अहिंसासत्यास्तेयब्रह्मचर्यापरिग्रहा यमाः ॥३०॥
2.30 ahiṃsāsatyāsteyabrahmacaryāparigrahā yamāḥ
अहिंसा-सत्य-अस्तेय-ब्रह्मचर्य-अपरिग्रहा यमाः – ahiṃsā-satya-asteya-brahmacarya-aparigrahā yamāḥ
ahiṃsā (ahinsa)– non-violence; satya– truthfulness; asteya– non-stealing; brahmacarya (brahmacharya)– continence, control of the senses; aparigraha– non-hoarding; yamāḥ-control, morality, ethics
Yama (control) includes non-violence (ahinsa), truthfulness (satya), non-stealing (asteya), control of the senses (brahmacharya) and non-hoarding (aparigraha).
Explanation: “Yama” means “to control.” Here it could also mean “morality” or “ethics”. To have complete control over one’s own self, senses and mind is yama. Maharishi Patanjali has given five parts to yama. When one inculcates these five elements in their life, then it gives them character and moral upliftment. The words that are part of yama are not positive but made of negative words. For e.g., there is no action or activity for non-violence, but not doing violence is non-violence. The same goes for the other four parts. An explanation for each of the yamas is as follows:
1. Ahinsa (non-violence): The Maharishi does not explain more on the subject of non-violence, but he certainly discusses its results. Several interpreters of the Yoga Sutras have discussed the explanations on this subject. Not causing any distress to any life form, either using words or through actions, is ahinsa or non-violence. Not only causing pain to any life form, but also thinking about causing pain is violence. Hence, complete renunciation of causing suffering or thinking about causing suffering is non-violence. That is why this is called a negative good characteristic. Interpreters regard non-violence as the foundation to the other yamas. This is the source of all the negative good characteristics.
2. Satya (truthfulness): Saying things as they are seen, heard and understood in a simple manner is truthful speech. Acting justly is truthful conduct. The ability to make considered decisions and come to a sensible conclusion is truthful thinking. Words that create ambiguity or suspicions are undoubtedly not the truth. Words that leave the listener in a state of illusion, not allowing him to hear the truth are ‘lies’.
Sage Vyasa says that if the truth causes another living being to suffer or causes any harm, then it is not the truth but appears like the truth. Instead of it being virtuous, it is sinful because any action, law or deed that obstructs non-violence cannot be virtuous. This sinful action disguised as a virtuous action will only attract hell. That is why after thinking deeply, one should only speak the truth for the welfare of all living things.
3. Asteya (non-stealing): This is also a negative good characteristic. ‘Steya’ means ‘to steal’ or ‘to take without permission’. Picking up and keeping other people’s belongings is stealing. On the other hand, ‘asteya’ means ‘to not steal’. Even making an effort to illegally acquire anything, personal or public, through treachery is stealing. To conduct oneself in an opposite manner is non-stealing or asteya.
4. Brahmacharya (control of the senses): Generally, brahmacharya is believed to be control or regulation of the sexual senses. This is also known as continence. The reason for doing this is preserving semen. According to scriptures, semen is the source of energy. One who wants to progress in the path of spirituality must practise continence. But for people who wish to lead a family life, the scriptures have allowed intercourse only for childbirth. After birth of the child, intercourse should be renounced. Whether it be a saint or family person, if one wants to follow the spiritual path,then brahmacharya or continence is mandatory.
Saint Abhilash Saheb gives a new definition for brahmacharya.
He says that “brahma” means “big” and “charya” means “conduct” or “behaviour.” Hence, “brahmacharya” means “great conduct.” Great conduct is to have complete control over the mind and senses. Not only over the sexual senses, but full control over all the senses and mind comes within brahmacharya.
The book Daksha Samhita has given a beautiful shloka for regulation of the sexual senses.
smaraṇaṃ kīrtanaṃ keli prekṣaṇaṃ guhyabhāṣaṇaṃ. sankalpo’dhyavasāyaśca kriyā nivṛttireva ca aitanamaithunamaṣṭāṅgamaṃ pravadanti manīṣiṇaḥ.
Translation: Sages have said that one should restrain from these eight limbs of intercourse: thinking about it, speaking about it, doing it playfully, staring, talking secretively, being determined about it, making strong efforts and being physically involved.
5. Aparigraha (non-hoarding): ‘Parigraha’ means ‘to hold’, ‘to take’ or ‘to collect’. ‘Aparigraha’ means the exact opposite, which means ‘to not collect’, ‘to not hold’ or ‘to not take’. The purpose is to not collect more wealth than required for life’s necessities. Acquiring money legally and according to necessities for the family, society or group is justified, but it is not to collect in the bank; instead, it should be for spending.
The above were the five yamas. In the following sutras, the Maharishi categorises them into vrata (vow) and mahavrata (mighty vow).