Like every year this year too Guru Poornima sadhana started on the 27/06/2017 this year with Yamas and Niyamas:
swami niranjanji says,
This Guru Poornima Fine tune your life – go beyond asana and stress – release.
Everybody likes practicing asana, as it is something dynamic and physical with which they can connect. However, the final attainment of asana is only physical and pranic.
People also like to meditate, as it allows them to escape from the reality of the present moment into an abstract idea of goodness and godliness, so they can forget their problems for a short while.
The practice of Yoga that you have adopted so far, have not fulfilled the real needs in your life, for you have never allowed them access into your life. They only way you can allow them access is by recognising that you need to connect with Positivity and Goodness.
Yoga is rooted in the notion of developing a positive personality. Therefore ethical discipline or the practice of correct conduct is necessary for success in yoga.
This is the basis of Yama & Niyama, the two moral backbones of yoga. They define the attributes to be practised in everyday life by a spiritual aspirant.
People think Yamas & Niyamas as ethical and moral teachings. That is incorrect, they are an expression, a behaviour and a conditioning of the mind.
Every Spiritual guru has said: BE GOOD AND DO GOOD. That is the checklist.
See how good you are today. How much good did you do to other people?
Towards whom did you do good or not?
Who did you rattle and who did you support.
Compare that, see the percentage, and you will discover a different you – not the one that you think you are pious, humble and gentle. You will discover, in the words of Tulsidas – Mo sama kauna kutila khala kami – “There is no one more crooked, wicked and debauched than me in this world.”
So the area of knowledge missing in everyone’s spiritual life is the understanding of Yama and Niyama.
Yama & Niyama relate to lifestyle, for they represent the emergence of a better, positive conditioning. They always connect you with the positive dimension of your nature and are an antidote to the negative.
If HIMSA, violence, which is negative, then you connect with Ahimsa which is positive. If Asteya, absence of truth is bad, you connect with satya, truth, which is positive.
If one is contented, one will not steal, hurt others or tell lies and will find it easy to practise non-covetousness.
In this way, Yamas & Niyamas always take you in the positive direction that you can aspire for. Yet you don’t walk that path. Therefore there is no change in lifestyle and your practice is mechanical. In this situation don’t say you are a practitioner of yoga, say that you are a practitioner of asana and pranayama. If you say you are a practitioner of yoga, then you have to look at the whole picture of yoga and your involvement in it.
This is where your own Seriousness, Sincerity, and Commitment comes to play.
Can You do It?
*Yama & Niyama*
Path of Ethical Discipline
Yoga is rooted in the notion of developing a positive personality. Therefore ethical discipline or the practice of correct conduct is necessary for success in yoga. This is the basis of yama and niyama, the two moral backbones of yoga. They define the attributes to be practised in everyday life by a spiritual aspirant.
Yama is the first limb of Patanjali’s ashtanga yoga and means ‘taking a vow’ while niyama is the second limb and means ‘rule of conduct’. Yama and niyama are inter-dependent. Niyama strengthens and safeguards yama. For example, if one is contented, one will not steal, hurt others or tell lies and will find it easy to practise non-covetousness.
The yamas and niyamas were originally a part of the Yoga Sutras, which are a series of short sentences of wisdom through which Sage Patanjali conveys his teachings.
*Yoga sutra 29*
यम नियमाअसन प्राणायाम प्रत्याहार धारणा ध्यान समाधयोऽष्टावङ्गानि ॥२९॥
_yama niyama-āsana prāṇāyāma pratyāhāra dhāraṇā dhyāna samādhayo-‘ṣṭāvaṅgāni ॥29॥_
The limbs of the eight-fold path are as follows: respect for others (yama) and yourself (niyama); harmony with your body (asana), your energy (pranayama), your thoughts (dharana), and your emotions (pratyahara); contemplation (dhyana); ecstasy (samadhi).
*Yoga sutra 30*
अहिंसासत्यास्तेय ब्रह्मचर्यापरिग्रहाः यमाः ॥३०॥
_ahiṁsā-satya-asteya brahmacarya-aparigrahāḥ yamāḥ ॥30॥_
Respect for others (yama) is based on non-violence (ahimsa); truthfulness (satya); not stealing (asteya); non-covetousness (aparigraha); and acting with an awareness of higher ideals (brahma-charya).
