What Is Our Code of Conduct - Niyamsa

Path to Siva Commentary, Lesson 40, Niyama


In Patanjali's comments on the niyamas he speaks on religious action, kriya, bringing about samadhi and attenuating the kleshas. We think we have to be detached from that which we are attracted to but we also need to overcome aversion. It's easier to be finite, to have a past and a future than to be infinite, without past and future, so, we're clinging to life. The kleshas are the root source of karma. Quiet mental activity produced by the kleshas through meditation and achieve santosha, peace of mind. "Men of discrimination see sorrow in all experience."

Path to Siva, Lesson 40.

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning everyone. Continuing this morning, Path to Siva lesson 40. "What Is Our Code of Conduct?"

Last week we did the first part on the yamas. This time we're doing the second part on the niyamas. As an introduction I'll read the first paragraph again.

"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 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."

And we have Gurudeva's quote at the end:

"Through following the yamas and niyamas, we...lift our self into the consciousness of the higher chakras--of love, compassion, intelligence and bliss--and naturally invoke the blessings of the divine devas and Mahadevas."

Last week we looked at Patanjali's comments on the yamas and on karma, remember? We did that. So this time we're looking at Patanjali's comments on the niyamas. Again he just has five which over time developed into ten. And it's very interesting, he chooses three of them as of special importance and calls them kriya yoga. So kriya yoga usually means a pranayama of one kind or another. So this is not that; kriya just means action. So, the yoga of religious action is how it's translated.

And if we look at our list it, kriya yoga corresponds to the niyamas if we start at the fifth one. So, we start at the fifth one, Ishvarapujana: Worship of the Lord. Siddhanta shravana: Scriptural listening. Mati: Cognition. Vrata: Sacred vows, Japa: Recitation. And, Tapas or Austerity.

He's taking the ones that refer to actions, the kriyas or religious actions. Puja in the home shrine, japa, vrata and so forth. And what he says in the Yoga Sutras is very interesting. Talking about kriya yoga or basically the devotional actions.

"This yoga has the purpose of bringing about samadhi and attenuating the kleshas."

So we all remember what the kleshas are, right? (Probably not.) Klesha is a wrong cognition. It's a perception that's incorrect, a klesha.

And there's five of them: Ignorance, I am-ness, attraction, aversion and clinging to life are the five kleshas. So he explains them.

"Ignorance: Avidya is the seeing of that which is eternal, pure, joyful and the soul in that which is ephemeral impure sorrowful and not the soul."

He's taking the qualities and projecting them on the world. Taking the soul qualities that are inside of us and projecting them on the outside. Calls that ignorance.

"I am-ness is the identification as it were of the powers of vision and the visioner."

So we know that from Gurudeva's teachings. I am happy. We have awareness identified with consciousness that if I am perceiving happiness we say: "I am happy." So when the visioner, power of vision is identified with the visioner. I am happy, I am sad.

Attraction, we know that. "Attraction is that which rests on pleasant experiences."

So that's a big distraction. Attraction is a distraction from the spiritual path, getting attracted to outside things.

But then there's aversion. "Aversion is that which rests on sorrowful experiences." We generally don't think about that. We think we have to be detached from that which we are attracted to.

But Patanjali's pointing out we need to be detached also from that which we don't like, be it a person, be it a past event, be it something we did, we can be equally attached to that which we don't like to that which we like. It's drawing awareness out, externally. So we need to overcome aversion.

"Clinging to life. Flowing along by it's own momentum is rooted thus even in sages."

I take that to mean we're attached to who we are. We're clinging to life. We're clinging to the life we know. It's easier to be finite, to have a past and a future than to be infinite and without past and future, right? So, we're clinging to life.

"The mental activities produced by these kleshas are overcome through meditation."

So we quiet them down through meditation.

"The kleshas are the root source of this stored karma and this may be experienced in the present visible birth or in an unseen future birth."

The idea is that because of our ignorance, I am-ness, attraction and aversion and clinging to life, we have certain desires and thoughts and those lead to actions and those actions of course create karma. So it's the kleshas which are at the root source of the karma. And therefore, if we were without kleshas we wouldn't be accumulating karma.

"So long as this root source exists there also is fruition from it of one's class, lifespan and life experiences. These are pleasant or unpleasant as the fruit of meritorious and non-meritorious action respectfully."

And a beautiful verse"

"Men of discrimination see sorrow in all experience."

This is the opposite right? In other words, in ordinary consciousness, we see joy in all experience. This is going to make us happy. But, say: "Men of discrimination see sorrow in all experience." Why would that be? "Whether from the sorrow of impermanence..."(we can't keep what we get,) "...from the anguish coming from samskaras..."(that's memories,) or "...from the gunas causing conflicting mental activities..." (We're disturbed by it.) Then he ends it by saying: "The identity of awareness, the experiencer with what is experienced, is the cause of that which is to be overcome."

So it's very interesting, this series of verses, showing an aspect of devotion that's not usually brought out. We think of devotion we think of feeling closer to God, feeling closer to Ishvara, then we're moving closer and closer. That's the purpose of our devotion. Well that's certainly true. But this is pointing out that the systematic practice of the niyamas is lessening the strength of our attachment to the world. That's what it's pointing out. Not only just bringing us closer to God, we're having less distraction. We're not attracted to so many things, we don't dislike so many things that we used to. Cause that's what keeps the mind active is attraction and aversion.

The practice of niyamas, the religious observances is lessening the strength of that. Therefore there's more santosha, there's more peace of mind within us. And as he pointed out in the first verse there that not only lessens the strength of the kleshas, it leads to samadhi or the deepest form of meditation. So it's very integral to practice the practice of ashtangam yoga

Photo of  Gurudeva
Every Saivite home centers around the home shrine, a special room set aside and maintained to create a temple-like atmosphere in which we conduct puja, read scripture, perform sadhana, meditate, sing bhajana and do japa.
—Gurudeva