The Real Secret of the
YAMAS & NIYAMAS
A Formula for Meditation
comments and criticism. It brings out a generally overlooked but
central point – the application directly to one’s personal practice
We are multi-dimensional beings - and so is the ancient
knowledge. The famous Yamas and Niyamas, the “limbs” of
yoga, are found in the Verses on Yoga of Patanjali. And each of
these words has multi-dimensional levels of meaning:
What is YOGA? Yoga is the union of self with Self. The direct
experience of this is meditation. Therefore, first and foremost, the
Yamas and Niyamas are a formula for meditation.
1. They describe the process.
2. They advise on how to do it.
5 YAMAS, RESTRAINTS
“Yama” also means “death”. And when we go within and awaken
in the Self, all injuriousness ends or “dies”.
We leave the outer field of dis-integration and stress and enter the
field of regeneration and wholeness.
The process must not be forced or injurious to our psyche or
nervous system. It is a process of gentle surrender to the
Furthermore, our practice should adjust to the rhythms of life -
the hour of the family dinner, the time for going to work, etc.
SATYA: BEING REAL, BEING HONEST and SINCERE
We experience that dimension that is True and Real with capital
letters, because all our ideas and outer realities are true only in a
relative and temporal sense. This is “Satya”.
Even with a good meditation technique we still need to have
sincerity. High purpose and humble attitude.
TIP: Ask yourself if you have an ulterior motive – to make a show
or just to get out of washing the dishes? Are you humble enough
to seek guidance or the support of a meditation group?
Being Innocent, without expectations—then meditation is
successful. We sit aspiring to a higher contact, but then must let
the sitting unfold as it will.
All our life we have been “stealing”--grasping for this and that.
Our senses appropriate--steal--what they enjoy. Now, finally, our
tired senses and mind rest back in their own place.
TIP: Just take it as it comes.
BRAHMACHARYA: MOVING TOWARD THE UNBOUNDNESS
Brahman, pure being-ness, comes from the root word “bri”, “to
expand”. Our bio-energies expand. They flow upwards, refine
and spread out. How nice it is!
This expansion happens spontaneously with the previous Yamas
– gentle surrender, sincere intention and innocent attitude. The
energies to flow upwards spontaneously.
TIP: If you feel sluggish, try correcting your posture, using
meditative music, recalling your mantra, doing slow breathing.
TIP: If we are troubled by lust during meditation—try simply
putting the attention on the field of energy that surrounds us. Or
try immediately changing the thought for its opposite.
The “holding on” to ideas, feelings and stresses gets immediately
undermined as we turn within. It all loosens up more and more
as the minutes go by. Our body is an automatic self-cleaning
Gradually, even deep-rooted stresses stored in our nervous
system begin to dissolve –and this often clouds the experience,
creates lots of thoughts, restlessness or even physical
sensations or movements during the sitting.
TIP: Thus, the importance of sitting our full length of time! Let it
TIP: Nor should we try to look for or hold on to any experience in
Here is an example of “the grasper”:
Thousand Suns”. The idea has infected his mind. Now he is
trying real hard to see the light, waiting for it, hoping. He
enjoy meditation but now he is so frustrated. So, he quits.
Then he runs from one teacher to another. He has a long list
of the initiations he has taken, and wants even more.
Better to do like the Buddhists say and “Just
sit”. As the poet Blakes said:
Does the winged life destroy,
But he who kisses the joy as it flies,
Lives in Eternity's sunrise.”
5 NIYAMAS, OBSERVANCES
The pure, stress free state of the nervous system gets restored.
Fatigue is released. The chemical blood lactate diminishes. The
posture may straighten. Deep impressions of past and past-life
actions (sanskaras) are burnt out.
TIP: Wash up before meditating, stretch, sip some water, sit in a
clean place, purify the air with music or mantras, breathe.
Whatever helps it along!
SAṀTOSHA: CONTENTMENT, PATIENCE
The needed Patience to sit our full time, to meditate each day is
self-generated – because the process gives an increasing feeling
It takes time, at the very least 15-20 minutes, for the nervous
system to settle down.
TIP: Be patient also when it doesn’t feel so great--when there is
restlessness, boredom, aches and pains or worries that don’t go
The root “tapah” means “heat”.
There comes then a sort of “yogic fire”--a delightful purifying
energy--that “roasts the seeds” of past impressions -- so that we
can get release from the jail of our past karma.
On the bodily level that means that the accumulated deep-seated
stresses in the nervous system gets dissolved.
Tapa also means to fast from food, talking or time and energy
wasting activities. Deep meditation is true fasting because our
senses fast from enjoying their objects as we transcend.
TIP: Have a fiery intention to sit – no matter the heat, cold, noise
or what foolish people say. Sit like a mountain.
We get lost to the world for a short time and found to ourself.
Consciousness of consciousness in its pure essence..
One classical meaning of Svadhyaya is reciting a mantra. A
mantra-sound or one’s own breath emerge from and can lead us
back to the Self.
TIP: Continually one should return to the mantra or the breath
-- and again let it go. Return and let go. Return and let go. Thus,
penetrate into the Self.
* This Self Knowledge should be taught in school along with the
knowledge of subjects so people then live using their full
IŚVARA-PRAṆIDHĀNĀ, SURRENDERING CONTROL TO
Ultimately, in meditation we have to step out of the way of the
process, let go of whatever technique we use, transcend the
technique, let Nature do it.
“The natural tendency of the mind to go to a field of greater
happiness takes us within to the field of unbounded being. The
natural tendency of the nervous system to throw off stress and
restore normal functioning pulls us out into thoughts. If all is
managed by Mother Nature, what can control accomplish?”
(loose quote of Mahesh Yogi).
TIP: “Let go and let God.”
NOTE: The rest of Patanjali’s Eight-fold Body of Yoga is similar.
For example, PRĀṆĀYĀMA, expansion of life force, and ĀSANA,
bodily stillness – both occur spontaneously. You can feel it. It
cannot be forced. But more on this later..
The last-mentioned limb is SAMĀDHI, the “head”. This also is
normal, natural, no big deal. (Okay, maybe the enlightened yogi’s
SAMĀDHI is a big deal, but that is something different.) We can
have ours too—every man and woman should be enjoying
transcendence! It brightens the whole life!
A higher level of Yoga is when we stay in that state all the time.
That is called NIVIKALLPA SAMADHI. We no longer “lose our
head”. But we go to get our head on straight first by meditating.
Note: Patanjali’s ASHTANGA YOGA translates as "Eight Limbs of
Union" , not "8 steps" of laborious preparations as is frequently
Don’t let any authority tell you it is very difficult, that there are long
steps of preparation and especially that you need their special
technique. It is YOUR BEING.