Principles and Foundations of Yoga – Yoga alone does not bring you knowledge (Jnana). Only those who practice virtue (dharma) can attain perfection in knowledge. But, without yoga, knowledge is impossible. It is through the practice of virtue (dharma) that perfection in knowledge is possible. So it is stated by teachers that yoga is for the knowledge of truth.
All things depend on something else, that is, they all are supported by one another. Because everything can exist only if there is a foundation. God is the ultimate support of all things and therefore, God is exempt from this necessity. Therefore, yoga also needs support. Trevor Leggett’s introduction to Shankara’s commentary on Yoga Sutras states, “This is yoga presented to the man of the universe, who must first clear and then stabilize his mind against the fury illusory passionate, and free himself from all entanglements.” Patanjali carefully and comprehensively outlines the elements that support the aspirant. He also provides valuable information about how to ensure success in yoga.
The first Yoga Sutra states: Now Yoga Exposition” which means that there must be some way to get to yoga, such as necessary development of consciousness and personality. These prerequisites are also known as Yama or Niyama, the Pillars of Yoga.
Foundations of Yoga: Yama and Niyama
Yama and Niyama are sometimes called the “Ten Commandments of Yoga.” Each of the Five Don’ts (Yama), and Five Do’s(Niyama) are a support, liberating Pillar of Yoga. Yama is self-control in the sense that one can master himself or avoid. It consists of five elements. Niyama is five elements that refer to observances. The complete list of these ten Pillars is found in Yoga Sutras 2,32, and 3.
1) Ahimsa: non-violence, non-injury, harmlessness
2) Satya: Truthfulness, Honesty
3) Asteya: non-stealing, honesty, non-misappropriativeness
4) Brahmacharya – Sexual continence in thought and word, as well as control over all the senses
5) Aparigraha – Non-greediness, non -selfishness and non-acquisitiveness
6) Shaucha: purity, cleanliness
7) Santosha: contentment, peacefulness
8) Tapas are austerity, practical (i.e. result-producing), spiritual discipline
9) Swadhyaya: introspective self-study, spiritual study
10) Ishwarapranidhana – offering one’s life to God
These are all about the innate human powers, or rather the abstinence/observance that will allow us to develop and unleash those powers in order to reach our spiritual perfection, self-realization, and liberation.
These ten observances and restraints (yama, niyama) should not be ignored by any aspiring yogi. Shankara insists that the fundamental qualification for practicing yoga is to follow yama and niyama. (Katha Upanishad 1.2.24) Shankara insists that “following yama and niyama is the basic qualification to practice yoga.” (Katha Upanishad 1.2.24) And the Atharva text says: “It is only in those who have tapas [strong discipline] as well as brahmacharya [chastity] where truth is established. (Prashna Upanishad 1.2.24) And in the Gita, ‘Firm with their vow of brahmacharya. (Bhagavad Gita 6,14) Yama and Niyama are yoga methods in and of themselves. They are not optional aids or adjuncts.
However, yoga practice helps aspiring yogis to learn the necessary yama and Niyama. Therefore, he shouldn’t be discouraged by taking up yoga now. He should wait until he “is ready” or “has cleaned up his act” before he can practice yoga. It is not. No. He will succeed.
Foundations of Yoga: Ahimsa
Vyasa’s commentary on the Yoga Sutras. [Vyasa, one of India’s greatest sages, was the author of the Mahabharata, the Brahma Sutras and the codifier for the Vedas. His explanation of ahimsa begins with: Ahimsa is in no way or at any time to cause injury to any living thing. Shankara adds that ahimsa does not have the ability or in any way to inflict injury on any living being. Shankara adds that this would include injury by thought or word as well as the obvious injury caused by deed. Shankara says: Ahimsa should be practiced in all capacities-body, speech and mind. This principle is illustrated by Jesus’ claim that anger directed at someone is murder (Matthew 5, 21-22), and the Beloved Disciple who declares that hatred is murder. (I John 3:15)
A simple understanding of the law karma (Galatians 6 :7) allows us to see the horrible consequences of murdering a victim. Vyasa describes: The killer takes away the victim’s spirit, then hurts him with a weapon and then takes him from his life. The supports of his life, whether animate or inanimate are weakened because he has taken away another’s spirit. He has caused pain And because he wants to die, he lives in pain While he is wishing for death, the pain must be retributed.
Ahimsa can be interpreted in many different ways. This is normal since Sanskrit, a language that has many meanings for one word, is Sanskrit. Ahimsa does not cause any harm to any living thing, even subhuman ones. Although ahimsa isn’t usually thought of in terms of plant and mineral life; however, it is clear that wanton destruction would be an infringement on ahimsa. This is partly because it could eventually have a negative effect on animal life. It is obvious that violence, injury, and killing are not acceptable for yogis to achieve this ideal. Vyasa points out that all other abstinences, yama, and observances – niyama and yama – are rooted in ahimsa. They prevent harm to ourselves or others by taking negative or neglectful actions.
This is the root of all niyamas, yamas, and they can only be used to bring it to its ultimate, to perfect this [i.e. ahimsa]. They are only taught to help bring this out in all its purity. It is stated that despite taking many vows, the Brahman [God] can only bring out purity in ahimsa if he refrains from harming others by delusion. Shankara clarifies that Vyasa refers to violence-inducing delusion.
Ahimsa requires that you avoid any injury, whether verbal, mental, or physical, in your actions, speech, and thoughts. Verbal and physical violence must also be avoided. This includes any type of malicious or angry damage to or misuse of objects.
