Showing posts with label ahimsa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ahimsa. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Tribute to Mahatma Gandhi and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Monday, January 21, 7.30 p.m. Free – East West Bookshop, Seattle
This even will be LIVE on Facebook

To many of us, it seems that the principles upon which our country was founded are in short supply these days. What can we do about it? Unless, like Mahatma Gandhi or Dr King, you plan to start a national movement for peace justice and equality, you can at least stand up and be counted! And next Monday night you have an opportunity to do just that!

Next Monday night we honor the lives of M.K. Gandhi and Dr M.L. King in a public tribute that would be just the kind of occasion where people like you and I can come together. The tribute includes music, audio and video tracks, and readings from their speeches and writings.

Paramhansa Yogananda stated that America and India represent the twin ideals of material and spiritual harmony (and their concomitant social ideals, justice and equality) so needed in our rapidly changing and growing world. He did not mean that India and America have perfected these ideals. Instead, he meant that India and America have the karma to lead the way in demonstrating the importance of these ideals for the benefit, indeed survival, of all nations.

For this was our nation founded; for this was born the likes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Abraham Lincoln. For this, Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. King lived and died. Dr King said that one who had nothing for which he was willing to die was not fit to live. An extreme statement, no doubt, and obviously not the karmic destiny for most individuals. 

But certainly, next Monday night is an occasion for us but to be together. You will be energized and inspired by the experience. As the years go by, fewer and fewer people have lived through the turbulent years of the civil rights movement in America. The message of Gandhi and King is, more than ever, relevant to the challenges of our times. Come and show your support for social change through nonviolent means and inspired by universal, spiritual ideals.

Blessings to you,

Nayaswamis Hriman and Padma

Ananda Washington

P.S. Anyone wishing a copy of our script, please write to us at

Monday, February 24, 2014

Ahimsa: What is Non-Violence? Is Killing ever Justified?

Ahimsa, or the practice of non-violence, as taught by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras, is not an absolute standard of behavior, but a relative one. The absolute standard lies in the realm of intention and consciousness. In a world of relativities (aka "duality" or "dwaita") it is often impossible to apply a precept "absolutely."

Thus it is that India's most famous and beloved scripture, the Bhagavad Gita ("The Song Celestial), teaches that one must fulfill his duties to fight injustice and evil by taking up arms against his enemy. Now I am purposely misquoting that scripture because my interpretation is merely a literal one, for the scripture (a dialogue between Lord Krishna and his disciple, Arjuna) takes place on a battlefield (a historical one, in fact) but the dialogue (and the teaching) is allegorical. Nonetheless, Paramhansa Yogananda (author of the now famous Autobiography of a Yogi), and many other respected teachers, concur that in human history and ethics there are times when self-defense and killing one's attackers, when necessary, is the lesser evil and the greater duty than the literal practice of non-violence.

In American culture these last thirty or forty years, the issue of abortion has pitted non-violence against freedom of individual choice. In the mainstream of traditional yoga, it is taught that the soul enters the embryo at time of conception. Hence abortion is traditionally frowned upon. Yet, the astrological chart for the newborn is cast at the time of the first breath, at birth. Add to that all the issues around the mother's or fetuses' health, cases of rape or incest and on and on, and well, you have a very challenging issue on your hands. I am not here to propose a resolution to this social debate. Yoga stands for the principle of individual choice and accountability in the pursuit of an individual soul's many lifetimes of evolution up and down the ladder and spiral staircase of consciousness. The discussion goes beyond my topic today and, even if it did, would do little, if anything, to contribute to the social debate.

A student in one of our classes raised the issue of the killing of a doctor in an abortion clinic. Was the murder of this abortion doctor an example of the lesser "sin" of killing in self-defense (of the unborn children)? Talk about a chicken and the egg intellectual bull fight!

