Foundations of Yoga, and, the Spiritual Life – Part Two
In my last post I summarized the Yamas or first “Limb” of Patanjali’s Eightfold Path of yoga, as specific forms of physical, mental and emotional self-control aligned with universal spiritual laws to facilitate manifestation of the soul’s innate divine virtue. In this follow-up entry I address Patanjali’s second “Limb,” Niyama, which pertains to spiritual observances. Not dogma associated with any particular creed, Niyama stresses – as did Yama – attitudes and actions that harmonize with and bring forth enduring soul realities. Its tenets foster a stable internalization of consciousness and perfect soul-centeredness versus faulty ego identification.
The 5 key practices which comprise Niyama are: Cleanliness, Contentment, Austerity, Self-Study, and Surrender. And, like Yama, these are highly complex esoteric matters most easily presented here through a simple overview.
Saucha or Cleanliness
Dominant: Purity of body and environment
Subtle: Purity of heart, motive, and consciousness
Perfected: Identification with Spirit fostering blissful indifference to bodily pleasures or exchange
Santosha or Contentment
Dominant: Capacity to accept things as they are
Subtle: Abiding emotional serenity
Perfected: Realization and experience of the enduring blissful nature of Self
Tapasya or Austerity
Dominant: Purposeful self-discipline
Subtle: Mastery over likes, dislikes, and control of life force
Perfected: Attainment of various psychic powers aka. Siddhis
Swadhyaya or Self-Study
Dominant: Objective self-assessment
Subtle: Elimination of delusive notions associated with egoism
Perfected: Power to commune with higher beings and receive their assistance
Isvara Pranidhana or Surrender
Dominant: Acknowledgement of and surrender to a Higher Power / the Divine
Subtle: Humility arising from elimination of ego
Perfected: Draws divine love, attracts liberating Grace, enables communion with Spirit
Context is critical and Niyama, like Yama, must be understood in its highest aspect. As repeatedly stated, the real purpose of yoga is to awaken soul consciousness from delusive body identification to its eternal unity with Spirit; and that can’t be done without incorporating these fundamentals. As a treasure map reveals hidden valuables if followed accurately, correct behaviors and attitudes are necessary guidelines which, along with scientific meditative practices, raise consciousness to states of divine perception. Such revelations are not poetic imaginings but actual expanded states of consciousness that shred associations with limiting mortality. Lest one forget, whenever each Yama and Niyama is perfected it provides proof of an inherent alignment with spiritual realities and, accordingly, should become an integral part of daily growth endeavors. Doing so will enrich your practice, be it hatha or meditation, and foster appreciation of the life-enhancing fruits these disciplines beget as attested to by saints and sages throughout history.