Yamas and Niyamas pt 1
Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami , 2002-05-09
The essence of our being is God. This is a beautiful teaching but it is also important to be grounded in other realities. We are a soul, but our soul is inside a physical body which we need to work with. The yamas are related to the instinctive area of the mind, the part of us which is like animals. The yamas focus on tendencies such as lying and stealing, that need to be restrained or controlled.
Good Morning, everyone. Happy to have Narayanan and Sheela with us this morning. Swagatham!
This morning focusing on the Yamas and a little bit on the Niyamas. Before thinking through what I was going to say, I thought I would start out with the first Yama. Start there with Ahimsa, reviewing that. Then, as I looked at all the beautiful material Gurudeva had written on the Yamas and Niyamas, I realized that, that wasn't really the beginning. That we needed to step back and take a look at the concept of the Yamas themselves before we jumped into the first one. So, this is kind of an overview on the Yamas. Of course, in our teachings we emphasize that man is a divine being. Man is a soul, a spiritual being. At the essence of that soul is God Siva. At the essence of our spiritual being, not only are we spiritual, we are also one with God at the depth of our spiritual being.
Of course, that is our core teaching and Gurudeva says that so beautifully in the phrase, ""Man is not man. " Who is man then? Man is God. "Man is not man, man is God." That is the beautiful spiritual teachings.
However, it is important also to be grounded in other realities. We are a soul but where is our soul? It is inside our physical body, it is in there, not standing alone. It is not sitting up there in the Sivaloka in the Third World, blessing us all. It is encased, it has a physical body around it. So being in a physical body, we not only have a soul, we also have an instinctive and an intellectual mind which we need to work with. The phrase that Gurudeva uses is the three phases of the mind, which reminds us that there is the three-fold nature we are dealing with here. The instinctive, the intellectual and the superconscious or the soul. We have three phases of the mind.
When we talk about the Yamas, they are related to the instinctive area of the mind, the part of us that acts like animals. In that sense, the meaning of Yama which is restraint, to restrain, is very helpful. These are tendencies that the Yamas focus on. Tendencies, such as the tendency to harm someone, the tendency to lie, the tendency to steal. They are a part of the instinctive nature and which needs to be controlled.
When you think of controlling the instinctive mind in Hindu imagery, the classic image is a charioteer. In fact, we just looked at one of those paintings the other day. It has five horses up there in the chariot and the charioteer has all these reins and is reining in the horses. It is a nice picture we just looked at. That is the idea of controlling something. We need to harness it, we need to rein it in. We don't want to let it run wild. We have to harness the energy of the horses. That is represented by the reins. If you let it run wild, the chariot will go too fast and turn over, uncontrolled. So we have to harness it, control it, direct it.
In thinking about that I remembered something that I had forgotten, which is the usual way. Cognizantibility, you remember what you remember. Then you forget what you have forgotten! Not normal speech. You remember something you forgot. In this case, I remembered that Gurudeva, in the past, had certain of his sishya learn horse back riding. That doesn't sound too unusual. But he did it in the spirit of their learning to understand and control the instinctive mind. That is what he said, "By doing this, you will gain a better understanding of how the instinctive mind works and how to control it, just by learning to control a horse through the reins."
So, that is an even more contemporary example, you know. The charioteer sounds a bit in the past because we drive automobiles. But we still ride horses one at a time. So we can see just in thinking about that how that would work. You gain a sense of the animal. First, you are a little afraid of it and then you gain a sense of how to work with it and how to control it through the reins.
That is very similar to the concept of working with our own instinctive forces. First, when we blow up in anger we don't say, "Wow, how did I do that?" We are a little a bit afraid of our tendency to get angry. But after a while, just like the horse, we learn how to rein it in so that we have controls on it. We can control that force so that it doesn't run away with us.