The Yamas – Contributed by Shailendra

  Ahimsa —— All school children in India (including me) without reserve, are taught the 3 monkey system of Mahatma Gandhi. Monkey 1 with his eyes closed (don’t see bad i.e., violent, cruel images), Monkey 2 with his ears closed (don’t hear bad i.e., gossip) and Monkey 3 with his mouth closed(don’t speak ill words) . So I think of that image ahimsa.

   Satya —— In this regard, truth becomes significant when we accept it, especially at a time when it is most inconvenient to do so. This one in particular has karmic consequences. There is no getting away with a lie. It’s karma will follow.

     Asteya —— This means non-covetness. Asteya is holding back desires, letting go. In Ramayama (indian epic), when Rama (the prince) was sent to exile by his father (the king) on request of his step mother, the younger brother, Bharat was asked to ascend to the throne as the next king, but he refused to do so in lieu of the fact that Rama was still the elder brother and heir apparent to the throne. So Bharat let go of the desire to rule the kingdom. That is a lofty example from mythology, but for our perspective, Asteya could mean desire to let go of un-necessary buying, trying to be rich etc., make more money, or the desire to always use A/C during summer.

    Brahmacharya —— To me this means life of moderation, discipline, punctualism, surrender and abhyasa. Bhramacharya is used in conjunction with childhood, esp., with kids who are under the tutelage of a guru and live with him/her personally in his ashram (monastery) for a good chunk of their formative years, usually between ages 8 to 25. This is the period to learn all the arts and sciences from the guru and his wife. So as a student you do as you are told by the guru and his wife without hesitation and reserve. It is through surrender to guru that you learn. I think that is a big part of Brahmacharya. Example could be from the epic Mahabharat when the Pandavs and Kauravs (brothers and cousins) lived with their guru (Dronacharya) to learn different arts and crafts from him.

Aparigraha —–  Non hoarding. This is a big one and probably the most relevant to our times. This has a direct impact on environment and planet. If we become less consumption oriented we will have a positive impact on our planet. Hoarding can translate to excessive consumption of food, buying unnecessary garments, books, electronic gadgets, excessive use of technology etc., too much furniture or a fat bank balance and portfolio.

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