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Yama

by Swami Sivananda

1. Eight Accessories of Yoga

Restraint, religious observances, posture, control of breath, abstraction of Indriyas, concentration, meditation, superconscious state or trance, are the eight accessories of Yoga.

NOTES

The eight accessories of Yoga described above are like the eight steps in the path of Raja Yoga. They all should be practised in the order given. You will not be benefitted if you take to the practice of Asanas, Pranayama without practising Yama, Niyama. Yama and Niyama are the very foundation of Yoga. The practice of Yama gives tremendous ethical power. If you want to take up M.Sc. course, you will have to start from the infant standard, pass through the different stages of first standard, second standard and so on and then enter the college course. Even so, you will have to go stage by stage, step by step, in the Yogic courses also.

2. Benefits of the Accessories

On the destruction of the impurities through the practice of the (eight) accessories of Yoga, arises the light of wisdom, leading to the discriminative knowledge.

NOTES

Yama is the practice of Ahimsa, Satyam, Asteya, Brahmacharya and Aparigraha. Niyama is the observance of the five canons, viz., Saucha, Santosha, Tapas, Svadhyaya and Ishvarapranidhana. By practising Yama and Niyama, the Yogic student purifies his mind. By practising Asana, he gets steadiness and firmness of body. By practising Pranayama, he removes the tossing of mind and destroys Rajas and Tamas. By practising Pratyahara, he gets mental strength, peace of mind and inner life. By the practice of Dharana, he gets Ekagrata (one-pointed) state of mind. By practising Dhyana, he fills the mind with divine thoughts. By practising Samadhi, he destroys the seeds of births and deaths, and gets immortality and Kaivalya, the final beatitude, the highest end of human life.

By the practice of the eight Angas of Yoga, dirt of the mind - Explained in the chapter on 'MIND', (five Klesas) is removed and discrimination of Prakriti-Purusha comes by itself. Then the Yogi attains Kaivalya.

3. What Is Yama

(Among these accessories) abstinence from injury and killing, truthfulness, abstinence from theft or falsehood, continence, abstinence from avariciousness or greed, are the restraints.

NOTES

Yama is the very foundation of Yoga, without which the superstructure of Yoga cannot be built. Practice of Yama is really the practice of Sadachara (right conduct). The noble eightfold path of Buddhists deals with the practice of Yama only. In every religion you will find this to be the foremost. Manu says: Ahimsa satyasteyam sauchamindriya nigraha - harmlessness, truth speaking, refraining from theft, control of senses; this is the essence of Dharma. Great emphasis is given in every chapter of the Gita on the practice of Yama.

Patanjali Maharshi mentions the above five chief items for practice in Yama. According to Sandilya Rishi, the practice of Saucha, Daya, Arjava, Dhriti and Mitahara is included in Yama. Saucha is external and internal purity. Washing the hands, taking baths, etc., are for external purity. Filling the mind with pure divine thoughts is internal purity. Daya is mercy or compassion, in all places, for all creatures. Arjava is the keeping up of balance of mind while doing actions. Dhriti is fortitude or mental power of endurance. Mitahara is moderation in eating.

4. Universal Vows

(These restraints) are the Great Vows, universal, not limited by class, place, time and circumstances.

NOTES

The restraints are Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya and Aparigraha. This Sutra refers to all the above restraints. Some may have certain conditions and exemptions in observing certain restraints. One may have a principle not to kill anything on new moon day. When such conditions and exemptions are laid down, then the practice of restraints are not considered to be perfect. They should not be limited by class, place, time or circumstances. The restraints should be practised at all times, in all places, by one and all, in all circumstances. They should be practised in thought, word and deed.

5. Ahimsa

Abstinence from injuring and killing, being established, all hostilities are given up in the presence of the practitioner.

NOTES

Ahimsa is not causing of pain to any creature in any way, at any time, in thought, word and deed. The other restraints that follow have their origin in this. These are meant to make this restraint perfect. You will not be benefitted much by taking to the practice of the other four restraints without the practice of Ahimsa. Giving up of animal food also comes under Ahimsa, because it is not obtainable without Himsa of some kind.

If you hurt another man or cause another to commit injury to others or even approve of another doing so, it is equally sinful. Action and reaction are equal and opposite. If you injure another, it is bound to react on you whether in this moment or at a future date. You will have to suffer anyhow in return. If you remember this law, you will not commit any injury.

