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Humans connect with the world around them in different ways. Some rely on friends and family, while others depend on their inner untapped energy. On the latter approach, people have historically relied on yoga to connect with the world from an authentic and ethical place. Yoga and Hinduism have some ethical rules, right living principles, moral imperatives, and rules dubbed the Yamas that help humans connect with their world. Based on my experiences and analyses of the Indian philosophical text, “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali,” the following is a personal reflection of the four Yamas including the Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya, and Aparigraha.
Satya is an ethical rule or principle that upholds truthfulness. The word 'sat' refers to 'true essence' or 'unchangeable.' According to the Yoga Sutra, Satya upholds the need for truth, but with a different slant. Here, Patanjali’s teachings on Satya associate truth with restraint rather than with action. Therefore, Satya is all about restraint, where people should slow down, filter, and carefully choose their words to ensure they remain in harmony with the ahimsa- the first Yama. Satya also emphasizes that truthfulness in speech is only achievable if it flows from the spirit of non-violence. Therefore, it is clear that Satya provides ways in which an individual can build a better relationship with the world and with oneself. In other words, if one cannot be honest and truthful about himself or herself, then one cannot be honest and truthful in other parts of life.
In my life, I have always appreciated and deepened my practice of Satya by learning how to carefully alienate my judgments from personal observations. For example, rather than saying ‘this car is ugly’, I now might say, ‘this car does not fulfill my standards of beauty.’ Here, the first proclamation is a judgment, while the second one is an observation. In other words, the first sentence imposes a personal standard on the message recipient, while the second one is a clear expression that the car fails to meet personal needs. Through yoga, I have learned to be more self-aware by focusing more on personal perceptions and beliefs, while acknowledging that my perceptions and beliefs are not to be imposed on others. By not judging, I focus more on my thoughts and speech, while making clear to others and myself that I do not claim access to ultimate truth, which is an excellent way of upholding the Satya principle.
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Asteya mainly focuses on non-stealing, but similar to other Yamas, it goes beyond that. According to Gandhi, stealing goes beyond taking somebody’s property. Therefore, he maintained that greediness and craving for artificial needs also involve stealing. In addition, Asteya focuses on the reasons people steal and explains the reason in a single phrase, “I am not good enough.” In other words, people steal because they lack faith in themselves to create what they need for themselves. Anytime somebody feels a sense of lack in his or her life leads to profound desire, want, and greed. As a result, one will start to look for ways to fill the empty sensation, while feeling that what everyone has is what he/she wants. Intense feelings of lack, insecurity, desire, and incompleteness arise from the idea that something is missing. Through yoga and practicing Asteya, one moves towards a feeling of enough and completeness, which are major contributors to a life free from stealing.
Over the years, I have accumulated too many items in my house, some of which go unused for a long time. I have a negative tendency of buying more than I need to subconsciously feel a gap that I could be missing something important in my life. After reflecting on the Sutras of Patanjali and Gandhi’s words, I realized that any extreme craving for artificial items is a form of stealing. Therefore, I started practicing abundance by acknowledging within myself that I have so much that I do not need anything else. Gradually, I realized that I have enough, and I am enough, which has been the key to desiring and wanting less. I have also become happy and whole within myself. Anytime a feeling of lack, desire, and want creeps in, I practice the mantra ‘I am enough.’
Brahmacharya translates to celibacy or practicing Brahman or the appropriate use of energy. The Yama emphasizes directing personal energy away from external desires and towards finding inner peace and happiness. Traditionally, Brahmacharya encouraged people to practice yoga to conserve their sexual energy and use the conserved energy along the Yogic path. In modern times, people consider Brahmacharya as outdated due to a focus on the term’s celibacy aspect. However, the term is more relevant than ever now due to its emphasis on the right use of energy.' People that practice Brahmacharya learn how to direct their energy away from external pleasures or those that appear pleasurably for a short time, and focus on searching for peace, satisfaction, and happiness within themselves. Brahmacharya could have acknowledged the importance of celibacy in its initial form, but in modern times, the term focuses more on where people should direct their energy to live a fulfilling life.
I have not always directed my energy towards things that matter. Sometimes, I also worry and concern myself with things that do not matter and spend too much time trying to present myself as somebody I am not to impress others. In my physical activities, I am constantly pushing myself to become better, stronger, and maintain the ideal body weight and shape. Such situations have sometimes made me forget things that matter such as spending more time with my loved ones. After reviewing and reflecting on the Sutras of Patanjali and specifically the Yama of Brahmacharya, I realized that to become a better version of myself, I had to use my energy appropriately. Although I am yet to perfect this Yama, I am gradually learning to listen to what my body needs and take the necessary steps.
Aparigraha is the last Yama within the Sutras of Patanjali and translates to non-attachment and non-greed. The Yama encourages people to focus on what they need, keep what matters at the moment, and letting go at the right time. Aparigraha remains one of the most fundamental teachings in Yoga where Krishna emphasized that people should concern themselves with action alone, and never with the fruits of action. In other words, our motivation should not be the results of action. In other words, an individual should not focus on the outcome of a situation, but rather the actions that contribute towards attaining the desired outcome. In a real word setting, one might spend too much time worrying about the success or failure rate of a particular business venture that he/she fails to focus on the work involved in making the business a success or the gap that the business will fill when in operation, which forms the foundation of the Aparigraha.
Undoubtedly, the Aparigraha is a Yama that people fail to uphold due to human weakness. Two years ago, I thought of a business idea that would transform the food industry. I spent days and nights planning and thinking about every aspect of the business. Sadly, the more I thought about the idea, the more it became unachievable. I thought about the failure of the business before I started. Eventually, somebody else thought about the business idea and it became a successful business venture. After reflecting on the Sutras of Patanjali and the Yama of Aparigraha I have realized that too much overthinking and overanalyzing is a dream killer. Moving forward, I plan to use this Yama to focus on the action alone and never on the outcome.
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