The Foundation of a Spiritual Life: Yama & Niyama

 

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Jesus Christ taught similar principles in the sermon on the mount

If a building were to be built without a strong foundation, then it will collapse when the earth begins to shake, similarly in life, if we don’t have a strong moral foundation set on right principles and divine behavior then we, ourselves, will inevitably collapse like a deck of cards whenever the challenges of life come to shake our life up.

All true religions have a set of principles which give the devotee, if they put the teachings into practice, a strong moral foundation for their life. The basis for a strong foundation isn’t indecision or to be wishy-washy but founded on one’s integrity or truth. What may be true for one person, however, may not be for another, this is where our individuality comes into play, but even on the level of the individual, there’s an objective foundation what I’m going to focus on in this blog.

We all, deep down, in our heart of hearts desire peace, and for people to surround us with love and support. This is what makes us human beings because as humans, in this bundle of atoms and of flesh and blood we are designed to rely on one another and there’s nothing wrong in doing so.

In ancient times, the Indian sage Patanjali famously developed his eightfold path of Yoga or enlightenment for the world. Even to this day, this eightfold path is taught in yoga and spiritual communities all throughout the world. This is why Patanjali is known, by many, to be the Father of Yoga. This eightfold path has its own foundation, and this foundation is known as the Yama and Niyama. Which are literally those things you should do and shouldn’t do to truly be at peace within yourself.

“All religions agree to these two phases or foundations of religious practice. To meditate a great deal without at the same time practicing Yama, Niyama is to build a large superstructure on a loose foundation.” -Paramahansa Yogananda

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Now I’ll list the Yama and Niyama and explain why it’s important for the devotee to abide by these laws.

YAMA – Sanskrit: “restraint”, “self-control”], moral conduct [the avoidance of immoral actions; “the Don’ts”.

Ahimsa (Noninjury) – This one is pretty obvious, not only does it mean don’t harm others physically, however, it also means don’t think of violence either. Never wish harm upon anyone, because your thoughts about others literally have an effect on what version of that person you will experience in physical reality. Love thy neighbor as thyself, because truly, your neighbor is yourself. Everything, in reality, is made up of your own essence, your own consciousness. We’re truly living in a hall of mirrors in physical reality as everyone literally mirrors our unconscious mind back at us. This is why intimate relationships, for example, bring up so much baggage for people. It’s because the people in the relationship are being shown their unconsciousness through their partner, which then in most cases they end up projecting and blaming them for. People need to take responsibility for their own cobwebs, their own demons if they’re to truly be at peace within themselves.

People who love and accept themselves, love and accept everyone as they are also. We’re always seeing ourselves in others, this is why it’s foolish for people to neglect themselves. Get your own needs taken care of also, then you’ll be more capable of being the example unto others. Don’t injure yourself either by believing things about you which simply are not true. Every negative thought you have about yourself has an effect on your brain and your overall perception of life. Change the way you look at yourself if you struggle accepting yourself as you are. All your imperfections, your fears, your baggage, are not who you truly are, but it doesn’t mean its wrong for you to have them. They are a part of your life, the life you have chosen on a level of consciousness which your intellect isn’t capable of understanding at the moment. Be at peace, all is well.

Satya (Truthfulness) – Truth is integrity. Honesty is the key here. To be honest with yourself and with others will keep you at a higher vibration. Sometimes, however, it’s better to remain silent. The Hindu sages say that we should always be mindful of our thoughts, actions, and speech before we express them. Otherwise, if we say something which we believe may be beneficial unto others before they’re ready to hear it, for example, then we may actually hurt them or stunt their overall development.

Telling white lies may be seen as necessary by some in this day and age, but if you have a chubby friend, for example, who is wearing a dress you can clearly see doesn’t look good or acceptable on her yet you tell her that it does, whats the good in that? Be honest with those who are close to you, because if you’re truly close with them, then they’ll accept and appreciate the truth you tell them, no matter how bitter or hard it may be for them to swallow. You would have saved your friend much embarrassment if you told her the dress isn’t suitable for her, or that she needs to try something else on which does suit her. Be truthful to others, because ultimately, those who lie to others are only lying to themselves.

Asteya (Non-stealing) – This doesn’t just mean don’t steal that which doesn’t belong to you in a material sense, it also means check your motivations in life, because most the time, people are operating on belief systems they have unconsciously stolen from the minds of other people, because on some level, they don’t believe they can think for themselves.

