What Is Our Code of Conduct - Yamas

Path to Siva Commentary, Lesson 40, Yamas


"Siva's devotees...move the forces of the world and are not moved or affected by them." We meet and interact with all kinds of people. If we're not following all the yamas it gets difficult to hold spirituality and to meditate. Actions which deviate from these ethical restraints cause disturbances in our life resulting in a disturbed mind, generating painful karmas.

Dhriti - Steadfastness, is very important. Gurudeva frequently talks about the 4 P's and then add "prayer": plan, persistence, push and start it all with prayer. Reach in and find your willpower.

Path to Siva, Lesson 40.

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning everyone.

This morning we are reading from Path to Siva Lesson 40.

"What Is Our Code of Conduct?

"The yamas and niyamas are the Hindu code of conduct. Heeding the ten yamas or 'restraints' keeps our instinctive nature in check. Abiding by the ten niyamas, 'observances,' makes us more religious and cultured, revealing our refined soul nature. The yamas and niyamas provide the foundation to support our yoga practice and sustain us from day to day and year to year on the path to Siva.

"The Ten Restraints (Yamas)

"1. AHIMSA: 'Noninjury.' Do not harm others by what you do, say or think, even in your dreams. Live a kindly life, never causing fear, pain or injury. See God in everyone. Follow a vegetarian diet.

"2. SATYA: 'Truthfulness.' Speak only what is true, kind, helpful and necessary. Be true to your promises. Don't keep secrets from family or friends. Be accurate and frank in discussions. Don't deceive others. Admit your failings. Do not gossip, backbite or tell lies.

"3. ASTEYA: 'Nonstealing.' Do not steal. Control your desires, and live within your family's means. Do not desire what others possess. Do not misuse the things you borrow. Do not gamble or fail to repay debts. Do not use others' names, words, resources or rights without permission and acknowledgement.

"4. BRAHMACHARYA: 'Divine Conduct.' Control your desires when single, reserving sexual relations for marriage. Before marriage, use vital energies in study, and after marriage in creating family success. Dress and speak modestly. Seek holy company. Avoid pornography and violence on TV, in movies, magazines and online.

"5. KSHAMA: 'Patience.' Restrain intolerance with people and impatience with circumstances. Be agreeable and unhurried. Let others behave according to their nature, without adjusting to you. Do not argue, interrupt or dominate conversations. Be especially patient with children and the elderly. Remain poised even in difficult times.

"6. DHRITI: 'Steadfastness.' Overcome fear, indecision and changeableness. Stick to what you are supposed to do without getting sidetracked. Be firm in your decisions. Achieve your goals with a prayer, purpose, plan, persistence and push. Do not complain or make excuses. Develop willpower, courage and industriousness. Conquer obstacles.

"7. DAYA: "Compassion. 'Conquer cruel and insensitive feelings toward all beings. See God everywhere. Be kind to people, animals, plants and the Earth itself. Forgive those who apologize and express their true remorse. Foster sympathy for others' needs and suffering. Help those who are weak, poor, aged or in pain. Oppose family abuse and other cruelties.

"8. ARJAVA: 'Honesty, straightforwardness.' Give up deception and wrongdoing. Obey the laws of your nation and community. Do not bribe or accept bribes. Do not cheat or deceive others. Be honest with yourself. Face and accept your faults without blaming them on others. Always be honest.

"9. MITAHARA: 'Moderate appetite.' Do not eat too much. Do not eat meat, fish, shellfish, fowl or eggs. Enjoy fresh, wholesome vegetarian foods that vitalize the body. Avoid junk and processed foods, such as white sugar, white rice and white flour. Eat at regular times and only when hungry. Do not eat in a disturbed atmosphere or when upset.

"10. SAUCHA: 'Purity.' Avoid impurity in mind, body and speech. Maintain a clean, healthy body. Keep a pure, uncluttered home and workplace. Act virtuously. Keep good company. Never use harsh or indecent language."

Thought I'd save the niyamas for next time. It's a lot of reading.

There is a Nandinatha Sutra, Sutra 10, in the section on Facing Life's Challenges, it's the last sutra.

"Siva's devotees, by remaining steadfast on the path, upholding the yamas and the niyamas and relying on their indomitable will move the forces of the world and are not moved or affected by them."

The idea here, "...moving the forces of the world, and are not moved or affected by them." It's the idea that we're a spiritual being doing certain practices. And when we go out in the world and interact with other people, everyone we meet is not also a spiritual being. Some of them are very unspiritual, some are just materialistic, we meet all kinds of people. And, it's a question of who is going to influence whom. Are you going to hold your spirituality and interact with someone and as a result they're more spiritual? Or, are you going to interact with someone who's not spiritual and as a result you are less spiritual. Who is going to influence whom? That's what it's about. "...not moved or affected by them."

And, what it's saying is upholding the yamas and niyamas is important in being able to do that. In other words, if we're going out in the world and we're not following all the yamas it gets much more difficult to hold our spirituality. It gets very easy to be influenced by those who are not spiritual.