*Yoga sutra 32*
शौच संतोष तपः स्वाध्यायेश्वरप्रणिधानानि नियमाः ॥३२॥
_śauca saṁtoṣa tapaḥ svādhyāy-eśvarapraṇidhānāni niyamāḥ ॥32॥_
Cleanliness (shaucha), contentment (santosha), self-discipline (tapas), learning from yourself (svadhyaya) and accepting your fate (iishvara-pranidhana) automatically translate into the practice of respect (niyama).
According to the Yoga Sutras, the yamas and the niyamas are the first two steps in the eight-fold path of yoga. The yamas and niyamas are eternal and can be applied in people’s lives always, even though they were formulated as a practice thousands of years ago.
*Eight steps or branches of Patanjali’s path are*
Yama and niyama (self-restraints and fixed rules to observe as the first steps to yoga),
⚜Pranayama (breathing practices),
⚜Pratyahara (disconnection of the mind from the indriyas, or ten sensory organs),
⚜Dhyana (meditation) and
⚜Samadhi (a state of superconsciousness).
The yamas and niyamas are self-disciplinary qualities that everyone should have and observe for their own spiritual development. They are the code of conduct for a sannyasin and anyone seeking spiritual development. It would not be beneficial to practise any of the other steps without practising the yamas and niyamas simultaneously, as they are the base of the ladder leading to Self-realization.
One may practise asanas and have a fit body. One may practise pranayama and balance the pranic energy, the nadis. One may practise pratyahara and dhyana and reach deeper states of consciousness, but what use is that if one does not practise the yamas and niyamas? The yamas and niyamas create a fit and balanced mind.
⚜Asteya (abstinence from theft, honesty),
⚜Brahmacharya (being established in divine consciousness),
The yamas are mainly qualities that the spiritual aspirant should have in order to communicate and interact with the outside world and the people in it, They are also self-restraints from performing actions of the weaker lower mind.
*5 fixed rules of selfdiscipline*
⚜Swadhyaya (study of the self)
⚜Ishwara pranidhana (complete self-surrender to God).
Niyamas are the self disciplinary qualities which are entirely devoted to helping the aspirant on their spiritual journey. They are also fixed rules one should follow in order to do the practices of meditation (dhyana) and to reach samadhi.
Practising the yamas and niyamas is very fruitful in itself, but the main aim and consequence is spiritual growth and evolution.
pratiṣṭhayam = on being firmly established
tatsannidhau = in its vicinity
vaira = hostility
tyāghaḥ = to abandonment ,to let go_On being firmly established in ahimsa,there is abandonment of hostility in his vicinity_.Ahimsa mean love, harmlessness ,non-killing, non-violence. It means absence of enmity, hostility and harm. For the spiritual aspirant it should mean absence of any harmful intention whatsoever . Pratishtha means being firmly established. When one is established in ahimsa,there develops a king of magnetism around one that influence anybody who approaches.one becomes free of a very dangerous, evil complex – that of violence and hostility..Ahimsa, non-violence, not only means not causing harm or pain to any creature in thought, word or action, but also not having even a hint of aggression within your being. We shouldn’t skip this yama, for what is the use of truthfulness, non-possessiveness, abstinence from theft and so forth without establishing ahimsa in our minds and actions first? Swami Sivananda says that one of the purposes of the other yamas is to perfect ahimsa.Giving up meat or any other type of food or beverage whose acquisition causes pain to others beings (being vegan) is also considered to be ahimsa.