When you have negative beliefs in the unconscious mind, disempowering beliefs that make you feel unworthy or undeserving of true love and happiness then you’ll feel, on a subconscious level , inclined make others feel the same way. Stealing and cheating others are just a couple examples of this. For example, a man meets another man who has a beautiful wife, he gets close to the man not to actually get to know him, but his wife, overtime after many meetings with her, they end up cheating together. This is another form of stealing that which isn’t yours, and it all started with the belief system that it doesn’t matter if you have sex with a woman who is married to another person, or that the feelings or marriage of another means nothing to you. People need to become conscious of their motivations in life. If they were to simply ask themselves why they are truly doing what they do, it will help them avoid the primrose paths that lead to destruction.

Brahmacharya (Celibacy, Self-restraint) – This is obviously the most challenging one for most, as the control of the sex drive is the ultimate challenge for any Yogi. The physical pleasure of sex is the greatest man can experience in this realm through the senses, but there are deeper and more blissful states, which are mainly experienced in stillness and transcendental meditation.

It’s my belief, however, that full celibacy isn’t necessary for the everyday man. If you desire to be fully celibate then go right ahead I won’t stop you, that may be something your soul desires to experience and it’s all well and good if it is. For most, however, living in this day and age, it refers to the moderation, of sexual practice and not sleep around casually. When you have sex with another their energy stays inside your own consciousness for years, sometimes people pass on samskaras (negative thought-forms, habits, and tendencies) through sex. For this reason, it’s very wise to be mindful of who you’re taking to bed. So many have one night stands these days and I’m not judging these people whatsoever, as there is ultimately nothing wrong in doing so, yet for the Yogi who desires to experience the higher states of consciousness and union with God such behavior is destructive, to say the least.

The sperm or semen in men and the vaginal fluid in women physically represent the life-force energy contained within their matrix. When a man preserves or is moderate in his sexual practices, for example, that life force energy moves up into his brain, stimulating the nerve cells thus becoming ojas, which has been known to give people great siddhis or yogic powers. The life-force energy is our creative power, and when its preserved, the sex drive then becomes channeled into creative abilities, scientific breakthroughs, and other projects. Nikola Tesla, the great scientist of the 20th century was said to have died a Virgin, if these claims are true then there’s no doubt the ojas he preserved helped him achieve which he did.

Overindulgence in sexual practices in an intimate relationship can lead to an over-familiarity which may eventually cause the partners to cheat on one another or to part ways. Be moderate, sex isn’t the only way to make love together. Go for walks, read and study things together, do whatever excites your soul, not your gentiles. Sex is divine, its precious and shouldn’t be abused. Have sex when the time is right, enjoy it, merge into one another while holding your partner’s hand as tight as you can, don’t let go either, become one with your lover. The more you both practice moderate sex together then the more you will appreciate the experience and each other as a whole. This is because your relationship won’t be dependent on your sex life. Let the sex be a bonus and appreciate each other for who and what you are.

Suppression of the sex drive can make a man crazy, however, if you’re attempting to control your sex drive out of fear then stop. It has to become natural, ween yourself down of sex first and try creative actions such as writing, painting, drawing, playing sports or a musical instrument. Do things which will stimulate your mind, put you into the present moment and ultimately enable you to transmute or channel this energy within you.

Lord Brahma is known as the creator God of Hinduism and the Vedas. This is why control of the life-force energy expands one’s creative abilities because Brahma is our creative power. Brahmacharya will help you channel and express the love of God into many genius works if you’re willing to control yourself.

Aparigraha (noncovetousness) – This word means not to be greedy. Sharing is caring, whenever a man has billions of dollars, it’s in the writer’s opinion that they have a moral duty to share that wealth with others. Greed keeps a person from experiencing higher states because these people are ultimately defining themselves, their worth and the basis of their identity through their wealth. When the wealth vanishes through bankruptcy or even the inevitability of death,  they become angry, wrathful, resentful and in some cases reincarnate in an attempt to attach themselves to the same form of wealth over again. Jesus famously said in the bible that we cannot serve two masters, we cannot serve God and mammon, we can only serve one. What are you allowing to define you? Your connection to your source in God or your material wealth? Once God defines you, in that state, the hidden splendor comes out to play like a child after he’s just got home from school. It enlightens the world and you realize nothing that happens in this transitory dream world or cosmic drama can possibly dent the wholeness you feel in yourself. You transcend the world, in a metaphorical and literal sense, you become something else, your true self.