For starters, intuition is the only means by which we can discover the truth of something like this. For another, intuition occurs only through an individual (and yes, perhaps through many individuals). Can two people intuitively arrive at opposite results? In theory, no; in practice, yes. In theory, intuition is unitive but in practice our individual karma and dharma is directional. We only get the guidance from our higher, intuitive self that pertains to us. "Take steps northward" (if you are south of the equator and wanting to go there); "Take steps southward" (if you are north of the equator and wanting to go there).

In society, the murder of the abortion doctor is, simply, that: murder, and a crime punishable by imprisonment. That speaks for itself but while very important, it is not the final statement as to an individual act. 

In the language of yoga, we speak of karma and reincarnation as two sides of the same coin of right action. In a worldview that sees the soul's evolution as extending in time beyond anything we can easily relate to, right action can be extremely subtle. "Karma: represents seeds of past actions which, on the basis of actions taken in egoic self-affirmation, wait, hidden, for their final resolution in the forms of their natural and appropriate opposite responses. If I kill someone, I plant the seed for being killed in return (whether by that soul or another). "Those who live by the sword, will die by the sword." Yet many killers, Joseph Stalin, e.g., die peacefully in their beds. The Bible cautions us not to imagine that one does "not sow what one reaps." This is why many lifetimes are needed. For our actions, which include our thoughts, run into the billions even in one lifetime! (Let's not go there right now, ok?)

The abortion doctor who was murdered presumably, however cruel or clinical the conclusion might seem to others (like to his wife or children), earned that sentence by his actions, not least of which could possibly be the work of performing abortions. We simply cannot "see" the threads of karma and those threads might not have anything to do with his performing abortions. That conclusion is possibly too "pat" and too obvious. The karmic thread may even lie between the doctor and his murderer: meaning, "it's personal."

Such karma may account for the fact of the doctor's murder but what does that fact mean to his killer and the killer's karma? Indeed, it may be the doctor's karma to be killed, but the one through whom, as an instrument of karmic repayment, that repayment is delivered may incur the burden of his own karmic debt for having taken a life! The killer presumably was a fanatical opponent of abortion and we probably do not know wherein lay the seeds of such intensity but it would not be difficult to speculate if one takes the perspective of many lives. Does that "justify" the killing? No, but it might "explain" it. That's all. 

How then do we ever extricate ourselves from the entanglements of karma? Well, that's a big subject. But a few words are necessary here. The one centripetal fact of karma is not so much the act but the intention, or, put another way: the ego. An act which is done without regard to self-interest and which is not an affirmation of the ego principle, but is performed dutifully and in harmony with one's true and higher Self, does not incur a karmic debt or plant a karmic seed. Such acts, however, might, indeed, neutralize or cauterize seeds of past karma, however. Hence the value of such actions in the process of purification and repayment of karmic debts as the soul rises towards ego transcendence. Thus "good works" are useful. But good works performed with the expectation of reward, including recognition, still revolve, at least to some degree, around the ego principle. Nonetheless, it is better to do something good for the wrong reason than not to do good out of fear of incurring more karma. Karmic release is always directional, never absolute. The teaching of karma is such that it recognizes that over many lives we have the karmic burden of "sin" (ego-encased ignorance, in fact) that must be repaid by right action and by the uplifting and redeeming power of grace.

Is it possible to imagine a religious fanatic who kills others (and himself) as making a forward direction towards karmic release? In theory, yes, though the act be condemned in all other respects. Perhaps in a prior life, this terrorist killed others for sport or for money or for revenge. In this lifetime, this karmically inclined murderer kills others and sacrifices his own life for a higher reward or in the name of a higher cause. However ignorant and evil-seeming that intention may be to us, it is at least theoretically possible that it is a step forward for that soul. Could such an act be recompense for cowardliness in past lives? All of these things are theoretically possible but such a person is obviously incurring even more karmic debt by hurting others. 

No wise counselor would suggest such actions. There are other, better, and purer forms of karmic release than killing more people! Nonetheless, the world of human actions is just as subject to the law of cause and effect as are the laws of nature. The difference is that reason and intuition, whether coming from within, or arising from the influence and counsel of others, can accelerate the soul's progress faster than the bullock cart of fulfilling every desire and paying every debt on their own terms and on their own level. We can "outwit the stars" of our karmic debt by other means.

