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Concept Of Ishwara And Devotion In Yoga

Patanjali throws in a very important word, which is not part of Sankhya philosophy. Yogis believe in Ishwara. ‘Ishwara’ means ‘God’; let us use the word ‘God’ because there is no better word. ‘God’ is the only word we can use, but we can define this word more carefully. That is, the word ‘Ishwara’ means a spiritual being in so far as we are concerned. He who has identified himself with that spiritual Ground is called Ishwara. Why? The term ‘ish’ means ‘to rule’; ‘Ishwara’ means that ‘which rules’. What is that which rules your being, your whole personality? The Ground — it is neither matter nor mind — the spirit rules.

It is pure Consciousness that rules our being. My whole personality depends upon that Consciousness; I may be very strong, very powerful, very intelligent — remove the Consciousness, what happens? I am nobody. Just as when one unplugs a huge machine, what happens? That is what is happening. That is the Ground. Consciousness is the Ground — non-material, non-mental, spiritual. The Spirit, Ishwara, is the ground of our being, that which rules the entire personality.

Raja yoga does not believe in the abstract, absolute, unrelated, transcendental kind of Ishwara —
not Ishwara in that way, but in a relative sense. It is not Brahman but Bhagavan. Therefore, it is the relative aspect of the Absolute, the manifestation from the point of divine Ground, that incarnation, that saint, that sage, who has lifted his consciousness, who has touched this very Ground, who has identified himself with the Ruling Force, is called Ishwara.

By devotion to him one can also attain to that state. Why? How does it help? If you study bhakti
yoga by Swami Vivekananda or bhakti yoga of any school, there you discover that when you are devoted to that, you become that. Devotion is dynamic, be devoted to anything, gradually you
approach it, and you become that.

In all our arts it is devotion that is needed: I must be devoted to that cause. If I want to be a musician, I must be devoted to that art. The more I am devoted, the more I get perfection in that. In any field, if you are devoted, you identify yourself with that.

When you are devoted to any god, that devotion draws you to the divine Ground and you become
one with it. Patanjali tells you that this devotion also helps you to gain purity; it helps you keep your mind away from all other things. When you are devoted to a cause, you come away from everything else.

How do I know that I am devoted to music? When I don’t care for anything else, I just sit at the
instrument and practise; when a thousand people call, I say that I have no time for anything else. That is, when you are devoted to a thing, you come away from every other thing.

So also when you are devoted to God, you come away from all other things. You move away from
them because they do not attract you, they do not bind you, the mind does not go there. The object
of devotion arrests you completely; that is how the great devotees gained illumination, because devotion drew them.