YAMA – the first limb
After editing this second part of this blog, I realize that this part is very much about the following paradigm:
Above all….FIRST THINGS FIRST!
This, then will be my own first aphorism. Why, you find out at the end of this page. But keep it in mind, please.
And without further ado, as Shakespeare would say, I would like to jump straight to the Yoga Sutras and examine if they are still valid in this crazy 21st century lifestyle (which might have been started by wise enlightened rishis many thousand years ago but for some reason appears to have gotten out of hand).
There is a set of eight ”limbs” or aspects in the Yoga Sutras that lead the yoga practitioner to the divine state of enlightenment.
To me this is very, very good because it means that Patanjali actually spend a considerable time contemplating the inner and outer life of man in his time.
By what he teaches he clearly reveals that he spend a lot of time meditating and contemplating time, space, life, death, the nature of reality and the role of man and woman in it.
Not so many people these days have time to do this anymore, because we are generally too busy with other things.
For that and the fact that he took the time to write it all down, I am deeply grateful.
It is however also not so good, because by his very advice he tells us that to achieve enlightenment we need to pull away from the opposite sex and our own sexuality in order to go into those deep meditative states…. But here I am getting ahead of myself.
Patanjali condensed his findings into the Yoga Sutras, in an endeavour to give us a complete set of instruction.
* It is interesting to note here that pretty much all other religions have made similar attempts to make us more spiritual beings. The Bible did and so does the Quran; even Lao Tsu, the father of the Tao, got convinced by a border guard to write down the Tao Te Ching. To me this indicates that something or someone is making an attempt to help us wake up. That is really good to know – but still needs to be examined for its efficacy.
These are the eight limbs of Patanjalis yoga sutras:
I’d like to go through them one by one using my own intelligence. My approach is that of an engineer – I check and double check if it works in real life. If i find something that does not work i replace it with something that does.
Yamas are guidelines on how to relate to your outer life. This is your everyday life that you live in and interact with others.
There are 5 yamas:
- Ahimsa – non-violence
- Satya – truthfulness, not being false
- Asteya – non-stealing
- Brahmacharya – chastity or sexual restraint, walking with brahma (god)
- Aparigraha – non greediness, non posessiveness
* I can’t help myself here….every time I read this I notice the absence of love, which would inherently include all of the above, but lets go through them one by one to examine more thoroughly.
The idea of living in a non-violent world is a wonderful idea.
The intelligent obvious question here would be to ask:
“Why are we violent in the first place?”
This yama implies that at some level we are something like uncontrolled barbarians with a brutal nature that need to be kept on a tight leash before we rip out each others throats. A bit like our innate immune system that gobbles up invading bacteria and viruses alive.
We then attempt to control this primal urge by meditating on “divine” love to counteract this urge.
That is a very good try, but would it even be better if we investigate why we have a potential for contemplated violence?
Violent behavior arises when something traumatic has happened to me that I react to with anger. In other words, on some level I become so pissed that hitting back at those who traumatised me feels like a great and even justified idea, which on top of everything makes total sense to my emotional self.
What traumatic event would that possibly be? An event that we have all experienced to a larger or lesser degree?
To me that trauma is the absence of love ; love in real every day to day living, between countries, races, gender and especially in our own relationships.
What do I mean by love? I do not mean just a rosy colored, toodly woodly kind of love (although that works fantastic with dogs and infants, I am told).
What I mean is a love that is also crystal clear, unemotional, fearless, razor sharp, straight, honest, absolutely awake and totally down to earth. I call it “intelligence in action”.
It is generally accepted that the best way to live this yama is by getting the practitioner to focus on “cosmic” or “divine” love. This is a great idea as well, as long as it also involves changing everyday behavior into giving and accepting love to and from the people around you, on this here earthly plane.
In practical terms: Giving love and receiving it, not holding back. Talking with with people about how beautiful this life is, sharing my beautiful nature, smiling more, laughing more, being more joyful, open. This, to me, is “cosmic, divine” love in action (and if need be, can also be as uncompromising and cold as cosmic space).
And by the very definition of what I have just said it certainly implies that every yoga practitioner (including myself) will have to examine very closely and very honestly his or her own “SELF”, the violent one.
Once that has happened there is a potential for change and to try something new.
This practice leads to self knowledge and self knowledge together with love will make violence go away.
Thumbs up! This again is a wonderful yama which leads to an intelligent question:
”What is the truth”?
Is the truth that which is written down in the Sutras, or the Vedas, or the Bible, the Quran, the Popul Vuh, the Ujama (Bantu religion) or any other of the many religions on this planet?
They all claim to speak the truth and they all have their own origin myths.
Or is it maybe true that to know “THE TRUTH”, I would actually need to know exactly what is going on here? In other words, I would need to know why there is an existence in the first place, what life is, what love is, and then all the other iddy biddy missing details. I would need to know the whole nine yards!
Because how can I build a house if I don’t know my raw materials that I need to build it with? How can I know existence if I only know tiny whee bits about it?
