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Yoga Sutras 2.35-2.45: 
Benefits from the
Yamas and Niyamas
(Previous Next Main)

Click here to return to the main page of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.The first two rungs: The eight rungs or limbs were introduced in sutra 2.29. The first two of these rungs or limbs are the Yamas and Niyamas, which were briefly described in the previous section (2.30-2.34). The individual Yamas and Niyamas are further described the section and sutras below.

Reason for the 8 rungs of Yoga: The reason for practicing the eight rungs or limbs of Yoga (2.29) is to develop attention as the tool for discriminative knowledge (2.28), which is the means to liberation or enlightenment. The Yamas and Niyamas build a foundation from which to do these subtle practices.

The five Yamas: The first rung is the five Yamas, which are considered codes of restraint, abstinences, self-regulations, and involve our relationship with the external world and other people (Scroll down or click the links to go to the sutras dealing with the individual Yamas):

  • Ahimsa: non-violence, non-harming, non-injury (2.35)
  • Satya: truthfulness, honesty (2.36)
  • Asteya: non-stealing, abstention from theft (2.37)
  • Brahmacharya: walking in awareness of the highest reality, continence, remembering the divine, practicing the presence of God (2.38)
  • Aparigraha: non-possessiveness, non-holding through senses, non-greed, non-grasping, non-indulgence, non-acquisitiveness (2.39)

The five Niyamas: The second rung is the five Niyamas, which are the observances or practices of self-training, and deal with our personal, inner world (Scroll down or click the links to go to the sutras dealing with the individual Niyamas):

  • Shaucha: purity of body and mind (2.40, 2.41)
  • Santosha: contentment (2.42)
  • Tapah: training the senses, austerities, ascesis (2.43)
  • Svadhyaya: self-study, reflection on sacred words (2.44)
  • Ishvara pranidhana: surrender; (ishvara = creative source, causal field, God, supreme Guru or teacher; pranidhana = practicing the presence, dedication, devotion, surrender of fruits of practice) (2.45)

Benefits come from removal of identity and obstacles: As one practices the Yamas and Niyamas, it appears that some secondary ability or benefit comes. This process is described as attainment, fruits, acquisition, etc.. However, it is important to note that, while these are attainments in one sense, they really result from the unfoldment of what is already there, by the removal of obstacles. At the beginning of the Yoga Sutras this was described as disidentifying with the modifications of the mind field (1.2). In a later sutra this process is described as being like a farmer opening a sluice gate to allow the water to naturally flow, so as to irrigate a field (4.3).

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2.35 As a Yogi becomes firmly grounded in non-injury (ahimsa), other people who come near will naturally lose any feelings of hostility.
(ahimsa pratishthayam tat vaira-tyagah)

  • ahimsa = non-violence, non-harming, non-injury
  • pratishthayam = having firmly established, being well grounded in
  • tat = that, of his or her
  • vaira-tyagah = give up hostilities (vaira = hostility, enmity, aggression; tyaga = abandon, give up)

Ahimsa brings peace from others: For one who increasingly experiences the natural inner peace of a non-harming attitude, others give up their hostilities or aggression in return. It is an automatic process, which we have all felt when in the presence of a truly non-violent person.

Non-harming does not mean love: Non-harming and love are two different things. It is not a practice whereby you are feeling the drive to harm others and you practice love to stop that. Rather, the first step is to focus on the cessation of the harming at the levels of actions, speech, and thoughts. Then, the natural love can come shining through. This has extremely practical application in daily life. Trying to directly cultivate love for a person you dislike might be extremely difficult, whereas working on letting go of the negative is more direct or immediate. Then, it might come more naturally to like or love that person. Take a look at the article on the five sheaths, and notice that the level of bliss or love (ananda) is far deeper than the mental level where the more surface emotions dance.

Cultivating opposites brings positive fruits: With each of the Yamas and Niyamas, cultivating opposites of our negative habits or conditionings brings positive fruits (2.33, 2.34).

  • In the case of not-harming, one might have the inclination towards harming, hurting, or injuring others to varying degrees, so as to get what one wants.
  • In cultivating the opposite, or reminding oneself (2.33, 2.34) that such behaviors, words, or thinking will only bring personal misery and suffering, the ensuing letting go process allows a natural demeanor towards which others drop any feelings of hostility or ill-will.

