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Yama and Niyama - The Pillars of Proper Human Conduct

{written by : Howard Beckman}

Article word count : 985 -- Article Id : 2434
Article active date : 2009-08-16 -- Article views : 8097

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Yoga is not simply a system of exercise for keeping the body fit. It is a spiritual practice that gradually brings one closer to inner peace and ultimately self-realization. "Asana", the physical postures, is most widely thought of as yoga by many people, but these are only the beginning...

Reincarnation The Neverending Journey
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by Pieter Heydenrych

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In keeping with the talk of "change" it is an excellent time to talk about the ideals of human behavior that could possibly bring about a change. First, a change in people"s hearts and minds and then in society itself.

Yoga is not simply a system of exercise for keeping the body fit. It is a spiritual practice that gradually brings one closer to inner peace and ultimately self-realization. "Asana", the physical postures, is most widely thought of as yoga by many people, but these are only the beginning of practice.

"Pranayama", breathing techniques for directing the "prana", or life force, within the body is an even more important part of yoga practice. Finally the practice brings one to meditation and the ability to rise above the external objects of the senses. At this point the spiritual practice of yoga begins to open the door to freedom from material suffering and ultimately leads to "enlightenment".

Little emphasis is put on the principles of conduct that are essential for one to actually be able to enter into yoga as a spiritual practice or "sadhana". These principles are of the utmost importance and those that follow them find that the goals of "jnana" and "vairagya" (knowledge and detachment) actually coming within grasp once sincerely working towards the spiritual goals.

The "yamas" are the ways in which human beings should restrain their lower senses, almost akin to the "Ten Commandments" of Judaism and Christianity. They are as follows.

Ahimsa: This means nonviolence in words and action, which will also dispel it even from one"s thoughts. Not only should we not harm other people, but neither should we harm animals. A true yogi must be vegetarian for this reason.
Satya: This means truthfulness. We should not lie nor be deceitful in our words, what to speak of our actions. There"s something to be said for speaking in a palatable way, but one should always be straightforward and honest in their speech.
Asteya: This is not taking what is not ours, not stealing from others or even living on borrowed money that cannot be repaid. Keeping promises, making your word your bond.
Brahmacharya: Keeping celibacy when single, which is a principle (or should be) in one"s youth, but it also means being faithful to one"s partner in marriage. Promiscuity wastes the life force and causes emotional and psychic damage.
Kshama: Patience is a virtue. Practice it with your children, with your elders and with others who do not always share your points of view or directives in life.
Dhriti: Become steadfast and persevere to attain success in your goals in life. Fear is the greatest stumbling block on the path. It creates indecision and makes obstacles appear insurmountable. Overcome them and steadily you will achieve your goals.
Daya: Compassion is the greatest attribute a person can possess. See the divine in all beings, sympathize with the suffering of others and be forgiving towards those who feel remorse for their wrongdoings.
Arjava: Always maintain yourself and your loved ones by honest work. Don"t cheat others thinking that this will achieve your ends in life. Within acknowledge your own shortcomings and try not to find fault with others.
Mitahara: Do not eat too much and eat only when hungry. Only a diet of vegetarian foods will support the body and mind in a healthy condition. (Meat and non-vegetarian foods are obtained by violence and these dark energies will curtail peace in mind and heart.)
Saucha: Purity in thought, words and actions should be our goal. Keep your body clean and your home environment clean. Speak courteously with others. Choose your association carefully. Better to stay alone than with bad association. Meditate and contemplate truth. Follow a path of "sadhana" to the best of your ability.

The "niyamas" are those practices of positive action, rather than restraint of lower urges. These bring us to a platform from which we can truly become happy in this world and the next.

Hri: This is acknowledging when we have done wrong and feeling remorse. Proper actions include apology and correcting the wrong.
Santosha: Be contented with what comes to you in life. Feel grateful every day and see the opportunity for spiritual growth from all life"s events.
Dana: Give in charity. Not only to those in need of food and shelter, but to those who are capable of bringing spiritual life to others. Don"t look for recognition, but rather see opportunities as coming from God.
Astikya: Have firm faith in yourself, in the saints and in the Vedas. Let nothing shake you from adherence to the higher path in which you shall experience the divine.
Ishwara Pujana: Keep an altar or sacred space at home for meditation on the divine. Offer everything to God and then eat and accept all as his mercy. See guru as the representative of the Supreme Lord.
Siddhanta Shravana: Listen and hear sacred mantra, teachings from the Vedas and the words of realized sages and saints. Worship the divine and pray for success on the spiritual path.
Mati: This is inner cognition or awakening. Recognize higher knowledge and cultivate inner experience. Learn to hear with the "higher self".
Vrata: Observing vows for spiritual advancement. These include vows for personal progress like becoming vegetarian, giving up bad habits like smoking as well as vows of marriage, to guru and God.
Japa: Recitation of one"s mantra given by one"s teacher or guru. Concentrate and allow the sacred sound vibration to quell the chattering mind until stillness and harmony reign within.
Tapas: Practice some austerity and bring a discipline into your spiritual practice and life.

By basing your life upon these principles you will be respected by everyone and you will attain success on the path of knowledge. Your present will be satisfying and your future will become ever brighter both materially and spiritually.

Author Bio :
Written by Howard Beckman of the Vedic Cultural Fellowship, where you can study or apply the sciences of natural Ayurvedic Medicine, Hatha Yoga (including the 8 steps of ashtanga), and gem therapy to achieve spiritual well-being. You can also learn to meditate, obtain your horoscope based on Vedic astrology signs, or practice other arts that have their origin in the Vedas. Balaji Natural Gems

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