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    The Niyamas—Effective Weapons To Destroy The Citadel Of The Senses

    The sage Patanjali Maharshi has tried to put at our disposal the knowledge of how to transcend our present state of body-bound consciousness, caught up and involved in a psychological framework which is characterised by many shortcomings, for it swings between the pairs of opposites—Harsha and Soka, Sukha and Duhkha, and knowledge and ignorance—and is subject to Bhranti. By making us thus transcend the state of body-bound consciousness entangled with mental and intellectual processes, Patanjali restores to the consciousness its pristine state which is a state of superconsciousness, which is a state that takes us far above and beyond the planes of thinking, feeling, remembering, imagining, constantly circling round and round within the framework of time, space and causation—past, present and future, here and there, I and mine. Patanjali takes us beyond these levels and establishes our consciousness in its pristine state, in its unlimited or unqualified state. In that state, our consciousness is unhampered, not bothered by the above-mentioned categories or factors.

    The Specific Roles of Yama and Niyama—Stopping the Downward Plunge and Helping the Upward Ascent

    When your consciousness is established in its own pure pristine state, you know yourself as you truly are, and not feel yourself to be something you think yourself to be. Patanjali has given us the science of Yoga to enable us to go beyond our present state of limited consciousness. Our present state of consciousness is bound up with the temporary, changing, perishable, physical body, bound up with the ever-changing, restless mind, characterised by many impurities. These impurities stem from the bad aspect of our being which is the result of the Tamo-Guna factor in our Prakriti. As we saw in the original primary thesis of Yoga philosophy, our present state is due to our involvement in Prakriti. Prakriti comprises the three Gunas and the grossest among them is Tamas. This Tamas has its own characteristics, and arising out of these characteristics, we have the grossest aspect of our present personality by which we are identified; and that grossest aspect of our present personality contains many things that are not at all a compliment to our human nature. For, the Tamasic aspect of our personality is brutal, bestial, animal, gross and ugly. It carries with it the propensity to cruelty, the propensity to violence, hatred, anger. It carries with it the desire to hurt, to harm and destroy. It is all “Pasu”, it is all animal, it does not really belong to the human. It does not belong to culture, it does not belong to education, it does not belong to refinement, it does not belong to civilisation. It is something that is uncivilised, uncultured, uneducated, very gross, not refined. But yet, it is there even amongst the so-called civilised and educated people—this brutality, this ill-treatment to torment others, to be brutal to others. It may be in a physical way, it may be in a more subtle mental way. It happens within the four walls of a home in which a family is living. The father can be cruel to the children; the wife can be cruel to her husband; the husband can be brutal and cruel to his wife. The children may be absolutely callous, indifferent. For every loving family that there is, there may be two where the home life is a perpetual sorrow, a perpetual agony, pain. Why? Because of the unregenerate nature of the individual in human society. This nature is the direct outcome of the Tamo-Guna in Prakriti. And this is contrary to normal human nature. And it is this which is declared to be the impurity in the human individual. Vedanta calls it Mala.

