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Brahman, the Absolute formless reality embedded in Maya, shows Himself to us as Isvara, our personal God. However, the existence of Ishvara is not fixed to any specific God or religion, but to divinity as revered to in many cultures. Therefore, Ishwar appears in many names and forms, and we humans are free to connect with Him in our own unique way as long as our approach is rooted in our heart. Honesty and love are the most important ingredients in our spiritual enfoldment.
The non-dualistic philosophy of Vedanta, considers Ishvara as one who is a step below Brahman and yet He is the highest form of divinity that our hearts can comprehend as the God of our inner and our outer world. But, from the perspective of Brahman, there is no creation, and the qualities that we associate with any form of Isvara have nothing to do with Brahman. Brahman is like a piece of gold that has not been formed into something, and Ishvara is like the beautiful golden object made of the raw gold that we offer our reverence to. An aspect of Isvara is within all of us. The is perhaps the reason why we call certain people as “gem of a person”. In reality, we are all gems. It is for use to seek and find our own unique gem within and to make it shine by doing spiritual practice or purification.
For this reason, among one, Vedanta philosophy also proclaims that our own true nature is divine. Therefore, we are embodiments of Isvara. So, Isvarapranidhana is first the practice of honoring our divine Self. We are free to choose the form of practice that best suits our personality like through: Rituals, prayer, japa, meditation… However, honoring God does not just refer to prayers, rituals, or loving God through a daily religious service. It is the total surrender to the divine within. This happens when we empty everything including all impurities that have been stored in our heart and offer them to our divine Self so that His transforming power of purity, greatness and grace can pour in.
The practice of Ishvarpranidhana is the highest form of purification or Kriya Yoga because surrendering to divinity and being God-centered is union with God. Sri Patanjali Maharaj describes Ishvarapranidhana as the fifth and final niyama which is not just an end of existence, but an on-going practice in purification and ashtaanga yoga. We discipline ourselves continuously by practicing Yoga, putting effort to gain knowledge of our higher Self, and trying to eliminate our lower instincts.
The practice of Ishvara Pranidhana transforms our whole being from one who identifies himself or herself with the ego, the attachments, the possessions, and the social status into one who is firmly established in his higher Self.
This state of being helps us burn the negative qualities of our ego in the fire of our divine power and harmonize the agitations of our mind and gain peace within and without. Once our ego is in harmony with our higher Self, we are free to use its energy for unraveling our core qualities rooted in our divinity within. This helps us discover and live our dharma which is an aspect of Ishvara Himself.
From a worldly perspective, Isvarapranidhana can help us develop our positive qualities rooted in Ishvara and also gradually become an example of the divine greatness we all harbor within. Finally, the practice of Ishvarpranidhana also paves our way to Samadhi.