In our Saivite Shastras, a practice, when the monks do it, is called: "Carrying the darshan." Maybe you've heard that expression before. That idea that even going out for a couple of days, going on mission. The Saivite Shastras explain how the monks go on mission, hold the spiritual force of the monastery, and influence where they go for the better and make it a more spiritual place. They uplift people by going there. So that's "carrying the darshan." And the yamas and niyamas is important to follow very strictly in order to be able to do that.

Another source of overview on yamas and niyamas, just of course looking at the yamas today, is Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and it ties into meditation. One of the clarities that Patanjali's Yoga Sutras gives is that gives a gradational path called 8 limbs, of course, ashtanga, 8 limbs. And it's like going to 8 grades in school. So the grade we go to first is called the yamas. The grade we go to second is called the niyamas. Very simple. Laid out.

One of the reasons individuals have difficulty in meditating is that they're not strictly following the yamas. And it causes disturbance in the mind when we don't follow the yamas. And it can get very complex, you know, we know the stories of children and of course, we were children too once where we do something which we shouldn't do. Then what you have to do next, right? You have to lie about it. So not only did you do something wrong, now you've lied about it and then, this and that, it gets very complicated. And it covers things up. Cause one yama wasn't followed, then another one's not followed and so forth. So it causes disturbance in the mind.

And the most common question I get asked about meditation is: "When I sit to meditate my thoughts are all over the place. What can I do?" It's just amazing. I rarely get another question about meditation. It's always this kind of this beginners dilemma: "I can manage to sit still for a little while but I can't quiet the mind." Well the first thing we need to do to quiet the mind is make sure we're following all the yamas. Cause if we're not then we're adding additional disturbance to the mind. It wasn't there before we did that action.

So Patanjali talks about that. He only has five yamas: "Noninjury, truthfulness, nonstealing, divine conduct and noncovetnessness are the yamas. Ethical restraints. These are valid in all spheres irrespective of one's class, place, time or circumstance and constitute the great vow." They're for everybody. Always. It's not just something that spiritual people are supposed to follow. Not something just kings follow in the old days. But something that's given for everybody irrespective of class which I think is the translation of jati: place, time or circumstance.

And my comment is: Any actions which deviate from these ethical restraints cause disturbances in our life which result in a disturbed mind. Not only that, each such action generates a painful karma that will eventually come back to us causing even more disturbance in the future.

So, if we steal something not only are we disturbing the mind now, but we get to be disturbed again in the future when someone steals something from us, right? So we have future disturbance to look forward to. Double, double disturbance from one action, get the reaction. And it's very broad. This is a really wonderful set of verses here about how broad the creation of a negative karma can be.

"Unwholesome deliberations such as harming someone and so forth, whether done, caused to be done, or approved, whether arriving from greed, anger or infatuation, whether modest, medium or extreme, find their unending fruition in ignorance and sorrow. This is why one must cultivate their opposites."

That's a wonderful study to look at the opposite of certain negative actions. So, for example, the first one, ahimsa, the negative action is to hurt. Not hurting is a neutral position right? Well, I'm not hurting anyone. But it's not an opposite to hurting. The opposite to hurting is of course helping. So when we go from always hurting others to get what we want to always helping others so that they can get what they want, that's observing the opposite. That's what Patanjali's encouraging us to do, to serve the opposite.

But isn't it interesting? You don't have to do it, you can cause it to be done or you can simply approve it being done. The negative action. Even if you simply approve it being done by someone else, Patanjali's saying the karma comes to you as well.

There's an important point mentioned in the yama of steadfastness: Dhriti. "...Achieve your goals with a prayer, purpose, plan, persistence and push." That's an important teaching of Gurudeva's. It's one sutra back from the one we read. It's Sutra 9. Again this relates to facing life's challenges.

"Siva's devotees approach each enterprise with deliberate thoughtfulness and act only after careful consideration. They succeed in every undertaking by having a clear purpose, a wise plan, persistence and push."

This of course, doesn't apply to simple actions. We don't have to deliberate: Shall I go to the store to go shopping? you know. It applies to special projects, big projects that we're taking on, something new in our life that we give it deliberate thoughtfulness, and only then do we act.

In terms of being successful, they succeed in every undertaking, in terms of being successful we need, the first thing is a clear purpose. Why are we doing this? Sometimes individuals do something because a friend has started doing it. Or they read about it and it sounds good. They haven't really had a clear purpose of their own, haven't really thought about it, being influenced by others. And that can fade away. The friend stops doing it so you stop doing it. The news changes it's point of view so you stop doing it. You don't have a clear purpose of your own involved. So we need to think something through and make sure it's something we want to do. Be able to explain why we want to do it to someone else. Clear purpose. A wise plan. That's the one that's most commonly not followed.

