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The Role of the Yamas in Yogic Ethics(part2)

The Role of the Yamas in Yogic Ethics(part2)

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In the previous blog, we discussed three Yamas under the topic of “The Role of Yamas in Yogic Ethics”. In today’s blog, we will learn about the other two Yamas, which are Brahmacharya (control of the senses) and Aparigraha (non-hoarding).

4. Brahmacharya (control of the senses):

Generally, brahmacharya is believed to be the control or regulation of the sexual senses. This is also known as continence. The reason for doing this is to preserve semen. According to the 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 the 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.
‘Brahma’ means ‘big’ and ‘charya’ means ‘conduct’ or ‘behaviour’. Hence, ‘brahmacharya’ means ‘the 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 the regulation of the sexual senses.

smaraṇaṃ kīrtanaṃ keli prekṣaṇaṃ guhyabhāṣaṇaṃ.
sankalpo’dhyavasāyaśca kriyā nivṛttireva ca
aitanamaithunamaṣṭāṅgamaṃ pravadanti manīṣiṇaḥ.

Sages have said that one should restrain from these eight limbs of intercourse: These eight limbs are:

  • Thinking about it
  • Speaking about it
  • Doing it playfully
  • Staring
  • Talking secretively
  • Being determined about it
  • Making strong efforts towards it
  • 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.

Aparigraha is a principle of the ancient Indian philosophy of yoga that advocates for living a simple and minimalist life, avoiding hoarding material possessions. The idea behind aparigraha is that instead of continuously striving to acquire more material possessions, we should only accumulate what we need for our basic survival and well-being.

The main purpose of Aparigraha is to avoid attachment to material things. By practising Aparigraha, we are encouraged to live a more sustainable and conscious lifestyle, focused on the present moment, rather than constantly striving to accumulate more in the future.
Incorporating nonviolence into our daily lives can be challenging, especially in a culture that often values material possessions and money above all else.

However, there are several ways we can start adopting this principle and live a more minimalist lifestyle:
Begin by getting rid of any possessions that we no longer need, such as clothes, books, electronics, and other items that are taking up space in our house. We can reduce our stress and create a more peaceful environment by simplifying our living space.

Practice gratitude by focusing on the things you are grateful for instead of what you don’t have. Take time each day to reflect on the blessings in your life, such as your health, relationships, and the simple pleasures that bring you joy.

Before making a purchase, ask yourself whether you really need the item or if it is just a fleeting desire. Try to avoid impulse purchases and instead focus on buying items that are essential and will bring long-term value to your life.

Give back to others to practice non-attachment. Whether it’s volunteering your time, donating to charity, or simply being kind to others, giving back can help you cultivate a sense of gratitude and purpose in your life.

So the above was the five yamas. In the following sutras, the Maharishi categorises them into vrata (vow) and mahavrata (mighty vow).

जातिदेशकालसमयानवच्छिन्नाः सार्वभौमा महाव्रतम् ॥३१॥
jātideśakālasamayānavacchinnāḥ sārvabhaumā mahāvratam

जाति-देश-काल-समय-अनवच्छिन्नाः सार्वभौमा महा-व्रतम्​ –
jāti-deśa-kāla-samaya-anavacchinnāḥ sārvabhaumā mahā-vratam

Jati (jaati) – species;
Desa (desha) – place;
Kala (kaala) – time;
Samaya – purpose, condition;
Anavacchinnah – unbroken;
Sarvabhauma – universal;
Maha – great;
Vratam – vow;

They (the yamas) become universal great vows when not limited by species (jaati), place (desha), time (kala) or purpose (Samaya)

So if a person or a practitioner keeps exceptions with the above five yamas—non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, restraint of the senses and non-hoarding—in regard to species, place, time or purpose, then it is a vow. But if he does not keep exceptions in regard to species, place, time or purpose, then they become universal; hence they are known as great vows.


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