This latter statement is the "promise of immortality" and grace offered, with whatever terminology or spiritual precepts and through whatever means of "being saved," that all great religions and their greatest teachers aver. In part, this power of redemption lies in the existential reality that our soul is eternal, changeless and ever untouched (as God "himself" is) by our ignorant and even evil actions. This doesn't mean we are free to murder and create mayhem but it does offer a back door, so to speak, to win karmic release without cracking rocks day after day in the prison of past karma. We are trapped in the ego and if the ego turns to find the back door for itself, it has already condemned itself. 

Thus in the story of Moses who led his "people" from bondage, he could not enter the promised land. For while the ego may awaken to the desire to win karmic release, the ego, itself, cannot "go there." The ego, like Bhishma in the Mahabharata, must surrender himself to the soul (to God) by self-offering. Hence too the symbol of Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac. There is no real destruction or sacrifice of the ego, but the ego doesn't and cannot know this. That takes faith and intuition: only the soul knows that the ego has no intrinsic, existential reality.

In God, we are free and nothing about us is ever lost. Our release is not destructive to our self-awareness. It is blissful release.

As humans, as egos, we cannot but decry the murder of that abortion doctor even if we, ourselves, do not, perhaps, counsel abortion as a day-to-day means of contraception or family planning. Each act is an individual choice and each act brings to itself its natural and metaphysical consequences. In this we have the opportunity to gain compassion for all beings and wisdom to guide our own actions. It is through the power of grace, which is the divine and latent power within us and which is awakened and transmitted to us soul-to-soul from those who have achieved it, that we can win our freedom from the prison of karma.

Bless all who have done wrong, including any of may have hurt you, that their own actions awaken within them the desire to be free and that you be shown how to be an instrument of that awakening to others. Live in the thought and consciousness of freedom and you will attract the power and light of freedom into your mind, heart and soul.

Blessings to all,

Nayaswami Hriman

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Why I Believe in Santa Claus--and so does Patanjali from the Yoga Sutras!

In Paramhansa Yogananda's commentary on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, specifically the yamas and niyamas (the "do's" and the "don'ts"), he emphasizes the consciousness underlying the precept and not merely its literal application to daily life. Not surprisingly, therefore, his foremost public service teaching disciple, Swami Kriyananda (founder of Ananda's worldwide work), carries this theme into his now classic text, The Art and Science of Raja Yoga. 

So, for example, in the yama of non-lying (satya), Yogananda asked the question (pertinent to his lifetime) that if you were living in Germany and hiding Jews from the Gestapo, would it be dharmic (righteous) to tell the Gestapo who show up at your door that "Oh, yes, I've been hiding them.....look behind that wall"? The obvious answer is NO! Thus, he would explain that to be truthful can't always be applied literally.

Swami Kriyananda gave the additional example that it can be a dharmic application of the yama of ahimsa (non-violence) to act in either self-defense (including a just war) or for the defense of others for whom you have the duty of protection to even have to kill another person. Self-defense in a just cause does not presume or require one to hate, he would add. To be harmless is to be devoid of the impulse, desire or tendency to get revenge, to hurt other people whom you don't like, to gossip or be judgmental. To be truthful includes ridding oneself of the tendency to wish things were different than they are, or to dwell in merely imaginary wishful thinking, or holding on to the past, which cannot be changed. And so on through the different yamas.

Patanjali was speaking therefore of a state of consciousness and to the reality that we need only to step away from false identifications and impulses to realize or become what we are already when we are centered not in things or sense experience but in the Self within: kind, truthful, and appropriate in thought and deed.

Swami Kriyananda told the story that, as a small boy, he asked his father whether Santa Claus was real. His father was more literal in his application of being truthful and confessed that "No, Santa Claus is not real." Swamiji (then, little Donald) was crushed. Later in his own life, indeed as an elderly man, Swamiji in telling that story would add, with an appropriate twinkle in his eye, "I still believe in Santa Claus."

