Wikepedia states that “Ishvarapranidhana represents surrender to, and love for, the divinity within the individual in Hinduism and Yoga.” One can interpret Ishvara as God but I’d like to think of it as the Universe, the Absolute, or the energy that is in everything and is everywhere. The idea of surrender is not something we in the West feel very comfortable with and I have, for most of my life, fought against as well. I think one of the biggest lessons I learned in India, however, is Ishvarapranidhana. I learned to let go, to trust the flow of life, to allow my inner voice to guide me, and as Krishna told Arjuna to do in the Bhagavad Gita, relinquish the fruits of my actions. It is the same idea as connecting with the inner Buddha-Nature in Zen and uniting the self with the Supreme Consciousness or the Self in Yoga.
Looking back, I think my first few days at the Aurovalley ashram were filled with anxiety and uncertainty. But eventually I detached myself from the expectations of what an ashram should be or how I should feel at an ashram, and calmed my mind down. At first I didn’t like the Kundalini yoga retreat group that came but once I recognized my ignorance and let go, I was at peace. I saw how dedicated they were and I was grateful that their being at the ashram also brought a family of Sikhs from Amritsar that sang devotional songs like angels during our meditation. I wished for music and I received beautiful sounds in abundance.
I spent most of my time at the ashram in complete silence and rarely spoke to anyone. I wasn’t lonely but I certainly felt alone, keeping to myself and living in a solitary state. Most of the ashramites kept silent as well and at times I felt as if I was the only person at the ashram. One evening a few days before I left the ashram I went to the temple for my evening meditation as usual. By the time I came out of the temple it was already dark outside. I found my shoes right away but as I went to put my right foot into my shoe I felt a soft lump around my toes. I had heard of people finding spiders in their shoes in India so I was a bit afraid, but I reached in and grabbed what was inside. What I found was a small pink flower. Someone had picked a flower and placed it in my shoe while I was meditating. There wasn’t a note or any particular reason I could think of for the flower. I didn’t consciously wish for it but someone showed me the warmth I didn’t know I needed.
On my last day at the ashram I went to say goodbye and to thank the swamiji after satsang. The swamiji asked me if I was returning home. When I told him I had no home and I was traveling indefinitely, he smiled broadly and said, “This is your home. Whenever you want to come back, you come.” It was the kindest thing to say to someone who has left everything and is homeless. His words touched me. He asked me to follow him to the library, and there he gave me some of the books he had written. He repeated again that the ashram was my home and I could feel my eyes tearing up. The swamiji then took off his mala bead bracelet and held it out for me. I tried to refuse but he pressed it into my palm. There was no stopping the tears then. I thanked him for his kindness and he gave me a big hug goodbye. At a place where I felt alone and in a foreign country where I knew no one, I found kindness and an offer of a new home.
In one of the letters Sri Aurobindo sent to his disciples he wrote that if you pray for something specific the Divine will answer you. But if you accept and surrender all, you will receive everything and more. Ishvarapranidhana.