An English translation of isvara pranidhana would be ‘surrender to the Divine’. The Divine can be described as pure awareness or pure knowing. The last niyama is about letting go of control and surrender to, and love for, the divinity within you. Patanjali defines ‘isvara’ as ‘lord’ and the word ‘pranidhana’ refers to ‘giving up’. Thus, isvara pranidhana can be literally translated into ‘giving up or surrendering the fruits of all your actions to God’. So how do you do that?
The simple advice can be to let go and to stop clinging to the ego, instead trust in the Universe. The ego is the source of frustration, dissatisfaction and tension. This means in practice that you aim to think and act in ways that undermine your ego and bring you closer to pure awareness. It requires that you get out of your head and into your heart. In fact, you can use any activity – from cleaning the toilet to cooking dinner – as a prayer or offering. For each action, it is the intention that is most important. You let go of the outcome and you surrender to the actual action while offering all your work and devotion to the Universe or God.
Another way to practice isvara pranidhana is to completely surrender to the reality of life exactly as it is. This means embracing your life with all its aspects and details with gratefulness. It includes seeing the good in all people, things, conditions and circumstances, even those challenging moments that are associated with pain and loss. Your aim is to act with kindness, compassion and love in all aspects of your life.
Surrendering to your spiritual truth is another approach of interpreting isvara pranidhana. Through intimate listening to your inner voice, you begin to establish a relationship with your inner guidance, your truth. And by means of releasing your fears and hopes for the future, you can be genuinely present in the moment. This requires that you give up your illusion that you know best, instead accept and trust that the way life unfolds may be part of a pattern too complex and beautiful to understand.
Practicing isvara pranidhana means that all your actions – whether body, mind or spirit – are guided by unconditional love and an open heart full of kindness and compassion. It asks you to develop a profound trust in the goodness of the Universe and of all existence within and beyond our limited understanding and existence. So in short: surrender, love and trust.