Surrender to God brings perfection in samadhi — Yoga Sutras
The nature of the universe is such that the ends can never justify the means. On the contrary, the means always determine the end. — Aldous Huxley
Isvarapranidhana is the fifth of the five niyamas (observances toward our selves). It is about the quality of intention that we bring to our actions. This quality of awareness can be quite variable; sometimes we are busy with activities and yet hardly conscious of what we are doing, and sometimes we are aggressively focused on our actions as we fiercely work toward our goals. With isvarapranidhana, we aim to balance out these extreme tendencies.
“…if we concentrate more on the quality of our steps along the way than on the goal itself, then we also avoid being disappointed if we perhaps cannot attain the exact goal that we had set for ourselves. Paying more attention to the spirit in which we act and looking less to the results our actions may bring us – this is the meaning of isvarapranidhana.” ~ TKV Desikachar, Heart of Yoga
In his book The Heart of Yoga, TKV Desikachar says “Our normal course of action is first to decide on a goal and then, bearing it in mind, start working toward it.” There is a lot of value in having goals for ourselves. Often, however, we can cling to our specific vision of our goal, and not recognize other options that are open to us. We run the risk of missing any happy accidents or discoveries along the way. When we allow our minds and spirits to open up to the limitless possibilities around us, we are able to soften habits of excessive resistance and control. Ideally, we can set forth toward our goals by focusing our attention of the effort and intention of each step along the way, and leaving the outcome open to be discovered later.
“Isvarapranidhana is a statement of the means and the ends. Surrender to God is the means; samadhi is the end. In samadhi there is no longer a distinction between the person who sees and what is being seen. Samadhi is union with the divine, a deep-rooted knowledge that I am that, you are that, all is that, and that is all there is. In samadhi, the separation between ourselves and the universe dissolves. This is what is meant by surrender to God. Many of my students find this outlandish. They come from this or that religious tradition, this or that experience, and what they have learned makes it impossible for them to believe that the God of their understanding and samadhi have anything to do with each other. If you are alienated by the God of your childhood, try coming up with another God.” — Rolf Gates, Meditations from the Mat
And there are so many choices! Looking at the vast texts of all the different religious traditions, you can find a God that suits whatever you want to believe in.
But why anyone would want to believe in a God that makes them feel alienated, well, I don’t know. For me, I like being able to go in my garden and talk to the flowers, or go to the ocean and talk with the surf. One time I was sitting in my garden thinking how ungrateful the hummingbirds were for all the flowers I grew for them, and one of them came over and hovered a foot from my face for almost a full minute. Boy, I believed in God being everywhere that day! And of course I have great conversations with my golden retrievers. Yup, God is everywhere…