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. At that point, we need faith in a higher power to go further. Faith in a higher power is the fifth niyama, ishvara-pranidhana in Sanskrit. Without this faith or belief in something greater than our individual selves, other practices are pointless.
In the yogic tradition, the higher power is not outside of us. It’s an inner knowing that goes beyond the mind and intellect. It is not us (this is 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.
Faith in a Higher Power is Faith in A Driving Force
I experience ishvara-pranidhana often as a writer. Many times, words seem to come through me rather than from me. 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 knows about grammar and punctuation and putting words together so they flow well in sentences, but that isn’t enough. In the same way, knowing ourselves (svadhyaya) is not enough. In the great spiritual traditions, we find ourselves only to lose ourselves so we can become part of something greater and more profound. that’s what the fifth niyama teaches us—to have faith that there is something more.
Faith in a Higher Power Is 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 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 wise person will tell you, the more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t know. With so much mystery, the only choice we have if we want to evolve spiritually is to put our faith in a higher power and become part of that mysterious force.
We’re All Connected
The choices we make as individuals affect the entire universe. This is a bold statement, but 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 small 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. Worship, prayer, mantra, meditation, and other forms of spiritual practice are essential tools that take us beyond ourselves.
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Hi, I’m Maria. I created Yoga Circles for you if you want to delve more deeply into the philosophy, practice, and life-changing effects of yoga. I’m also a writer and editor who helps small business owners, wellness professionals, teachers, and authors publish books, develop marketing strategies, and connect with readers, clients, and students. Visit my website (link below) for more about that. I’d love to hear from you!