Usually our actions in themselves are violent, though our purposes are not at all so. When a mother slaps a child, she does so because she wants to teach the child a lesson. It is done out of love, not hatred. Therefore, it is the purpose that matters, and not the action.It is equally sinful if we encourage others to be violent or if we are violent ourselves. Himsa (violence) is not only physical violence, but also includes manipulation, hurting someone’s feelings, psychic influence and so on. The most important thing is not to directly deny people, even if they get violent, i.e. not getting into fights, arguments, disputes, quarrels. Himsa is not considered to be violence if it is to save your life, or if you kill one in order to save many. It is said that when you perfect ahimsa, a sort of magnet will act around you, preventing anyone from doing you harm or being violent. People will start to enjoy your presence and feel no discomfort as long as they are in your presence.In the Christian Bible, Christ says, “If one smites thee on thy right cheek, turn to him thy left also.” Christ, Krishna, Rama, Prophet Mohammed, Buddha and other saints, prophets and messiahs were great followers of ahimsa and dharma. Great saints like St Francis of Assisi and Ramana Maharshi, who could communicate with animals, were also great followers of ahimsa. Aggression is a reaction to fear and, therefore, if we overcome our fears (through brahmacharya, we can practise ahimsa.It will be easier to observe ahimsa if we remember that whatever we do, good or bad, will come back to us in this life or in the next, whether we believe in reincarnation or not. Good actions produce good results, while bad actions produce bad results. This is called (the law of) karma, and you can’t escape it. Someone is always watching over you.A good example is the story of the Sufi saint who called his disciples together and said, “I have five birds, one for each of you. Take them and kill them in separate places, but no one must see you doing it. When you bring them here, we’ll have a feast.” So they all came back sooner or later and gave explanations about where they killed their birds and how no one saw them. When the last disciple came, he said “I’m sorry Guruji, I failed you. I could not kill it. Wherever I went, I felt as though someone was watching me.” He turned out to be the best disciple.
Satya, or truth, is the second yama, and also a very important qualification.
सत्यप्रतिष्थायं क्रियाफलाअश्रयत्वम् ॥३६॥
_satya-pratiṣthāyaṁ kriyā-phala-āśrayatvam ॥36॥_
satya = truthfulness
pratiṣṭham = fixed; permanent; stable
kriyā = action; statement
phala = outcome; result
āśrayatvam =basis; foundation; support
_Once a state of truth (satya) has been permanently established, each statement will form the basis for a truthful result._
*Galileo as an example of satya*. He was caught by the Inquisition twice for his discoveries, but, in spite of the danger, he went on with his writing, teaching and research until he could no longer use his eyes and ears. He stuck to the truth of his discoveries till the end, because he knew they were true, and he wasn’t even prosecuted.
Swami Sivananda says, “God is truth, and He can be realized by observing truth in thought, word and deed.” According to him, *the thirteen forms of truth* are: truthfulness, equality, self-control, absence of jealousy, absence of envious emulation, forgiveness, modesty, endurance, charity, thoughtfulness, disinterested philanthropy (being too public-spirited or civic-minded), self-possession, and unceasing and compassionate harmlessness. Under certain circumstances, telling a (white) lie to produce immense good is regarded as truth.
Swami Sivananda says that the vak siddhi (vak means speech, and siddhi is a special power a yogi receives through practising sadhana and tapasya) can be mastered by observing truth always and at all times. The vak siddhi gives you the power to make whatever you say or think turn out to be true, even if it was not so before you said it. In other words, one gets the power to accomplish things by mere thought. This is also known as psychic speech. By practising truth at all times, one also obtains the power to weigh one’s words during conversation, thus directing the result of one’s words according to one’s will.
A lie is not only a lie if you speak incorrect or dishonest words. If you acted foolishly and afterwards blinded yourself with the belief that you did the right thing, it is also considered to be a lie, even though it all happened in your mind. It’s the same if you exaggerate, or brag, in order to boost your ego. Satya is not merely abstinence from telling lies, but also the ability to see the truth, to be aware of the truth behind everything. If you tell people what they should or should not do and then do whatever pleases you, you are a hypocrite. You say one thing and do another, thereby not being true even to yourself. Why should one lie? One lies to escape the consequences of the actions of oneself or one’s associate. This is a manifestation of the petty mind. Therefore, satya also helps in overcoming the petty mind.
Asteya, the third yama, is commonly known as honesty (in the sense of ‘abstinence from theft’).
