|Hanuman (The Denver Art Museum)|
The name that can be named is not the eternal Name.
- Tao Te Ching 1
Isvara pranidhana, the third part of Kriya Yoga, is a little more difficult to approach and much less tangible than the first two parts (tapas , and svadhyaya). It means surrender and devotion to Isvara. So what is this Isvara? It can mean "Lord" or "God", but it also can be any of the numerous labels we have to describe that undefinable mystery commonly labelled as "God". However, I want to make it clear that a believe in "God" is not a prerequisite for yoga. One can believe in God without surrendering, and one can surrender without believing. I feel that both believers and non-believers alike can find a connection to Isvara pranidhana.
Isvara pranidhana can be compared to what happens after learning to play a musical instrument like the guitar. First you put in a lot of hard work in training the fingers getting them placed on the fretboard and leaning technique to get a clear sound - this takes tapas. Then you have to learn theory, and scales and chords and stuff like that in order to play songs - this involves svadhyaya. Third component is much more subtle: the silence between the notes - this is isvara pranidhana. Music is impossible with out that silence, that space between the notes. In yoga class, it is the pause between the postures that one can really surrender and let go.
In my intersprititual approach I think isvara pranidhana is similar Jesus' call to "follow me"2 and Paul's call to know "the will of God"3. To "follow" someone takes the utmost devotion from the follower, and to know "the will of God" calls for surrender. As a Mennonite I choose to follow Jesus; as a yogi I respect that Jesus is just one of many forms of isvara. There is no virtue for the Christian in believing that Jesus is the one and only way to God for all people. Instead this is just another pitfall of the ego that all spiritual aspirants should work to overcome. The three step process of Kriya Yoga is designed to overcome the pitfalls, or kleshas - this is what we will look at next.
1. Tao Te Ching: A New English Version (Chapter 1). Translated by Stephan Mitchell. Perennial Classics, 1988.
2. Mark 8:34
3. Romans 12:2