Ishvara: Spiritual Unity
If you’ve read up on our Energetic focus of the month, Anahata: The Heart Chakra, you’ll notice one of the deities that’s associated with Anahata is Ishvara. Well, who or what is Ishvara? You may be familiar with this term from studying the niyamas, concepts of yogic spiritual self-training, or as perhaps another word for “God” or “higher power”. Ishvara is known as the Soul of all souls and as Purusha (universal consciousness that exists within us). Ishvara is what remains after our afflictions, karmic impurities and samskaras (our habitual karmic patterns that create feelings, thoughts and attitudes) are stripped away.
Patanjali weaves wisdom and practices to connect with Ishvara throughout the Yoga Sutras, introducing Ishvara in sutras 1.23-1.26.
The following excerpt is from a fantastic little book called Tantra of the Yoga Sutras written by one of my teachers Yogiraj Alan Finger (of ISHTA Yoga) along with Wendy Newton. If you don’t already own this book, I cannot recommend it highly enough as an invaluable resource to dive deeper into the Sutras in a super easy to read and understandable way. You can order it here.
1.23 Isvara pranidhanat va
The experience of samadhi comes when we are able to completely surrender to the knowledge that we are an integral part of the pattern of the universe.
1.24 Klesha karma vipakasayair aparamrstah purusaviesa isvarah
Awareness of ourselves as Spirit is our natural state. Spirit is unaffected by the constant stream of actions, reactions and desires that affect us in everyday life.
1.25 Tatra niratisayam sarvajna bijam
Not limited by the individual mind’s natural fragmentation process, our Spirit contains all knowledge at once. When consciousness is fragmented into form, only a seed of this omniscience remains.
1.26 Sa purvesam api guruh kelenaavacchedat
Spirit is beyond time and form, and it is the source of all teachings and all knowledge.
Ishvara is the divine unity that occurs when we remember that we are not separate from Spirit, or our highest Self. The Gita suggests that by making every action in life an offering, we obtain freedom from the dualities of life and the karma that binds us. This practice is one of the niyamas or spiritual self-training known as Ishvara pranidhana. It’s often translated as surrender to God but really the practice of Ishvara pranidhana takes us out of the “I” perspective that keeps us stuck in the swirling, narrow lens of the ego that ultimately distracts us from our connection to Source or Spirit (or insert your favorite word for higher power here).
Here are the classical teachings that will allow you and your students to connect with Ishvara and the gifts that may come as a result of these practices.
Ways to Connect and Practice:
Chanting OM with full feeling and sincerity allows us to connect with our true nature, Spirit. With this practice, all obstacles created by the mind vanish and we remain inspired by the awareness of our true nature as Spirit. (Sutras 1.28-1.29)
- Grab a mala and chant with your whole heart. When you’re not practicing, wear your mala as a reminder to stay connected with Spirit. The mantras vibration will infuse your mala with its energy so be sure to use your mala for only one mantra. (This is also a fun excuse to have a bunch of different malas).
Implement the niyama Ishavara Pranidhana. Surrender all of your efforts with the understanding that we are all guided by and united as universal consciousness. (Sutra 2.32 and 2.45) There’s a saying, “Let go and let God.” If you trust that the universe has your back you can relax into your living and ultimately experience samadhi, the bliss of connecting with universal consciousness.
- Notice the ways you try to control or wrangle situations in your life. Where can you implement more ease?
- Become aware of physical tension that arises if you feel like you want things to go “your way” or feel like they are not going your way. Can you welcome all opportunities as a chance to grow?
- Energy goes where the mind flows. If you struggle with the idea that there is something greater beyond us, wake up each day with the intention to believe. Eventually your heart and mind will connect with that greatness.