Path to Siva: A Catechism for Youth

40 What Is Our Code of Conduct?§


On a classroom blackboard the teacher has written a list of the ten classical restraints, called yamas, and the ten observances, called niyamas. Together they form an important Hindu 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 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.§


The Ten Observances (Niyamas)

1. HRI: “Remorse.” Be modest and show shame for misdeeds. Recognize your errors, confess, apologize and make amends. Welcome constructive criticism. Resolve all contention before sleep. Seek out and overcome your own faults. Do not boast. Shun pride and pretension.§

2. SANTOSHA: “Contentment.” Seek joy and serenity in life. Be happy, smile and uplift others. Live in gratitude for your health, friends and belongings. Don’t complain about what you don’t have. Identify with the eternal You. Live in the eternal now and work for spiritual progress.§

3. DANA: “Giving.” Tithe and donate to temples, ashrams and spiritual organizations. Feed and give to those in need. Freely share your time and talents. Treat guests as God.§

4. ASTIKYA: “Faith.” Believe firmly in God, Gods, guru and your path to enlightenment. Trust in the scriptures and traditions. Be loyal to your lineage, one with your satguru. Don’t make friends with those who try to break your faith. Practice devotion and sadhana to build faith. Avoid doubt and despair.§

5. ISHVARAPUJANA: “Worship of the Lord.” Worship and meditate daily. Offer fruit, flowers or food daily at the home shrine. Learn a simple puja. Visit the shrine when leaving home and returning.§

6. SIDDHANTA SHRAVANA: “Scriptural listening.” Study the teachings and listen to the wise of your lineage. Carefully choose a guru, then follow his path and don’t waste time exploring other ways. Listen to readings and inspired talks by which wisdom flows from knower to seeker.§

7. MATI: “Cognition.” Develop a spiritual will and intellect with your satguru’s guidance. Strive for knowledge of God, to awaken the light within. Seek the lesson in each experience to understand life and yourself. Cultivate intuition through meditation.§

8. VRATA: “Sacred vows.” Take and fulfill religious vows, rules and observances. These are spiritual contracts with your soul, your community and God, Gods and guru. Fast periodically. Pilgrimage yearly. Uphold your vows strictly, be they chastity, marriage, monasticism, nonaddiction, tithing, loyalty to a lineage, vegetarianism or nonsmoking.§

9. JAPA: “Recitation.” Recite your holy mantra daily as instructed by your guru. Bathe first, quiet the mind and concentrate fully to let japa harmonize, purify and uplift you. Let japa quell the emotions and rivers of thought.§

10. TAPAS: “Austerity.” Practice from time to time austerity, serious disciplines, penance and sacrifice. Atone for misdeeds through penance, such as 108 prostrations or fasting. Perform self-denial, giving up cherished possessions, money or time.§


GURUDEVA: Through following the yamas and niyamas, we … lift ourself into the consciousness of the higher chakras—of love, compassion, intelligence and bliss—and naturally invoke the blessings of the divine devas and Mahadevas.§