The final niyama is isvara-pranidhana or surrender to the Divine. Traditional translations of the Sutras provide a theistic definition of the Divine but one that transcends doctrine, gender and form. The Divine is described as pure awareness, pure knowing. Our goal, since we are described as sparks of the Divine, is to continue to move toward pure awareness (purusa), enhancing equanimity and diminishing the ego.
The Sutras tell us over and over again that we are so much more than our physical outlines, so much more than our mental chatter. We all have experienced times when we’ve known that to be unutterably true—perhaps when sitting silently or engaged in selfless service or simply being in nature. “Shraddha” is a term used in the Bhagavad Gita to convey the sum total of what we know to be true in our hearts and the Gita asserts that faith, something bigger than ourselves, is part of that.
“Our faith conforms to our nature,
Arjuna. Human nature is made of faith.
A person is what his shraddha is.”
Bhagavad Gita 17:3
The invitation then is to think and act in ways that subjugate the ego and draw us into closer alignment with pure awareness—whether you think about that awareness as the Universe or the Divine or even just your highest Self. In fact author Nicolai Bachman defines isvara-pranidhana as, “the personal practice of deep respect for, admiration of, and faith in a higher, inner knowledge.” Karma is a key bridge builder.
When we focus on generating karma, on performing acts that offer benefit to others with no thought for our reward, we lessen the power of the ego and undo some of samskaras. The Sutras say that for karma to be generated at all, you must have no expectation for yourself (e.g., not even the sense of being appreciated or feeling kind). The karmic act becomes a sort of offering.
All activities, from washing dishes to taking care of others, can be viewed as sacred offerings and in essence become a continuous prayer. In addition, for each action, each thought, the texts convey that it is our intention that is of paramount importance; the outcome will be whatever it will be. That release is the act of surrender.
The Sutras outline that there is more. That we are more. In order to advance to our highest good, we need to get out of our heads and into our hearts. There, we connect with our shraddha, and align our thoughts and actions to advance and celebrate it.