Sutra Studies Week 55: Niyama | Letting Go Of The Ego (Sutra 2.32)

“Niyama consists of purity, contentment, accepting but not causing pain, study of spiritual books and worship of God [self-surrender].”

–The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Śauca Saṁtoṣa Tapaḥ Svādhyāyeśvarapraṇidhānāni Niyamāḥ

Sauca: purity | Samtosa: contentment | Tapah: accepting pain (heat) and not causing pain, to be purified by austerities, heat | Svadhyaya: study of spiritual books for Self understanding | Isvara: God | Pranidhana: worship, self-surrender | Ani: all above as a group | Niyamah: observances


We have previously discussed how Niyama practice supports seekers to come into a fuller sense of self/Self beyond the confines of the limited ego, and this week, we will expand upon this understanding by exploring exactly what these qualities are and how Niyamas all individually and collectively support and inspire the deeper letting go, and higher awareness, that is required to more fully come into one’s True Self/greatest expression in the world, as opposed to being unconsciously rooted in the distortions of Maya that keep one attached to the illusions of lower states of thinking and being (no matter how popular or well supported these illusions may be at any given time and in any given society).

This week, we will discuss how Niyama practice helps one to come to a deeper level of discernment and purification, once Yamas are solidified, and we will also explore how this discernment and purification then helps to burn out illusory perceptions that keep one trapped within Maya and the perpetual cycle of suffering fueled by ignorance-based Karmas.

After getting a solid foundation in, and mastery of Yama practice (which is basically abstinence from, and the restraint of, one’s basic animal nature tied to physical survival), Niyama practice begins to further solidify one’s knowledge of the Self beyond the ego-separated form and refine this knowledge even further.

It is only after being firmly grounded in non-violence, honesty, non-stealing, continence, and non-greed (all Universal vows) that one can fully practice purity (being beyond ego-based distortions), contentment (self-sustained inner-peace), accepting but not causing pain (which includes practicing discipline and compassion in action), the study of spiritual books for true Self-understanding, and devotion to God (a higher power beyond one’s limited form).

Without this solid foundation in Yama and Niyama practice, understanding, and embodiment, one may, for example, never fully understand, or enact, many of the Sutras that also deal with one’s conduct in relation to “others.”

Without this solid foundation in Yama and Niyama practice, understanding, and embodiment, for example, Sutra 1.33 (friendliness for the happy, compassion for the suffering, and disregard for the wicked) or Sutra 2.34 (never approving of violence due to greed, anger or infatuation), for another example, cannot be truly followed.

Without this solid foundation in Yama and Niyama practice, understanding, and embodiment, one can never truly destroy the veil over the inner light by coming into deeper levels of purity (and into the unattached/undistorted Self) which sets the foundation for spiritual fitness (Sutra 2.41) that leads to higher knowledge and True Liberation.

Without this solid foundation in Yama and Niyama practice, understanding, and embodiment, one may, for yet another example, unconsciously become deeply steeped and over-identified with lower collective ego-based ideologies that perpetuate destructive Karmas that take him/her further away from the Truth and the light instead of connecting with and upholding it.

An Example

The example of Jeffery Epstein and numerous clergymen getting away with child rape for decades in plain sight that we introduced last week highlights the disconnection being referred to here. But so does Harvey Weinstein, Hitler, and the countless “nameless” perpetrators of violence (who do not make the paper as they commit their crimes behind closed personal doors), who for many years before, and if, justice is ever served within Maya, often get more “understanding” than even their victims. Heck, even Ted Bundy had a fan club that advocated for him as opposed to his victims.

If there is no solid foundation in Yama and Niyama practice, understanding, and embodiment due to mass confusion and lack of empathy/Self-Understanding that is solidified by attachment to destructive concepts like victim-blaming and shaming (as an example) that keep false egos intact as opposed to creating a clear understanding of how to acknowledge, support, and uphold compassionate, larger Self-Loving, actions as opposed to supporting destructive Karmas, the veil over the inner light for both individuals, and the groups that they make up, will remain in place indefinitely.

The Light of the Pure/True Self cannot shine where there is mostly darkness, and this Light cannot be sustained until the darkness of ignorance, egoism, attachment to form, hatred, and clinging to bodily life due to fear, is consistently and clearly illuminated by the Light of knowledge and Love.

Ideologies that adamantly attempt to paint victims of crimes as more shameful than even the evil-doers who commit these crimes themselves, for example (in an American culture that was founded on the destruction and enslavement of millions for wealth and power that not surprisingly loves to bash “victim-mentality,” as opposed to seeing the state of mind as a temporary and normal response to being victimized), due to feelings of ego vulnerability fueled by unconscious shame, illustrates a futile attempt to soothe pained consciences through the simultaneous denial of reality and the larger denial of a greater Reality of humanity’s collective oneness.

When I worked at the WCA, which serves victims of domestic and sexual abuse and assault, the common cultural narrative that the team would observe quite often, maintaining the all-too-common pattern of not bringing rapists to justice because “it would ruin [perpetrator’s] careers,” for example, was that it was even more acceptable in society to support those who committed crimes than it was to even support victims/survivors to heal from crimes. In fact, in American society, the word victim, a word that neutrally explains that someone was harmed without provocation, is often used as a dirty word, as underscored above. And this coloring of a neutral and descriptive word is what is known as a very clear example of ego-based distortion and confusion.

Without a solid foundation in Yama and Niyama practice, understanding, and embodiment, ignorance can continue, unchecked in the world, and the True discriminative discernment and awareness of the conscience required for spiritual fitness and liberation cannot be developed.


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