    The elimination and eradication of this Mala is one of the first objectives of the science of Yoga, and therefore, to stem this or to stop this headlong plunge in the direction of these impure patterns of thinking, feeling, speaking and behaving, the five Yamas or vows have been prescribed by Patanjali. These vows have to be strictly adhered to and there is no question of any excuse for non-adherence due to time, place and circumstance. No. These vows are universal. They have to be adhered to at all times, in all places, under all circumstances. They are to be absolutely adhered to. No exception is to be made. Then alone can man’s impure type of conduct which contradicts human nature and which has been there over years and generations and births be overcome. Only then can man’s age-old impure habits and instincts be overcome. They are so deep-rooted. Impurity, sensuality, gross carnal lustfulness, the propensity to grab and get and keep with unlimited avidity, cupidity, avarice, greed and covetousness—all this Himsatmak Prakriti is deep-rooted. Patanjali said, “No. As long as these propensities are there, evolution is a far cry. You cannot go up. You have to make a determined stand against them and try to remove them, eradicate them”. And therefore he gave the very stern practice of taking the five foremost vows and sticking to them, adhering to them at any cost. And this sticking to the vows has the effect of arresting the headlong downward movement in your life and reversing it in the opposite direction. Yoga wants to make you divine. Yoga wants to make you godly, because the philosophy of Yoga says that you are the all-perfect Divine Being completely independent of Prakriti, liberated from all afflictions, and in a state of bliss and joy and perfection. The philosophy of Yoga says that you are the Purusha; and to restore to you your Purushahood is the objective of Yoga. And so, to commence with, it asks you to stop going in the downward direction, before thinking of going in the desired direction. And if properly practised, Yama succeeds in arresting the progress of the Jiva or the individual soul in an ungodly, undivine, unspiritual direction. In the absence of these vows of Yama, day by day, man gets grosser and grosser, becoming more and more enslaved and bound up and imprisoned in the devilish lifestyle, in the hellish pattern of living, which is the root cause of all problems in human society, of all suffering, all conflict, clash, disharmony, discord, violence, sorrow, pain and cruelty. This must stop. So, to arrest this trend, a totally strict adherence to Yama is prescribed.

    But, Yama alone is not enough. It is no doubt necessary and indispensable to stop your downward plunge, but at the same time, you must also make an effort to move in a positive direction. For example, if you are a very extravagant spendthrift, a waster of money, asking you to stop spending in all the wrong directions is no doubt important. But, at the same time, side by side, you must also be gradually educated to conserve something, to save and put by something for a rainy day. Merely stopping your extravagance and waste will not be sufficient. Because, even if you do not waste, even if you stop being extravagant and stop getting into debt, you may still spend all that you earn. Then, you will be always living a hand-to-mouth existence. You will not know what you will eat tomorrow. You will live like a cooly, earning something today and spending the whole amount today. Tomorrow, once again, you will have to do back-breaking work for eight hours, because there is nothing put by. So, while it is good and desirable that you stop being extravagant and getting into debt, you must also be educated to conserve something so that you can always fall back upon your savings. Otherwise, if you fall ill and you are not in a position to do any work for some days, you will starve. So, extravagant waste, criminal waste, has to be stopped; and at the same time, something earned must be put by. Both the aspects are important. The negative tendency must be ended, and side by side, a positive tendency must be nurtured and developed.

    And that is precisely why the wise sage Patanjali lifts us up into a second dimension of Yoga which goes beyond the negative process of stopping your headlong plunge into animality and brutality, impurity and bestiality, and puts you up into a human plane. He says that now it is also necessary to make positive progress. He says that now your life should take a positive, upward, ascending pattern, take a positive direction that will gradually start making you move towards godliness, divinity and spirituality. So, this positive process is the next step and it works upon various levels in various ways. The practices prescribed by Patanjali are positive in the psychological sense and positive also in the metaphysical sense. They aim at achieving for you actual spiritual gain.

