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    From The Yamas To The Niyamas

    Man’s life on earth is marked by many painful, unpleasant and undesirable experiences. It is characterised by birth, death, old age and disease—Janma, Mrityu, Jara, Vyadhi. There is another classification. Man suffers the Tapa-Traya or the threefold misery Adhi-Daivic, Adhi-Bhautic and Adhyatmic. Firstly, man suffers due to painful experiences caused by circumstances beyond his control in this world—floods, earthquakes, famine, epidemics, tidal waves, drought, wars, pestilence. These miseries are called Adhi-Daivic. Then man suffers due to painful experiences brought about by other forms of life, tiny bacterial forms of life, other insects, other big creatures, other Bhutas. “Bhutas” means other forms of life and these difficulties are termed Adhi-Bhautic. Lastly, man suffers afflictions created by his own interior due to unbridled passion, due to jealousy, anger, hatred, envy, ill-will, inner restlessness, due to too much of desire, unfulfilled desire, frustration, disappointment. Hunger and thirst also trouble him every day. In this way, from within he is tormented. These are called Adhyatmic miseries. And man is constantly trying to ward off these threefold painful experiences.

    Now, the philosophy behind Yoga says that all these miseries are avoidable, that all these things are unnecessary and do not form your real condition, your real native state. It affirms that your native state is all-perfect, that it is a pristine state of peace and joy, absolutely untouched by any of these experiences which form the sum-totality of the mixed experiences of this earth plane, of this terrestrial life. Yoga philosophy declares that you are really a being completely transcending these miserable experiences, untouched by them and unaffected by them. And they have no power to affect you or to alter your pristine state of peace, joy, perfection and fullness. That is what the Yoga philosophy says and then it explains further why you seem to be constantly a partaker of these miserable earthly experiences which contradict your true state of joy, peace, contentment and fullness. It is because you have somehow come into a state of proximity, contact and involvement with the factor known as Prakriti or phenomenal nature. And if you want to regain your pristine state transcending these imperfections, you have to bring about once again a liberation of yourself, a separation of yourself from phenomenal nature. Thus, the objective of Yoga is to separate and isolate the Purusha from Prakriti.

    All Yoga a Preparation for Meditation

    Prakriti is the sum-totality of phenomenal nature. Purusha is the all-perfect spiritual being. Purusha’s involvement with Prakriti has to be resolved once again and the Purusha has to be made independent of Prakriti, enabling him to regain his pristine, isolated state of glorious self-experience. Yoga tries to do just that. And the ultimate process to bring about this separation is the process of deep, intense inward dwelling upon the Purusha, the process of meditating upon the Purusha, by gathering your entire interior, unifying it and fixing it upon the Purusha in a state of intense one-pointed meditation to the exclusion of all other thoughts, to the exclusion of all other ideas. This is the ultimate supreme process of Yoga; this is the objective of Yoga and whatever there is in Yoga. All other training and all other processes of Yoga are nothing but a very scientific practical preparation to ultimately prepare and condition your mind to be able to dwell in this intense, one-pointed way upon the Purusha. Then, what you meditate upon with absolute concentration, that you become. Tadat-maya, they say. This has been proved to be the experience of the previous meditators. We become that which we meditate upon intensely. So they say. If you meditate upon the all-perfect Purusha, who is independent and free from all afflictions, who is independent from Prakriti, you will become that Purusha Himself. That is what Raja Yoga wants you to do. But, the practical sage and master Patanjali knew that if you wanted to go to the roof of the house, you could not take a running jump. By trying that, you would only break your legs. You have to climb a ladder or a stairway. In the same way, if you want to reach the state of absolute mergence with Purusha in your meditation upon the Purusha, if you want to completely enter into that state of Purushahood, you have to go step by step. So, Patanjali formulated and expounded a graded series of practices aimed at ultimately taking you to meditation, at ultimately leading you to superconsciousness, where you can realise your supreme Purushahood, independent of Prakriti, and in a splendid state of spiritual isolation. And these graded steps form the Angas of Yoga, the various limbs of Yoga, commencing from the first until the seventh, which leads on to the eighth and the last, namely, Samadhi.

    Why did Patanjali formulate these various steps? Upon what basis did he formulate these steps? That will be studied in the chapters to follow. It has already been seen how Prakriti is made up of the three Gunas—Tamas, Rajas and Sattva—and how the grossest of these is Tamas. It would be proper to deal with this grossest quality Tamas first, because we are living in the gross world of physical matter.