I have been searching for the truth my entire life. Started when I was a kid. I was a catholic altar boy. Got chucked out of the religion class because the priest did not like my questions. Left the church. I studied and I read. I talked to people. I sat at the feet of a guru. Learned alchemy and got a black belt; studied nature and it’s healing power.
And nobody that I have ever heard of or read books from knows or knew the truth (and I have had the fortune to been around a number of living enlightened beings).
The closest explanation that I have I ever found is this: TRUTH IS A MYSTERY THAT NEEDS TO BE LIVED.
Really, not one teaching that I know of on this planet teaches THE TRUTH, as far as I can tell. They all teach aspects of he truth.
Now, let’s say that it is true that tons of alien species are floating all over the universe with vastly superior technology, that they invade our psyche or communicate with us through crop circles or human channels in an attempt to help us grow in consciousness.
Even if all of that is true, THAT STILL IS NOT THE TRUTH.
In my own experience and after about 40 years of meditation, the closest that I have ever come to the living truth is by going right to the beginning of life, inside me – and then to go beyond it.
In other words, before the Big Bang, (never saw anything banging, though).
I can only do this by listening to the RING OF TRUTH of my own intuition, in MEDITATION, and in harmony with my own love and my own intelligence.
And my intuition tells me that THE TRUTH IS LOVE, the great unknowable mystery. A love so great that it created this entire universe. Beyond duality.
To me this love is the only constant within this entire existence.
And again, what a wonderful idea which of course leads to the question ”What causes us to steal?”
I do not experience in me that I have an inherent urge to take what belongs to somebody else. Our dog Oona did, though, but she was trying to play with us.
The best and simplest answer to this question is that our society, BEING TOO FAR AWAY FROM LOVE, enables a few to have most and control almost everything and then leave the masses with no other choice but to react and sometimes to steal. True?
We currently live in a world where many, many people go hungry and live barely at survival level. Put yourself in their shoes. What would you do if you’re hungry and don’t get food?
We also live in a world where there is little love and where many are starving for love. That creates trauma. And trauma creates all sorts of emotional response, including the urge to steal.
From everything I have read and learned it appears that we have everything on this planet to create paradise for everyone who lives here. Many expert scientist can testify to this.
There is sufficient food, sufficient technology, sufficient resources, sufficient free energy in the vacuum. And of course, there is sufficient love. Why would I steal if I have it all?
Behavioral psychology knows that controlling any urge won’t make it go away, it suppresses it and bites us later in the behind.
So the answer to this yama will already sound very familiar to you.
Start loving, give of yourself on all levels if you have the resources. Try something new.
And this means especially those that have too much and speaking econnomically can easily give. From the corporations down to the individual. Utopia? The way things are now, most probably. In Reality, it is the only way.
Only when this type of individual and societal turnaround happens will the urge to steal disappear.
Until taht blessed time will occur, we are stuck with rules, laws and regulations to deal with those that don’t fit in.
(By the way, finding this is Patanjali’s sutras means they had the same problem already thousands of years ago, interesting isn’t it?)
“chastity, sexual constraint or celibacy, literally ”walking with brahma (god)”.
This is the one yama that irks me most because it is still so widely misunderstood, although the west is gradually clearing up this mess.
So this one gets a bit more attention.
There is and has been a common misunderstanding in many religions that being celibate or sexually constraint is a pre-requisite to spiritual enlightenment. Patanjali lived like this, Vivekananda lived like this and even Nikola Tesla did take a vow of lifelong celibacy to harness electricity. At least that is what we are told.
Imposed sexual celibacy is about as far from the truth as it can get.
Because the opposite is real!
Pure sexuality is the pre-requisite to LIFE!
There are basically two types of brahmacharya. A natural one and an imposed one.
Natural brahmacharya occurs when you don’t have a partner or for some other reason you cannot make love. If you are in that state, and many are, life is building up your energies until the time that you do have a partner.
That can take a long time depending on where you are at. If that is your situation, in my experience it is best to wait, trust life and enjoy your life otherwise. This is usually easier said than done.
It’s the IMPOSED BRAHMACHARYA that causes problems.
Have you ever tried to deny your being something that it really needs? Like food? What happens?
After a while you cannot stop thinking about it! Strange that the enlightened ones did not know enough about behavioral psychology.
And so this is exactly what has happened in our societies.
It is fairly obvious that sex (not healthy sexuality) has taken over the mind (psyche) of most people on the planet, and especially so in men. Not in all men, but in many.
Many people are stuck in sex, want sex badly, don’t get enough, fantasize about it and if they can’t get it or are traumatized by it shut themselves off from sexuality completely.
Either way, life will force them to deal with it, as sexuality is one of the most natural and powerful forces in the human being.
Just as the human body lives on food, the spirit lives on love!
People who are naturally sexually free are powerful, uncontrollable, because they know love. The ruling elite knew that, so it needed to be controlled.
So the best way to do that was to tell people that sex is really bad when you want to achieve spiritual enlightenment, that God does not approve. Many religions picked up on that idea and still try to hold on the concept.
Monks in monasteries are told to be celibate, so are the holy swamis. So those monks and nuns (who were afraid of giving of their precious life energy by sharing their life with a woman or a man) came up with the great idea of transforming the “lower beastial urges” (Yogananda, “Autobiography of a yogi”) under the guise of an enlightened spirituality.
