“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”
In these three lines of this famous prayer, we have the philosophy of Yoga , as expressed by Patanjali.
In the Yoga Sutras Patanjali defines the practice of yoga as having 3 parts: Tapas, Svadhyaya and Isvaropranidhana.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,” This is exactly the meaning of Isvaropranidhana, acceptance that we cannot control everything in our lives, whether due to a higher intelligence or just blind fate, we cannot be sure that things will turn out the way we desire, and this includes our Yoga. There is no guarantee that practicing yoga will bring us the results we wish for, so we must be ok with that, it is part of yoga!
“The courage to change the things I can”, this refers to Tapas, which also means refinement, we must have the courage to practice, asana and pranayama, to do what we can do to change ourselves, not to accept the current situation. Just getting on to the mat is an act of courage, any act which aims to make a difference in the world is courageous, it comes from the coure, the heart.
“And wisdom to know the difference.” This is Svadhyaya, the study of oneself in order to bring understanding. Svadhyaya means self reflection, reading texts, talking with others, all of which bring wisdom. Without Svadhyaya it is difficult to realize what to do, we get lost in one way streets, blindly following a path without coming to our own conclusions or understanding as to what, why or where we are travelling.
This short Christian prayer is an example of the universal common sense to be found in Yoga, which is a clear and rational method to achieve mental and physical and social well being, applicable to all people at all times.