If yoga is about neutralizing the alternating waves in consciousness, then the 8 limbs of Yoga are the proper means to reach the final goal. The first two limbs are the Yama and Niyama, dealt in the second Chapter of Sadhana Pada in Patanjali’s Yoga sutras. They control a yogi’s passion and emotions and keep him in harmony with his fellow men.
Yama – The 5 Yamas are considered great commandments that transcend creed, country, age and time. They are the rules of morality for society to avoid chaos and pain.
1. Ahimsa – “All hostility ceases in the presence of a Yogi”
That’s Ahimsa, not relying on external forces to be non-violent. A wider connotation of Ahimsa is to reject violence and embrace love. Non-violence is a state of mind that is achieved through freedom from fear (Bhaya), anger (Krodha) and Ignorance (Avidya). This requires a detailed study of self. Love comes in the picture with a strong belief in the right of every creature to live. This makes one gentle to others and firm with oneself to follow the rule with a strong reliance on reality and facts than emotions and fantasy (Vikalpa).
2. Satya – “Actions and Results become subservient to the speech of a Yogi.”
Truth followed in thought, word and action and also includes dissociation with words of abuse, falsehood and humiliation to others. The tongue is the only part of the body that is an organ of sense and action. So mastery over the tongue is essential for self-control. One never regrets his Silence as it allows inward inspection. If one has to utter words, they should be truthful, pleasant and beneficial.
3. Asteya – “What is not destined to be with us will not stay.”
Asteya means non-stealing, not using borrowed things beyond the prescribed time and using things other than the purpose intended. Such behavior stems from temptation and the only way to ward off such behavior is limiting your needs and learn to discriminate between your needs and wants.
It means the life of celibacy, religious study and self-restraint to generate the forces for spiritual growth. Without knowing the human love and happiness, one cannot know divine love. So, one can live among family and society, perform his worldly duties but remain detached and dispassionate to his actions and their results.
It is a facet of Asteya. It means not hoarding things that one doesn’t need. This helps one to be satisfied with what one has. It removes frustration and disappointments. The mind is in a state of equilibrium. There is great freedom in knowing what you need in life. It removes indecisiveness and doubt.
Niyama are the rules that apply to individual discipline.
1. Saucha – “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”
It means purity of body (through asanas, pranayama), mind (through bhakti), thought (svadhya and vairagya), the food we eat (sattvic) and place of spiritual practice. This purification process leads to self-respect and respect for others. It removes the mind clutter and ekagrata becomes plausible. Saucha readies the body and mind to move forward.
2. Santosa – “Be happy with what you have”
It means contentment. It is a state of mind that is important for concentration. Desire seeps in unconsciously when we look around and compare.
3. Tapas – Actions that push us in the direction of change and spiritual fervor.
It is the passion that sets our heart burning. It is a conscious single-pointed effort to achieve the goal. It demands a lot of self-discipline and austerity. It builds up your character. It can be Kayik, Vachik, or manasik. The most important thing here is Tapas towards a worthy goal with heart in the right place
4. Svadhyaya – It means the education of the self.
5. Ishwar Pranidhana – Surrender to the will of the absolute. Usually, when all our resources fail we turn to God, that’s conditional hence not true surrender or bhakti.
Suffering brings humility and ego creeps in along with success. Hence dedicating all the actions to an entity who is not there to help you out with your success but just a model to free you from kleshas. So, you take charge of your life and are responsible for your actions and face the consequences but at the same time learn to be dispassionate about the results through Ishwar Pranidhana.