Yoga teaches how to compose yourself and be perfect externally and internally. Yoga involves a harmonious development of the body and mind.
Patanjali Yoga Sutras
According to Sage Patanjali, yoga is the means by which our mind can be made calm and quiet and free from all distractions. His yoga sutras prescribe a graded discipline comprising 8 steps or limbs called ‘Astanga Yoga’. They are :
One who follows this path regularly is called a yogi. By following this 8 fold path one gets good healthy body and control over his mind. He becomes wise and compassionate.
1.Yama – It has 5 disciplines :
Ahimsa – It is the first step in yama. Ahimsa means non-violence in thought, word and deed. Lord Buddha was one of the great teachers of non-violence. He could influence men and wild beasts to become harmless and peaceful.
One day evening Lord Buddha and his disciples were walking in a forest. All of a sudden a wild elephant ran through them, making the situation horrible and terrific. The disciples ran here and there to save their lives. But Buddha remained calm and stood silently; the enraged elephant saw Buddha and ran towards him. Then Lord Buddha calmly raised his hand and looked at the elephant. The angry beast stopped suddenly and humbly kneeled down before him. All this is the power of non-violence.
Satya – It is the second step in yama. Satya means truthfulness, honesty or virtue. To express the quality of buddhi, you need to practice truthfulness. The life of King Harishchandra is the best example for satya.
One day sage Vasishtha met Sage Viswamitra. He told Viswamitra about Harishchandra as the most truthful man on earth. But Viswamitra did not agree with him. He challenged him that he will prove it as false.
Viswamitra went to the King Harishchandra’s palace, in a poor Brahmin clothes. He told “O generous King, grant me two boons”.
Harishchandra said, “You will have whatever you want”.
First, “I want your kingdom and all your wealth”.
Harishchandra was a man who would keep his word. He willingly parted with all he asked for and left to the forest. His wife and child also followed him.
The Brahmin was still not satisfied and followed them into the forest. He said “Harishchandra grant me the second boon”.
He agreed to give him.
“One half piles of gold coins”, demanded the Brahman.
“Give me a month’s time and I shall give you that too”, promised Harish Chandra.
The royal family then proceeded towards Kashi. Arriving there, Harishchandra sought work but could find none. He is in trouble to maintain his family.
A month passed. The Brahmin again appeared before Harish Chandra, and asked to fulfill his wish or accept that he was a liar.
Observing this the queen insisted to be sold as a slave and fulfil his promise. Reluctantly, Harishchandra agreed. He sold his wife and his son too, but still could not raise the required gold coins. He then sold himself and was finally able to fulfil his promise.
The queen and the prince had to toil long time for a merchant. Still the merchant remained unsatisfied. Meanwhile, Harishchandra’s master appointed him as an assistant in the cremation ground.
Then one day Harish Chandra’s son was bitten by a snake and he died. The queen carried the dead child to the cremation ground. Harishchandra was very sad to see his wife with the dead body of their child. Still he had to do his duty, “I cannot cremate the body unless you pay the cremation fees required by my master”.
‘I am a penniless slave’, cried his wife.
In despair the couple decided to kill themselves. Harishchandra made a pyre of logs. They placed their dead child on it. Then seating themselves beside their child, they set the pyre ablaze.
At that moment Viswamitra and other Gods appeared there and explained what has happened and declared that he was the most honest man on earth. They brought back their child to life.
Viswamitra also returned the kingdom to the virtuous and truthful King Harishchandra.
Asteya – This is the third step of Yama. Asteya means non-stealing. Thinking of stealing things you don’t possess is also wrong. An incident from the Ramayana concerning the prince Bharatha gives a perfect example of asteya.
The tale of great Guru for Sikhs, Guru Nanak, was on his pilgrimage. On the way side village the local ironsmith brought chappatis made of corn flour for Guru Nanak. At the same time another land lord brought him the meal with many dishes.
Guru Nanak set aside the land lord’s offering and tasted the ironsmith’s chappatis. The land lord’s plate was untouched. The land lord was piqued at the Guru’s glaring insult to his offering. He put forth his question to the Guru, ‘why did he not accept his offering.’
The Guru did not speak a word in reply. He took a piece of the smith’s chappati in one hand and the land lord’s over-buttered chappati in the other hand and squeezed them.
Drops of milk oozed from the land lord’s chappati. The food from the iron smith gave droplets of blood.
The Guru concluded with a final explanation, the humble ironsmith earned his bread with his honest labour every day. The landlord’s food proceeded from swindling and exploitation of his labourers. The spirit of the offering was visible to the Master’s subtle vision, not to the eyes of the commoners.
Brahmacharya – It is the fourth step in Yama. Brahmacharya is self control or self discipline. Sage Vyasa’s son, Shuka and king Janaka were great brahmacharis. Vyasa sent his son to study under sage Brihaspati. Shuka was keen and intelligent. He mastered many subjects. When Sukha returned home he continued to study and pray.
A few years passed, Sage Vyasa taught his son many philosophical scriptures. Still, Shuka thirsted for knowledge. Then Vyasa advised his son, to go to Janaka, the king of Mithila, and study under him. He was the wisest man on earth. Shuka went to meet him. Through his yogic powers, King Janaka knew of Shuka’s arrival and the purpose of his visit. He decided to test him. He instructed his people not to honour or welcome Shuka at the palace gate. Shuka was made to wait for three days. He waited patiently.
On the fourth day, Janaka arrived at the gate and welcomed him to the guest room. There he was provided with all comforts. He was bathed and dressed in silken robes and provided with delicious food. Shuka showed no greed or great delight at these luxuries. Instead, he spent his days in meditation and prayer.
King Janaka decided to put him to one final test. In the court, filled with great people, King gave Shuka a bowl full of milk. He told him to “round this hall seven times without spilling one drop of milk”. He accepted the bowl. He walked effortlessly around the hall seven times, without spilling a single drop of milk.
King Janaka was delighted. He said “You are unequalled in your self control and self discipline”. I have nothing to teach you. Continue your practices and you will attain the Supreme enlightenment.
Aparigraha – It is the last and fifth step in Yama. Aparigraha means not to crave for things i.e., one should not be greedy for many things. One should learn or be happy with whatever he has.
The great epic Ramayana gives a wonderful example for aparigraha. Kusha and Lava were the children of Rama and Sita. King Rama abandoned Sita to forests. There she gave birth to Kusha and Lava, and they used to stay in Rishi Valmiki’s ashram. The great saint teaches them the epic Ramayana. They recite the Ramayana before Rama in his court in the presence of saints and scholars who are amazed by the brilliance of the children, knowing not who they are, pleased with their singing, Rama orders Bharata to gift to them gold coins. When Bharata makes the offering of the gift, the children decline it. They said: what is the need for this wealth. We are forest-dwellers. We live on the fruits and roots available in the forest. What will we do by taking this gold to the forest? They refused to accept the gift.
These forms of abstention are the basic rules of conduct. They must be practiced without any reservations as to time, place, purpose or caste rules.
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