Who is Santa Claus? We read stories of St. Nicholas, taking different names and with variations on the story of his compassion and charity, from different cultures. His story and persona persist Christmas after Christmas despite all reason, all facts, all knowledge about sleighs, reindeer, and chimneys. "A fact is not a truth." Truth is beneficial; it is healing; it connects with a greater and broader truth.

Is not Santa Claus the ideal and the embodiment, indeed, the human incarnation of generosity, compassion, kindness and everything good and jolly about him?

Can we not say, therefore, on the basis of a higher truth, that "Yes, Santa Claus exists." He is in you and me. He lives in us to the degree we express his lovable qualities of kindness, humor, self-giving and so on. Therefore, he lives on!

So next time your son or daughter, niece or nephew, or a small child anywhere asks, "Is Santa Claus real" or "Do you believe in Santa Claus" you can say YES, and, if helpful, quote Patanjali.

Ho, ho, ho.......Merry Christmas, and to all goodwill and peace on earth!

Swami Hrimananda!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Yoga Sutras – Part 6 – 8-Fold Path

At last we arrive at the best known stanza of the Yoga Sutras!

Stanza 29 of Book 2 (Sadhana Pada) of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is the famous list of the eight stages of the universal and nonsectarian awakening and ascension of the individual soul back to its Creator. I have previously written blog posts on each of these stages and refer readers to those for more details. However in those blog posts my references were not directly to the sutras but to the classic text by Swami Kriyananda, The Art & Science of Raja Yoga. I have been privileged to teach this course for some sixteen years at Ananda in the Seattle area.

Ashtanga Yoga
The term, Ashtanga Yoga, is commonly translated as 8-Limbed Yoga. Patanjali was not intending to start a yoga studio or yoga movement called “Ashtanga Yoga.” His is a clinical description of the psycho-physiological and spiritual attributes of the universal path toward enlightenment. The stages he describes have several meanings, and here are just a few:
·         First, they do represent steps (as in a ladder) that the aspirant is encouraged to take on his path to soul freedom. But this is a linear approach and a transactional interpretation. For example, the fourth stage, pranayama, may be interpreted to suggest that the one practice breath control techniques.
·         Second, as “limbs” in a tree, they are more like facets of the diamond of truth rather than steps. Each stage is somewhat holographic, for it contains within its perfection some aspect of all the others. Perfection of the consciousness of non-violence (ahimsa) brings with it or opens the door, at least, to the highest stage, Samadhi.
·         Third, the stages represent states of consciousness and degrees of mastery over life force and consciousness. Pranayama, therefore, refers not only to the techniques of controlling life force (starting with awareness and control of the breath) but refers also to the goal of said practices: the state of breathlessness.
·         Fourth, each stage brings with it appropriate attitudes and levels of mastery over objective nature. Continuing with the fourth stage as my example, pranayama relates to the heart center and great devotion and pure (unselfish) feeling is awakened and, at the same time, such qualities are necessary for the realization of pranayama. Although it is not clear from the sutras themselves, mastery of prana (pranayama), would possibly bring to the yogi great healing powers, whether of self or others. By stopping the heart pump and breath, human life is prolonged and the effects of aging and disease can be reversed. It is important to note that one can perfect an attitude but cannot perfect its outer expression. For example, perfect nonviolence cannot be achieved insofar as the very act of eating and travelling involves the “killing” of other life forms. (Even a cabbage is a living being.) But no such actions require us to hate or purposely inflict harm. And there are times when one ideal appears to conflict with another. For example, self-defense might seem to place non-violence at odds to the value and protection of human life. In such a case the higher ideal must suffice. Yogananda taught that human life is to be valued, spiritually speaking, and the protection of human life from disease and death is the higher duty where it might involve such policies as mosquito abatement, for example.
·         Fifth, Patanjali is describing “yoga” as 8-Limbed. Yoga means, inter alia, “union,” and refers to Oneness or union of soul with the Infinite Power, or Spirit. From Vedanta (the view of reality from the God’s eye), this state has 8-limbs, or eight manifestations. Thus the ladder goes both up and down, and, well, all around! The description of this reality includes the physical body (and macrocosm of the cosmos); the subtle (or astral, or energy) body (and cosmos), the causal body (and cosmos, of ideas and thoughts), and the transcendent realm of Bliss beyond creation (and the various levels of creation in between, as well).