    Transforming Human Nature into Divine Nature—The Role of Saucha or Purity

    In the last chapter it was stated that is was necessary to grow in the likeness of whatever Tattva or principle in which you wished to become established. “Devo Bhutva Devamaradhayet” is a time-honoured adage. If you want to become divine, if you want to worship God, you must become godly. If you want to worship Divinity, meditate upon Divinity—meditation is the highest worship—and grow in divinity. That is the one and only way. There are no other ways. You cannot make an arithmetical addition by adding 30 British Pounds sterling, 53 American Dollars and 77 Indian Rupees and striking a total. You cannot do it that way. To make a total of the three different currencies, you must convert all into Pounds Sterling or you must convert all into Dollars or you must convert all into Rupees. Then you must add them up. In the same way, if you want to become godly, you must convert your human nature into something spiritual, into something that is in the likeness of that. So, the commencement of that process of conversion is initiated and carried out in the first of the five Niyamas which is Saucha. Saucha includes both outer cleanliness and inner purity. It is Bahyantara Saucha. The way in which you feel, the way in which you think, your imaginations, your thoughts, your feelings, your motivations—all these should be Suddha, Nirmala. The outward action in the form of speech, action, behaviour—Charitra and Varta—must be Pavitra, Nirmala. And there is always an inescapable give and take between man and his environment—always. We are creatures who are all the time being affected by what is around us and we always keep affecting what is around us by what we are. This is an interchange, a two-way interchange, between a being and everything surrounding the being. Therefore Patanjali asks you to launch upon a course of keeping everything around you clean. Keep your body clean, keep your clothes clean, keep your environment clean. What you are affects your environment and what environment there is around you affects you too. Therefore, the taking up deliberately of the practice of purity in food, purity in dress and keeping everything around you clean—that is one of the Angas of this Yoga.

    In terms of cleanliness, food means Sattvic food. Read what the Gita has to say about food. Food must be fresh, not stale and rotten, not that which is very extremely pungent and sour. Things which are not Sattvic in nature should not be eaten, because the finest part of food affects the mind.

    You should not move indiscriminately with each and everyone, all and sundry, but you should keep the company of only those people who are pure, who have got good tendencies, who are moral in their character, who are ethical in their character. You should not mix with people given to lustfulness and carnality, sensuality and indulgence and immorality, because if you keep company with them, you are bound to be affected by their proximity and their thoughts. Company is a powerful factor. Keeping company with people who always talk about vulgar things, who always talk about sexual matters, about drinking and gambling, will pollute your mind. Such people may sometimes be very good friends, very sociable, very popular and very talented in other ways, but basically their character is gross and sensual. They are Vishayavilasa Bhogis. To a spiritual aspirant they will do no good, though to one who is not a spiritual aspirant, their company may prove beneficial socially and in other ways. But, that is a different dimension altogether. No matter how much beneficial their company might be—socially, economically and in other ways—you will lose spiritually. So much so, one Saint says in one of his Bhajans. “In whose heart there is no devotion to the Lord, shun the company of that person as though he were not one enemy, not a hundred enemies, not a thousand enemies, but as though he were more than a million enemies”. Think of him to be more than a million enemies to you, even though he is your best chum, best friend, living in your neighbourhood or your hostel, or even in your own room as your room-mate. “Jake Priya Na Ram Vaidehi, Tyajiye Tako Sangh Koti Vairi Sam Jadyepi Param Sanehi.” For whom the Lord is not dear, shun his company as though he were akin to ten million enemies, even if he is your own relative, your own brother-in-law, your own next-door neighbour, your own friend, class mate or school-fellow. Such strong words have been used by this saint. So, this indicates to what extent you must keep yourself uncontaminated, unpolluted, by any factor that is likely to make you anything other than the Being whom you are trying to attain; and that Being whom you are trying to attain is the Nitya-Suddha Atma, the Parama-Pavitra, Nirmala, Amala, Vimala, Nitya-Suddha, Niranjana Atma-Tattva.

