Foundations of Yoga, and, the Spiritual Life
To fully comprehend the nature of yoga and advance meaningfully on the road to Self-Realization for which it was developed, one should become acquainted with, and adhere to, the Eight-fold or Eight-Limbed Path of Yoga expounded by Patanjali in his work, the Yoga Sutras. This masterful series of aphorisms or ‘wisdom nuggets’ are timeless directives for all who seek God scientifically – vs. blindly – regardless of faith affiliation. Not philosophic musings solely relegated to Hinduism, they codify universal principles that guide seekers of Awakening with precise esoteric rationale.
In this post I provide brief explanations for the first ’Limb” of Patanjali’s Eight-Fold path known as Yama. Referring to control or moral conduct, Yama implies exercising restraint of thought and deed through intentional self-regulation to achieve harmony with the innate virtue of the soul. Not artificial rules imposed for societal order, they are injunctions to manifest divine qualities dormant in all. Just as an orchard will provide nourishment to the body when its harvest ripens, so too will the qualities of Self-Control give rise to distinct fruits, or soul powers, when perfected. This is the reason why such principles can be said to be universal; they offer proof of their being regardless of culture or creed.
The Yamas consist of 5 directives: Non-Violence, Non-Lying, Non-Stealing, Non-Sensuality (or continence), and Non-Covetousness (Non-Greed). Each is triune in nature with corresponding Dominant, Subtle, and Perfected aspects. Being exceedingly intricate matters, a treatise could be written about each element yet, for our purposes, a basic overview must suffice. The following rendering should provide readers an easily understood view of each Yama and its related aspects.
Ahimsa or Non-Violence
Dominant: To never harm any living thing, physically, emotionally, or mentally.
Subtle: To overcome all tendencies to even wish harm in any way.
Perfected: All creatures become rendered harmless in one’s presence.
Satya or Non-Deceit
Dominant: Always be truthful; never falsify or even intend to deceive.
Subtle: Accept things as they actually are; exercise complete self-honesty; adhere to Truth as reality.
Perfected: Whatever one says will come true.
Ashteya or Non-Stealing
Dominant: Don’t take what is not yours be it material or immaterial (love, reputation, etc.).
Subtle: Never desire what is not yours. Recognize that everything is part of your universal Self.
Perfected: Whatever is needed will come when it is needed.
Brahmacharya or Non-Sensuality
Dominant: Do not overindulge in any sensory activity or pleasure.
Subtle: Control energy and govern the senses to develop refined awareness of the indwelling Divine.
Perfected: Enhanced mental clarity, physical strength, health, & spiritual magnetism.
Aparigraha or Non-Greed
Dominant: Release all attachments, even to one’s rightful possessions.
Subtle: Withdraw attachment to one’s own body and ego-personality traits.
Perfected: Capacity to recall prior incarnations.
To reiterate, the value in perfecting each Yama – subtle principles evident in all genuine spiritual traditions – is to bring forth latent soul qualities. Restlessness, attachment, desire, anger, lust, etc. keep the incarnate divine essence body bound and blind to its true nature. By removing such delusions and tendencies associated with them, we cannot help but manifest the ever-perfect attributes of the indwelling Spirit. And why is that important? Because the purpose of yoga and all spiritual endeavor is to shred the lie of separation-from-the-Divine, to foster spiritual awakening and, accordingly, reveal the truth which sets all free; ‘ye too are Gods.’