So leaving most interpretation and analysis to my prior blog articles, let us examine the sutras and the remainder of Book 2, which describe the first five stages of the 8-Fold Path:
      Verse 29 lists the eight as yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and Samadhi. These eight have a special correlation with the seven chakras (which become eight by the positive and negative polarity of the sixth chakra: the negative pole being located at the medulla oblongata, and the positive pole being the point between the eyebrows. Because these stages exist on all three levels of our Being (physical, astral, and ideational), the correlation between the eight stages and the chakras is only approximate. There is also an approximate correlation of the chakras with the eight facets, or aspects, of the attributes of the soul: peace, wisdom, energy, love, calmness, sound, light, and bliss.
      Verse 30 lists the sub-aspects of yama (“control”) as non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence, and non-attachment. When these are observed under all circumstances we have achieved realization of yama. (Verse 31) When tempted to violate these “great vows,” one should employ positive thoughts, Patanjali advises (in Verse 33). Violations may occur by omission, commission, by indirect means (including ignorance) and may be minor, “middling,” or great in consequence or intensity (Verse 34). Obstacles include greed, anger, and selfishness (V32). One must remember, always, the suffering that such lapses cause. I find it interesting how simply Patanjali states that one should substitute positive thoughts in place of negative one. I have seen this principle employed very frequently in the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda.
      Angry or violent tendencies in others cease in one’s presence when non-violence is established in one’s consciousness. From truthfulness one acquires the power of attaining for oneself and for others the results of efforts without have to exert the effort (one’s mere word is sufficient). From non-stealing all one’s material needs are attracted to you without additional or strenuous effort. From celibacy there comes great health, vitality, and memory. From non-attachment (to one’s body and possessions) comes the knowledge of one’s past lives. (V35-39)
      The second stage, niyama (“non-control,” or the “do’s”), consists also of five precepts, or sub-aspects: internal and external purification, contentment, mortification, study, and worship of God.
            With realization of purification (cleanliness) comes indifference (non-attachment) to the demands and needs of the body and senses, and a disinclination for bodily contact with others. Cleanliness (of body, internal and external, and mind) lead to purity of heart, cheerfulness, concentration, control of passions, and awareness of the soul. Contentment yields supreme happiness and joyful peace. Mortification, called in Sanskrit, tapasya, refers to both self-control and even-mindedness under all conditions. The specific instructions regarding mortification should come from one’s preceptor (guru) and the result is the purification of karma. Tapasya leads to the manifestation of psychic powers related to the sense organs (discussed in Book 3, Vibhuti Pada). By remaining focused at the point between the eyebrows (an instruction given by the guru and considered tapasya), the mind becomes pure. By perfection of Self-study (swadhyaya) as a result of meditating and chanting OM, one’s chosen ideal of God appears and higher Beings (devas, rishis, and siddhas) appear before one’s inner sight. With devotion to God while focused at the spiritual eye, Samadhi and attendant siddhis (psychic powers) are achieved. Knowledge of time and space is attained. (V40-45)
6.       The third stage is asana. It means, simply, posture. It is to be found by sitting relaxed with a straight spine. This is achieved by awareness and control of the body and by deep meditation on the Infinite. By perfection of asana one is no longer troubled by the ebb and flow of the senses. (V46-48)
            Pranayam is the fourth stage and consists of controlling the breath (inhalation, exhalation, and cessation). The external breath is the air moving in the lungs; internal breath is the prana in the astral body; cessation is breathlessness. Cessation is momentary when the breath is held in, or out, but prolonged when it ceases all together in higher stages of meditation. One practices pranayama according to the instructions of the preceptor. Many variations exist and relate to timing, placement of the breath, number of breaths performed, long or short, and so on. Another pranayam is that which results from concentration upon an object, either external or internal. Watching the breath, for example causes the breath to become quiet and even to stop all together. By these four stages the inner light is revealed and obstacles are overcome. (V49-52)
8.       With the stage of pratyahara, the prana flowing to the sense organs is reversed and the energy released can be used and focused. The result is a great power of interiorized concentration. Then is complete mastery of the senses achieved. (V53-55).