अस्तेयप्रतिष्ठायां सर्वरत्नोपस्थानम् ॥३७॥
_asteya-pratiṣṭhāyāṁ sarvaratn-opasthānam ॥37॥_
Once non-stealing has been permanently established, all riches will be available. ||37||
asteya = to not steal
pratiṣṭhāyām = fixed; permanent stable
sarva = all
ratna =jewel; precious stone
upa = near; nearby
sthānam = space; room
upasthānam = to be available
To be able to follow asteya, we must be satisfied with what we have, our personal belongings, our way of thinking, what we do, where we are, who we are, etc. In other words, we must not be greedy and should try to be contented. We steal things because we desire them. To be able or to be strong enough to resist the temptation to steal the object that one desires, one’s mind must be strong. Hence, through mastering asteya, one purifies the mind of desires and vrittis.
Asteya makes the mind pure, like a mirror in which your divine mind is reflected. The very thought of gain through theft should not arise in the mind, because constant desire for objects not belonging to oneself is actual theft. People sometimes feel that you desire something belonging to them, and if they are good-natured, they’ll give it to you. That is not good, because you probably did not deserve it in the first place, and above all you are depriving that person of something they may have liked. Non-expressed desires for things that are not yours is a milder form of mental manipulation towards the owners of whatever you desire.
We steal things because we desire them, so it does not necessarily mean that we steal physical objects. There are people who steal the ideas of others. That is the worst form of theft. Try to keep your desires moderate. If you cannot fully clear your mind of them, do not just try to forget them, suppress them or put them aside, because when they come back to you, they’ll have reinforcements. And if the desires become too strong and you are unable to fully suppress them, they should be fulfilled as soon as possible, or else they will weigh even more heavily upon your mind until they lead you to theft or something similar.
These desires or thoughts which trouble the mind are called vrittis. If you are too good or too kind-hearted to steal, the desires/vrittis may probably gain more power over you if you are not mentally strong; and you will soon not be able to think straight or sleep well. That is the power of vrittis and desires. If you can control the mind with its desires or vrittis, you can observe asteya. And if you can completely observe asteya, it is said that things for which you have even the slightest desire will just come to you by whatever means, as if you were a magnet. Another material fruit obtained through perfecting asteya is that one will also get the intuitive power to know where to look for and find wealth.
Brahmacharya is usually depicted in books, discourses, scriptures etc. as celibacy. But Brahma literally means the ‘divine consciousness’ and charya, in this case, means ‘living’ or ‘one who is established in’. Therefore, brahmacharya actually means ‘being established in divine consciousness’, or ‘being established in the higher (form of the) mind’.
ब्रह्मचर्य प्रतिष्ठायां वीर्यलाभः ॥३८॥
brahma-carya pratiṣṭhāyāṁ vīrya-lābhaḥ ॥38॥
brahma =God; the absolute
carya = to change; to transform; to transition; to move; to walk
brahmacarya = transitioning to an awareness of the absolute; to be a monk; hence also frequently connotes celibacy
pratiṣṭhāyām = fixed; permanent stable
vīrya = life force; vitality; strength; force
lābhaḥ = require; achieve
When walking in the awareness of the highest reality (brahmacharya) is firmly established, then a great strength, capacity, or vitality (virya) is acquired.
Scientists have proved that only ten percent of the average human brain is active and freely accessed during daily activities. Spiritually evolved people said long ago that the human mind has an enormous capacity. Unfortunately, a large part of the ten percent is driven by instincts and indulges in sensual and petty activities.
The four basic instinctive drives are:
Maithuna (sexuality). These are dominant in our minds for the simple reason of survival. Since survival is not such a big problem in today’s society as it was in ancient times, a sort of vacuum is created. Food is over-available, fear becomes an obstacle in daily life, the world is over-populated and so on. Most people fill this vacuum by amplifying the fulfilment of these desires for sensual pleasure. Brahmacharya deals with filling this vacuum with spirituality.
Many people would say that ahara is the greatest drive, but it is not so. Brahmacharya is being free from the pleasure of fulfilling the instincts of the lower mind, and it is most commonly known as ‘celibacy’ because maithuna is the most powerful instinct. Maithuna is the greatest drive for without it we would have died out as a species long ago.
To most people, following brahmacharya would mean suppression of desires. Brahmacharya should not be suppression, and suppression is not the remedy for overcoming the lower mind or controlling any of its instinctive drives. Unless one is established in the higher mind, suppression is of no avail. One may be able to stop oneself from satisfying any of these instincts, but one cannot suppress the mind from dwelling upon them continually. That is not brahmacharya, being established in the higher mind, and the higher mind does not waste time by dwelling on such matters.