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2.36 As truthfulness (satya) is achieved, the fruits of actions naturally result according to the will of the Yogi.
(satya pratisthayam kriya phala ashrayatvam)

  • satya = truthfulness, honesty
  • pratisthayam = having firmly established, being well grounded in
  • kriya = actions
  • phala = fruition, results, effects
  • ashrayatvam = come as a result of, are dependent on, are subservient to (the Yogi)

Satya brings whatever is willed: For one who increasingly practices honesty or truthfulness in actions, speech, and thoughts, his or her will is naturally fulfilled. 

Cultivating opposites brings positive fruits: With each of the Yamas and Niyamas, cultivating opposites of our negative habits or conditionings brings positive fruits (2.33, 2.34).

  • In the case of truthfulness, one might have the inclination towards dishonesty to varying degrees, so as to get what one wants.
  • In cultivating the opposite, or reminding oneself (2.33, 2.34) that such behaviors, words, or thinking will only bring personal misery and suffering, the ensuing letting go process allows a natural flow of goodness or positive fruits to come.

Exercising care in speaking truth: Truth is concurrence between thought, word and deed. It must be true to fact and at the same time pleasant. If by speaking the truth, another is hurt it ceases to be truth and becomes himsa [harming]. There is a story which illustrates this point:

In olden days there was a sage renowned for his austerities and observance of the vow of truth. It so happened that once when he was sitting by his little hut, a frightened man with a bundle ran past him and disappeared into a cave nearby. A couple of minutes later there came a band of fierce robbers with gleaming knives, apparently looking for this man. Knowing that the sage would not lie, they asked him where the man with the bundle was hiding. At once, the sage, true to his vow of not uttering falsehood, showed them the cave. The cruel robbers rushed into it, dragged out the scared man, killed him mercilessly and departed with his bundle. The sage never realised God in spite of his austerities and tenacity for truth for he had been instrumental in the murder of a man. This is not the kind of truth that yoga requires. It would have been better if the sage had remained quiet for that would have saved the poor man. Great care is therefore to be exercised in speaking and each word must be carefully weighed before it is uttered.

Relation of Truth and Non-Harming: One of the challenges, if not confusions, that often happens with practicing satya (truthfulness) and ahimsa (non-harming) is how to balance them. It's important to remember that non-harming is the central practice of the five Yamas, and that the other four Yamas are in service of that. To not harm or hurt others is the central goal that the others serve. Learning how to delicately balance not lying while not being painfully honest with others is a real art of Yoga. Think of the many situations in life when your so-called truthfulness could cause pain to others, including simple examples such as your comments about a meal served at a friend's home or what you might say if someone asked you about their physical appearance or clothes when dressed for some special event? If your mind isn't--in the moment--quick enough to artfully maneuver around such a situation, which would you choose, to be painfully honest or marginally honest for the sake of not hurting the other person? Sure, we'd like to be quick-minded enough to do both non-harming and non-lying in perfect balance, but many of us don't yet have the skill of the master, and need to be ever mindful of the most important practice, which is to first and foremost to cause no harm. The same principle applies to practicing the other of the four Yamas.

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2.37 When non-stealing (asteya) is established, all jewels, or treasures present themselves, or are available to the Yogi.
(asteya pratisthayam sarva ratna upasthanam)

  • asteya = non-stealing, abstention from theft
  • pratisthayam = having firmly established, being well grounded in
  • sarva = of all
  • ratna = jewels, treasures
  • upasthanam = appear, come, approach to him or her, are available, present themselves

Asteya brings treasures: When non-stealing (asteya) is established, all jewels, or treasures present themselves, or are available to the Yogi. In other words, when the heart is pure, all means will come.

Cultivating opposites brings positive fruits: With each of the Yamas and Niyamas, cultivating opposites of our negative habits or conditionings brings positive fruits (2.33, 2.34).

  • In the case of non-stealing, one might have the inclination towards taking from others to varying degrees, so as to get what one wants.
  • In cultivating the opposite, or reminding oneself (2.33, 2.34) that such behaviors, words, or thinking will only bring personal misery and suffering, the ensuing letting go process allows a natural flow of material and non-material positive benefits to come, those which will help on the journey of life.

