All education, degrees, offices of power, wealth and prosperity, without human values, are useless. Life will be meaningful only when there is coordination and understanding between various activities of life. Protecting and adhering to the eternal and ever-true culture, as applicable to that point of time, is the most important learning. It is because of the paucity of such high and noble feelings and thoughts in the present-day students that their minds are polluted and they are not able to lead peaceful lives. Students’ minds are thickened with bad thoughts, evil schemes and wicked feelings. What is the reason for this? They are not trying to get rid of these thoughts. They do not try to understand the human values. What are these human values? Yama (self-control, the first of the eight steps of Patanjali's Ashtanga Yoga) and Niyama (self-regulation, the second of the eight steps of Patanjali's Ashtanga Yoga) are the two most important human values. Humanity gets sanctified only when the innate significance of these two is understood clearly.
Pillar One: Yama
Yama comprises Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truth), Asteya (non-stealing), Aparigraha (non-acceptance) and Brahmacharya (celibacy).
Non-violence means not causing harm to any being, either through thought, words or action. But today, man, for his selfish interests, is causing pain to so many people. Man’s ego is responsible for all these calamities. Human development can only take place when the ego and the sense of belongingness are cast off.
Truth, which is the next value, does not mean uttering exactly that which one has seen or heard. ‘Trikaala Badhyam Satyam’ – Truth is that which is true in all the three periods of time; ‘Anudvegakaram Vaakyam Satyam Priya Hitam Cha Yat’ – truth should be pleasant and should be for the good of others. Truth should not be exciting or the source of anxiety. Words causing pain, even though true, should not be uttered. At the same time one should not take recourse to untruth just because it is pleasant to someone. Truth has to be adhered to in thought, word and deed, with politeness and obedience. Students have to persevere on this path and adhere to Truth. Human life is true, pure, Divine, new, valuable and worth living. One should not waste this life by treading the path of untruth for selfish interests.
Next comes non-stealing. At no point of time, under any condition, should one resort to stealing. This again has to be followed by all in thought, word and deed. Even the thought of stealing should not enter the mind. It is highly essential to develop this quality of non-stealing.
It may not possible to practice celibacy in a worldly perspective. However, evil thoughts, feelings and actions should be totally eschewed. True celibacy (Brahmacharya) means constant contemplation of Brahman. Believing that all thoughts and actions pertain to Brahman is true celibacy. Performing all the activities to please the Lord with firm faith that He is Brahman; believing that all activities are the activities of Brahman, is true celibacy. Constant recital of the works composed by Brahma such as the Vedas, Shastras, Puranas Itihasas, Upanishads, Brahmasutras, etc. is celibacy. Celibacy is the foundation for the building of life. The other three stages of life, which are Grihastha, Vanaprastha and Sanyasa (householder, proceeding to the forests and renouncing the world) are built on this foundation of celibacy. When this foundation of celibacy is not firm, there is a chance that the other three stages of life may collapse. Hence celibacy is the most important principle of life. Celibacy has to be pure, unwavering, selfless and egoless.
The last principle in the practice of Yama is non-acceptance. Upanishads expounded that accepting favours or gifts is a sin of highest order and a grave fault. You should not accept anything in return for the help you have rendered to others. One has right to take anything from mother, father, teacher and God; but not from anyone else on this earth. God is the creator, sustainer and protector. Hence we have the right to accept anything from God. You have to accept from your parents depending on their ability and your deservedness, but you should not trouble them beyond a certain point. One should not even have food at the house of others unless it is warranted. You should not stay for long even at a friend’s house. Your friend himself would be dependent on his parents. He may not be independent himself. In such a situation it is not good to stay with him for days together. What you are enjoying is not the property of your friend. It is his parents’ property. When it comes to the teacher, only education and blessings have to be taken from him. It is said, ‘Ko Vaah Guruhu?’ Who is a teacher? The reply given is, ‘Yogi Hitopadeshta’, which means the one who imparts goodness. ‘Sishyastu Ko?’ Who is a student? ‘Yo Guruvartiyeva’. The true student is the one who brings joy to the Guru and nothing else. But today’s students are lacking this quality. It is because of this that you are taking so many births. You are becoming indebted. It is not possible to ascertain the consequences of this debt. Hence non-acceptance is of utmost essentiality. You should not accept anything from others. These are the human values pertaining to Yama.
To be Continued...
Source: Yama and Niyama: The Twin Pillars of a Righteous Life, Discourse 8, My Dear Students Volume 4