There is a story about two monks on a pilgrimage in (supposedly) strict brahmacharya. When they come across a lady unable to cross a large puddle, the senior monk carries her across to safety. Shocked, the younger monk eventually remonstrates with the senior monk, who replies, “You are still carrying her in your head while I left her by the banks of the puddle!” The younger monk is a perfect example of the opposite of brahmacharya. Swami Satyananda says, “When firmly established in brahmacharya, the yogi gains vigour, energy and courage, whereby he becomes free from the fear of death. Thus, brahmacharya is an important way of overcoming the klesha called abhinivesha, which is fear of death.” And since almost all fears have their roots in death, brahmacharya is a useful tool for overcoming fear in general.
Aparigraha, the fifth and last of the yamas, is non-possessiveness (also known as abstinence from greed). It is actually complete freedom from greed or covetousness.
अपरिग्रहस्थैर्ये जन्मकथंता संबोधः ॥३९॥
aparigraha-sthairye janma-kathaṁtā saṁbodhaḥ ॥39॥
aparigraha = non-covetousness; non-acceptance of gifts
sthairye = stability
janma = birth; consequences of birth; incarnation; earthly life
kathaṁtā = the how and why; goal
saṁbodhaḥ = understanding; knowledge
_When one is steadfast in non-possessiveness or non-grasping with the senses (aparigraha), there arises knowledge of the why and wherefore of past and future incarnations._
You should not try to possess more than you minimally need. As Swami Satyananda Saraswati mentions in Four Chapters on Freedom, “This keeps the mind unoccupied and also he (the aspirant) does not have to worry about anything because there is nothing (no possessions) there to be protected.” When we become non-possessive, or non-attached, we become impartial and in that way the conditioned love, affection, compassion and so on becomes unconditional, and not merely restricted to family, friends, relations, etc.
Gifts from others affect us and make us greedier. One consequence is that we start giving gifts because we expect something in return, which is bad because we get offended if we do not receive anything. A sannyasin should therefore avoid gifts. Greed also leads to attachment, and anxiety accompanies attachment. These are all obstacles to gaining spiritual knowledge. Swami Sivananda says, “ . . . freedom from attachment will result in knowledge of the whole course of our journey.” Also, it will be easy to observe asteya, or abstinence from theft, if we have mastered aparigraha.
The memories and habits of possessing objects must be first washed away from the mind, and only then can you start life anew. The mind also becomes pure by following aparigraha, and it is said that when you observe aparigraha fully, you obtain the siddhi through which you can remember your past lives, if you believe in reincarnation. But you must not carry aparigraha beyond your limits, or it will give rise to vulnerability and possessiveness. In other words, if aparigraha is carried too far, it may have the opposite effect.
The five niyamas, or five fixed rules of self-discipline, are: Shaucha (cleanliness)
Swadhyaya (study of the self)
Ishwara pranidhana (complete self-surrender to God).
The niyamas, all in all, are the fixed rules of self-discipline for spiritual aspirants on their journey of spiritual development.
शौचात् स्वाङ्गजुगुप्सा परैरसंसर्गः ॥४०॥
śaucāt svāṅga-jugupsā parairasaṁsargaḥ ॥40॥
Purity (shaucha) results in the abandonment of physicality and the cessation of physical contact with external things. ||40||
śaucāt =purity; purification; cleanliness; hygiene
svā = their own
aṅga = body; limbs
svāṅga = one’s own body
jugupsā = disinclined, distanced from, drawn away from
paraiḥ = with others; from others; from the outside
asaṁsargaḥ = cessation of contact, non-association
Shaucha, cleanliness, is the first niyama. Not only external cleanliness, like having a shower, brushing your teeth, etc., but purity of actions, purity of mind from evil and distracting, unnecessary thoughts and from bad, haunting memories. Cleanliness of the environment and of oneself is necessary for hygienic reasons, but the state of the environment also affects your mind. If it is clean and tidy, you will become more centred and will be able to concentrate properly, but if it is an unhygienic, messy or untidy environment, your mind may become disorganized. That is why it is better to tidy up your room in the morning. Such things seem trivial, but they help to keep the mind free of clutter and make it sharp and clear.
