Yoga has been referred to as the age-old and regarded as the continuous, uninterrupted tradition of knowledge for several thousand years. It has been established on innumerable theories, concepts, techniques, practices and rules, which were hypothesised in various regions over many a millennium. Fundamentals of yoga are well defined in the Kathopanishad, Bhagvad Gita and Yoga Sutras. These fundamental principles of yoga, both in theory and practice, are known as Classical Yoga or Ashtanga Yoga in Indian tradition. The Astanga Yoga is comprised of eight constituents or eight limbs, which are very well defined in the Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. They can be classified under the following three heads:
Yoga ethics or Ethical practice
External yoga practiceAsana
Internal or Meditative practice
It is the first step, which includes five abstentions, namely:
• non-violence (ahimsa)
• truthfulness (satya)
• honesty (asteya)
• sexual continence (brahmacharya)
• non-acquisitiveness (aparigraha)
Ahimsa: It is universal moral commandment and is ethical preparation for a student of yoga. Not to harm any living being by any means is the basic principle of non-violence. This creates an atmosphere of universal love and brotherhood and makes the one’s mind pure. To reprobate the feeling of hatred from any one is also a part of non-violence.
Satya: Truth is universal and is the only uncontroversial basis for the development of self. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Truth is God and God is Truth”. As a natural phenomenon, fire burns the impurities, thereafter refining the gold; likewise fire of truth cleans our innerself. If one thinks of truth, if tongue speaks about truth only, and if one acts based on truth, automatically one moves one step ahead towards union with the almigthy God. Truth and love are the ultimate reality of this world and a yogi must adopt these realities in not only speech but also in routine conduct. Untruthfulness, cither in mind or in action, leads a yogi away from his mission.
Asteya : To desist the desire of using other’s belongings, whether money, thought or materials, for own benefit, is Asteya. This act of non-stealing includes not only taking what is other’s without prior permission, but also using it for different purposes or using beyond the permitted time period. This also includes misappropriation, misconduct, misuse, mismanagement and breach of trust. Asteya not only gives mental peace and self-purification to an individual, but also reduces several social tensions and evils. One should reduce one’s needs to the minimum, to achieve the ability to ward off great temptations.
Brahmacharya : To live the life of celibacy, to develop self-restraint and to perform religious acts are the basic principles of brahmacharya. It does not only mean to preserve semen and remain celibate. To remain strictly away from sexual activities in deed or thought is the basic principle of several abstinence components of brahmacharya. The concept of brahmacharya is not one of negation, forced austerity and prohibition. To lay stress on continence of the body, speech and mind is the real brahmacharya, as stated by Maharshi Patanjali. It has little to do with a person’s marital status and living a common man’s household life. It is open for all. It is not at all necessary for one’s salvation to stay unmarried, because one can perform marital duties solely for the creation of progeny but not for sexual pleasures and thus still remain a brahmachari.
Aparigraha : To remain free from hoarding is Aparigraha. A yogi should keep his requirements to the minimum as he does not really need many things at a particular point of time; hence he should not hoard or collect the things. The collection of things, for future needs, shows the lack of faith in God and in himself, because he (the God) who is looking after whole creations (shristi) will fulfil and meet our requirements timely. By observing the habit of aparigraha, one makes one’s life very simple, where there is no fear or lack of trust.
The life of a common man is full of miseries, disturbances, agonies and frustrations, which keep his mind always in a state of imbalance and perturbation. The basic reasons for such a condition are his failure to fulfil his desires or the fear to lose something which he has hoarded for his future or for his luxury. The observance of aparigraha enables a person to remain satisfied with whatever he has and whatever happens to him. He achieves peace, which takes him beyond the realms of illusion and misery. His mind is always calm and cool, unperturbed and in a state of equilibrium.