The Yamas are the first stage of the spiritual path. It is the first step in ashtanga yoga, followed by niyama. If someone want to follow the traditional yoga path, they must master the yamas and the niyamas. The yamas an niyamas are advice, not commandments. This means that these are the ideals toward which we strive, but if we fall a little short, that is not a catastrophe. We must try better next time.
Another way of at looking at the Yamas - the first stage of spiritual
practice. Of course, that is most pointedly seen in ashtanga yoga or the
eight-limbed yoga or the eight stages of yoga that are common. First
stage, of course, is Yama. That points out, it is first, right? No question
about it! Yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana,
So, samadhi is a long way from yama. There are six things in the middle.
That points out in a way you cannot ignore that there is a lot of things
that come before samadhi and that yama is first. Or said another way, if
someone wants to follow the traditional yoga practices to be successful in
meditation, they have to perfect Yama and Niyama first.
About two years ago, Gurudeva was inspired in that area and did a pamphlet
on 'The Yamas and Niyamas'. We had our vigilese, who were meeting the
public, present this information in a very gentle way and suggest, "Gee, if
you are interested in following the spiritual path, this is a good place to
begin here. At the beginning, with the Yamas."
In terms of Charya, Kriya, Yoga and Jnana, the Yamas are a part of Charya.
The first practice, the basic practice. So they are first in both sets of
Another aspect of the Yamas is seen in the phrase, "They are advise, not
commandments." I read the whole phrase. "The Yamas and Niyamas are
scriptural injunctions for all aspects for thought and behavior. They are
advise and simple guidelines, not commandments."
What does Gurudeva mean by that? Saying they are advise and simple
guidelines, not commandments?
Well, a comparison can be made to the Monastics vows. Monastic vows say the
same idea in another way. They are ideals towards which we strive. But if we
fall a little short, that is not a catastrophe. The Yamas and Niyamas are
the same thing. These are ideals to which we strive. For example, if our
words are hurtful to someone, that is not a crisis, not a catastrophe. We
haven't committed a major sin here. We say, "Oops, I didn't quite uphold
that idea, as well as I should have. I am going to try better the next
time." In that sense, it is something we strive for. But if we fall short,
it is not a problem, as long as we are striving.