In other words, practising shaucha on the physical plane also affects the mind on the pranic and mental levels. Sage Patanjali says in the Yoga Sutras that by practising shaucha on the physical plane, one gains indifference towards the body and non-attachment towards others in the course of time. He says that when your mind is pure through shaucha, you become cheerful and fit to practise concentration (dharana) and sense control (pratyahara), as the mirror of the mind is clean and, therefore, you are able to see your real self reflected in it.
Santosha, contentment or satisfaction, is the second niyama.
An attitude of contentment (santosha) gives rise to unexcelled happiness, mental comfort, joy, and satisfaction. ||42||
saṁtoṣāt = contentment
anuttamaḥ =unexcelled; extreme; supreme
sukha = pleasure; happiness; comfort; satisfaction
lābhaḥ = attained
Santosha is being content with one’s actions and with what one has, what one is, where one is, and with what one has done or what one is doing. It also means to be content about where one is, whether it be concerning time or space. You should not daydream about the future nor should your mind linger in the past. Be content with where you are, or you will never be happy or feel true satisfaction. Also, santosha is being content with what one is. If you do not like being what you are, you won’t find any happiness in life either. You have to be contented with what you do, if you have done your best.
Santosha is essential for spiritual life. If you do not practise it, you won’t really get very far on your journey. By putting santosha into practice, you can get rid of cravings and attain great happiness to progress on the spiritual ladder, path, journey, or whatever you want to call it. It is also necessary to practise santosha in order to observe asteya. A beggar is a king if he is contented with what he has, while a king is like a beggar if he still desires more riches to add to his treasure troves and vaults by imposing more taxes on the poor.
If you are dissatisfied, it causes psychic infirmity and many other complexes. _In the Yoga Vashishtha, Sage Vashishtha, who was one of Rama’s teachers, says that vichara (reflection), shanti (peacefulness), satsang (being in the company of truth, in any form), and santosha (contentment) are the four sentinels at the gate of moksha (salvation, or being completely freed from the cycle of birth and rebirth)._ He says that if you have mastered santosha, the other three will let you pass automatically.
The third niyama is tapasya (or tapas), austerity or moderation – depending upon one’s capacity.
Through self discipline (tapas), mental impurities are destroyed and the body and senses take on supernatural powers. ||43||
kāya = the physical body
indriya = senses; organs of perception
siddhiḥ = supernatural power
aśuddhi = impurities
kṣayāt = removal, destruction, elimination
tapaḥ = self-discipline; ascesis
The main purpose of attaining tapasya is to be able to meditate properly. It creates a controlled mind which will not accept any interference from the body, like “I’m thirsty!” or “I want food!” or “that hurts!” etc. It also hardens the body, so that these desires aren’t too frequent. It strengthens the organs and makes them healthy in order not to experience painful distractions during meditation. Thus it leads to pratyahara or abstraction of the senses.
In the Bhagavad Gita it is mentioned that there are three types of austerities:
(i) austerity of the physical body
(ii) austerity of communication and speech (mouna)
(iii) austerity of the mind. Tapasya includes control over one’s thoughts in order to avoid unnecessary talking.
As a sculptor chips away all the unnecessary bits of rock to make a beautiful sculpture, so the hardships through which the body goes strengthen the mind and chip away all the unnecessary bits, leaving only the true essence of your real self. By practising tapasya, the body becomes immune to extensive heat, cold and even poisons and other hardships.
According to Swami Satyananda Saraswati in Four Chapters on Freedom, there are five types of tapas:
(i) exposure to the sun to harden the skin
(ii) exposure to fire to make one’s body slim and brown
(iii) doing pranayama to heat the body
(iv) accumulating the fire of concentration at one point
(v) the fire of fasting.
These are the five fires which remove the toxins to make the body fit for meditation.
Tapasya is not only about making the body fit for meditation. Doing things one does not want to do out of laziness or tamas is another form of tapasya. The same applies to moderating entertainment which only pleases oneself and does no good to others. This form of tapasya helps to control the ego, making one more disciplined.
