say. Say, “I do not know, you know. Please teach me”. Accept your ignorance in humility. And do not think that you are all-knowing. Do not doubt: “Oh, what can he teach me?”. For then, the knowledge is closed to you. You can say, “I know, but what I know is little. O Lord, forgive my ignorance. Bear with me for what I do not know. I know so much; I do not know so much. So, for that, I have to approach someone who knows more and serve him”. And all these mean subservience, putting back your ego, putting back the Rajasic self-asserting “I” and accepting your lack of knowledge or lack of adequate knowledge and accepting your position as a learner and the Guru’s position as a teacher. Bowing down to the Guru and serving the Guru is Dasatva. These are all indicative of the wise plan of our ancients. They gave the training right from childhood and into adolescence. The individual was thus given the preliminary training to later on make him fit for the process or the practice of Isvarapranidhana. So, what happens? The very pattern of life which the genius of the Indian culture provided for the individual was so designed as to make the individual gradually trained and equipped for going into Yoga later on and having an effective practice of Isvarapranidhana. So, putting oneself under the obedient tutelage of the scriptures, putting oneself under the obedient tutelage of the parents in the beginning, the teachers in the school later on, and the Guru ultimately, the individual learnt to keep his ego, to keep his “I” and “Mine”, at a safe distance, at a harmless distance.

    The Guru Represents God—His Will is God’s Will

    The Guru, at least, is a tangible being. He is in front of you. He is in concrete shape. Whereas, God is something abstract, intangible, remote; you have no direct dealing with Him. So, you see the Guru as the representative of God and think that God manifests himself as the Guru and think that His Will comes to you through the will of the Guru. And as a true disciple you say, “So far as I am concerned, I have put myself in discipleship at the lotus feet of this Guru and whatever he says is, to me, equal to God’s telling me the same. Therefore I put myself into a state of surrender, into a state of obedience, into a state of devout following of whatever comes from my Guru’s mouth”. So, thus making the Guru the representative of God and putting yourself in a state of total obedience to him, you become well established in the Sadhana of Isvarapranidhana whose main objective is to try to get man freed from the vice-like grip of “I” and “Mine”. That is the whole objective in Isvarapranidhana. Then only real Yoga can start for you. So, the fifth of the Niyamas has this very important and very, very indispensable aim and end in view, namely, that of liberating the struggling Yogi from the grip of the Prakriti which is in his innermost being in the form of this “I” and “Mine” idea, in the form of this false temporary personality consciousness. Over this personality consciousness only all the other things are built up. First the “I” and “Mine”, and then, all the other ramifications, just as the creeper, springing out of its root, spreads all over the ground in all the ten directions, into a big network. In the same way, this “I” and “Mine” form the root thought, form the root concept, form the root aspect of your present personality consciousness, which is your bondage, which is your Prapancha. And that root should be destroyed, if the binding network of Prapancha is to go.

    All this is a glimpse into the wider aspects of the process of Isvarapranidhana and the ways in which one can train oneself in the practice of Isvarapranidhana by practising a similar discipline in other areas of one’s life, where one is concerned with one’s parents, elders, saints and sages, one’s own Guru, one’s own scriptures. That is why sometimes Gurudev used to say that an ideal soldier, if he has had ten or twelve years’ training in the army, is more fit for Yoga than an indisciplined person who has never had army training. This is because in army training, the soldier learns to surrender his ego to his superiors; he learns obedience. In the army, what you say is nowhere; it does not count. You have to implicitly obey, implicitly carry out orders. Gurudev Sivananda used to say that military discipline is very good Yogic discipline, where you swallow your pride, your ego, your own desire, your own fancy. And whatever the order, you have to obey, whether you like it or not, whether you want it or not, whether you wish it or not. There is no question of anything other than implicit obedience. So, Gurudev used to say that the trained soldier was better fitted for Yoga than others who had not undergone such self-effacing discipline. Just as Vivekananda once said that a dacoit might be able to realise God better than a coward or a timid person. A dacoit is daring, fearless. And such fearlessness, such daring, is necessary in order to walk the spiritual path and live the spiritual life. Yoga is not meant for the timid and the fearful. The daring dacoit has no body consciousness. At least, he has less body consciousness than a timid person who is always full of body consciousness. So, Vivekananda said that there was a greater chance for a daring dacoit realising the Atman than a timid person always rooted in the thought of the body. In the same way, Gurudev Sivananda used to say that a soldier who was well disciplined and had training in the army was better fitted for Yoga Sadhana than an undisciplined, wavering type of person.

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