3 December 2015

yamas & niyamas

It is said, & I do agree....partly...that one "comes to" naturally doing the yamas & niyamas, as a matter of course, in one's spiritual journey. The yamas & niyamas are simple yet profound guidelines for living & being.

It is true that you can come to being the person who does not, for example, harm, nor lie, nor steal, as you progress in spiritual life. (These are some of the yamas) But honestly, not everyone does. And, in reality, the great sage Patanjali gives the yamas & niyamas as the 1st stage of yoga. The very 1st of these is non-violence. So Patanjali is stating that being non-harming, not holding grudges, is the very 1st part of the yoga journey.

When mooladhara chakra "wakes up", according to your own disposition, you will notice, automatically, when you are doing something that is "not right", as in being opposite to the yamas, in particular. Even if you do not know about yamas & niyamas, that inner knowing of right & wrong is strong, with an awakened mooladhara chakra.

You will meet people along the spiritual path who do not embody the ethical principles of life, yet, they profess great knowledge. Such people are usually quite manipulative & greedy, by nature. These days we know this as narcissism, & all the wondrous & lovely things to do with chakras, & the inner realms, will not apply to these people.

The 5 yamas are

  • non-harming, non-violence. This often leads to vegetarianism, & veganism, however if these ways of eating cause you to be unwell, then you would add some animal products to your diet, & practice ahimsa, non-violence, towards yourself, rather than completely towards animals. This also includes not hurting others, by word, deed, nor by suggestion. 
  • truthfulness. As you progress in your spiritual life, you will become more intuitive, more self-aware, & you will realise that there are times to say something, & times not to. You will realise when people are being truthful, or untruthful.
  • non stealing. And if you are, in any way, whether its by stealing someone else's reputation by word, deed, or implication......take care!! This is lying.
  • not wasting our life-force. Gossiping is one of the fastest ways to lose our prana, it deletes it, as does any form of too much chit-chat. This includes those who pontificate about spiritual truths.
  • non-possessiveness/greediness. Once again,,,,,word, deed, suggestion. Trying to present oneself as a Great Being, sits here.

These are guidelines for conduct whereby we restrain ourselves from, for example, hurting/being violent, being untruthful, stealing, frittering away our prana (life-force), & being possessive which goes hand in hand with being selfish. Following the 5 yamas as best as we are able, makes us feel better about ourselves, & improves our relationships. We function better in our relationships & in society. Our whole life improves.

The niyamas come next. They usually go hand in hand with the yamas, & are more about personal self-care. They are:

  • cleanliness of body & mind, which we can achieve in everyday life by eating natural foods & drinking clean water, & in our yogic life we practice the shat karmas (yoga cleansing techniques) for this
  • contentment, which yoga does lead to. We can also learn to accept what has happened in life as part of our dharma, or path, in this life.
  • tapasya which is training the senses. In other words, we are not controlled by our desires & repulsions relating to smell, taste, sight, touch, hearing. The very best way to do this is by closing the eyes & becoming aware of each sense in turn. Hearing is the easiest, so it makes sense to focus more on this, & after, allow time to "sit with yourself", & allow your thoughts to come & go. Visual stuff will also manifest....allow this too, to come & go. This simple practice is best done as you sit for meditation, as it naturally leads into meditation, but can also be done lying, as a relaxation technique. It strengthens the nervous system & we start to become less bothered by sensory input.
  • self-study. Awareness of what is happening. Knowing what we are doing. 
  • Surrender. Yoga naturally leads us to an awe of the Higher Realms of Life, & ultimately, this is what surrender is about. We also, along the way, have to learn not to surrender to the wrong things.

Ideally, one can actually become the embodiment of the yamas & niyamas. This is a tall order & to simplify things, this is how you do it: don't waste your time waiting for them to "just happen" as a result of spiritual evolution. This is just another spiritual fantasy. In spiritual life, as in any other aspect of life, we actually have to do something to get an outcome. The yoga world is full of people saying all the right things, in particular to do with yamas, niyamas, chakras, kundalini, body sheaths. Talk is cheap. Action is the real deal. And with action, things happen, by degrees. Bit by bit, we live the principles of the yamas & niyamas, through a simple method.

So, what do we do? We endeavour, through earnest intent & action, to be a decent human being. The sort who honestly does not try to maim others, by word, nor by implication, nor deed. That's it. Of course we are all human...& so we do all make mistakes, inadvertently do "wrong', say the incorrect thing, be unknowingly insensitive.

However, intent is all-important. When our intent is "good", we can live with ourselves a bit easier when we do accidentally err. And when our intent has this type of purity of intent, we are then quick to make sure that we don't repeat our mistakes.

Sometimes when we go through life, we also have to stand up to other peoples' bad behaviour. I can tell you that it becomes easier to do when one sincerely has the intent of being a decent person. And at other times...we can just 'slip to the side' & remove that person's sphere of influence away from us. It is easier to be decent when we are not interacting with people who leave us feeling disquietened by their attitudes & behaviour. When we support bad behaviour, we are slipping away from the path of the yamas & niyamas.

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