Thus ends Book 2, Sadhana Pada! The last three stages of the 8-Fold Path, Patanjali consigns to Book 3, Vibhuti Pada, as they are qualitatively on a different level than the first five stages. The five stages (and chakras) relate to the soul’s piercing the veil of maya, especially on the material plane. The three highest stages are, by degrees, stages of contemplation and progressively deeper identification with higher, and finally transcendent, realities.

Thus ends this blog article!


Nayaswami Hriman

Saturday, April 2, 2011

8-Fold Step 2 - the Water Element

The second stage on the 8-Fold Path described by the sage Patanjali long ago in India is called NIYAMA. Literally the word means "non-control." (You had to be there.......ha, ha!) Seriously, the context is the opposite of the first stage, Yama (control). As my approach in this series is from the viewpoint of the elemental qualities, let's move to the WATER ELEMENT.

Whereas YAMA (Earth) is to embrace the Oneness and connection with all life, thus dissolving our sense of lack, the impulse to assert ourselves over others, the need to compete, to win, to put others down and so on, the WATER element nurtures life and provides a necessary element to the earth's fertility. This requires a deeper understanding from Patanjali's view "from above" or "from within."

WATER refers to the RIVER of LIFE in the spine. On the 8-Fold Path NIYAMA signifies our living "in the spine." This means: living centered within (not self-centered, however). So whereas with EARTH we dissolve material desires and attachments, with WATER we live in the flow of energy and divine grace within. When Jesus Christ was asked "Where is the kingdom of heaven?" (he was constantly telling parables that started "The kingdom of heaven is like ..... "), he replied simply (and for once without another parable): "The kingdom of heaven is within you."

The Bhagavad Gita says the astral body, or subtle spine, or "kingdom of heaven," is like an upturned tree. The Bible has repeated refences to the "river of life" or the "tree of life."

WATER also has specific qualities of consciousness both as the element of water on our planet and also as the grace of Spirit when it flows within and through us. Water symbolizes purity. Flowing to the lowest point and toward the sea, it is humble and offers itself in service and surrender. Water is necessary to life. Water that overflows the banks of EARTH can, however, become destructive and dissipated. EARTH could be said to be masculine and WATER, feminine. Yet both require strength: the one in relation to outer realities; the other, in relation to being inward. The male reproductive organ is outside the body; the female organ, withdrawn and within the body.

EARTH (Yama) can sometimes express itself as dogmatic, reflecting the beginning student's affirmation of rejection of material attachments and desire to establish himself in his spiritual practices. We should exercise forebearance around such people because this may be a necessary stage for them (provided they don't lapse into judgmental attitudes or worse). WATER (Niyama) reflects the calmness that comes from having established positive attitudes and actions and doesn't need to express its qualities outwardly in self-affirmation.

EARTH brings us peace, just as we feel peaceful in nature. Cessation of attachments and destructive behaviors brings great relief to the nervous system, our conscience, and our soul's love of peace. From that state of peace, the WISDOM of WATER floats to the surface of consciousness. It is only when we are peaceful that insights come to us. This is not unlike taking a vacation and, once away from one's routine, finding that new ideas for one's work come to you. When our actions proceed from non-attachment, we see more clearly what is true and needed.

