The Secret of the Yoga Sutra Book Club Session 6


Sutra 1:23 introduces us to Ishvara pranidhana, or trustful surrender to the Divine within us (Ishvara). This path—the surest and quickest way to attain samadhi—rises on the horizon of our consciousness as the result of our spiritual practice. When we begin to experience and feel gratitude for Ishvara’s unconditional love, trustful surrender spontaneously unfolds in us as love for Ishvara and reliance on Ishvara’s grace. This is the path of bhakti yoga.

What is Ishvara? Sutra 1:24 tells us that Ishvara is untouched by all karmas, samskaras, and afflictions. Ishvara is the Special Purusha, whose intention (sankalpa), manifesting through Prakriti as the life force, sparks creation. (The commentary on this sutra summarizes some of the main concepts of Sankhya philosophy we explored in Week 4.) Sutras 1:25 and 1:26 explain that Ishvara is omniscient, is beyond time and space, and is the teacher of all previous teachers (purvesham api guruh).

Sutras 1:27–1:29 tell us that any mantra imbued with illuminative power is pranava(uniquely new) and is indicative of Ishvara. The repetition (japa) of these mantras illumines our mind, leading to samadhi. Along the way, japa also helps us eliminate the obstacles we encounter on the spiritual path.


  1. What is Ishvara pranidhana, or trustful surrender, as defined in sutra 1:23? What does “surrender” mean in this context?  

  2. What are the four reasons that people turn to Ishvara? Which one leads to trustful surrender? Why?

  3. Sutra 1:24 focuses on Ishvara’s ominpotence and its role both in bringing the universe into existence and helping each of us find our life’s purpose. Why is understanding this dynamic the key to the fruitful practice of bhakti yoga? 

  4. Sutra 1:25 explores the omniscience of Ishvara. One of the key characteristics distinguishing this Special Purusha from ordinary purushas lies in our sense of individuality. What are some of the consequences of this distinction? 

  5. Sutra 1:26 explains that Ishvara is the teacher of all previous teachers and discusses some of the downsides of seeking spirituality in sources other than Ishvara. What bearing does our understanding of this guiding force have on our understanding of sacred texts and external spiritual teachers? 

  6. What is the connection between Ishvara and pranava? What is pranava

  7. What is the effect on our samskaras of meditating on a mantra?  

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