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2.38 When walking in the awareness of the highest reality (brahmacharya) is firmly established, then a great strength, capacity, or vitality (virya) is acquired.
(brahmacharya pratisthayam virya labhah)

  • brahmacharya = walking in awareness of the highest reality, absolute reality, remembering the divine, practicing the presence of God; continence
  • pratisthayam = having firmly established, being well grounded in
  • virya = strength, vigor, vitality, courage
  • labhah = is acquired, attained, gained

Brahmacharya brings virya: By remembering the highest energy or force of reality, that energy is then not dissipated. As it is not dissipated, it is as if it is growing, acquired, attained, or gained. Thus, we appear to gain virya, which is strength, vigor, vitality, and courage. Actually, virya is an aspect of our subtler nature, which has been there all along. 

Remembering comes first: Celibacy is sometimes considered to be the practice of brahmacharya. However, celibacy is not the cause, but the effect. The practice, or cause, is of constant remembering of the highest reality, absolute truth, the divine, or the presence of God. This remembrance is the cause, and the celibacy is the effect. Since the effect might be so visible when watching a spiritual person, we can accidentally reverse cause and effect, and try to practice mere restraint of sensual urges. Once again, the practice of brahmacharya is walking in the awareness of the highest reality, absolute reality, remembering the divine, or practicing the presence of God.

Cultivating opposites brings positive fruits: With each of the Yamas and Niyamas, cultivating opposites of our negative habits or conditionings brings positive fruits (2.33, 2.34).

  • In the case of mindfulness of higher truth, one might have the inclination to forget this, so as to pursue desires in the physical world or its mental counterpart in the inner world.
  • In cultivating the opposite, or reminding oneself (2.33, 2.34) that such behaviors, words, or thinking will only bring personal misery and suffering, the ensuing letting go process allows a natural flow of energy that can be used in positive ways.

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2.39 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.
(aparigraha sthairye janma kathanta sambodhah)

  • aparigraha = non-possessiveness, non-holding through senses, non-greed, non-grasping, non-indulgence, non-acquisitiveness
  • sthairye = upon being steady in, stability
  • janma = birth, incarnation
  • kathanta = how and from where
  • sambodhah = complete knowledge of

Aparigraha brings the past and future: 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.

Cultivating opposites brings positive fruits: With each of the Yamas and Niyamas, cultivating opposites of our negative habits or conditionings brings positive fruits (2.33, 2.34).

  • In the case of non-acquisitiveness, one might have the inclination towards possessing name, fame, or worldly goods to varying degrees, so as to develop an inner sense of individual identity.
  • In cultivating the opposite, or reminding oneself (2.33, 2.34) that such behaviors, words, or thinking will only bring personal misery and suffering, the ensuing process of letting go of these false possessions and identities allows there to be a natural awareness of the breadth of the mind-field, revealing the content we typically call past and future.

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2.40 Through cleanliness and purity of body and mind (shaucha), one develops an attitude of distancing, or disinterest towards one's own body, and becomes disinclined towards contacting the bodies of others.
(sauchat sva-anga jugupsa paraih asamsargah)

  • sauchat = by cleanliness, purification (of body and mind)
  • sva-anga = one's own body (sva = one's; anga = limbs, body)
  • jugupsa = disinclined, distanced from, drawn away from
  • paraih = and with that of others
  • asamsargah = cessation of contact, non-association

Saucha  brings disinterest in the physical: Through cleanliness and purity of body and mind, the mind naturally begins toward the divine, and away from the external, physical world.

Cultivating opposites brings positive fruits: With each of the Yamas and Niyamas, cultivating opposites of our negative habits or conditionings brings positive fruits (2.33, 2.34).

  • In the case of purity of body and mind, one might have the inclination towards ignoring these cleansing processes, so as to engage in the actions of the external world and our fulfillment of desires.
  • In cultivating the opposite, or reminding oneself (2.33, 2.34) that such behaviors, words, or thinking will only bring personal misery and suffering, the ensuing letting go process allows a natural flow towards the inner reality of the divine to come.

