THE EIGHT LIMBS OF YOGA- PART II
The Eight Limbs of yoga is a blueprint to help guide you toward living a more virtuous life. 2 weeks ago I explored part of the first limb on the path called Yama, which encompasses how you should treat all living beings. Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness) and Asteya (non-stealing) are all important pieces of this limb that ensure you are walking through the world with good in your heart. This week I am going to focus on the last 2 Yamas—Brahmacharya and Aparigraha.
Let’s first dissect the meaning of this Sanskrit word. Brahmacharya literally translates to “behavior which leads to Brahman.” In Hinduism and Yoga, Brahman is considered the “supreme consciousness,” or “the Creator” and so Brahmacharya is behaving in a way that leads a person to the “Divine.” Traditionally, this meant that a person was to remain celibate so that they could conserve their sexual energy in order to then use this energy to further progress down the Yogic Path. Today, however, this idea is not only unpopular, it is a bit unrealistic. Therefore, this Yama can be redefined as “sense control” or “right use of energy,” meaning that you can still engage in sexual activity, but that you must at the same time control your external desires, those sexual as well as physical, mental and emotional.
Since the ultimate goal of the Eightfold Path is to be united with the “Divine,” then you must behave in ways that do not deter you from it. When you find yourself desiring something that does not fulfill you nor aligns with you and your goals, you must learn to redirect your energy to something positive.
This brings to mind the practice of Sadhana, which I blogged about last week. Sadhana is a ritual of performing daily spiritual discipline and is a great tool to keep you steady on the Yogic Path and focused on your intentions. (For more details, please read the Sadhana post from last week).
Brahmacharya instructs you to only act upon those desires which best serve you. Everyday you will be asked to evaluate your thoughts, and everyday you have the power to redirect yourself by acting in ways that bring joy to your life. We are beings of limitless potential, so we are in charge of making the best use of our energy. When we do so, we will begin to see that all the pleasures we are seeking outside ourselves are already found within us. Happiness, love, gratification, truth, abundance and gratitude. You name it, you already got it. Practice Brahmacharya and let it shine throughout your life.
What are some desires you seek in your life that in the end leave you feeling unfulfilled? How do you redirect your desires into something more beneficial for you? Do you feel it is a challenge to say “no” to your material desires, especially when you are around others who desire the same things? When was the last time you chose your well-being over engaging in some toxic activity?
Non-covetousness is a fancy word for saying, “Don’t be greedy.” Aparigraha is the notion that you do not take more than what you need nor do you take advantage of someone or a situation in order to gain more. There is no need to hoard anything, for you will always have enough through your faith in the “Divine” and by following the Eight Limbs of the Yogic Path. Don’t take more than what you need and there will always be enough.
There is an abundance of all things in this world, and thus Aparigraha instructs you to be satisfied with enough and to not live a life of excess of food, shelter, or material things. In addition, this Yama implies an attitude of non-attachment—for all things, all people, all moments come and go in our lives. We cannot hold on to anything forever. Change is the only constant thing in this impermanent world.
Can you think of an example when you chose to only take your fair share of the profits, food, work or time? On the other hand, have you ever taken advantage of someone or a situation in order to get more money, success, or approval? Have you ever had to let go of someone or something, only to find that it made room for someone or something else to come into your life?
The Five Yamas
According to the Yoga Sutras, by adhering to the 5 Yamas in your daily life, you will help purify yourself and thus contribute to the overall health and happiness of the society in which you live and even trigger a ripple effect out into the entire world. Following this wisdom will lead to positive changes blooming all around you and help you get ready to implement the next limb on the Eightfold Path-Niyama.
Please feel free to share any thoughts or experiences you have regarding these moral virtues and the influence they have had on your life.