    Our Present State—A Total Involvement in Tamas

    Our consciousness is involved in Prakriti in the three levels of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. And, upon the grossest level, it is totally involved in the body. We know ourselves only as physical beings, with all the hunger and thirst and the other physical symptoms of our involvement in gross Prakriti. Sleep, carnal passion, and gross animalistic propensities, like the propensity to be violent, cruel and harsh, the propensity to fight, quarrel and cause injury to others, to bring pain and suffering to others, to destroy—all this is part of human nature. Whenever the lid is off, restraint is given up and we see that man is a brute. If two people start quarrelling and they have a difference of opinion and tempers rise, they immediately start hitting each other. One man lifts a stone, the other lifts a stick and they come to blows. There is a police case. Immediately the affair is taken to the police for breach of peace. This happens almost every day in educated human society, in the urban society of educated people holding university degrees. They come to fisticuffs, they come to blows, they abuse each other and they are taken to the police station. So, they generate a rich income for the police department, for lawyers and law courts; and the government gets revenue through judicial stamps and all that. This sort of quarrel and fighting also erupts upon a mass scale. If tempers are aroused, communities clash; there are riots, there is killing, there is pillaging, there is burning, looting. This happens every now and then. So, in spite of man having supposedly advanced and progressed and become cultured and civilised, these things have never stopped. People running amuck, people becoming wild, people behaving like animals in the jungle—these things have never stopped. Take the newspapers of any country, of any nation. What is the pattern of behaviour that human society projects, especially in cities? See? This is the thing. It is a very, very sorry commentary upon civilisation, upon culture, progress, education and advancement. We see that human society is forced and compelled to the necessity of keeping ready a highly sophisticated section of people in order to keep this violent element in man suppressed. And that is the police force in each country. There is no country, no government, without a police force, heavily armed and ready to use violence upon its own population. Every city, every town has got its own police force that is called out immediately when people get out of hand; and so many times during the year they get out of hand. The police have to rush to the trouble spots in order to put down violence by legalised authorised violence; and upon the international scene also, this is the same thing prevailing. Great nations, though they are human, arm themselves to their teeth more than any other jungle animal created by God is armed. The jungle animals have got claws and hands, have got two weapons, of defence and of offence. But civilised man has got two hundred. How many kinds of guns, machine-guns, rifles, revolvers, grenades, bombs and artillery! O God!! How many devices, what a variety of ways in which man has fashioned weapons of assault and destruction and complete taking of life! It has no end. Every day, highly-paid scientists are working in the laboratories to devise newer and newer ways of killing brother human beings, of destroying, of injuring. How can we reconcile this cult, this civilisation, this education with progress and advancement? We do not know. But Patanjali knew that the grossest aspect of Prakriti’s manifestation in human nature was in the form of these crude propensities—propensities that we normally attribute only to the animals in the jungle. But these propensities are present in the human individual a hundred times more than in the wild animal. As long as there is some sort of a restraint or opposition to the violent propensity in man by way of environment or circumstance or the social atmosphere, or due to other curatives, or due to fear of punishment or retaliation, the propensity lies inside. But, suddenly, if a man is aroused in temper, he goes out of control and he commits murder, does anything, shoots, kills and loots. So we find that this violent nature is an ever-present part of the human make-up. And Patanjali said that as long as this was allowed to prevail, realising your perfect spiritual nature would be a far, far cry.

