Self-Discipline - 24 hours Meditation - Part III5, Dec, 2013, by Seema Bhatnagar
Yoga and Self-Discipline
The great Indian sages some 1700 years back, realized the value of self-discipline in life and laid down the foundation of Hindu philosophy for building personal character to reach the peak of human potential. They prescribed certain rules and guidelines, practicing which, an individual can develop pure and strong character to lead a happier and joyful life. Maharishi Patanjali who is also called as, "The Father of Yoga", compiled some 195 sutras (aphorisms), which serve as a framework for integrating Yoga into daily routine for leading an ethical life. He founded the concept of Ashtang Yoga, its literal meaning is "asht" means eight, "ang" means limbs, as a whole meaning is "eight limbs of Yoga", for leading a more meaningful and ethical life. It mentions that those who want to realize self must first start with disciplining themselves. The eight limbs or ashtang yoga describes following stages for an individual to slowly progress towards the best of personal potential.
Specifies the code of conduct, restraints and behavior in personal life. It involves our interactions with external world and other people.
It involves observances, self-training and focus towards inside and inner world of an individual.
It is about physical postures or "asana" for body. Each asana in Yoga demands a good degree of self-discipline and control over body. Designed to build a strong body so that it can support a healthy mind.
Commonly known as a breathing exercise, designed to have mastery over respiration process. This is based on the fact that breath is a bridge between mind and body. A control over breath gives a significant control over mind and body both.
It is a withdrawal from outer sensory world. Using this, an individual can objectively observe personal cravings which commonly debilitate personal growth.
It is about focusing attention on a single point.
It is an uninterrupted flow of concentration. The literal meaning of dhyana is meditation. By this stage, mind has few or no thoughts.
It is a state of ecstasy and infinite bliss when a meditator transcends boundaries of Self and merges with the reality of universe. It is the ultimate state of yoga and can be experienced only with regular and hard sadhna (practice) or self-discipline practiced over long years.
Brahmacharya is commonly understood as continence but it has a much deeper meaning. The literal meaning is "Brahma" means divine, "acharan" mean "practice", that mean practicing divine conduct. It advocates celibacy when single and after marriage, faithful to only spouse.
To begin with, out of these eight limbs, the first two, Yama and Niyamas are more relevant to context of self-discipline. The Yamas and Niyamas are further detailed with wise-characteristics to be adopted by an individual to have purity and discipline of mind.
"Self-restraint in actions includes abstention from violence, from falsehoods, from stealing, from sexual engagements, and from acceptance of gifts." ~ Patanjali sutra (2.30)
Following are the Yamas, as described by Sage Patanjali:
- Ahimsha - Non-Violence:
The general perception of non-violence is not to kill others or not to cause any physical harm, but here, the concept of non-violence is much deeper. It prescribes not to cause injury or harm to any creature of this universe through action, speech or even a thought. Even a thought of causing harm to other is considered non-violence which is the subtlest form of violence. It encourages the attitude of friendliness and mindfulness towards other beings. Even if somebody rebukes or insult, one should not retaliate and must remain non-violent. Practicing this vow, demands high degree of patience, forgiveness and self-control.
- Satya - Truthfulness:
Satya means "to speak the truth,". It is to adhere to truthfulness but not intending to deceive or causing some harm to others. If there is a situation where speaking truth can cause some harm to others, it is prudent not to say it. Satya should never come into conflict with our efforts to behave with ahimsa. One should admit personal failings and should stay away from gossiping and backbiting. The honest, mindful and truthful communication can help in developing better relationships at home, at works and within communities.
- Asteya - Non-stealing:
Asteya means "nonstealing" which means not to steal or covet somebody's possession. One should not indulge in gamble or defrauding others and must repay the debt without failing. Do not use other's name, resources, words or rights without permission. Even when you want to seek somebody's time, you must seek and wait for his/her permission because it his/her right over personal time.
- Brahmacharaya - Divine conduct:
Brahmacharya is commonly understood as continence but it has a much deeper meaning. The literal meaning is "Brahma" means divine, "acharan" mean "practice", that mean practicing divine conduct. It advocates celibacy when single and after marriage, faithful to only spouse. Before marriage, one must use vital energies for study and acquiring valuable skills, after marriage, in making happy and successful family. An individual mustn't waste the sacred force by promiscuity in thought, word or deed. Be restrained with opposite sex, seek holy company, dress and speak modestly, shun pornography, sexual humor and violence. Practicing this will enable an individual to experience the divine force inside and can open a new level of spiritual consciousness.
