The central point of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, composed around 200 CE, is the eight-limbed path, most commonly known as Ashtanga Yoga. The first “limb” is Yama or as I understand it, the Code of conduct. I find it an interesting concept as it relates to decision-making suggesting a moral foundation for the everyday life.
I am not a religious person, but I think that we’ve somehow lost this conception of the good or bad. I know that many people around me and in the world still practice religion but even then, I wonder if the values are still intact. Everything is so easily and readily accessible that it seems we have no more boundaries: we can do anything, we can have it all. Unfortunately, I think that this vastness of choice is one of the reasons why many of us are so unhappy.
Many share family values and are raised accordingly to certain principles, but today, as an adult, what are the rules you live by? What is your life’s Code of conduct? I was reading a blog named “Peace, Love and Agave Nectar” the other day and stumbled upon her Rules I (Try to) Live By. It inspired me and I found myself asking if I had any such rules… Kind of, but no so much, not written down at least.
Then, starting to read Mark Stephen’s book “Teaching Yoga”, I stumbled upon Patanjali’s Yamas, yet again, and thought that these would be a good start to my introspection. Defined as “principles of ethical behavior one should follow in everyday life, in our relationship with others and with ourselves”, here are the five Yamas:
1. Ahimsa ~ often interpreted as non-violence, Ahimsa is about respecting one’s own body and extending this respect to all other beings in the world. We can think of eating properly, exercising, being compassionate and understanding. In teaching yoga, it is interpreted as providing guidance that do not hurt or injure students or ourselves.
2. Satya ~ being honest with ourselves and others. “Truth should be told when agreeable, should be said agreeably, and truth should not be said that does harm; however, never lie to give pleasure”. It is always difficult to hear the truth, but if it is told without malicious intent, I think that even if it is not pleasant, it will eventually be understood.
3. Asteya ~ the essence of asteya, “not stealing”, is freeing oneself from the desire to have something that one has not earned or paid for. For yoga teachers this can also be interpreted as creating ways for students to experience the abundance in their practice. It does not mean however that we deserve something or other.
4. Brahmacharya ~ honor yourself and others in intimate relationships. This Yama was often though of “a life of celibacy, religious study and self-restraint” but it is now typically given the loose interpretation as the “right use of energy”. I find it speaks to respect and our value as human beings.
5. Aparigrapha ~ meaning not to be greedy or being free of desire. It is about living with generosity of spirit and action, giving without expecting something in return. In yoga, this helps us practice with an attitude of patience in which steadiness and ease is more important than getting into a pose.
This is one path but I encourage you to find your own or to at least give it some thought. We make decisions and choices everyday of our lives. By wanting to make clearer choices, based on our own code of conduct, we understand the value of our decisions and we become an active member of our own life, thus happier. Stop being the victim when you are the master and make the choices that will make you happy in the long-run because no one else will do it for you. Namaste.