So picking back up where we last left off in the Sutras, we were somewhere around the 2.30’s. So we remember why we’re interested in practicing the yamas, right? Wisdom, distinction, and cultivating a relationship with the world. We shall eliminate purities and thus work towards enlightenment (that’s all in 2.29). In 2.30 they lay out the yamas in a list (they are, of course, ahimsa, satya, brahmacarya, asteya, and aparigraha). Then we learn that these vows of restraint are universal and unbound by place by conditions like place, time, and family (2.32). This means that these restraints are too important, they trump whatever your circumstances might be. Basically, you can make excuses all you want that you don’t have to be honest or you can be violent even in small ways (judgment’s a big one that most of us are often guilty of).
Actually that’s a great example, no matter how thoroughly I try to practice ahimsa, I still get mad at the tourists. It’s not like I want to be, they’re just so annoying. I can tell you why we’re tired of people ignoring the travel bans and gumming up our trails with their big city germy faces and obnoxious questions, but that’s not helping me on my path to enlightenment. Sometimes I can convince myself that I’m justified. But all the excuses in the world won’t make me a better person. And just like all the yamas and niyamas, when I violate them, it hurts me first. The anger and frustration I have hurts me the most. I really need to figure out how to transcend that. So there’s a Sutra to tell us what to do when we’re struggling with any of the yamas or niyamas, and it’s 2.34, “When you are acting, speaking, or thinking against the yamas and niyamas, the suggestion is to remind yourself that such negative actions, speech, or thoughts are going in the wrong direction, and will bring you nothing but unending misery.”
Anyway, they say if you practice the yamas lovingly over time, they’ll evolve into great vows that ultimately are the key to your relationship with the world. Next up are the niyamas, which are the key to your relationship with yourself. Just for fun, let’s do a quick introduction of those now, then continuing in order, we’ll introduce the yamas in more detail.
Saucha: cleanliness or purity (of body, mind, environment)
Santosha: an attitude of contentment
Tapas: self discipline
Svadhyaya: self study/inner exploration
Ishvara Pranidhana: acceptance/surrender