Yoga’s Forgotten Foundation


Samāpanam समापनम्

imageE HAVE EXPLORED TOGETHER GURUDEVA’S ELUCIDATION OF THE TWENTY ANCIENT VEDIC TOOLS FOR SELF-TRANSFORMATION, PRACTICED THROUGH THE MILLENNIA BY tens of millions of seekers. Their challenges back then are no different than ours in modern times. It is always challenging to undertake the work of changing our habits, changing our thoughts, changing our attitudes, reactions and modes of action. Challenging, yet enormously rewarding when our efforts bear fruit.§

Success in fulfilling the yamas and niyamas provides the stability in our life that sustained success in meditation requires. Without this stability, the ups and downs of life are paramount, and significant advancement in our spiritual life does not manifest. A tall building needs a solid foundation to sustain an earthquake without toppling. So, too, higher states of consciousness need the positive habits of the yamas and niyamas to be sustained through the challenges that inevitably come to us in life. The modern exponent of haha yoga B.K.S. Iyengar cautioned, “Practice of āsanas without the backing of yama and niyama is mere acrobatics. Yama and niyama control the yogī´’s passions and emotions and keep him in harmony with his fellow man.” Sri Sri Anandamurthi taught, “In ancient times an aspirant had to practice yamas and niyamas for twelve years before he was even initiated. Without them, sādhana is an impossibility.” Yogacharya Krpalvanand called yama and niyama the “impenetrable fort of yoga,” and he warned, “If they are neglected, many hurdles crop up during sādhana, and it takes a very long time to uproot those evils.”§

One of the misconceptions you may have intuited as you studied these lessons is that we can take refuge in the higher practices of the niyamas and avoid the more difficult work of the yamas. This is a misconception widely held, and perfectly flawed. We must stay focused on the difficult work of the yamas at the outset, make commitments to harness our instinctive nature, our desires, our lazy patterns of life. Only then can the life energies flow freely into the niyamas, bringing the positive spiritual practices into their maturity.§

Gurudeva has given us a great map of the mind in his interpretations of the yamas and niyamas. Nowhere else will you find his pairing of the one with the other, of each yama with a specific niyama. He knew, from the deepest part of human knowing, that the positive and the negative are intertwined, that the resolution of the lower nature allows for the natural expression of the higher, just as a balloon suddenly soars skyward when it drops off its sandbags.§

So, as you carry on in the work ahead, on the path ahead, as you work with the yamas and niyamas in your life, don’t settle for the easy path of worshiping unless you have dealt with the harder path of mastering patience; don’t be content with your progress in contentment until you are truly truthful in all your dealings with others; don’t be satisfied with your charitibleness until even the thought of stealing has been eliminated from your heart; don’t practice japa in earnest unless you have become a vegetarian; don’t pursue serious austerities without a good foundation in purity.§

As Gurudeva wrote in Dancing with Śiva, “Good conduct is a combination of avoiding unethical behavior and performing virtuous, spiritualizing acts.” Now you have the pattern, in Hinduism’s code of conduct. Proceed with confidence.§