Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi
  AHYMSIN Newsletter, Issue - Oct/Nov 2012  

Yama and Niyama Kriya

by Pandit Tejomaya

Gabriola Island, British Columbia, Canada
Fall, 2012

Yama and Niyama Kriya - Part One

I have yearned for a deeper understanding and experience of the yamas and niyamas for many years. Their promises, as revealed in the Sutras, are filled with hope and mystery for me. I still yearn for that state of existence in which these ten topics are effortlessly and perfectly expressed.  This yearning has given rise to a very very long experiment.

Initially seeking to create harmony at the levels of speech, action, and thought, I began at the level of speech.  Topic by topic, I would study what the sutras offered as initial, book understanding.  Then I would select a personal expression of the topic and begin my experiment.  For example, the first experiment of ahimsa (non-killing, non-violence, non-harming) was to seek twenty-one consecutive days without speaking anything negative.  Each time I would utter some negativity, I returned to day one and began again.   It took me four months to complete the experiment.  Ironically, or perhaps not, the beauty of the practice came in through the “failures”.  With each “failure”, I returned to the sutras to understand why THAT failure occurred. The kleshas offer a perfect road map to these inner workings.  Armed with the academic learning of the sutras, each “failure” provided me a real, concrete opportunity to experience the kleshas at play in ME.  The sutras also kindly offer many methods for managing, controlling, or eliminating the kleshas, so that each time I returned to day one, I had new insights with which I could engage MY kleshas within ME.  The experiments became incredibly playful and delightfully consuming and nobody knew that I was “practicing” yoga!

Topic by topic I worked through the yamas in this way.  Then, topic by topic, I worked through the niyamas also at the level of speech.  With each yama, I disciplined myself to   NOT DO something.  With each niyama, I disciplined myself to DO something.  For example, the first experiment of santosha (contentment) was to speak the word “enough” with a sentiment of satisfaction each time I was offered something ... anything, for twenty one days, training my mind to believe my words.

If we consider our individual karmic nature to be a large mud puddle which we are striving to make drinkable, the yamas offer us the means whereby we no long throw mud into the puddle; the niyamas offer us the means whereby we pour pure water into the puddle, making it clearer, drop by drop.

It took me a bit more than two years to complete my first round of experiments focused on the level of speech.  It took me a bit more than two more years to complete the second round of experiments where I sought to affect both speech and (physical) action.  Do you recall Swami Veda’s teachings concerning the three levels of meaning conveyed by a word which we must simultaneously understand in order to grasp the full meaning of the word or text: adhibhautika, adhyatmika, adhidaivika?  Collectively, these first years of my experiments, focused on speech and gross actions, have given me a deeper understanding and experience of each yama and niyama at the level of adhibhautika (as it relates to individual entities acting in the world, the gross level).  I have just moved into the second phase of experiments, seeking to understand each yama and niyama at the level of adhyatmika (as it relates to something happening within the human person, subtle level, the mind level)  I am intending two rounds of experiments in this phase. Currently, I am seeking twenty-one consecutive days without a negative thought in the conscious mind.  I hope this takes some time, because the
“failures” are becoming more precise and helpful.  When I do complete all of my experiments at the  level of conscious mind, I will repeat at the level of the subconscious mind.  It has been clear from the beginning that I need to ultimately work at the level of the subconscious; I have been gradually moving from the gross to increasingly subtle layers.  This second phase of the practice will take many, many, many years!  I am aware that I do not have the capacity, yet, to complete this phase.  If, however, my capacity increases, allowing me to complete phase two within this life, I will then move to a final phase of understanding: adhidaivika ( as it relates to things happening in the universal forces of nature and the conscious forces behind the forces of nature, the divine level). 

There are those in the world of yoga who have said that the yamas and niyamas do not suit modern human existence and/or are too much for the average person to pursue.  As an average person living a human existence, I have not found evidence to support such claims.  To the contrary, I believe the time is fertile for human existence to turn from the tremendous progress we have made in the external world and focus our efforts internally.  Future suffering CAN be avoided!

Yama and Niyama Kriya - Part Two

I have learned a tremendous number of lessons through this practice, each lesson leading to new inquiries and subtleties of experimentation and observation!  Here are a few of the more significant lessons I’ve learned:

  • The brilliance of Patanjali’s system constantly reveals itself through this practice.  The Sutras provide ALL of the challenges needed for me to succeed as well as ALL of the answers to the challenges.  It is simply up to me to apply them lovingly, skillfully, and selflessly.
  • Do you recall the maxims that Swami Veda described in chapter six of Philosophy of Hatha Yoga?  From a slightly different vantage point, this practice has offered me valid proof of his maxims, which I summarize as “all that occurs at the gross level is a consequence of that which occurs at the subtle level”.  Encouraged by such proof, I am confident in progressing to subtler and subtler levels.
  • Several of the experiments have been sufficiently powerful to have motivated me to make long-term commitments.  For a period of forty years (with the option to renew), I have vowed to not speak anything negative, to not speak anything untrue, to ingest only that which is pure, and to make daily contemplative study of my namesake upanishad, tejobindu.
  • I have twice given up, with amused “frustration”, my attempts to eliminate the words “I”, “Me”, and “Mine” from my speech.  It appears that my attachments to these false identities remain stronger than the power of my intentions.  Please try it.  To the one who successfully completes the experiment without going into silence, my deepest respects.
  • When I have tried explaining this practice to friends, it just sounds like a lot of work and a big discipline commitment.  I recall Swam Veda’s helpful words “Why suffer a discipline when you can enjoy a pleasure?”  This is no longer a discipline for me but has become both the source of and pursuit of true pleasure!  Now, I hold myself to a funny little private standard: I pretend that my teacher could call me at any time, 24/7, and I should be able to effortless answer two questions “What are you practicing, right now?” and “What are the results?”.
  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is has become my opinion that from within the state of samadhi (perhaps samprajnata or perhaps only asamprajnata samadhi, I’ll have to get back to you), the yamas and niyamas are assumed.  Until that time, a systematic, skillful, disciplined pursuit of these ten topics provides a comprehensive methodology for attaining the supreme goal of yoga, the supreme goal of life: Realization of the Self.

There will always be aspects of my practice which involve each of the limbs of yoga.  But I have semi-jokingly said in classes before that if I were a skilled enough teacher, I would teach nothing but ahimsa, in all of its subtleties!  Such is my belief in the power of this small aspect of what Patañjali documented for us.  I give thanks to all who support and encourage me in this practice: to those beings to realized this science, to Sage Patañjali for writing it down, to our Gurudev for lighting this path for me, to Swami Veda for both his gentle love and his precise academic clarity, to Pandit Dabral who first opened my yearning mind, to the countless mind-beings watch over me each day, and to the countless physical beings who lovingly deliver my challenges. May God continue to bless us all and may we one day realize that fact.

Editor’s Note:

Pandit Tejomaya is a pandit in the Himalayan tradition and has a yoga center in Gabriola Island, British Columbia, Canada.  We invite you to visit the website www.islandofpeaceyoga.com

To read “Reflections on the Sacred Thread” by Pandit Tejomaya/Tim Bruns, please use this link: http://www.ahymsin.org/docs2/News/1208Aug/06.html