How to develop the eight limbs of yoga before entering into yoga. This is part 2 of a four-part video series and interview by Alice Christensen (Mother Alice) and Swami Lakshmanjoo discussing the divine discipline in yoga, also called “the limbs of yoga”. Part 1 was about Niyamas (observance). This is part 2, Yamas (conduct).
Swamiji: And another fivefold collective limb of yoga is yama. That is:
- Ahimsa (non-violence – in both speech and action)
- Satya (truthfulness – in speech and thought)
- Asteya (non-stealing – both mental and physical)
- Brahmacarya (maintaining mental and physical character)
- Aparigraha (non-hoarding)
These five yamas.
Ahimsa is just not to hurt anybody.
Swamiji: Non-violence. Non-violence bodily and in mind also. Your mind also must not be violent. You have to speak soft words.
Alice: This takes a long time, doesn’t it Swamiji?
Swamiji: But you have to develop them before you enter in the body of yoga.
Alice: Yes. What I meant was that some people think that simply because they open a book and read ahimsa and all these other things, truth, and this sort of thing . . .
Swamiji: It is not the question of reading only.
Alice: . . . that they can do it like that. It takes years of training.
Swamiji: You have to experience it, you have to go through it. You have to live in that!
Alice: It’s not a moments work. It’s a lifetimes work.
Swamiji: So it is ahimsa – ahimsa [non-violence]. And this non-vegetarian diet will also come in ahimsa, and that is to be avoided also when there is ahimsa to be developed.
Now the power which comes from ahimsa.
ahiṁsāpratiṣṭhāyāṁ tatsannidhau vairatyāgaḥ – Yoga Sūtra 2.35
When you are living in ahimsa, non-violence, what comes, what fruit it bears? That is when there are two opposites vairīs1 i.e., vairīs means a tiger and a mouse. A tiger and a mouse won’t be violent before that person who is established [in ahimsa].
Alice: So natural enemies cannot have even any violence when the yogi is gazing on them. So the ‘lion then lays down with the lamb’. Is that what that means?
Swamiji: Yes, yes.
Alice: If the yogi is present, then the lion lies down with the lamb, because of his non-violence.
Swamiji: Yes. This is the vibrating force that comes out from the yogi.
Alice: So there than can be no fight.
Swamiji: No violence.
Alice: It would be nice if the world practices a little more of that, huh Swamiji?
Swamiji: Yes. And it will be beneficial for everybody, ahimsa pratiṣṭhā [the observance of non-violence].
And another part of the Yamas is satya – truth. Whatever you feel you must speak, but you must not speak in such a way that it hurts people. That truth you should avoid. You should function that truth which will not hurt others.
Alice: So you don’t say something to somebody that may be true and could destroy them.
Alice: You make sure that it doesn’t destroy them.
Swamiji: Yes. That truth you should adopt. This is satya.
Alice: Swamiji, what happens when a person is established in the truth.
satyapratiṣṭhāyāṁ kriyāphalāśrayatvam2 (not recited)
Swamiji: It is said, Satyapratiṣṭhāyāṁ sarvaratnopasthānam:3 when he is established in truth all-round, body and in mind, sarva ratna upasthānam, all jewelry all money, all richness . . . he becomes rich, everything comes before him.
Alice: Everything comes to him.
Swamiji: Everything comes to him automatically, without earning.
Alice: What a wonderful thing that is then.
Swamiji: Asteya . . . satyapratiṣṭhāyāṁ sarvaratnopasthānam, all jewelry are at his feet.
Alice: So if he wanted something it would be there immediately.
Alice: Because he spoke only the truth. The correct truth.
Swamiji: The correct truth. Not hurting truth.
Alice: Swamiji, how long do you think it would take a person to become established in that?
Swamiji: Just one year.
Alice: One year.
Swamiji: One year.
Alice: Wouldn’t that be a marvelous practical thing for a society?
Swamiji: Yes, we have to practice it for one year without any leakage. There must not be leakage. If there is leakage then you have to start afresh for one year, another one year.
Alice: But if you did it faithfully, mentally and physically, for one year and watched the mind every moment.
Swamiji: Then you are fit to enter Yoga, in the real sense.
Alice: And in one year you could do it.
Alice: That seems such a small time.
Swamiji: Yes, it is not too much.
Alice: Especially when people work their whole lives out sometimes to find the jewelry or the lands or the business, or something like that, that seems such a small time.
Now, what would the next one be?
Swamiji: Ahimsa (non-violence – in both speech and action), satya (truthfulness – in speech and thought), asteya . . . Asteya! Asteya is the negation of theft.
asteyapratiṣṭhāyāṁ sarvaratnopasthānam4 (not recited)
Swamiji: Non-stealing. Conduct of non-stealing. There must not be the thought of stealing in you. This is also one limb of Yamas. It must be developed.
Alice: And if you are very…
Swamiji: If you steal only one blade of grass, then you are not conducting this.
