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Yamas and Niyamas — Tuning to Sattwa

07:58 PM May 10, 2018 | Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

How can we cultivate and adopt positive qualities? How can we cultivate and adopt positive attitudes? We can cultivate and adopt positive qualities and attitudes through the practices of Yamas and Niyamas.

Yamas are moral observances or restraints that are necessary for us to live in society. Following the yamas means sticking to ideals and principles. It is about development of positive traits that will transform the human nature into a divine nature and annihilate cravings and negative qualities. There are five main yamas.

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They are: Satya or truthfulness; ahimsa or absence of violence from the human personality and from the mind; asteya or not desiring to obtain; aparigraha or being non-possessive, non-accumulative; brahmacharya or being aware of the higher consciousness guiding your life.

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The Niyamas are: Shauch or purity of body, mind, speech, thought and action; Santosha or contentment, restraint of the desires and senses; Tapasya or the desire for change, being ready to go through any process in order to change and become better in life; Swadhyaya or awareness of how the body, mind, senses and the higher consciousness, interact with each other; Ishwara pranidhana or living according to the divine will, having faith in the self. Whether you define ‘self’ as God or as yourself is up to you. But you exist, so have faith in that existence, which is eternal. If you don’t want to use the word ‘God’ or the word ‘self’, use the word ‘existence’.

These are the keys with which a human personality is tuned to Sattwa. These are the keys by which a human personality can be tuned to ahimsa, to satya, to aparigriha, etc. Attainment of each of these qualities will nurture the spirit. Just as the body is nurtured by food and the mind by happiness, the spirit is nurtured by the appropriate, positive, uplifting expression of these qualities.

When you do something good, you feel happy for a long time. You feel elated, spontaneously, naturally, without any external aid at all. That is an example of how a positive, uplifting quality can change and enhance your perceptions, motivations, expressions, creativity and efficiency. Therefore, the second mandate of yoga is learning to manage the tamasic and the rajasic and tuning to sattwa.

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