According to Tilak's school of thought, if by the murder of a dacoit thousands of lives could be saved, it is not considered as Himsa. Ahimsa and Himsa are relative terms. Some say that one can defend himself with instruments and use a little violence when he is in danger and this also is not considered to be Himsa. A Sannyasi should not defend himself and use violence even when his life is in jeopardy. English people generally shoot their horses and dogs when they are in acute agony, and when there is no way of relieving their sufferings. They wish that the soul should be immediately freed from the physical body. Motive is the chief factor. It underlies everything. The term 'hostilities are given up' means, that all beings, men, animals, birds and poisonous creatures would approach the practitioner without fear and would do no harm to him. Their hostile nature disappears in them in his presence. The rat and the cat, the snake and the mongoose and others being natural enemies to each other, give up their hostile feelings in the presence of the Yogi who is established in Ahimsa. Lions and tigers can never do any harm to such a Yogi. The wolf and the lamb, the frog and the cobra will play in his presence. Such a Yogi can give definite orders to lions and tigers. They will obey. This is called as Bhuta Siddhi, obtainable by the practice of Ahimsa. The practice of Ahimsa will culminate eventually in realisation of unity and oneness of life, Advaitic consciousness. It will enable one to obtain cosmic love.

6. Satya

Speaking truth, when established, leads (the Yogi) to the bestowal of fruits for actions.

NOTES

Speaking truth is the most important qualification of a Yogi. In Hitopadesa you will find: If truth and one thousand Asvamedha Yajnas are weighed in a balance, truth alone will outweigh. In Mahabharata also we find: The four Vedas on the one side, well studied together with their Angas and Upangas are far outweighed by truth alone on the other. Such is the importance of truth.

God is truth. He can be realised by speaking truth and observing truth in thought, word and deed. Truthfulness, equality, self-control, absence of envious emulation, forgiveness, modesty, endurance, absence of jealousy, charity, thoughtfulness, disinterested philanthropy, self-possession, and unceasing and compassionate harmlessness, are the thirteen forms of truth.

Some persons hold that lie, that is calculated to bring immense good, is regarded as truth. Suppose an unrighteous king has ordered a sage to be hanged without any cause. If the life of this sage can be saved by uttering a falsehood, the falsehood is only truth. These are limited by circumstances. According to Sutra II-31, these restraints should not be limited by class, time, space and circumstances, if one wants to practise them perfectly. By speaking truth always in all circumstances, the Yogi acquires Vak Siddhi. Whatever he thinks or speaks, turns to be true. He can do anything even by mere thought.

7. Asteya

Non-stealing or abstinence from theft, when established, all kinds of wealth approach (the Yogi).

NOTES

The third restraint is in abstaining from theft. The pilfering nature should be completely annihilated. One should be satisfied with what he gets through honest means. Besides actual illegal appropriation, taking away the property or things of others, the very thought of any such gain should not enter the mind. Hoarding money is really theft. You should not keep anything more than the actual necessity. Eating more than what is really necessary is also considered as theft. When a man has powerful Indriyas and uncontrolled mind, he wants many things for his own sensual enjoyment. If he could not get the objects of enjoyment and satisfy his desires, then the pilfering nature enters his mind. By constant thinking, he does the actual theft. Therefore the real cause for theft is too many desires and indisciplined Indriyas. To abstain from theft, one should slowly curb desires and discipline the Indriyas and control the mind. In this Sutra it is assured that when you completely give up the evil habit of theft, then the desired thing and all kinds of wealth will come to you by themselves.

8. Brahmacharya

By the establishment of celibacy, vigour is gained.

NOTES

If semen is preserved by the observance of Brahmacharya, and transmuted into Ojas Sakti, the spiritual and intellectual power will increase. This is the fundamental qualification of an aspirant. Brahmacharya is the most important virtue for Self-realisation. Brahmacharya is purity in thought, word and deed. The very idea of lust should not enter the mind. No Yoga or spiritual progress is possible without continence. In the Gita you will find the importance of Brahmacharya in the IV and VIII chapters. Since I have already given in my book Practice of Brahmacharya, various effective methods for getting established in Brahmacharya, I will pass on to the next Sutra.

9. Aparigraha

When abstinence from greed is established, the knowledge of the how of existence or births comes.

NOTES

Aparigraha is freedom from greed or covetousness. One should not try to keep or try to get in possession anything beyond the very necessaries of life. Gifts from others affect the mind of the receiver. As people are extremely selfish, they make presents with various motives. These motives affect the receiver. The mind of the receiver becomes impure by receiving gifts. A student of Yoga should, therefore, avoid gifts. Attachment, and the anxiety which accompanies attachment, are obstacles to knowledge. Freedom from attachment will result in knowledge of the whole course of our journey. Who was I? How was I? What is this? What shall I be? How shall I be? In this shape comes to him the knowledge of his own experience in the past, present and future. He becomes independent and free. His mind becomes pure. Everything becomes quite clear to him. He gets a memory of past life also.


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