As we tap into the fire of tapas and learn more about ourselves through the practice of self-study, we begin to strip away layers of ego. Eventually, we reach a point beyond our intellect, and at that point, we need faith to go any further. This is the fifth niyama, called ishwara-pranidhana. The fifth niyama is cultivation of faith or belief in something greater than our individual selves. Without it, other practices are pointless.
In the yogic tradition, the “something greater” that we revere is not outside of us. It’s an inner knowing that goes beyond the mind and the intellect. It is not us (and this is also important), but we are part of it. We’re connected with our source in the same way a drop of water is not the ocean but is part of the whole body of water. We are part of the whole body of the universe. But we cannot understand this with our minds.
The Fifth Niyama is Faith in A Driving Force
I experience ishwara-pranidhana often as a writer. There are many times as I write when words seem to come through me but are not actually the creations of my mind or my ego. In fact, I’m most productive and can function best when I let my inner knowing do most of the work. Of course, I use what my mind has learned about grammar and punctuation and putting words together so they flow well in sentences, but that alone isn’t enough. In the same way, knowing ourselves (svadhyaya) is not enough. In the great spiritual traditions, we must find ourselves only to lose ourselves. That is, we need to become part of something greater and more profound. that’s what the fifth niyama teaches us. We need to have faith that there is something more.
It’s Not About the Meaning of Life
I recently read an article about searching for meaning in life. The author, a yoga teacher, took the surprising approach that we need to stop doing this! This seemed impossible and empty to me at first. Then I realized she was not saying there is no meaning; she was simply saying we don’t need to spend all our energy trying to figure out or understand exactly what that meaning is.
In other words, we need to practice the fifth niyama. We need to surrender to a higher power and allow that power to work through us. It takes faith to do this because our minds and egos want to understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.
It’s scary to give up control, but as any truly wise person will tell you, the more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t know. With so much that is a mystery, the only choice we have if we want to evolve spiritually is to trust a higher power and become part of that force.
We’re All Connected
The choices we make as individuals affect the entire universe. This is a bold statement, in yoga, we believe we’re all connected. No, we can’t control or change the world on our own, but everything we do contributes, even if only in a tiny way.
Do we want to be part of good or part of evil? Do we want to be love or do we want to be fear? In order to be love—in order to contribute to the greater good—we need to trust it exists and continually seek ways to connect our small selves to that greater truth. Here is where worship, prayer, mantra, meditation, and other forms of spiritual practice are essential. They take us beyond ourselves.