“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.

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 self-centered egos intact as opposed to creating a clear understanding of how to acknowledge, support, and uphold compassionate, larger Self-Love centered on our intrinsic connection to “others” in our species–as opposed to supporting destructive Karmas in the world–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 (that is one within, and with, all things/beings in full unconditional Love–that promotes well-being for all as opposed to creating harm to most to support the selfish desires of a few regardless of how destructive these desires may be) cannot shine clearly where there is mostly the darkness of ignorance, egoism, attachment to form, hatred, and clinging to bodily life due to fear. This light can only be expressed consistently and clearly via the vehicle of undistorted knowledge and self-less compassion.

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 American society that was founded on the destruction and enslavement of millions for wealth and power for a very, very, very, small few), who, not surprisingly, love to bash “victim-mentality” (which is often used as a derogatory term to minimize and put down normal emotional/psychological/physical responses to victimization) due to perpetrators’ feelings of ego vulnerability/insecurity fueled by unconscious shame, illustrates the distortion within selfish actors’ as they make futile attempts to soothe their own pained consciences–through, not surprisingly, another selfish act of attempting to “make themselves” the “real victims” in any given situation.

Because individuals who do harm cannot avoid guilty consciences due to our species’ inherent connection to one another, no matter how much repression and suppression, and lying is engaged regarding this fact, guilt-ridden violators often attempt to simultaneously deny the reality of their role/responsibilities within existence/to “others” (when they have done others harm), and deny the greater Reality of humanity’s collective oneness (by attempting to “paint” others as lesser than and themselves as more).

The Truth, however, is never diminished by any lies (adapted by many or a few) and cannot be changed to soothed egos of any kind.

When I served at the WCA, which supports victims of domestic and sexual abuse/assault to heal/move forward after traumatic events, the common cultural narrative that the Advocate team at the Center would report observing, maintaining the all-too-common pattern of not bringing rapists to justice, was that seeking or finding justice (not simply acknowledging the consequences of perpetrators intentionally harmful actions and holding them responsible) would “ruin perpetrator’s careers,” for example. The “careers” (meaning money, or potential to make money for themselves and others who had a stake in the pardoning) of those who harmed others intentionally (not considering the fact that these individuals were now in positions to do the same harm again and again, which most often do), was more important than their victims’ lives and even more important than public well-being.

What is communicated clearly through this narrative/based on how it plays out is that many ignorant people feel that it was even more acceptable in society to support those who committed crimes (especially when their roles were tied to large sums of money) than it was to support victims/survivors to heal from crimes (because perpetrators, who felt entitled to harm others to begin with, were often “rich,” or “powerful,” or (to be honest) “white,” or male, unlike their “victims”). In fact, in American society, the word victim, a word that neutrally explains that someone was harmed without provocation by someone who intentionally meant to inflict damage on them, is often used as a dirty word.

And, it is this coloring of a neutral and descriptive word, to describe heinous actions (and everything that comes with it), that serves as a very clear example of ego-based distortion and confusion, due to ignorance, that leads to destructive Karmas and suffering. There are billions of other examples.

Without a solid foundation in Yama and Niyama practice, understanding, and embodiment, ignorance can continue unchecked in the world, and the True discernment and awareness of the evolved (beyond compulsive self-centered animal) conscience required for spiritual fitness and liberation cannot be developed.


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