NIYAMA – “Positive duties”; religious observances; “the Do’s”

Shauca (Purification of the Mind and Body) – Purification of the Mind is the key here, because once the mind is purified then the body will effortlessly follow it. What does the purification of the mind entail? It first of all means becoming comfortable within the process of purification itself, because it takes a while to rid yourself of the lies within your mind. Those who are awakening are  all in a process in which we are becoming progressively purer by the day, the week, the month, the year.

Negative belief systems are the foundation of all the ignorance within man. They are the basis of the motivations within you which keep you attached and defined by old habits. They keep you within the comfort zone of your familiar behaviors, thoughts, and feelings each and every day. They prevent you from fully embracing the unknown, and they motivate you to attempt to control your physical reality experience out of fear rather than surrender unto it in joy.

The reasons why science has labeled the unconscious level of mind, the unconscious is because most are not consciously aware of the cognitions or processes that are going on within it. Simply put, we most individuals have a plethora of belief systems in their unconscious that they don’t prefer, coloring their windows of perception. Most these beliefs came from their previous experiences, and those who they spent most of their time with as they were growing up.

“Our belief systems are the building blocks of our reality. Most of what we perceive in the external world is a reflection of our belief systems. Beliefs can be said to resemble templates that overlay our windows of perception, thus making us filter our perception of reality through a particular lens or scope that is relevant to the belief we are buying into.   

In this day and age, the exploration of our consciousness is underway, and many are realizing the profound importance of the nature of our belief systems, and how paramount they are to our experience here in physical reality. Whatever frequency we emit out into the universe largely determines what we experience and the effect that we generate from the experience. This is the true meaning of the law of karma as we reap that which we sow, or in other words whatever frequency we are emitting into creation.  

We may be very conscious of some of our belief systems, but it can be said that the majority of these reality templates are unconscious to us. This simply means that we are not aware of them or in other words, we don’t see or realize that we are buying into them. There are two types of belief systems; there are positive beliefs that reinforce our joy, our faith and expand our awareness of our connection to our source in God. As opposed to negative beliefs that reinforce the illusion of separation from the collective, devalue us, disempower us and inflict all kinds of limitations on our creative power.” -Craig Krishna, The Labyrinth, Rewiring the Nodes in the Maze of your Mind. 

Working with your feelings is the key to becoming conscious of these belief systems. You don’t feel anything without believing something to be true about yourself, so if you’re feeling fear then it means you have fear-based beliefs in the unconscious generating that fear. When you feel fear, first of all, accept that it’s there, acknowledge it, own it as a part of you, and befriend it. Listen to what it has to tell you, ask yourself; “What would I have to believe is true in order to feel the way I do?” If you’re willing to hear the answer it will reveal itself unto you. Once you discover a negative belief, you will see how illogical it is to believe in such a way, thus change it. All negative beliefs are lies, illusions which convince you to be somebody you’re not. When you find yourself out of alignment, realign yourself in faith and joy, in your integrity, into what you know is true for you. Once you do this, your behavior will automatically follow, because all behavior is generated by what one believes to be true about themselves.

In your truth, in the state of your integrity, you will eat right, sleep right, give your body the exercise it needs, be moderate in sexual practices and so on. This must not be forced, in this process of purification always go to the belief systems in your unconscious first. This, in turn, will shift your motivations and get you geared and inspired in the right ways to enable you to make the changes you feel are necessary.

Once the mind and body are purified, the higher states of consciousness become easier to access. You will feel lighter on your feet and in your soul as you won’t be weighed down by other people’s beliefs which convince you that you’re not already whole.

Santosha (Contentment, Even-mindedness)- This means to be content with whatever life gives you from moment to moment. It means not to be in resistance to what the present moment contains because the present always contains that which you need for the evolution of your consciousness. Such a practice of even-mindedness and nonresistance enables the Yogi to surrender to the natural unfoldment of their life. Trusting that their Buddhi or Higher Self will always give them what they need, also knowing that things always unfold when they need to unfold. He who trusts in divine timing will always feel contentment, and when in the state of contentment man becomes vulnerable. To be vulnerable is to have faith, trust and allow everything you need to magically come to you, exactly when you need it. This is why desire is seen as an obstacle to many of the advanced Yogi’s. Pure desires aren’t wrong, but when a man truly has surrendered to who and what he is, then he won’t desire anything because he will know that he already has everything he needs. God alone suffices and brings the Yogi everything he desires exactly when he needs it the most.