    How the Five Vows Free Man from Tamasic Bondage

    So, start in the bottom-most part, the basic part, where your involvement in Prakriti is an involvement in the grossest aspect of Prakriti, namely, the brute aspect. It is for this purpose that Patanjali has laid down the five vows, the five Mahavratas, the five Pratijnas. And the taking of the five vows constitutes the first Anga of Yoga, called Yama, where your first liberation is worked out, which is a liberation from the grossest aspect of Prakriti. You liberate yourself from the propensity to cruelty, injury and destruction by sticking to the vow of Ahimsa. You liberate yourself from the gross carnal instinct, the brute passion, lust, by adhering to the vow of Brahmacharya. You liberate yourself from the human tendency to conceal things by untruth and dishonesty, by sticking to Satyam or truth. Even if one of these things is practised, the other virtues will automatically gather around you. If you know that a certain line of conduct is wrong and if you have found yourself indulging in a wrong line of conduct and realise that you have to pay the consequences, that some punishment or some chastisement may come upon you, then you want to conceal your wrong doing. You tell yourself that should someone question you and you have to say something in answer, you will tell a lie to hide your wrong action. But, if you bind yourself to truth, to the vow that whatever happens a false word will not issue forth from your tongue, if you resolve and determine that no matter what may come, you will stick to truth and say only that which is the truth, then, automatically you will be compelled or obliged to give up all lines of conduct which you know are not right, because should you indulge in such wrong conduct and should someone question you, you cannot conceal it, you will have to confess and reveal it, because of your having taken the vow of truthfulness. “If I do something which is very bad and wrong, ignoble and unworthy, I have to say it. I dare not say it. Therefore I cannot afford to engage in any act which I do not wish to confess or admit.” That will be your line of argument. Therefore, sticking to truth automatically helps you to free yourself from all kinds of unworthy actions or activities. That is one power of truth.

    So, Gurudev Sivananda used to say that if you adopt even one out of the three Yamas of Ahimsa, Satyam and Brahmacharya, the other virtues will automatically follow. Because, if you stick to one, you cannot break the others. Automatically you have to stick to the others also. If you stick to truth, Brahmacharya and Ahimsa will automatically follow. If you stick to Brahmacharya, Ahimsa and truth will automatically follow. If you stick to Ahimsa, Satyam and Brahmacharya will automatically become part of you. So, any one of them includes the other two. That is how Gurudev used to say.

    And so, the first Anga of Yoga is aimed at liberating you, who are the Purusha, but at the moment involved in Prakriti, from the grossest aspect of Prakriti, as expressed and manifest through the Tamo-Guna. This is achieved through the adopting of the five great universal vows, universal because these vows are global in their applicability and common to all human culture, and these vows are therefore to be adhered to by all human beings. They are not meant for any particular section of humanity only. And these vows are absolute. That is to say, they are not dependent upon any particular circumstance or place or time or condition. You are supposed to adhere to them—they apply to your conduct—no matter where you may be, at what time and place, and in what condition or circumstance. There is no justification for being excused from these vows under the plea of some exceptional situation or exceptional condition or exceptional juncture of time or place. These vows are supposed to be adhered to and fulfilled at all times, in all places, under all conditions, in all circumstances. This is made clear by the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali that there is no exception to these vows. There are no special circumstances where you could afford to go slow on them or by easy. They are absolute. They must be adhered to under all circumstances.

    Now, inasmuch as these vows have the effect of preventing you from a certain pattern of unworthy conduct, objectionable conduct, conduct which will work against the welfare of your fellow-beings, bring about harm to others, destroy the welfare of others, and in that process, also bring untold harm to yourself spiritually and ethically, this Anga of Yoga seems to be largely negative in its objective as well as effect. It only has the effect of holding you back, or preventing you, from indulging in a pattern of conduct that is harmful to you as well as to others. It only prevents you from going down to a very gross, low level of living and acting, but it does not add something on to you.

    Therefore, in the next Anga of Yoga, Maharshi Patanjali wants you to actually progress in a specific self-chosen direction, namely, in the direction of attaining to a consciousness of your all-perfect Purushahood. It is not enough to stop from going in the downward direction. You have now to get busy and start positively moving in the upward direction, in the opposite direction. To this end, the great sage formulated the second Anga and expounded it as the five great Niyamas or obligatory observances. And just as Patanjali chose Ahimsa as the first of the five Yamas for a very, very rational and logical reason, namely, to counter the Tamo-Guna manifest in human nature as the animal propensity to harm others, he chose Saucha or purity as the first of the Niyamas for a very, very important reason. And that reason is to counter the Rajo-Guna manifest in human nature.

