Yamas - Social Ethics
Updated: Nov 18, 2020
Since we have looked at Māhārishi Patanjali and his structured and organized take on the ancient art of Yoga, it seems logical for us to zoom in on each of the limbs which he calls Ashta (eight) Anga (limbs). So when we say Ashtanga, it refers to Yama, Niyama, Āsana, Prānāyāma, Pratyahāra, Dhāranā, Dhyāna and Samādhi.
It is now time to look at Yamas which we can refer to as social ethics. Patanjali mentions the following 5 Yamas:
Now since I have listed the sanskrit terms of the Yamas, I shall translate them in a different manner than usual. We shall let our imagination work and see how we can explore all these 5 Yamas for ourselves on a daily basis.
Now imagine a person whom we shall call Ben. Besides having a daily job at an office, Ben is active in a social organization. Ben’s intention is to speak the truth (Satya) at all times without hurting (Ahimsā) other beings including himself. Ben also knows that you can hurt another being on both a physical and mental/emotional level through physical actions, words or even thoughts/ intentions. Ben enjoys eating food, having sex, watching movies and other sense pleasures, but he is aware that there is more to life than just the limited sense pleasures. He also focuses on other aspects of life such as self development, character building, education, including expanding his awareness towards the ultimate (Brahmacharya). He knows that he should not steal (Asteya) and avoid accumulation/hoarding (Aparigraha) on several levels, such as finance, land, jewelry, information or impressions in general. He lives a life of balance and moderation. He knows that these personal qualities will bring him further in life to grow into a more joyful, simple and content person. Furthermore he can become a person who can contribute towards the upliftment of the people around him and the society in general.
As you can see, having such qualities is familiar to us since we knew these things as a child. We have been taught not to steal or lie, but to maintain that character is what makes a person a beautiful human being. These qualities might seem difficult to maintain, but with practice it is possible.
If we look at life in general and zoom out and see how nature works, we should have compassion and understand that we all can make mistakes and learn from them. We should never give up because the Yamas, practice of these social ethics, brings us peace of mind.
In the upcoming blogs we shall continue with Ben’s journey because the good news is that he does not have any misconception that he first needs to work on Yamas and then can go towards Niyamas. He knows that he can implement the whole of Ashtanga Yoga on a daily basis in his life.
If you want to know more; keep looking forward to the next blog because this will help you as a practitioner to make this ancient knowledge relevant in your daily life minus all the hustle and misconceptions.