Tapas (Self-restraint of the senses) – Like Brahmacharya is control of the sex drive or life-force energy, Tapas is control of the senses. This means not to smell, hear, taste, touch or see things which can tempt or aggravate you. People who like to go the movies to watch horror movies for example, aren’t doing themselves any favors, because all the violent images they’re projecting on the screen of their brains are doing things to their neurological makeups, that if they knew what they were doing, would scare them more than the movies did! Pornography is another example of this, science is proving that pornography can damage the brain and how you see other people and experience pleasure.

Control of the senses is a good discipline because he who has mastered his senses has mastered himself, but remember in order to control the senses and your behavior, changing the belief systems in the unconscious can help motivate you in ways to make this a reality. Of course, some determination is needed to stay clear of the stimuli that keep you on a lower vibration. Maybe you need to change the music you listen to or the people you’re around, maybe you need to change the way you eat or speak to others, it all depends on where you’re currently at in your development.

A master isn’t a master of other people, but himself. Yogananda explained this perfectly when he said; “A man is not yet a master if he is still engaged in the ordinary life-battles—those of sensory temptations, desires, habits; identification with the physiology and limitations of the body; restlessness of mental doubts and complexes; and soul-ignorance. His perceptions are limited, and include consciousness of bodily weight and other physiological conditions; of internal sensations, arising from activities of the inner organs and of the breath within the body; of sensations of touch, smell, taste, hearing, and sight; of hunger, thirst, pain, passion, attachment, sleepiness, fatigue, wakefulness; and of his mental powers of reasoning, feeling, and willing. The consciousness of this ordinary man is subject to fears about death, poverty, disease, and innumerable other ills. He is bound by attachments to name, social standing, family, race, and possessions.” -God talks with Arjuna

Swadhyaya (Self-study) – Not only does this mean study of the Holy scriptures but also to study yourself. Man studies himself by observing himself impartially without any bias. It is to question who you are, and who you have been up to this point in your life. It’s to work with any resistance going on inside you, to illuminate the darkness within the unconscious mind, and to see life through your own eyes and not the opinions of others.

Studying the teachings of the great ones can take you places if you’re willing to slowly meditate on what they tell you. Don’t rush through scripture, because if you do, it won’t penetrate your being, to read scripture one has to be in a meditative state. When in this state, the allegories and symbols will magically jump out at you, and you’ll most likely reach a point where you see how all great masters are saying the same thing fundamentally.

Ishwara Pranidhana (Surrender and devotion to God & Guru) – To surrender to God means to love and accept yourself the way God has created you. Is it to cease controlling your life out of fear and begin to magically flow with it in joy. The wonderful paradox is that surrender actually brings you everything you want, so why not surrender? Life is happening all around you, it’s not possible for you to stop it. You can either flow with its currents or attempt to swim against them, but swimming against the currents of life, however, will exhaust you!

Faith in the unknown is the key here. The unknown may be a scary place for many, but that’s only because they’re defining it as such. The unknown is your home, make it your throne, because you have discovered portions of yourself in the known, fly out the nest of your comfort zone to see just how much you have grown.

God is a state of being, its a level of consciousness in which the rays of light of your integrity shine through you. If you have a Guru, then that Guru can be said to be a representative of God for you. Listen to what they have to tell you, because if they’re genuine, then they’ll lead you to the promised land. Life is the true guru, experiences teach us more than anything does, and each and every experience we manifest in our lives has something to teach us about ourselves. Learn to look at all circumstances evenly, define them positively, even the challenging circumstances, because challenges are amazing opportunities for spiritual growth. Once you rise and shatter through the metaphorical glass window of your greatest fears, you shall see them for what they are; illusions.

Sage Patanjali, creator of the eightfold path of Yoga

Sage Patanjali, creator of the eightfold path of Yoga

Conclusion – Having such a loving and truthful foundation to one’s spiritual outlook on life can enable you to experience much higher states of consciousness and awareness. The light is what will save the world, stand up for what you believe is right and just and most importantly, be the example unto all who are around you. It’s only by being the example can we teach others how to live their own truth, by living our own.

This sort of a foundation will not crumble when the storms, the winds and the earthquakes of life come knocking on the door of your being. Let life shake you, shake along with it, shake it shake it baby, because in shaking you will only lose those components which never belonged to you in the first place.

Thank you for reading

-Craig Krishna, author of; The Labyrinth: Rewiring the Nodes in the Maze of your Mind, Available on Amazon.com and Lulu.com (Just search Craig Krishna in their book stores). 

God Bless you all

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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