Yama and Niyama
These terms are translated as “effort and relaxation” or “exertion and rest”. This stage consists in mastering fundamental ethical and psycho-hygienic rules of the spiritual seeker’s life.
The first rule is called ahimsa — non-harming. It means trying not to injure, as far as possible, any living being in deeds, words, thoughts or emotions.
This also includes the principles of ethically correct nutrition that we have discussed above and, what is no less important, getting rid of coarse emotions, which are the result of ill thoughts and often conduct to rude words and actions.
We can make ethical mistakes, including crimes, as a result of either our ignorance, lack of understanding of the universal order and of our place and role in it, or as a result of our indulging in the emotions of spite, condemnation, jealousy, resentment, anxiety, despair, fear, etc, which are manifestations of the “sticking out” lower self.
Destroying the lower self by merging it into the universal Higher Self of the Creator is one of the important tasks on the spiritual Path. This kind of work begins with the inner fight against all vicious manifestations of the lower self — first of all, those existing in the field of emotional reactions.
Repentance is an important tool in accomplishing this task — sincere repentance for ethical mistakes that one has committed, accompanied by a mental analysis of the corresponding problematic situations and finding the best ways of resolving them.
Many people do not grasp the essence of the principle of non-condemnation. Condemnation is an emotion, a form of anger. Identification and discussion of one’s mistakes, as well as an intellectual analysis of them are not condemnation at all. An analysis is necessary since it helps us not to repeat someone else’s mistakes. But while performing this type of analysis, one should be free from any kind of the emotions of anger.
Emotions are states of the energy of the consciousness. They emanate beyond the body, thus creating energy environment for people and other beings around us. People living in coarse emotional states produce a destructive and pathogenic environment for those around them. Communicating with such people can cause severe energy lesions and diseases, especially in children.
But people who live in subtle states of love make everything around their bodies healthy, spiritualized, and elevated; they heal with their mere presence. And the stronger their love and more powerful the consciousness is — the larger space they spiritualize — up to the planetary scale.
A spiritual seeker can achieve full control over the emotional sphere only through working with the chakras and other energy structures and then through merging (as a consciousness) with the Divine Consciousness. But he or she should start making efforts right from the beginning of the Path.
The second rule of yama is sathya — truthfulness, purity, honesty.
However, there are cases when we cannot tell the truth, because this will harm someone. In such instances it is better to evade answering the question…
But if we lie, we become sinners before God and captives to our lies before people, since we will have to apprehend a disclosure and to live in anxiety, instead of the state of steadfast pure peace.
The third rule is asteya — non-covetousness, renunciation of the desire to possess something that belongs to someone else. We have to be totally concentrated on the cognition of God! Craving for material objects, especially those belonging to others, is an utter perversion of the true orientation of the consciousness, which at the same time leads to harming other people.
The fourth rule is aparigraha — limiting possessions to necessary things. Unnecessary things only distract our attention from the essential: from aspiration to Mergence with the Creator.
Brahmacharya — the fifth rule — literally means “walking the path of Brahman (Holy Spirit)”. This implies renunciation of earthly desires (except for attending to the basic needs of the body) and redirection of the attention towards God, searching for Him first with the mind and then — with the developed consciousness.
This rule implies sincere renunciation of seeking earthly fame and honors, of accumulating the things that are unnecessary on the spiritual Path, and renunciation of the embellishment of the body.
Some people interpret the Brahmacharya rule only as celibacy (sexual abstinence). But this is too narrow of an interpretation. Besides that, sexual continence is unnecessary provided that one regards sex as a spiritual act. On the contrary, celibacy can lead to adenoma of prostate in men, energetic “fading” of women, and can result in the consciousness growing “callous” — in both. It really does not contribute to one’s progress on the spiritual Path. What is important is not abstaining from sex, but freeing oneself from being obsessed with it and from sexual contacts with inadequate partners.
The sixth rule is saucha — maintaining purity of the body. The main thing here is to wash the whole body with warm or hot water and with soap, daily if possible. This cleans the skin from deposits of perspiration salts, which upset the normal functioning of the whole organism. Let us recall what we feel after taking a good bath, especially if we have not washed the body for a long time! This is the state of comfort that we can and should create for ourselves every day by washing the body in the morning.
Saucha also implies brushing the teeth and so on.
There are also special therapeutic saucha techniques, such as abstersion of the nose and of the nasopharynx by drawing in salted water. There is no reason for using them regularly, but they can be effective for treating chronic rhinitis.
The seventh rule is mitahara — pure nutrition. This has already been discussed in detail above. Here let me mention only that it is best to take food in an emotionally favorable environment. In no circumstances should one eat on the background of conflict conversations or bitter arguments, as well as in presence of malicious or irritated people.
One may perform a meditation before taking a meal in order to harmonize the inner state.
For example, the Orthodox prayer-meditation Heavenly Father suits this purpose very well.
The eighth rule — santosha — consists in maintaining a positive emotional attitude always. If we feel the presence of the Lord and devote our lives to Him totally, if we do not act out of self-interest, if we know that He is constantly watching us, leading us, teaching us, that He creates difficulties for us so that we can learn and then helps us find solutions to the problems — why would we not live in joy?
“You do your work; I control the events,” — this is what He taught the author of this book once .
The ninth rule is svadhyana — philosophical discussions, conversations, and readings that make for a thorough comprehension of the meaning of life and of the Path to Perfection.
“Fix your mind on Me…” — this is how Krishna defined the first steps that man has to take on the Path to God [6,11].
The tenth rule — tapas — implies any kinds of self-restraint and efforts for the sake of overcoming our vices. Among other things, tapas teaches us the spiritual discipline as well as to follow the principle “it must be done!” as opposed to “I do only what I want!”.
The eleventh rule is Ishvarapranidhana. This implies feeling that everything existing is pervaded with the Consciousness of the Creator (Ishvara), feeling His constant presence inside and outside my body, bodies of other people and material objects, seeing Him as my Teacher and a Witness of everything that I do and that happens to me.
There are also four very important rules:
— kshama — tolerance to those who think differently;
— daya — mercy, kindness;
— arjava — simplicity, absence of arrogance;
— hri — lowliness of mind, also absence of: self-admiration, self-pride because of one’s actual achievements, and conceit — self-praise on account of one’s imaginary virtues.