I, 23 Isvara pranidhanat va

The end of spiritual practice
is only attained
by placing oneself
in the Lord.[/b]

M. Stiles

Swami Shyam explains that this sutra is for those sadakhas who place their practice on a higher power rather than on their own efforts. If one has perfect devotion and has surrendered to God, however that is defined by the sadakha, then one can also achieve nirbija samadhi.

Iyengar explains further that pranidanah is the ?surrender of everything: one?s ego, all good and virtuous actions, pains and pleasures, joys and sorrows, elations and miseries to the Universal Soul. Through surrender the aspirant?s ego is effaced, and the grace of the Lord pours down upon him like torrential rain.?

Iyengar, B.K.S., Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. New Delhi, India: Harper Collins Publications India. 1993

Swami Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Buckingham, VA: Integral Yoga Publications. 2004
Swami Shyam, Patanjali Yog Darshan, India: International Meditation Institute, 2001, 3rd. edition.

Stiles, M., Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Boston, MA: Red Wheel/Weiser LLC. 2002.


This sutra is quite easy to understand and I particulary like Mukunda Stiles’ translation: “The end of spiritual practice is only attained by placing onself in the Lord.” It appears that having absolute belief in the Lord/God is the prerequisite for spiritual enlightenment.

Stiles.M. Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC 2002


Actually, by writing ?? only attained by placing oneself in the Lord? Mukunda Stiles offers a somewhat controversial translation of sutra I-23. Most other translators have chosen to render te word ?va? as ?also? / ?or? instead of as ?only?. See, for example, ?Success is also attained by those who surrender to god.? (Osho) or ?Or [supraconcious ecstasy is gained] through devotion to the lord? (Feuerstein). With this single word ?only?, Mukunda Stiles influences all other sutras and choses for a the?stic version in which devotion to Ishvara is paramount. Of course this is completely in line with the introduction in which Patanjali is pictured as a bhakti, a lover of god.


The translation I studied previously (Desikachar) also translates as an ‘also’ rather than an only, submission to ‘God’.


Krishnamacharya taught to each of his students according to their temperment. The comment of or vs. only is given by Srivatsa Ramaswami in his book Yoga for the Three Stages of Life, as quoting Krishnamacharya. Desikachar as K. son was wanting to study the Yoga Sutras with his father but only under the condition that he not use name of God. His father agreed to these conditions and took him through the text free of the son’s concerns. For this i am grateful, that “adapt to the individual” means we change according to what the student can digest. Rather than give what is meant to us personally. This is true humility each teacher learns a great deal by finding this state and expressing it in regards to a sincere student.

Krishnamacharya taught that each of the 4 chapters of the Yoga Sutras were for a different student of Patanjali. Chapter one is a devoitonal student for whom calling out to God is imperative. The archtypes are cited in Desikachar’s Health Healing and Beyond, pages 55-74. namaste mukunda


Interpretation of S1:23 by Chip Hartranft
"Isvara is neither god or purusa in the usual sense but rather a devine mirror toward which people throughout the ages might turn to catch a glimpse of their own true nature and its possibility of complete freedom from prakrtic entrapment. There is no actual access to Isvara itself, even at the point of realization: repeating the vibratory syllable Om to invoke Isvara initiates the yogic process, eventually bringing about a nonconceptual recognition, or jnana, of one’s own purusa. The phrase Patanjali uses, Isvara-Pranidhana, means ‘aligning oneself with Isvara’ - that is, yoking every aspect of conscious life to the perspective of pure awareness."

The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali, Chip Hartranft, Shambala Publications, Boston, Massachusetts, 2003


Language can be inadequate at times since words can never accurately describe an experience. At one point, the word Lord/God elicited such negative responses in me that I am sure that I had dismissed this sutra when I read it the first time ? a devotional practice would be the last thing for me to consider. However, part of my journey has involved a re-examination and search for a personal definition of the words God/Godess, Self. Now these words represent an approximation of a deep, personal experience to me and so this is how I use/interpret it, full well realizing that the word can have different meanings to each individual that reads it.

Perhaps, another way to receive what this sutra has to offer, is to replace the word Lord with whatever inspires you to undertake the journey that you are on and compels you to read and respond to these posts on Spirit?s Path.


What a wonderful discussion. My tutor for teacher training went to great lengths to ensure that her students understood the link between Yoga and Sankhya. We were told that there were theistic Sankhyans but we were guided to understand Isvara as a higher principle, something to aim towards ? the perfect Purusha that was not tempted by prakriti.

Regarding language, I like to use the word Isvara, thereby ensuring any negative responses to the use of Lord or God don’t get the opportunity to arise.


Surrendering to God (whatever, whoever He is) can give you so much freedom.
In moments of despair, it can give you great consolation, and the power to go on.

I don’t know what God is, in fact I was a convinced atheist until I was 22. Than I started a journey, what begun with yoga, continued with Steiners antroposophy … and that made me accept the christian fate, and Jesus as a possibly central figure of human kind’s spiritual history. All this on a mental level, sadly. I am only now ( ten years later) starting to act as I think is right …

But that’s not the theme here. You can surrender to God without knowing Him, or even believing in him. You can surrender to life. That sounds silly. But so many times it gives you that new perspective what shows you how to continue. So many times the odds are in ourselves. Surrendering our ego, our will is not self mutilation (but it ceirtanly feels so). It’s just like when you try something really hard, and suddenly you realise a much easier way and you just start laughing at your former ignorance.

As for those who feel a strong resentment against any kind of surrender … it is good. The stronger the resentment, the sweeter the surrender will feel when you finally get there. The more you give, the more you get back.
And the beauty is that you cannot surrender with your mind, saying I am surrendering. You must feel it from the bottom of your heart. So it cannot be forced, or acted, or wanted. It just happens or not, depending if you are ready.

Thank you all for the enlighting words, you all really gave me something here.


I immediately though of the image Mukunda shared with us. To imagine you are surrounded by your beloved, that everything is their soft embrace. I likw to extend the feeling inside and out until there is no difference


how I translate it, and only my thoughts,
we are always spiritually practing and it has no end, untill we are placed in the lord, so when are we in the lord? is it on this earth, in another realm, after yoga practice? If it is after yoga practice when do we come out of the lord? when we have our first negative thought?
just thoughts


It`s easyly said in the Vedas

  1. Prajanam Brahma (Rig Veda) - Conciousness is Brahman.
  2. Tat Twam asi ( Sama Veda) - That thou Art.
  3. Ayam Atma Brahma (Atharva Veda ) - This Self is Brahman.
  4. Aham Brahma Asmi (Yayur Veda) - I am Brahman.