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2.41 Also through cleanliness and purity of body and mind (shaucha) comes a purification of the subtle mental essence (sattva), a pleasantness, goodness and gladness of feeling, a one-pointedness with intentness, the conquest or mastery over the senses, and a fitness, qualification, or capability for self-realization.
(sattva shuddhi saumanasya ekagra indriya-jaya atma darshana yogyatvani cha)

  • sattva = purest of subtle essence, internal being
  • shuddhi = purification of
  • saumanasya = high-mindedness, cheerfulness, clarity, pleasantness, goodness, gladness
  • ekagra = one-pointedness (eka = one; agra = pointedness, intentness)
  • indriya-jaya = control of the senses (indriya = active and cognitive senses; jaya = control, regulation, mastery)
  • atma = of the Self, center of consciousness
  • darshana = realization, seeing, experiencing 
  • yogyatvani = to be fit for, qualified for
  • cha = and 

Saucha also brings five more benefits: In addition to the benefits cleanliness and purity of body and mind described in the previous sutra (2.40), there are additional benefits.

  1. Purification of the subtle mental essence (sattva)
  2. Pleasantness, goodness, gladness, high-mindedness, cheerfulness
  3. One-pointedness with intentness
  4. Conquest or mastery over the senses
  5. Fitness, qualification, or capability for Self-realization

There also comes a purification of the subtle mental essence (sattva), a pleasantness, goodness and gladness of feeling, a one-pointedness with intentness, the conquest or mastery over the senses, and a fitness, qualification, or capability for self-realization.

Cultivating opposites brings positive fruits: With each of the Yamas and Niyamas, cultivating opposites of our negative habits or conditionings brings positive fruits (2.33, 2.34).

  • In the case of purity of body and mind, one might have the inclination towards ignoring these cleansing processes, so as to engage in the actions of the external world and our fulfillment of desires.
  • In cultivating the opposite, or reminding oneself (2.33, 2.34) that such behaviors, words, or thinking will only bring personal misery and suffering, the ensuing letting go process also brings purification of the subtle mental essence (sattva), a pleasantness, goodness and gladness of feeling, a one-pointedness with intentness, the conquest or mastery over the senses, and a fitness, qualification, or capability for self-realization.

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2.42 From an attitude of contentment (santosha), unexcelled happiness, mental comfort, joy, and satisfaction is obtained.
(santosha anuttamah sukha labhah)

  • santosha = contentment
  • anuttamah = unexcelled, extreme, supreme
  • sukha = pleasure, happiness, comfort, joy, satisfaction
  • labhah = is acquired, attained, gained

Santosha brings happiness and joy: From an attitude of contentment (santosha), unexcelled happiness, mental comfort, joy, and satisfaction is obtained.

Contentment comes from within: We humans seem to always be seeking satisfaction in the external world and our internal fantasies. Only when we comfortably accept what we currently have will be able to do the practices that lead to the highest realization.

Cultivating opposites brings positive fruits: With each of the Yamas and Niyamas, cultivating opposites of our negative habits or conditionings brings positive fruits (2.33, 2.34).

  • In the case of contentment, one might have the inclination towards discontent and restlessness, as the wants and wishes of deep habit patterns drives actions, speech, and thought.
  • In cultivating the opposite, or reminding oneself (2.33, 2.34) that such behaviors, words, or thinking will only bring personal misery and suffering, the ensuing letting go process allows a natural flow of contentment, clarity, cheerfulness, and high-mindedness to come.

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2.43 Through ascesis or training of the senses (tapas), there comes a destruction of mental impurities, and an ensuing mastery or perfection over the body and the mental organs of senses and actions (indriyas).
(kaya indriya siddhih ashuddhi kshayat tapasah)

  • kaya = of the physical body
  • indriya = active and cognitive senses
  • siddhih = attainment, mastery, perfection
  • ashuddhi = of impurities
  • kshayat = removal, destruction, elimination
  • tapasah = training the senses, austerities, ascesis

Tapas brings destruction of impurities: Through ascesis or training of the senses (tapas), there comes a destruction of mental impurities, and an ensuing mastery or perfection over the body and the mental organs of senses and actions (indriyas).

