Karuna Yoga Vidya Peetham Bangalore

Transforming self by better Understanding of Yama and Niyama

Patanjali’s Astanga Yoga(eight limbs of yoga)

Despite the fact there is a pronounced tendency towards world negation in Classical Yoga, the yogic path advocated by patanjali is not devoid of all social values. Under the heading of yama or ‘restraint’ are subsumed five ethical rules which can be considered the fundamental property of all major religious.

(1) YAMA

  • ahimsa – non – hurting
  • satya – truthfulness
  • asteya – non – stealing
  • brahmacarya – brahmanic conduct
  • aparigraha – non-possessiveness

These constitute the ‘great vow’ (maha–vrata) and in the Yoga Sutra are enjoined to be practised irrespective of place, time, circumstances and one’s particular social status. They are meant to being under control man’s instinctual life, which is seen as the root – cause of his confusion, distress and suffering.

Ahimsa or ‘Non-Hurting

The most fundamental of all moral injunctions is ahimsa or ‘non –hurting’. The usual translation of this Sanskrti term with ‘non – killing’ does not convey its full meaning. It is in fact non – violence in thought and deeds. It is the root of all other ethical norms.

Satya or truthfulness

No virtue is more excellent than truthfulness, no sin greater than (telling) the untruth. Therefore the (virtuous) man should seek refuge in truthfulness with all his heart. Without truthfulness the recitation (of sacred mantras) is useless, without truthfulness austerities are as unfruitful as seed (which falls on) barren land.

Asteya or Non – Stealing

Asteya or ‘non – stealing’ is closely related to non – harming, since the unauthorized appropriation of thing of value from another causes that person pan.

Brahmacarya or Chastity

      Brahmacarya or ‘chastity’ is considered of vital importance in Yoga. It is defined as the abstention from sexual activity, either in deed, thought or verbally. Some authorities, like the Darsana – Upanisad, relax this rule for the married yogi. Sexual stimulation interrupts the continuous directedness of the yogi mind towards the Absolute and feeds his hunger for sensory experience.

Aparigraha or Greedlessness

Aparigraha or ‘greedlessness’ is defined as the non – acceptance of gifts because of the various disadvantages arising out of the possession of material things, such as one’s attachment of them or one’s fear of less.

            Each of these five rules is thought to procure, when mastered, certain powers. Thus, perfect non – harming yields suspension of all enmity in the yogi presence. Perfect truthfulness maker come true whatever he says. Perfect abstinence from theft brings him effortlessly treasures of all kinds. Through perfect abstinence from gifts he acquires insight into the conditions of his former existences and his present birth. And sexual abstinence increases his vigour and vitality.

  1. Niyama – Self – Discipline

           whereas the five rules of yama are designed to harmonize the social relationships of the yogi and purity his mind from the three ‘gates to hell’, viz desire, anger and greed, the five rules of niyama or ‘self –discipline’ are intended to regulate his relationship to the transcendent Reality. The five norms are:

  • sauca – purity
  • samtosa – contentment
  • tapas – austerity
  • svsadhyaya – self – study
  • isvara – pranidhana – devotion to the Lord

Sauca or Purity

Sauca or ‘purity’ covers a wide range of practices. It is cleanliness in the widest possible sense, as bodily and mental purity. It heightens the yogi sensitivity, leads to a certain distance towards one’s body and is accompanied by the desire to avoid close contact with other beings as much as possible. The yogi whole being must become as pure as the eternally undefiled self (purusa).

Samtosa or Contentment

Samtosa or ‘contentment’ results from the yogi detachment from worldly objects. In as much as he cares not for the accumulation of securing of possessions, nor expects anything from anybody he is sufficient unto himself. He rests content with whatever comes his way, his mind being concentrated solely on the supreme good of emancipation. Samtosa is closely on the supreme or ‘equanimity’ as taught in the Bhagavad–Gita. Its highest manifestation is the all – embracing ‘vision of sameness’ (sama – darśana); everywhere and in everything the yogi beholds but he one.

Tapas or Austerity

Tapas or austerity covers such archaic practices as fasting, exposing oneself to extreme heat or cold, standing erect and still for a long time or keeping absolute silence for a certain period of time. These techniques derive from the oldest sutra of yogic experimentation. Tapas must not, however, deteriorate into senseless self – torture. Patanjali states plainly that properly executed, tapas strengthens and perfects the body.

Svadhyaya or Self Study

Svadhyaya or ‘self study’ has a double aspect. It stands for the absorption into the sacred literature and for the simultaneous mental concentration and introversion. It means literally ‘one’s own going into’. It is meditative recitation, either silent or aloud, of the holy texts. Later authorities, like king Bhoja, simply interpret it as ‘recitation of mantras’. Like tapas, ‘self study’ is an archaic element of Yoga.

Isvara –pranidhana or Devotion to the Lord

Isvara –pranidhana or ‘devotion to the Lord’ is defined in the Yoga – Bhāsya, as the ‘offering up of all deeds to the supreme teacher’, which is the idea of Karma yoga as expressed in the Bhagavad – Gita. The supreme teacher is of course the ‘lord’ (isvara-purusa) among the multiplicity of transcendental self monads. Elsewhere in the Yoga – Bhasya (I.23), the word pranidhana is explained as a ‘special love’ through which the yogi gains towards emancipation. The strange concept of the ‘lord’ will be dealt with more dully in the section on theology.


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