    The Rationale Behind the Extreme Rigidity of Orthodox Rules and Regulations

    The various rules and regulations devised by our ancestors is only to make a person conscious that he must keep himself pure if he wants to attain the pure Atman. Of course, it could be taken to extremes. That is a different thing. It may become a vice also. But, that is a great virtue if it is not taken beyond limits, if it is not taken to extremes. Our ancients made so many devices and gave us an orthodox pattern of behaving where we would always try to keep ourselves pure. If you take bath, it has to be three times—morning, midday and afternoon. And after you take bath, you should not touch anything impure or unclean. If you touch, you have to take bath again, for you become polluted by touching that impure something. Thus you become acutely conscious that you are in a state of sanctity, purity, holiness. And in that state of purity, you cannot even touch your own mouth or tongue, because then you have to wash your hand. The hand becomes impure by touching the mouth or the tongue. It becomes polluted, because all sorts of things are said by the tongue—good things and bad things, auspicious and inauspicious things, kind and loving things and harsh things, truthful things and untruthful things. But if you are established in absolute truth, in absolute compassion, in absolute love and kindness and purity, then your hand will not get polluted by touching your tongue. If you have reached such a state of purity that your talk has become perfect, then people desire to eat your Uchhishta. They think that they will become sanctified by partaking of the remains of the food that you have eaten. People believe that by taking the Uchhishta of a saint or a Mahapurusha their own impurity will go away. But, in the case of a normal man, who speaks truth and untruth, who speaks kind words and harsh words, who indulges in pure talk and in impure talk, vulgar talk, they say that if he touches his tongue, he must wash his hands, because by touching his tongue his hands become polluted. Thus our ancients gave various norms, standards of behaviour. For example, if you have boiled rice or cooked rice, you cannot touch that cooked rice and then afterwards go and do something which is sacred, because that cooked rice is impure and by touching it you have become polluted. So you have to wash yourself again.

    The ancients carried this concept of purity to such fineness that, following in their footsteps, you grew into a state of awareness of yourself as an exceptional being, as an exceptionally pure, sanctified, holy being, and that awareness kept your consciousness raised upon a level where nothing that was drab or profane or impure was allowed to reach and pollute it and make it impure. In the same way, the company that you keep, the food that you eat, the environment that you live in, the thoughts that you harbour, the type of things that you read—when the regulations concerning these are taken to a very extreme state, it raises various problems. For example, there are certain people in certain states who are supposed to become polluted when some death has occurred in the family of a relative or when a child has been born in the family of a relative. Then, for ten days those people are not supposed to be pure; rather, they are supposed to he in a state of untouchability. Now, supposing you are doing some Anushtan, and after the day’s Anushtan you are sitting for your meal; and if you hear the voice of someone who is in a state of such untouchability, in a state of such impurity, then you have to leave your meal midway! You cannot eat your meal afterwards! By developing the concept of purity to such a state of fineness, your entire psychology is raised to such an extreme level of refinement that even the least contrary factor entering into it brings about a change in its quality or degree of purity and therefore you have to go and take a bath. Such extreme orthodoxy has its virtue. They say that drastic diseases require the administration of drastic remedies. So, when you are involved in a state of absolute impurity, it is only by bringing into being a drastic state of the opposite condition, that you are able to release yourself once and for all from your state of extreme impurity. So, inner and outer purity was laid as an important Sadhana in the second Anga of Patanjali’s Yoga Shastra so that you were once and for all completely freed and raised up into a different level of living, behaving and moving. The result was that your entire exterior as well as interior shone with a certain condition of absolute purity, absolute cleanliness.

    Santosh or Contentment—A Weapon to Destroy the Domination of the Senses and the Sense-appetite