Similar to YAMA, there are five distinct aspects to this second stage. CLEANLINESS (Saucha) is seen in all path traditions and spiritual paths in the more obvious forms of ritual cleansing, fasting, and dietary habits. Patanjali wrote from a higher point (but one that would endorse such wholesome practices, as well). For as Jesus put it in the Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God." Centered within, in deep meditation, the face of God is revealed as pure light, His heart as pure love, His voice as the sound of AUM (Amen), and so on. On a human or social level, being mindful of boundaries, avoiding gossip and judgment of others, avoiding the habit of rescuing people, interrupting their speech, helping in ways that are truly helpful (and not out of critique or one-upmanship) are examples of being clean. Cleanliness has its EARTH (yama) corollary in ahimsa (non-violence) discussed in the last article.

With perfection of Saucha comes the power (known as a siddhi) to transcend the physical compulsions of the body, its organs and functions. In a long meditation, perhaps of many days, one is free from hunger or the need for the bodily functions of elimination.

CONTENTMENT comes naturally to one who has given up material desires. It thus pairs naturally with the YAMA aspect of asteya (desirelessness). Bliss and joy bubble up from the deep waters of contentment, or SANTOSHA.

AUSTERITY (TAPASYA) is another aspect of NIYAMA, but one greatly misunderstood. This word in the English language conjures up hair shirts, self-flagellation, long fasts, lying on a bed of nails, wrapping wet sheets around the body sitting in the Himalyan snows and all sorts of less than inspiring images to modern sensibilities. First of all, its YAMA corollary is BRAHMACHARYA, self-control of the senses. That makes sense, of course. But as NIYAMA is grace and being centered in the Self within, AUSTERITY is the natural by-product of both BRAHMACHARYA and NIYAMA and it refers to the practice, habit, and state of remaining Self-aware in the midst of all activities. The true practices of tantra, including the famed powers over nature that can be summoned, proceed in part from the powers yielded over natural impulses and redirected inward where WISDOM and knowledge of all things is revealed to the inner sight. Indeed psychic power is the fruit of AUSTERITY.

SELF-KNOWLEDGE (Swadhyaya) arises from living more within. From this comes the power to commune with and be guided by astral, higher Beings. It pairs with Aparigraha: the YAMA aspect of non-attachment to one's body, possessions, or identification with ego. Whereas aparigraha brings knowledge of past lives, swadhyaya brings us in contact with astral Beings. Those who attempt to do this through short-cuts such as passive, trance channeling do so at great risk to themselves. Such can be sure that what they attract will not be saintly and high-minded souls. Often this aspect has been described in terms of studying the scriptures. As the Yoga Sutras are a scripture, no one could argue with this practice, for sure. But true Self knowledge, which is wisdom itself, comes in inner silence.

The fifth and final aspect of NIYAMA is devotion to God (Iswara Pranidhana). With the previous four aspects clearly focused upon living more inwardly and with non-attachment to senses and their objects, we may wonder how devotion fits in. The path to enlightenment as two basic stages: the first is to go within and break the hypnosis of matter identification and fulfillment. The second is more existential and relates to our sense of separateness (quite apart from personality traits, habits or anything outward) which remains with us until final liberation. The natural flow of WATER and the river of life in the spine is, or should be if enlightenment is the goal, UPWARD, moving progressively through the stages of awakening which follow and upward in the spine toward the highest centers where the soul resides and enlightenment comes. Giving ourselves to the Supreme Lord, the highest reality, Infinity, Love, Light itself is to aspire to return to the Oneness and the Bliss which is our Father-Mother and transcendent Truth. Devotion aligns with the yama aspect of truthfulness, for the highest truth is that God is the only reality.

Some of the practical manifestations of niyama include such things as regular fasting, calmness under all circumstances, keeping a part of mind in the watchful, Self-aware state at all times, having periods of silence, retreat, and seclusion, practicing active contentment even when desires are aroused, chanting, practicing the presence of God (through japa, mantra, inner chanting and mindfulness), enduring extremes of hot, cold, or other conditions that we cannot necessarily control in the moment, even-mindedness, cheerfulness, study of the scriptures and truth teachings, introspection, and seeking spiritual counsel from time to time or as needed.

Blessings to all,

Nayaswami Hriman