And because this is impossible there were strict rules in place to govern the private sex life of the unsuspecting population.
“Can’t control it? Well, do it,then, but only for procreation, please!”
Only it did not work then and it does not work now because you cannot suppress a natural sexuality and stay mentally sane.
So sexuality became a behavioral no-no and moved in the psyche, tormenting the holy practitioners. It became psychic sex.
There it smoldered and gradually took over (despite best intentions) and created obvious neurotic behavior.
Just in case you don’t believe me, here are some articles on the subject from around the world. If you have the stomach for it, you can read on pedophilism in the church. Articles like this frequently hit the headlines.
Or you can look up this article on the famous spiritual leader Mahatma Ghandi, who this report says had a rather “bizarre” look on sexuality.
Here is a story about Satya Sai Baba, a magic making Indian guru whose sexual practices were widely covered up.
Or even innocent looking Paramahansa Yogananda? Indications are that maybe he was not so innocent at after all, according to these reports.
These were all very influential people. Highly regarded in their respective societies. Why this hipocrisy, why hide the truth?
And for the last one, Nikola Tesla, one of the greatest geniuses this planet has ever seen, obviously loved electricity more than woman and in the later stages of his life transferred his love unto a pigeon.
I sometimes wonder what Tesla would have achieved had he made love frequently!
And this is certainly not to accuse any of those teachers, they all had a great purpose in life. Tesla gave us the A/C current that powers our cities!
I mention these articles to show that suppressing natural sexuality will lead to mental religious concepts (at best) or to a pretty sick psyche (at worst).
So why not be honest, acknowledge that I am a sexual being and then get on with life?
In my own experience, the best way to transform psychic fantasy sex is to physically frequently make love (if you have a partner). It’s not easy but it can be done if you have two committed partners. Takes a lot of love, honesty and patience. Brings up a lot of emotion. But in the end love’s living intelligence will always guide you.
And if you don’t have a partner, again in my experience, you wait in the natural state of brahmacharya and enjoy your life fully until the right partner comes along that you feel you can make love with. Then make love often.
It is very, very, very important to know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with a healthy sexuality.
Natural sexuality is one of the most delightful and beautiful and natural experiences two partners can share.
Tantric yogis knew this, that is why they plastered their temples with love-making scenes.
Because making love creates not just new life, IT CREATES MORE LOVE.
Where do you think love comes from? It has to be made! We are the ones that make it. That is the main reason why we are here in the first place!
And more love means more intelligence, more health, more life, more creativity, more power and more cosmic knowledge!
Now, as for the real meaning of brahmacharya: That meaning is ”WALKING WITH GOD (Brahma)”.
Really, is there any better way to describe what happens when I walk with my partner hand in hand through the forest?
“Non greediness, non posessiveness”.
There is a better word for greed and possessiveness that I have come across and that word is ”wanting”.
We live in a society which offers many, many things that we can want. And we are encouraged by the media to want them a lot, because this is how our society works.
So we want more material things, more technology, more wisdom, power, children, cats, dogs, rabbits, toys, a good job, a loving partner, more money, more holidays, sweets, better food, more movies, free apps, world peace and so on.
It’s a very long list.
The psychology is simple: We think that by getting what we want, life will be more fulfilling and we’ll feel better.
And in some instances that is true, but unfortunately it does not take too long before the next a “want” arises. We are conditioned like that.
My favorite soccer team one the title! Yeah! Jubilations! – will they win it again next year?
Have you ever observed that when you are in love there is very little that you want other than to give love to your beloved?
Or that you would willingly give up everything you have just to be in love again?
BECAUSE BEING IN LOVE IS THE ULTIMATE POWER. Nothing compares to it. And that is what really makes as fulfilled and feel better.
When we can’t have love we create substitutes, ie. things that we want that we think will make us feel good, feel loved on some level.
The Stones have a great song that says “You can’t always get what you want”; the lyrics go on to say – “but if you try sometimes you find you might get what you need.”
What we need is actually quite little – we need food, a nice place to live, water, air and love.
The Buddhist teachings are based on the four noble truths that those who have attained nirvana, (the Buddhist equivalent of the Hindu Samadhi), have realized.
In the second noble truth, Buddha says ‘Desire should be let go of.”
Now replace the word “desire” with “want”.
Buddha got it right.
Love is what you are and what you need. Live in love, give love, get love and you’ll notice there will be much less that you really want.
In summary of part 2 and to head off to part 3, in which I get to the 5 niyamas, I decided to create my own yama, just for fun:
“Start living everyday of your life by loving life, giving love and receiving love”
The one yama to include all yamas!
Really simple for someone like me who does not like to think.
And here I will get back to my original Aphroism #1:
I learned this from my great teacher Barry Long, a spiritual guide who gave his whole life to love. Thank you, Barry!
“LET’S PUT FIRST THINGS FIRST AND SECOND THINGS SECOND: ALWAYS!”
Let’s put love first and the yamas second.
Now lets head joyfully on to limb no.2: Niyama….