    Now you always identify yourself with your body, this sense or that sense, identify yourself with the Cheshta of every Indriya, identify yourself with the condition, the behaviour and the demands of one or the other of the senses, instead of breaking the identification and standing aloof and saying, “No, I will not listen to the urge of the senses. I will not give in to the sense-appetite, because this sense-appetite is not the expression or manifestation of my real nature, because I am different from these senses”. Instead of saying that, if a sense-appetite vehemently demands its satisfaction, you think yourself one with that state and immediately set about doing things that are necessary to satisfy that sense-appetite. Why? Because, you do not know of yourself as other than that sense-appetite, as distinct from that sense-appetite. You are immediately prepared to think of that demand of that sense-appetite as your own want, as your own desire, as your own need, as your own demand; so you set about initiating a line of activity in order to immediately appease that sense, immediately satisfy that demand of that sense-appetite, because you and that sense are in a state of oneness, are in a state of unified consciousness, are in a state of identification. That thing is your Samsara. That thing is the root cause of your suffering. That thing is your state of bondage and Patanjali seeks to liberate you from that state of bondage, and as long as that state of identification continues, the senses will be constantly harassing you. They will be constantly tormenting you, because they are always on the rampage; they are always actively wanting to manifest themselves. So, one poet writes how creatures belonging to different species come to grief by the activity of but one sense. The moth becomes destroyed by its sense of sight. The elephant gets into captivity by giving in to the sense of touch. The fish gets hooked by succumbing to the sense of taste. The bee is entrapped in the lotus by the sense of smell. And the deer gets caught by yielding to the sense of hearing. And here is the human individual, an animal in which all the five senses are centralised! His fate can well be imagined! He has all the five senses turbulent, all the five sense-appetites active and demanding fulfilment. So, that keeps him always in a state of turmoil, always in a state of discontentment, always in a state of dissatisfaction. As long as he identifies himself with the senses and the sense-appetites, he is always in a state of agitation, because these senses are always making demands upon him, always agitating, always clamouring for satisfaction. So, Patanjali says: “No, you must end this state of things. You must break this connection between you and the senses and you must determinedly start saying ‘No’ to the senses. You must deny the senses”. That is possible only if you develop the awareness that you are different from the senses. You must boldly declare: “I am sufficient as I am. I do not need to be fed by the senses with their sense-satisfactions, because they are different and I am different. I do not need their support and their supply of sense-satisfaction. I am sufficient as I am. So I shall seat myself upon the supreme seat of contentment. I do not require anything more. I am full as I am, complete as I am; I am sufficient as I am. I am not the senses, I am apart from the senses. I am enough”. That is how you have to develop Santosh, supported by Sakshi Bhav.

    The psychological state of Santosh is supported by the metaphysical awareness of being a Sakshi of the senses, of not being one with the senses. Being a Sakshi means standing apart, being unaffected. You do not give in to the demands of the sense-appetite, because you are not the senses. You are the Purusha. The senses belong to Prakriti. And therefore, you as the Purusha who is apart from Prakriti, assert your independence of Prakriti and its manifestations. In this manner, upon this metaphysical basis, you refuse to give in to the clamour of the sense-appetite, and say, “No. As I am, I am quite content, quite happy”. So, Santosh is a state of the psyche, is a state of the inner man, where the inner man is no longer prepared to give in to the clamour of the sense-appetite. You refuse to give in to the sense cravings. That is the psychological part of it. And you do this upon the metaphysical basis or the philosophical basis of affirming your reality and rejecting your false personality. You say: “This false personality is untrue, is Asat, is only an appearance. My reality is my divine Purushahood in which I am Paripurna, in which I do not require the petty satisfaction of sense indulgence, in which I do not require the Vishaya Bhoga for my happiness and joy. My happiness is complete by itself, without the need of any addition through the avenues of the senses”. Now, that is the full implication of the Sadhana of Santosha. You should not think that it is merely an ordinary qualification or a quality. It has much deeper roots and ramifications, much deeper roots and implications. Santosha is a psychological discipline and also a metaphysical discipline. Santosha is both. It not only helps to liberate you from the present condition, but also helps you to become more established in your permanent condition, in your permanent state.