Self-training and the chariot: Self training is very important. Training the senses is a subtler training, as these are the instrument of the mind, acting through the vehicle of the body. There is an ancient metaphor of a chariot, in which the senses (indriyas) are like the horses, the reins are the mind (manas), the driver is the intelligence or intellect (buddhi), the chariot is the physical body, and the passenger is the true Self, the atman. If the senses and mind are not trained, then the horses run in random, uncontrolled directions. With self-training, the senses stay on course, under the proper control of the driver.

Cultivating opposites brings positive fruits: With each of the Yamas and Niyamas, cultivating opposites of our negative habits or conditionings brings positive fruits (2.33, 2.34).

  • In the case of tapas or training the senses, one might have the inclination towards allowing the senses to run wild in the external or mental worlds, so as to experience whatever desires are calling out to be fulfilled.
  • In cultivating the opposite, or reminding oneself (2.33, 2.34) that such behaviors, words, or thinking will only bring personal misery and suffering, the ensuing letting go process allows the deep impressions or samskaras to naturally purify and reduce their potency.

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2.44 From self-study and reflection on sacred words (svadhyaya), one attains contact, communion, or concert with that underlying natural reality or force.
(svadhyayat ishta devata samprayogah)

  • svadhyayat = self-study, reflection on sacred words
  • ishta-devata = that underlying natural reality or force which is preferred, chosen, predisposed towards
  • samprayogah = connected with, in contact, communion

Svadhyaya brings inner communion: From self-study and reflection on sacred words (svadhyaya), one attains contact, communion, or concert with that underlying natural reality or force towards which one is predisposed. Sva means "one's own," and adhyaya means "entering into" that.

Cultivating opposites brings positive fruits: With each of the Yamas and Niyamas, cultivating opposites of our negative habits or conditionings brings positive fruits (2.33, 2.34).

  • In the case of the self-study of svadhyaya, one might have the inclination away from inner reflection and study of teachings, so as to focus on attaining what one wants in the worldly sense.
  • In cultivating the opposite, or reminding oneself (2.33, 2.34) that such behaviors, words, or thinking will only bring personal misery and suffering, the ensuing letting go process allows a natural contact, communion with the higher reality or force towards which one is drawn.

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2.45 From an attitude of letting go into one's source (ishvarapranidhana), the state of perfected concentration (samadhi) is attained.
(samadhi siddhih ishvarapranidhana)

  • samadhi = deep absorption of meditation, the state of perfected concentration
  • siddhih = attainment, mastery, accomplishment, perfection
  • ishvara = creative source, causal field, God, supreme Guru or teacher
  • pranidhana = practicing the presence, dedication, devotion, surrender of fruits of practice

Ishvara pranidhana brings samadhi: From an attitude of letting go, practicing the presence, dedication, or surrender into the creative source, causal field, God, supreme Guru or teacher (ishvarapranidhana), the state of perfected concentration (samadhi) is attained.

Cultivating opposites brings positive fruits: With each of the Yamas and Niyamas, cultivating opposites of our negative habits or conditionings brings positive fruits (2.33, 2.34).

  • In the case of ishvara-prandhana, practicing the presence, or surrender, one might have the inclination away from the inner creative source, causal field, God, supreme Guru, or teacher, so as to seek what one wants in the gross or subtle planes.
  • In cultivating the opposite, or reminding oneself (2.33, 2.34) that such behaviors, words, or thinking will only bring personal misery and suffering, the ensuing letting go process allows a natural flow towards the deep absorption or perfected state of samadhi.

Meaning of Ishvara: In the Upanishads, the word Īśvara is used to denote a state of collective consciousness. Thus, God is not a being that sits on a high pedestal beyond the sun, moon, and stars; God is actually the state of Ultimate Reality. But due to the lack of direct experience, God has been personified and given various names and forms by religions throughout the ages. When one expands one's individual consciousness to the Universal Consciousness, it is called Self-realization, for the individual self has realized the unity of diversity, the very underlying principle, or Universal Self, beneath all forms and names. The great sages of the Upanishads avoid the confusions related to conceptions of God and encourage students to be honest and sincere in their quests for Self-realization. Upanishadic philosophy provides various methods for unfolding higher levels of truth and helps students to be able to unravel the mysteries of the individual and the universe. (from Swami Rama in the section What God Is from Enlightenment Without God)

 

The next sutra is 2.46 

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