Yoga Sutra 1.23-1.24



Victory over mind and its modifications can also be gained through complete surrender to God, the inner guide. Download 1.23 Audio RecitationAudio Recitation by D.C. Rao, Phd

īśvara ruler; inner controller; guide; knower of past, present, and future; total sum of all powers; locus of all powers; almighty; God

praṇidhānād dative of praṇidhāna pra highest; utmost; supreme ni completely dhāna surrender

option; also; in addition to


The unique being that rests in the body and yet is never touched by afflictions, actions, the results of actions, and the repository of the subtle impressions of actions and their fruits is called īśvaraḥ—God. Download 1.24 Audio RecitationAudio Recitation by D.C. Rao, Phd

kleśa affliction; that which causes suffering karma action; duty; obligation vipāka result; post digestive effect āśayair instrumental case of āśaya, which means repository; treasury; resting ground; intent

aparāmṛṣṭaḥ = a + parāmṛṣṭaḥa not parāmṛṣṭaḥ touched by aparāmṛṣṭaḥ by no means touched by; unstained; unaffected; that which cannot be influenced

puruṣaviśeṣa = puruṣa + viśeṣapura city; body ṣa that which resides in; that which rests in visesa = unique; special; extraordinary; outstanding Thus puruṣa means one who dwells in the city of life; one who resides in our body; one who pervades and permeates our body; one who controls, operates, and witnesses all actions quietly while residing in every aspect of our being; the center of consciousness; soul; the source of, and the locus for, intelligence. The term puruṣaviśeṣa thus refers to extraordinary souls.

īśvaraḥ derived from the verb īśa, which means "to be capable of"; capacity to administer, rule, guide, supervise; capacity to be; capacity to become; capacity to do; capacity to undo.

The Quickest Way to Victory

When we come to understand what God is, it will be clear why surrender is the shortest route to freedom.

Stillness of mind is a prerequisite to knowing oneself, to knowing God, to knowing this world, and to knowing our relationship with this world.

The concept of God in yoga is radically different from the idea of God in the world's religious traditions. In yoga, God is said to be dwelling in us, and in fact is us— even though God is all-pervading, without beginning or end. In other words, God is seen both as pervading all that exists and as residing at the core of our being; indeed God is the core of our being. As a wordby-word analysis of sutra 1.23 shows, the purpose of practicing yoga is (to borrow a phrase from the Bible) to "Be still and know that I am God." Stillness of mind is a prerequisite to knowing oneself, to knowing God, to knowing this world, and to knowing our relationship with this world.

In this sutra, Patanjali tells us that if you wish to still the mind without wasting too much time in the process, then take a shortcut— that is, surrender yourself completely to God. But to make sure that you don’t throw yourself in the hands of a God whom you have created in your own image, Patanjali is careful to outline the attributes of God in the very next sutra: God is not touched by avidya (ignorance), asmita (I-am-ness), raga (attachment), dvesha (aversion), or abhinivesha (fear of death).

Let’s examine each of these terms. The simplest meaning of ignorance is “incomplete knowledge, incomplete understanding.” When Patanjali says that God is untouched by incomplete understanding, he not only means that God has complete knowledge, but also that God cannot be influenced by those who have incomplete knowledge. No one can convince her regarding what is right and what is not right. God is not subject to manipulation. Flowery words of prayer devoid of true feeling make no impression on God. This means that on the path of self-surrender, you must be honest, and you must pray to that Divine One who resides at the core of your being to infuse your heart and mind with truth, inner strength, and courage.

God is not touched by asmita (I-am-ness); therefore, do not make the mistake of identifying the Divine as a Hindu, Egyptian, or Greek god. God is beyond ethnic and religious identity—beyond even planetary identity. Surrender to such a God means to be ready to lose one’s petty personality, for the light of God consumes the darkness of asmita—petty I-am-ness. Surrender to God, therefore, also requires gathering the courage to release your contracted consciousness and embrace a more encompassing consciousness. On the path of self-surrender you aspire to become like God rather than begging God to take part in your petty whims and concerns.

An aspirant whose heart is infused with the power of surrender attains freedom from all fear and doubt here and now, for he is blessed with the living knowledge that darkness can never swallow the light.

God is not driven by sentiment. There is no favoritism in him. He is not attached to any particular form or name. He is not attached to any particular hymns or prayers and cannot be bound by the rules and laws of a particular scripture. He is beyond likes and dislikes, which is why he is referred to as sarva-tantra-svatantra (free from, or not affected by, anyone’s thoughts, feelings, whims, and wishes, including his own). Therefore, God embodies the power of justice in its purest form. Being untouched by attachment (raga) he has no impetus to condemn those who dislike him or to reward those who like him. Surrender to God while in the grip of fear and desire, liking and disliking, is a childish impulse—not an act of devotion.

God is untouched, not only by ignorance, self-identity, attachment, aversion, and fear of death, but also by karmas, the fruits of karmas, and by the realm where the fruits and their results are deposited. Normally we are motivated by our selfish interests when we perform our actions, and consequently we are affected by their positive or negative consequences. Our selfish motives cause our actions to stain our mind long before the actions themselves begin to bear fruit. Selfish motives, therefore, are the cause behind the bondage of karma. Since this unique individual, or special state of consciousness which we call “God,” is not touched by ignorance and the sense of individuality (I-am-ness), God is completely free from all actions and their fruits, and yet God is the source of all actions. The very force of action originates from this divine intelligence. That is why the scriptures say, “He, without doing anything, does all and while doing everything, does nothing.” His actions are defined as the actions of one who is inactive.

Practicing complete surrender to such a Divine Being means to contemplate on her intrinsic attributes; to resolve to cultivate those attributes in oneself; and to make one’s faith in the scriptural proclamation a living reality: “God resides in the hearts of all living beings.” This one light alone shines in all hearts. Adhering to the conviction that we are always under the guidance and protection of this light is called “surrender to God,” regardless of whether or not we know who we are, where we came from, and where we will go. An aspirant whose heart is infused with the power of surrender attains freedom from all fear and doubt here and now, for he is blessed with the living knowledge that darkness can never swallow the light.

About the Teacher

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Pandit Rajmani Tigunait
Spiritual head of the Himalayan Institute, Pandit Tigunait is the successor of Swami Rama of the Himalayas.... Read more