By Michael Ketterhagen, PhD
“When we take one step towards God, God takes 10 steps towards us.”
--Swami Rama of the Himalayas
In the Yoga Tradition, “God” is called “Ishvara.” Ishvara is that all-knowing, all-present, all-powerful Ultimate Reality that is the “essence of pure consciousness.”
Each religious tradition has a hard time putting its mind around that idea of “pure consciousness,” so each tradition labels that Ultimate Reality differently. English-speaking people call it “God,” and often personalize that compassionate consciousness as “Father.”
Islam, using the Arabic word “Allah,” emphasizes the all-knowing transcendent aspect of this Ultimate Reality. In Islam’s understanding, Allah knows who is saved and who isn’t, and is mostly referred to as “The Beneficent One.”
Judaism, again using its own language of Hebrew, calls this Higher Reality, “Yahweh,” which means “I am who am.” These religious followers focus on the all-powerful, saving quality of Ultimate Reality, especially for the chosen ones who follow the Ultimate Law of Life, the Torah.
Christianity, the spiritual child, so to speak, of Judaism, sees this “Yahweh” as an all-present, compassionate Father. Jesus of Nazareth, who was considered the chosen one, the Messiah, and who sent his Spirit into the world was one with the Ultimate “I AM” of creation. He was one with the Universal, All-present Christ.
Returning to the Yoga Tradition and the religions that sprang from its philosophical world, Ishvara is an “all-pervading field of awareness,” the totality of reality. It is totally connected to us and yet is distinct from who we are. The ancient yogis experienced unity with Ishvara and yet experienced Ishvara as a being that “longed” to move with and towards us, drawing us closer and closer, no matter what they did. When they found themselves feeling separate from this Ultimate Reality, Ishvara would “lean into” them and pull them closer and closer to that experience of wholeness, that “all-pervading field of awareness.”
All they needed to do was sit calmly and peacefully in the flow of their own minds and there was “Ishvara.” There was the loving, protective Presence.
That is the same understanding for all the other religious traditions mentioned above. Each says that all we need do is “surrender to God.” In Sanskrit, this is called “ishvara pranidhana.”
During this time in our Earth’s journey, we may often feel overwhelmed. This is the time when “God” comes to us. All that we need do is bring our consciousness to that “pure consciousness.” We just need to “surrender” to the Breath of Life in our bodies and move into the stillness of that breath, without worry, without fear, for as long as we can. Peace will come to us! “God,” “Allah,” “Yahweh,” “Christ,” “Ishvara” will come to us! We will become conscious of Ultimate Reality, whatever we call it, nurturing us.