This is taken from a Satsang, teaching, in one of my live meditation classes:
A SATSANG ON LIVING WITH THE YAMAS OF YOGA IN YOUR LIFE . . .
In 1957 Swami Sivananda sent Swami Vishnu Devananda from his Ashram at Rishikesh, India to San Francisco. He sent him West with the instruction “Go, people are waiting. Many souls from the East are incarnating now in the West . . . . go and reawaken the consciousness hidden in their memories and bring them back to the path of Yoga.”
As a Western teacher, I am asked all the time: “Why do I have to love and accept myself?” It’s as if the person questioning has been given a key, but somehow doesn’t trust it? Or maybe it’s that this consciousness is still hidden in memory.
I so wish these aspirants and seekers could have been present at the first session of my Meditation training with dear Sam Singh in Bradford (Yorkshire, England). Sam was a wonderful Kashmiri man . . . which means he came from an area of India with an old matriarchal culture and tradition . . . steeped in the Vedanta tradition, as he patiently told us why we start with self-acceptance . . .
. . . this is the hardest thing for a human being, because we are so far apart from our Divine source.
And so Yoga is about the union of opposites, Divinity and Humanity, and in Yoga we start with this hard concept of loving and accepting the Self first, and go on from there. My question to myself is, “Do we ever stop?” I don’t think so . . .
I am constantly amazed and filled with awe at the art, science, history and sheer beauty of Yoga . . . And the deep intuitive life-knowledge given by such devoted people, from the Ancient Yogis, down from the Rishis to the Gurus for our benefit today: brought to us here in the West and now being given back to the East in its new form as Enlightened Wisdom teachings . . .
The Yamas and Niyamas of Yoga are just such precious gifts, and there are five of each of these. They are the practices of self-controls that teach us how to wisely use our energies in living our daily lives . . . the Yamas clear our minds and the Niyamas teach us a wise approach to life, so that our souls can flow, bringing us vitality.
The Yamas and Niyamas of Yoga are the first 2 steps on Patanjali’s eightfold path of yoga – the path that is designed to take us all the way to a realisation of the wisdom of Divine Intelligence’s plan for us all being here in this life, on this planet.
So, “How do I live with this in my Life?” would be the natural next step, the next question. Well, exactly as I did over 25 years ago, let’s start at the beginning. And I’ve added inspirational quotations for our contemplation . . .
The practice of Yamas starts with Ahimsa: this is usually interpreted as Non-violence (Gandhi’s guiding principle). But in its most positive form, this is the principle of compassion and the highest vibration of this is self-compassion. With self-compassion we can love and accept ourselves totally, as it is the Self ,that is so close to being Divine, that we are actually accepting. With this acceptance it is an easy step for the mind to grasp how to be compassionate for all humanity, and from there non-violence is just a given.
This is a beautiful quotation from Swami Vivekananda:
“In one word, this ideal is that you are divine. “
Next, we move on to Satya: interpreted as Truth. In its most positive form, this principle is about expressing yourself with integrity – and being sincere. It means being kind when you have to speak the truth. At it’s highest, this is the principle of speaking from the heart when you communicate.
And this quotation is from John Lennon:
“I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It’s just that the translations have gone wrong. “
The third Yama is Asteya: commonly interpreted as Non-stealing. In its highest, positive form this is the principle which teaches us to only take what we need and that which is freely given. At its highest vibration it is about being generous: giving, sharing – especially giving and sharing your joy for life.
And this is from Mahatma Gandhi:
“A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.”
Next is Brahmacharya: the interpretation of this is Transforming a vital force (normally translated as sexual energy) to a spiritual level. It is about containing sexual energy, but not necessarily about celibacy. In Yoga we work with this powerful, vital force so that it can be positively and constructively directed. In this way you respect this force for life within . . . for at its highest vibration this is the merging of divine masculine and feminine within . . . We work with it in Yoga and we train it so that it does not rule us, either our minds or our senses. In this way we transform this energy to a spiritual level.
Here is a quotation from the Buddha:
“Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.”
And finally, Aparigraha: usually interpreted as Greedlessness, this is the principle that teaches us to break the never ending cycle of wanting what we don’t have. In its most positive form, this Yama teaches us to relax and release the grasping of the mind, detaching and observing so that we can be aware of the small world our personal desires want to create.
And this quotation is from Mother Teresa:
“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”
So, the first 2 steps on Patanjali’s path – that path which will reawaken consciousness hidden in your memory – are about the way we think, having a “Mind Like Sky” and the way we act, when your “Soul Flows Sweetly”. The second step, the Niyamas, is about the codes for Purity, Contentment, Self-Discipline, Self-Study and Surrender to the Flow.
The Yamas are like a cool spring breeze wafting through the fog of the mundane mind. They are guidelines to help us purify our minds, reawakening consciousness and helping us to live to our full potential.
After all, Yoga teaches that life is a creative process. The creative process isn’t always smooth, and there can be a lot of discomfort until the final product materialises (writers of the world unite!) but what is key, is that unless you go through the process you would just never know what is going to manifest.
And I had this insight the other day while creating some video clips: we’re in this creative process of life along with the Divine Intelligence. So, is this what the Universal Mind is doing with Humanity – going through the process of co-creating with us to find out what actually will manifest? To discover our potential along with us?
How wise of the Divine. How sweet is the Universal Mind. That thought grows my mind and feeds my soul.
I’ll leave you with this from Rumi:
“Divine Wisdom created the world in order that all things in its knowledge should be revealed.”
And if you are in need of some beauty to heal your heart go here for Susan’s free-to-download audio readings of love poems of Pablo Neruda and Rumi, enjoy!