I wrote a Publisher's Desk on that once that you may remember. It was about the vastu fad in Malaysia. Anybody remember? Vastu is the solution to everything. If your business wasn't working you had to remodel your office. Put the door in the right place, move the desk, do this, do that, and then the business would succeed. Something wrong at home you have to remodel your whole home. Tear it apart and put it back together because the shrine room is in the wrong corner.

This was working very well, it was causing success for the vastu masters. They were financially quite successful but didn't really help most people. We asked Ganapati Sthapati about it, or else we just read what he said. I forget where we got his point of view but he said: "Once a structure is built it should not be modified in a major way." It's been created. It's like a living being. You've created something. You shouldn't go in and totally redo it vastu wise once it's built. Where you have your choice is before you build the structure in the first place. That was his advice which was contrary to this fad.

The point I made after that which was, wasn't necessarily going to solve everything, the vastu approach, is that the major cause of something not succeeding is insufficient planning. We just haven't thought it through in detail enough. That's why it's not succeeding. There's aspects too which you haven't encompassed, there's something you don't understand, you just haven't looked at all the financial consequences. Whatever. The plan is not complete enough. It's not complete to the point where it would be called wise. Wise is a plan that is complete, well thought out and is going to accomplish the past. So that is the key that really is the one that often gets overlooked.

The story I told was about ice cream store. A couple had darshan with me here and they were all excited about opening an ice cream store in, somewhere in Florida. This was their life's dream to open this ice cream store. And they asked for blessings and I, they didn't have any experience in business. You know they had been employed and saved up money and wanted to open their own business. And I suggested: Well there are services in the U.S. such as the Small Business Administration that'll help you develop a good plan. Because you need a good business plan. And they're there, they're professionals. They will help you do it.

I think about four months later they wrote and said they had just closed their ice cream store. And of course, they didn't ask the SBA or anyone else for help in developing a plan, they didn't really have a plan. Lots of businesses fail for one reason or another in the first six months. That's why they can't get any credit cause everyone else knows they might fail. So we need a plan. And it's just so easy to get inspired for some new activity and jump into it without a complete plan. That's why success doesn't happen.

Another reason is persistence. We hit a couple of obstacles in our plan. Ganesha's blocking my plan. Maybe I shouldn't do it. Some people think that way. Well that's a very interesting attitude to have and you, if Ganesha's blocking your plan you have to figure that out couple of other ways too but normally he's not. So it's just that obstacles are part of accomplishing things. The greater a project the more obstacles you'll have. Someone who's done a few projects knows that. This is a huge project; we'll have at least ten major obstacles where it looks like we can't possibly succeed that'll come up. This is a smaller one we'll only have five such obstacles. People who have done projects they expect major obstacles.

I remember for Iraivan Temple a new batch of silpis went into the Chennai Embassy and they turned them down cause the rules changed. Silpis could no longer get religious visas. Religious worker visas. That's a good one to give up on, right? We can't get silpis; what can we do. Well we hired one of the best immigration attorneys we could in Washington D.C. That's what we did to sort the thing out. It turned out it was a misunderstanding within the State Department itself. The right hand didn't quite know what the left hand was doing. They had, part of them had implemented ideas that were simply under discussion and hadn't actually been approved.

Then another time, we had, how many containers got stuck in the ocean? Anybody remember? Four maybe. The barge, the, we had four containers on got, ran aground in the middle of the ocean on a, some sunken World War II vessel. It got stuck. Our cargo and the cargo of a lot of other people was stuck in the middle of the ocean. Is Ganesha blocking the project? No! So fortunately they succeeded in unsticking the cargo and getting it on another boat but it wasn't free shall we say. That freight cost more than all the other freight did. So, but we got through it. The point being it was, Iraivan Temple is a big project and it's going to have major obstacles come up. And if you expect them before you start the project you're being wise and therefore you don't give up. You maintain your persistence.

Push is good. Push is the idea that when a project kind of drags on it's really hard to finish. It's gone on for longer than you anticipated so your inspiration is gone but it's not done. So what do you have to do? You have to find push. You have to reach in and find your willpower and put extra energy into it on purpose to finish it. So, it requires that final push to get it done.

And then the one that's in the yama, that Gurudeva added after he wrote this is: You need to start it all with prayer. So that's the fifth "P." Initiate it, you have a purpose, plan, persistence, push and you start it all with prayer. That's five "P's" for success. Simple system.

So, for a significant project, as I said, this is not for just simple things that we do every day but for a major project, we want to start it on an auspicious day, have an amount of ceremony involved depending how large the project is. And then, we're starting it with the backing of the inner world. We can even burn prayers if it's a large project at the same time so that we've got full inner world backing here for it to be successful.

Thank you very much. We get to look forward to the niyamas next time.

Aum Namah Sivaya.

Photo of  Gurudeva
To transcend the mind and reach the ultimate goal, seekers need the guidance of a satguru, an enlightened master who has followed the path to its natural end and can lead them to the Divine within themselves.
—Gurudeva