Ahimsa refers to a mental state that allows for non-injury. According to Taimni, Ahimsa is a way of being with all living things that recognizes the unity of all life. Shankara says that one can’t do harm if he/she observes the other. By being in a non-functioning state, the ego becomes harmless. Meditation can dissolve it completely. To achieve that inner state, however, we need to work backwards, from outer to inner, and avoid all forms of injury.
We can’t live in this world for more than a minute without injuring many other beings. Every step we take and every breath we take kills tiny organisms. The body fights harmful bacteria and viruses to maintain its health. In the end, ahimsa is only mentally possible. We are still obligated not to inflict as much injury as possible on our outside lives. Paramhansa Yogananda writes in his autobiography that Swami Yukteswar Giri, his Guru, stated that ahimsa means that there is no desire to injure.
Even though it has many implications, aspiring yogis must recognize that ahimsa must be strictly observed. This includes abstaining from any form or degree of eating animal flesh.
Although the topic is absent from almost every commentary on Yoga Sutras that I have read, it is crucial to practice non-injury with regard to the yogi. The yogi must not do anything in thought, word, and deed that causes harm to his body, mind or spirit. This requires a lot of abstentions, especially abstaining meat (which includes eggs and fish), alcohol, nicotine, or any mood-altering substances such as caffeine. It is important to take up whatever benefits your body, mind and spirit may receive. Omission of these substances is a form self-injury. Being a yogi is not an easy task.
Foundations of Yoga: Satya, Truthfulness, Honesty
(Continued explanation of Patanjali’s Yama and Niyama aspects)
Satya is thought and speech that conform to what authority has seen, inferred, or heard. It is important to not be deceitful, inaccurate, or uninformative when speaking to share one’s experience with others. It is the speech that is meant to help all beings. It is not truth [satya] to speak to the harm or injury of beings. It would be wrong.” So Vyasa.
Shankara believes truthfulness is stating what we truly know to be the truth. This can usually be through direct experience or contact with reliable sources. Only the most intuitive person could know that they don’t speak inaccurate things. Such is the goal of the yogi and he must achieve it.
Untruthfulness of any kind puts us out of tune with the fundamental law and causes a mental and emotional strain that prevents us from harmonising and tranquilizing our minds. The sadhaka must practice truthfulness because it is essential for the development of intuition. Untruthfulness in all forms is what stops the functioning of intuition. Taimni speaks out about the personal and practical aspects of satya.
The yogi cannot bend the truth by omitting some truths or “stacking” the deck to create false impressions. According to the Bible, lying is an act of turning truth into lies. Romans 1:25 This can be done by telling the truth but not telling the whole story or by making the listener draw a different conclusion about what we are saying. It is often said that figures do not lie, but liars are numbers. This is also true. Intentionally mixing lies and truth is equally vile. While some liars may tell much truth, not all of it, there are still some who lie. This is especially true when it comes to manipulative efforts in advertising, politics, or religion.
There are many other forms of lying, too. Some people live a lie all their lives. We must ensure that our actions are truthful. Many people believe in God and spiritual principles but don’t live up to their claims. How many people swear and show loyalty, but are actually betrayers? [“This people draws near unto me with its mouth, and honoureth my with their lips; their heart is far away from me.” Matthew 15:8 “And why call me Lord, Lord, but do not believe the things that I say?” [Luke 6;46] Saint John said: “My children, let’s not love in words, nor in tongue, but in deeds and in truth. “(I John 3:18) It is not enough to speak truth; we must also live it.
Honesty is an essential component of truthfulness. This includes paying all our taxes and debts. It is crucial that the yogi earns his living only through honest and truthful means. A serious breach of truthfulness is selling useless or silly items, convincing people they need them, or even selling them without convincing.
It is illegal to try to hide the truth or make excuses that everyone does it. Because “everybody” does it, they are bound to the wheel. This is not what we want for ourselves. You can lie to yourself, to God, and to other people, but you cannot lie to the cosmos. Karma, the law of cause-and-effect, will respond to our pain.
Vyasa believes truthful speech can be informative. This is quite interesting. Vyasa means truthful speech is valuable, practical, and relevant. Even though it is true in the sense that it is not objectively false, babble and grind out verbal trivia are also untruths. Foolish speech is not a way to gain anything. Sometimes people “snow” us with a torrent of words to distract us from our questions. Nearly all college students remember the old trick of filling out any paper with lots of form and little substance in order to fool our teachers into believing that we were knowledgeable about the topic and could make a good point. This is a very lucrative business, especially in advertising.
Truth is not speaking truth to the hurts of others, as satya extends ahimsa. A person can be very ugly but saying “You are ugly” does not make them a virtue. “What is based upon injuring others, although it is free from the three defects (i.e. not deceitful nor inaccurate nor uninformative) does not amount to truth” (Shankara). While we should not intend to cause harm in any way, it is important to be aware of the fact that some people will accuse you of lying if we tell the truth. These people love to call any truth or person they don’t like “rigid,” negative,” discriminatory, “divisive,” “hateful” and so forth. To placate them, we would need to be dishonest or liars. We will have to accept that truthfulness can cause us to “hurt” or offend them. Truth is the truth that is spoken for the benefit of all beings. Non-injury does not refer to a passive quality. It is a positive quality that promotes restoration and healing.
Sometimes silence can be considered untruthful, especially when dealing with truth-haters. Truth is only harmful if it is “only to injure people.” However, truth is only harmful when it “only injures beings.”
Will Cuppy described diplomacy simply as “the fine arts of lying.” It is often. We must ensure that we don’t deceive people under the pretense of diplomacy and tactfulness.
If we want to be honest, self-deception is a favourite with almost all of us at some point.
“Prioritize the welfare of all by speaking for their good.” (Shankara).