स्वाध्यायादिष्टदेवता संप्रयोगः ॥४४॥
svādhyāyād-iṣṭa-devatā saṁprayogaḥ ॥44॥
Self-study and reflection on yourself (svadhyaya) brings you into contact with the desired ideal. ||44||
svādhyāyat = self-study; learning from one self
iṣṭa = loved; sought out
devatā = godliness; personal God; ideal
saṁprayogaḥ = connected with; oneness
Swadhyaya is the fourth niyama, which is defined as study of the self in the introduction. It is usually defined as ‘study of ancient spiritual scriptures’, but one can read the scriptures and not understand or apply a single thing from them in our daily lives. Swa means ‘self’ here; therefore, swadhyaya is actually the study of the self, or self-analysis. One must be the drashta, the witness, the observer. The higher type of knowledge is actual experience, while the lower form is learning directly from books and the even lower form is learning from books but not understanding a thing that one is reading. It is recorded in the Essene Gospel of Peace that Jesus said, “Seek not the law in your scriptures, for the law is life, whereas the scripture is dead.”
Through swadhyaya we can improve ourselves and guide ourselves on the right path to some extent without the help of the guru. If you can see your life and observe it like a book, as in the yogic practice of antar mouna, you can observe swadhyaya, as Swami Niranjanananda has pointed out in Yoga Darshan. One can observe and modify one’s reactions, one can moderate one’s negativity and improve one’s way of perceiving things through observing the self.
From another point of view, chanting the name of God in the form of the Gayatri mantra, the Om mantra, a prayer, etc., or even your own initiation mantra, helps to focus the mind, which helps in swadhyaya. When one chants a mantra from the heart, one does not necessarily need to understand what one is chanting in order to experience spiritual upliftment.
praṇidhāna = devotion to a higher idea; accepting one’s fate.
Ishwara pranidhana, or complete self-surrender to God, is the last and one of the hardest niyamas. One gets to a stage on the spiritual journey when the guru steps back and when one cannot proceed without help and one becomes desperate. Such is the human mind that one can develop complete faith in God only when a desperate situation arises, where none but God (by God I mean Ishwara, Allah, Yahweh, or any other) can help, whether you believe in God or not. People understand God in many different ways. Some do not even believe in the concept of God. Yet everyone who seeks spiritual guidance and evolution reaches this stage if they are sincere in their quest. As God is different to many people, we reach this stage through different means and situations. It is the time when one completely lets go of all ego and surrenders to destiny. Sage Patanjali says in the Yoga Sutras that one can even attain the highest form of samadhi, the final stage before kaivalya, if one can truly and fully surrender to God. Your self-surrender should be free and unconditional.There is a story about a dedicated monk deep in meditation in his cave. Suddenly there was a freak flood and the town nearby was filled with gushing water. Some good-natured people paddled laboriously on their little raft to try and save the monk. But when they reached his cave, the monk said, “Do not worry. I am a pious man who has been serving God all his life. God will not desert me now. Never fear, He will come and save me with His own hands.”A few minutes later a yacht with five men arrived. They attempted to rescue the monk, but received the same reply. Finally, a rescue helicopter arrived and hovered outside the cave, but the monk sent them away.The water rose, flooded the monk’s abode and he drowned. When he reached heaven he said to God, “I’ve been worshipping you all my life and yet you didn’t come and save me when I needed you the most!” And God replied “Well, I don’t know what you expected. First I sent you a raft, then a yacht, then a first class helicopter, and you only said silly things like ‘God will save me with His own hands.’ The raft, yacht and helicopter were my hands.”It all seems to be a mental process; however, the physical outcome is that when one surrenders to and realizes Ishwara, one never remains the same because one cannot realize God if one has even the smallest hint of a human ego.Sage Patanjali supported advaita vedanta, which does not support the principle of God as our loving father living in another world, in heaven. So here Ishwara is not God, but the unchanging, ever-uniform reality, while nashwara is the changing, decaying, creative aspect in the cycle of (our) evolution. God exists, and you can experience that only if you have complete faith in him or her.⚜🌹🌹⚜🌹🌹⚜🌹⚜🌹🌹🌹⚜🌹🌹⚜🌹🌹🌹⚜🌹🌹⚜🌹🌹🌹⚜🌹🌹⚜🌹🌹🌹⚜🌹🌹⚜