- Aparigrah - Non-possessiveness:
Aparigraha means to take only what is necessary, and not to accumulate out of greed. One must take only what s/he has earned. It also implies letting go of personal attachments to materialistic things, based on the deeper understanding that impermanence and change are the only constants in life.
"By cultivating friendliness towards happiness and compassion towards misery, gladness towards virtue and indifference towards vice, the mind becomes pure." ~ Patanjali sutra (1.33)Following are the Niyamas:
- Shaucha - Cleanliness
Shaucha involves cleanliness of body and mind. Keep the body externally clean with bathing, oiling and wearing the clothes made from natural fibers. For internal cleansing, eat healthy and nutritious food derived from natural resources. This is to keep body in balance and harmony. To achieve purity and cleanliness of mind, practice all 5 yamas, that will help to clear away any negative state of mind. Practicing this enhances the purity of mind and overall cheerfulness of an individual.
- Santosha - Contentment
It is a feeling of being contented with what one possesses at the moment. Even in the midst of difficulties in life, one should be at peace within and feel content. Instead of dwelling on things which you don't possess, just feel grateful and be contented with what you have.
- Tapas - Austerity
Tapas is about training the senses by performing austerities and ascesis. This self-training of controlling senses is an important step because senses are naturally directed outside. It is to bring them under control by following discipline in body, speech, and mind. The purpose of developing self-discipline is not to become ascetic, but to command a mastery or perfection over body and the mental organs of senses and actions.
- Svadhyaya - Self-study
It is about self-study, reflection on sacred words, in other words, it is to live with complete self-awareness for each and every action performed and accepting self with personal limitations. It teaches to know self to the core and overcome any self-destructive tendencies.
- Ishvara pranidhana - Surrender to God
Ishvara means "God" and "pranidhana" means "attention to or love for or surrender to". It is about complete surrender to God, a creative source, causal field, supreme Guru or teacher (ishvarapranidhana), to attain the state of perfected concentration (samadhi), the ultimate experience of universal reality or of self.
Here, It makes sense to highlight and emphasize the meaning of word Ishvara or God, which according to ancient Indian Upnishads (traditional Indian knowledge of documented experiences), it is a collective consciousness. Thus, it breaks our common understanding of God as somebody sitting in heaven on a plush, gold plated pedestal and observing our each and every action; God is actually a state of ultimate reality. But due our limited experiences, God has been personified and given various names and forms by religions throughout the ages. When one expands one's individual consciousness to the highest level and merges into Universal Consciousness, it is called Self-realization, and in that state individual self has realized the unity of diversity, the very underlying principle, or Universal Self, beneath all forms and names.
Satya, Ahimsha, Asteya and Aparigraha, are other Yamas, what our society needs to follow to make this world more peaceful, harmonious and generous towards all. Niyamas, which governs personal behaviour, are the ultimate treasure of wisdom, if followed by each one, can give gift us a society where people are more satisfied and mindful for personal actions and behaviours.
It is such an excellent, ancient framework of proven wisdom that it can transform any individual who is resolute for personal growth. Practising all yamas and niyams in life, an individual can surely reaches to the best of personal potential.
Even after more than thousand of year, its relevance is still the same, rather I feel, it has become more important and meaningful at this time. The rising rate of juvenile crime, teenage pregnancies, crime against women, extra marital affairs, promiscuity, pornography etc. strongly advocates the value of Brahmcharya to be followed in our society. Satya, Ahimsha, Asteya and Aparigraha, are other Yamas, what our society needs to follow to make this world more peaceful, harmonious and generous towards all. Niyamas, which governs personal behaviour, are the ultimate treasure of wisdom, if followed by each one, can give gift us a society where people are more satisfied and mindful for personal actions and behaviours.
Well, it is never too late to start anything which is meaningful, powerful and transforming. Our personal growth is all about following these Yamas and Niyamas. So, why not pick up one Yama and one Niyama every day and implement them in life to see how self-discipline improves.
Read Part IV here.
Self-Discipline - 24 hours Meditation - Part I
Self-Discipline - 24 hours Meditation - Part II
Power of Personal Values
Are you living the best of your potential?