    But, Santosha is not easy. The senses that have been pampered for ages will not immediately listen to your new vision and your new approach and attitude. They will not give in. They will rebel and revolt, because they have become crystallized into instinct in your Svabhava. The constant and continuous repetition of a certain pattern of activity, where you always gave in to the senses, always satisfied their appetite, has crystallized that pattern of appeasement of senses as part of your Svabhava. So, it is not easy to liberate yourself in a trite, even though you may be much enlightened. You may know of yourself in a new light through the study of the philosophy of Yoga and you may be aware of the necessity of applying a new technique, a psychological technique, to raise your consciousness. Yet, in spite of this, because of their age old instinct, the senses insist upon asserting themselves. So, there is need for a more fiery, more determined and stronger technique, stronger Sadhana, to counter the instinctive nature of the sensuality in you, because the roots of action lie in the spring-source which is the great accumulation of Samskaras and Vasanas lying in the Chitta. They go on continuously rising to the surface of the Manas. These are the Vrittis that goad you to specific patterns of activity. And your Vrittis and Vasanas are Sattvic as well as Tamasic, Daivic as well as Asuric, and they keep on coming to the surface, due to Prarabdha Karma. Therefore, in order to go to the very root of your human problem, of your earthly problem of Samsaric Bandhana, Patanjali declared the very process of Yoga to be Vritti-Nirodhana. Vritti is nothing but the manifest expression of Vasana and Samskara. So, Vritti-Nirodhana is the central process of Yoga. But to make this Vritti-Nirodhana easier, why not try to bring about a change in the very nature of the Vasanas and Samskaras? Why not try to bring about a transformation of your psyche—upon your psychological level? Why not try to have a psychological rebirth? If you can do that, it will be a Sahayogi Prakriya; it will be a helpful complementary process. Therefore it is that the Yamas and the Niyamas have been instituted by Patanjali in his overall scheme of Raja Yoga.

    Tapasya—A Direct Confrontation with Sense Behaviour

    So, first and foremost, to counter this instinctive sense-urge that has come as the inherited impulse of ages, oppose it with will power. Do exactly the contrary. Engage yourself in Sadhana which comprises the exact contrary of the insatiable urge of the general sensual nature of your being. What is engaging in that Sadhana which is the absolute contradiction of the sensual nature? It is denial of the senses and doing the opposite of what the senses want. If the sense-urge says, “Satisfy my palate”, you say, “I will fast”. If the sense-urge says, “I will go into deep Tamas by sleeping, sleeping, sleeping like a pig or a hog”, you say, “I will not sleep, I will have periods of absolute wakefulness, not by playing the radio loudly or by taking some strong tea or coffee, but by exercising my will power”. These days it is common to see people doing night-long Sankirtan, but to do that, they take the help of stimulating things. That is no good. It should be through the will power, through assertion of the Atma-Bal. Your will power should counter the Tamas by keeping vigil. And when you want comfort, say, the comfort of nice warm clothing in cold weather, stand in the Ganges, in midwinter, at night, with the chill wind blowing upon you. And if you want the comfort of ice-cold drinks and air-conditioned coolness in midsummer, sit in the sun, and as though it is not enough, sit bare headed. If that too is not enough, put more heat, put a little cow-dung fire in front, put a little cow-dung fire on the right, on the left and at the back. Sit like that in summer.

    Patanjali gave a Sanket. You have to be fiery, you have to be determined, you have to make up your mind to assert your will and break the sensual nature which craves for comfort, which craves for indulgence, which craves for satisfaction, by doing the very opposite of all that it craves for. By experiencing heat in summer, by experiencing more cold in winter, by experiencing fasting and hunger when you feel like eating, by experiencing wakefulness by vigil, you curb the senses and develop more will power. Go without umbrella and shoes for twelve months as a Sadhana, as a Tapasya. This is curbing of the senses. When you want to eat sweets, discipline the tongue by eating bitter Neem leaves for forty days. If the body wants a very soft pillow and nicely covered soft bed, sleep on the concrete floor; habituate yourself to sleep on the concrete floor or on a piece of wooden plank where bone meets concrete or bone meets wood. In this way if you practise, it is called Tapasya. Tapasya is a determined counter-attack against the habitual propensity of the senses to achieve satisfaction, to taste satisfaction. That is Tapasya. Tapasya is controlling the senses through the fire of will power, through the fire of determination, through the fire of strong resolve. That is the essence of the third Anga of Patanjali’s Niyama which gives a swing to your entire life-stream in an upward, higher direction, in a subtler direction, in the direction of Satya, in the direction of Atma, in the spiritual direction. Whereas Yama puts a stop to your flow in the downward gross direction, in the animal direction, Niyama has the effect of diverting the flow in the opposite higher direction towards the Spirit. That is the rationale behind Niyama.

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