    Saucha—A Step in the Positive, Upward Direction

    The Rajo-Guna is in the entire human nature from the level of the mind, Prana and the senses. The salient feature of Rajas is desire, passionate desire, Kamana. And desires always are hitched up to one or the other senses. So, desires are sensual so far as they are still involved in the physical body and the body nature. You are a sense-bound creature and the normal tendency of the senses, the propensity of the senses, is towards indulgence, because the senses are unrestrained. They call this propensity towards indulgence Vishaya-Bhoga, the Pravritti towards Bhoga. Each sense wants to indulge in its respective sense-object. The tongue always runs after tasty things, the nose always runs after nice smells, the ear always wants to listen to things which are pleasing to it. The eye always wants to satisfy itself by looking at sights which satisfy the inner desires, and the sense of feeling always craves for sensuous feeling, sensuous touch. This is a great problem of the human being, no matter how educated and no matter how refined. Man is bound by the senses which constantly move towards sense-indulgence in the respective sense-objects and it is very difficult to restrain this movement of the senses unless you take up with a vengeance the practice of the specific Abhyasa of cleanliness, both inner and outer. You must boldly say, “I will never allow anything that is unclean to be part of me, within and without”. By the development of the habit of cleanliness, you not only begin to abhor anything that is unclean outwardly, but you also gradually begin to develop repugnance towards anything unclean that may be in your mind or may try to gain entry into your mind. And, together with the development of this habit of not wanting anything that is unclean, at the physical body level as well as at the level of the mind, you begin to develop certain distinct standards of what is clean and what is unclean. That comes about as the result of your Satsanga with your Guru, as the result of sitting and listening to discourses regarding what is good and what is bad, what is clean and what is unclean. It also comes about as the result of a study of the scriptures. Thus you develop certain distinct ideas as to what is clean and what is unclean through a process of spiritual education.

    Happily, once upon a time in India, this spiritual education was imparted to the individual right at the very foundational stage of one’s life. In those times, when the boy was about eight or ten years old, he was taken to the ideal atmosphere of a Gurukula and left there with the teacher and the teacher’s family, away from all the impure atmosphere of towns and cities, of drinking and gambling and profligacy and all the multifarious things of sensual life. The young boys were taken away from the corrupt city atmosphere, and in the serene atmosphere of solitude, of sylvan jungle surroundings, completely dedicated to one pattern of living—the boys never saw any contradictory pattern of living there—and nurtured in the ideal surroundings, they began to formulate their own norms of conduct and behaviour, they began to form their own ideas and standards of what was pure and what was impure, what was clean and what was unclean, what was worthy and what was unworthy, what was noble and what was ignoble, what was to be accepted and what was to be turned down with contempt. Thus the boys of the Gurukula grew up. And based upon the norms and standards developed thus, the Gurukula boys began to practise Saucha, inner and external cleanliness. You can very well imagine what it would have done to the psyche of the growing young individual when brought up thus in the atmosphere and background of an idealistic outlook impinging all the time on his own thoughts, feelings, behaviour, conduct and character. So, the boy grew up into a person of Sadachar. He became a person grounded in lofty virtues, grounded in a sublime standard of thinking and feeling and expressing oneself. This was the basis of Yoga. Yoga thus directed the normal life-style of the individual, the behaviour of the individual, towards an ideal; Yoga gave an ascending trend, an upward trend to the daily behaviour and conduct of the individual. This was the first step. In his conduct, the student became a Sadachari. He became a person of lofty moral and ethical conduct, noble character, shining with virtue. He was so much filled with this factor of an urge towards idealism that there came into the face of this young student a glow and a lustre. And, referring to those students, the scriptures coined a unique term—Agni-Manavaka. ‘Agni-Manavaka’ means fiery youngsters. ‘Manavaka’ means a student, a young student, ‘Agni’ means a thing that has a glow, a thing that has a lustre and a halo. So much of lustre was created in the student by his lofty standard of conduct and high thinking, noble thinking, that the student shone. This was an indication or hint to the state he was ultimately to attain, when having reached his Purushahood, he would shine with Brahmic aura, Brahma-Tejas. Later on in his Yogic career, the young man became Tejasvi and Ojasvi, but even in the beginning itself, the student’s ideal conduct and character brought about in his appearance a certain lustre, a certain radiance. This was the result of Saucha or purity.

    So, Saucha is both external and internal. The ultimate aim is to shine with divinity by attaining once again one’s independent Purushahood. That is the philosophical ultimate. The psychological preparation for this ultimate achievement, the psychological groundwork for this ultimate achievement, is Saucha. In Saucha the young Yogi roots himself so that ultimately it leads him to that supreme experience where he realises himself to be the Nitya-Suddha, Nirmala Atma-Tattva.

    Philosophy, Phychology and Practice of Yoga -- | Preface | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 |17 | 18 | 19

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