It’s been a couple weeks since I wrote a post on the Yoga Sutras. That’s because the next sutras in line start a conversation that’s maybe just a little over my head. And what conversation would that be? Well, it’s about Ishvara pranidhana or dedication to God.
Now, yoga isn’t a religion, and I’m not a religious person, but Patanjali is basically The Guy when it comes to knowing what yoga is all about, and when he starts talking about God, I have some feelings. The next several sutras are devoted to discussing Isvara pranidhana, dedication to God, and the nature of Isvara or God. Let’s just dip our big toe in today, shall we? I’ll use the translation by Sri Swami Satchidananda for these.
Or [samadhi is attained] by devotion with total dedication to God.
Remember, the samadhi we’re talking about is total absorption in our meditation, a realization of our oneness with all that is. It’s a pretty big concept, but Patanjali says devotion to God will help us get there. If you’re a religious person, this may not seem like a stretch, but if you’re a skeptic, it takes a little more work to accept this idea. Luckily, in sutra 1.24, Patanjali explains what he means by God.
KLEŚA KARMA VIPĀKĀŚAYAIR APARĀMRSTAH PURUSAVIŚA ĪŚVARAH.
Isvara is the supreme Purusha, unaffected by any afflictions, actions, fruits of actions or by any inner impressions of desires.
In other words, Patanjali defines God as the ultimate reality or truth. That gives us atheists a lot of wiggle room because we’re no longer talking about performing rituals for some bearded guy in the sky. We’re talking about living one’s life in devotion to and pursuit of the ultimate truth.
We previously defined Purusha as the true self and part of our own being and consciousness. But here we’re talking about that same purity of consciousness on a universal scale. To my ears, it sounds like Patanjali is saying the universe itself is intelligent and aware in the same way that we are. But that’s just speculation on my part for now.
Some other time, we’ll need to talk in more depth about Purusha and Prakriti and the yogic view of the universe. It’s all very fascinating (although a bit overwhelming at first), but for now, lets say that God is truth, and if we devote ourselves to seeking truth, that will aid us on our path.