The 10 Yamas & Niyamas of Hinduism
What does living virtuously mean to Hindus? It is following the natural and essential guidelines of dharma and the 10 yamas and 10 niyamas - ancient scriptural injunctions for all aspects of human thought, attitude and behavior. These do's and don'ts are a common-sense code recorded in the Upanishads, in the final section of the 6000-to 8000-year-old Vedas.
Read about the 10 yamas, which means "reining in" or "control", and the 10 niyamas, i.e., observances or practices as interpreted by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami.
The 10 Yamas - Restraints or Proper Conduct
- Ahimsa or Non-injury
- Satya or Truthfulness
- Asteya or Nonstealing
- Brahmacharya or Sexual Purity
- Kshama or Patience
- Dhriti or Steadfastness
- Daya or Compassion
- Arjava or Honesty
- Mitahara or Moderate Diet
- Saucha or Purity
The 10 Niyamas - Observances or Practices
- Hri or Modesty
- Santosha or Contentment
- Dana or Charity
- Astikya or Faith
- Ishvarapujana or Worship of the Lord
- Siddhanta Sravana or Scriptural Listening
- Mati or Cognition
- Vrata or Sacred Vows
- Japa or Incantation
- Tapas or Austerity
These are the 20 ethical guidelines called yamas and niyamas, or restraints and observances. Sage Patanjali (c 200 BC), propounder of Raja Yoga, said, "These yamas are not limited by class, country, time, or situation. Hence they are called the universal great vows."
Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, a yogic scholar, revealed the inner science of yama and niyama. He states that they are the means to control the 'vitarkas,' i.e., the evil or negative mental thoughts. When acted upon, these thoughts result in injury to others, untruthfulness, hoarding, discontent, indolence or selfishness. He said, "For each vitarka, you can create its opposite through yama and niyama, and make your life successful."
As Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami says, "The ten restraints and their corresponding practices are necessary to maintain bliss consciousness, as well as all of the good feelings toward oneself and others attainable in any incarnation. These restraints and practices build character. Character is the foundation for spiritual unfoldment."
In Indian spiritual life, these Vedic restraints and observances are built into the character of children from a very early age to cultivate their refined, spiritual being while keeping the instinctive nature in check.
Parts of this article are reproduced with permission from Himalayan Academy Publications. Parents and educators may visit minimela.com to purchase many of these resources at a very low cost, for distribution in your community and classes.
By Subhamoy Das