Ishwara-pranidha and what it means to me

Ho Hui Lin 200hr Weekend class Jan to May 2014

I greeted my boyfriend with: “Hello aggressive boyfriend!” And in reply he said jokingly: “Hui Lin, you need to get rid of that aggressive fish!”

Let me explain. I have been telling my boyfriend that he is an aggressive person, and the reason for his response that day was because I had just told him about stereotypes, and how 3 thoughts (fishes) can form an idea. Even though I claim to know my boyfriend well enough, is he really an aggressive person? What if his family sees him in a different light? Who is right then, and who is to judge?

I find it funny how when an idea forms in your head, things that happen, even subtle ones seem to reinforce and support that idea. And to things that contradict our ideas, we tend to term them as outliers, or do not even notice. In the above case, once I established that my boyfriend was “aggressive”, it seemed like he was stuck with that label.

To me, Ishwara-pranidha, one of the 5 Niyamas of Ashtanga, means surrendering to the truth. This means acknowledging that we do not know the truth, hence who are we to judge? In our daily lives, we pass judgment to people and items around us, and sometimes influence others to think the same way. As humans, we do have thoughts that come naturally and we would like to share it. But I feel it would help if we keep in mind – what we know may not be the truth.

Another example illustrates this point further. A new girl had joined my team at work, and as we did not interact much, I had not spoken to her. During our Chinese New Year lunch, she seemed very serious and did not talk or laugh. I felt that she was rather anti-social, and hesitated to make her feel welcome in our team. Many thoughts were running through my head – “She seems to have some attitude problem, if she does not like talking, maybe she is really quiet by nature.” I put a label on her unconsciously. Later on, both of us happened to join the same 2 day training, and she seemed like a completely different person! She was friendly, outgoing and rather fluent in talking. I liked her. When we were leaving office together, she then shared with me that on the day of the Chinese New Year lunch, her father had just undergone an operation to amputate his leg due to diabetes. That was why she was so quiet during lunch. It was a moment of realization for me, and I realized how quickly I jump to conclusions!

By taking a step back in our thoughts and celebrating life the way it is, we are in fact one step closer to the practice of Ishwara-pranidha. Each thought is independent to the other, and we should expect to be surprised and humbled at every stage of our life when things turn out different from what we think it should be. That is the fun of life!