Alice: Then that would ruin the fruit of it.
Swamiji: The whole body of yoga would be destroyed.
Alice: So even if somebody was to walk by a garden and pluck a flower without asking, then that would be ruination of their yoga.
That puts a strong arm on something. You would have to ask for flowers every day then.
Swamiji: (laughing . . .) Yes, that is true . . .5
And there is one more point to be observed, that this thought also must not come that this thing is very beautiful, and I would like to have it. Bas! Only this much . . . this is stealing.
Alice: That is also stealing. Simply the desire would be stealing. So if you see someone with something else, and you say, “I would like to have that!” say for instance a mother would look at a woman and she would see this beautiful child and she would say, “I would like a child like that.” Would that also be stealing?
Swamiji: That is also stealing.
Alice: That is also stealing, which a very subtle sense of stealing. And the fruit of this?
Swamiji: The fruit of this asteya pratishtāyaṁ (sarva ratno pasthānam) . . . in addition to that jewelry, the fruit of not stealing is that he becomes divine . . .
Alice: He becomes divine.
Swamiji: . . . divine, always divine.
Alice: Then everything is his.
Swamiji: Everything is his. This is the power that comes through the developing this asteya (non-stealing).
Alice: Is there one more?
brahmacaryapratiṣṭhāyāṁ vīryalābhaḥ6 || (not recited)
Brahmacharya you know. With body and mind you have to develop detachment for the other sex. I don’t mean detachment for the other sex means detachment for sex with your husband or wife. I don’t mean that. I mean for other women.
Alice: You would mean promiscuous.
Alice: You mean many-faceted, i.e., always thinking of this sort of thing. But you are not meaning that this cannot be observed with a normal regulated life.
Swamiji: A regulated life. That is also brahmacarya. Brahmacarya does not mean who is not married at all . . . that is also brahmacharya, who has not married . . .
Alice: And a brahmacari doesn’t mean you hate the other sex, that you hate men, or you hate women?
Swamiji: No [affirmative]. Abhinavagupta has explained that in his book, one of his books,7 ‘lokāndyiṣanto māmeva dviṣanti’: “Those who hate others (this is the speaking of Lord Shiva himself) those who hate others, hate me . . . actually, hate me, hate Lord Shiva. Because, ahaṁ vāsudevo hi sarvāvāsaḥ, because I, Lord Shiva,8 are present and all-pervading everywhere.”
So, anybody you hate, you hate Lord Shiva. So this hatred must be absolutely gone. That will also be attributed to this [brahmacarya].
Alice: So it could be a kind of love without desire.
Swamiji: Yes, love without desire.
Alice: Without desire. But lots of love there, not running away from the world or men or women, like that, is it?
Swamiji: Not with this idea, i.e. not this sexual idea.
Alice: And then what would be the power of this?
Swamiji: Power of this is:
When he is established in this brahmacarya, vīryalābhaḥ, whatever he says, for instance he says, “we need rain!” then rain would come. Although the sky is clear rain will come, and the gathering of clouds will begin and that will function. And whenever a master who is residing in this brahmacarya tells his disciple, “don’t worry . . . don’t worry, you will achieve, in a few days you will achieve your point of meditation.”
Alice: Everything will be all right, don’t worry, everything will be all right.
Swamiji: And this happens like that. It is through brahmacharya.
Alice: Swamiji, you are the greatest living authority in Shaivism, the Yamas and Niyamas are an important part of this philosophy.
Swamiji: These are important parts.
1. The literal translation of vairīs is ‘enemies’.
2. This is the verse on Satya from Patañjali Yoga Sūtras chapter 2, verse 36.
3. Here Swamiji has inadvertently given the fruit of the next yama, i.e., Asteya. The original verse from Patañjali is Satyapratiṣṭhāyāṁ kriyāphalāśrayatvam, which Swamiji translates in Self Realization in Kashmir Shaivism chapter 4, page 87 as: “Whosoever does not utter falsehood even by chance or error has great power in his utterance. Whatever he says is fulfilled by his nature of truth. Whatever he desires and gives expression to is fulfilled and is achieved by him. He may say to a person, “May God bless you,” and God blesses that person. Thus, his truthfulness always bears fruit.”
4. Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtras, chapter 2, verse 37.
5. Swamiji laughs because, without his permission, mother Alice’s devotees had picked some flowers from his garden.
6. Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtras, chapter 2, verse 38.
7. ‘Lokāndyiṣanto māmeva dviṣanti’ is from Abhinavagupta’s commentary on the Bhagavad Gītā, chapter 16, verse 18.
8. Swamiji often says Lord Shiva in place of Lord Kṛṣṇa, explaining that they are one and the same.
9. Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtras, chapter 2, verse 39.
This is an excerpt from a video interview with Swami Lakshmanjoo by
Alice Christensen – The American Yoga Association.
Copyright © American Yoga Association