SELF-RESTRAINT, THE FIRST STEP OF YOGA, IS COMPRISED OF THE FOLLOWING FIVE VOWS: NONVIOLENCE, TRUTHFULNESS, HONESTY, SEXUAL CONTINENCE, AND NON POSSESSIVENESS.
THESE FIVE VOWS, WHICH CONSTITUTE THE GREAT VOW, EXTEND TO ALL THE SEVEN STAGES OF ENLIGHTENMENT REGARDLESS OF CLASS, PLACE, TIME, OR CIRCUMSTANCE.
THE five vows of ahimsa, satya, achaurya, brahmacharya, aparigra, are the very base, the foundation. They have to be understood as deeply as possible because there is a possibility to move without fulfilling these five steps which constitute the first step of yam.
You can find yogis and fakirs all over the world who have moved without fulfilling these five steps of the first step. Then they become powerful, but their power is violent. Then they are very, very powerful, but their power is not spiritual. Then they become sort of black magicians; they can harm others. Power is dangerous; it can help, it can harm. Not only to others is it dangerous, it is dangerous to the person himself. It can destroy you; it can give you a rebirth. It depends. These five vows are just a guarantee so that the power which arises out of discipline is not misused.
You can see “yogis” displaying their power. That is impossible for a yogi, because if the yogi has really fulfilled these five vows he will no longer be an exhibitionist; he cannot display. He can no longer try to play with miracles – that is not possible for him. Miracles happen around him, but he is not the doer.
These five vows kill your ego completely. Either the ego can exist or these five vows can be fulfilled. Both are not possible. And before you enter into the world of power – and yoga is a world of power, infinite power – it is very, very necessarily needed that you drop the ego outside the temple. If the ego is with you there is every possibility that the power is going to be misused. Then the whole effort becomes futile, a mockery, in fact ridiculous.
These five vows are to purify you, to make you a vehicle for the power to descend and for the power to become a beneficial influence, a blessing to others.
They are a must. No one should bypass them. You can bypass. In fact, to bypass them is easier than to go through them because they are difficult, but then your building will be without a foundation. It is going to fall any day, collapse any day. It may kill neighbors; it may kill you yourself. This is the first thing to be understood.
The second thing: “In Sanskrit yam means death and yam also means inner discipline. Is there any correlation between the two, death and inner discipline?” There is. That too has to be understood. Sanskrit is a very potential language. In fact no language exists in the world which is comparably potential. And each word has been coined with much care and effort – Sanskrit is not a natural language. All other languages are natural. The very word “Sanskrit” means created, refined, not natural. The natural language of India is called Prakrit; Prakrit means natural, that which has come out of use. Sanskrit is a refined phenomenon. It is not like natural flowers: it is like essence, refined. Much care and effort has been taken to coin single words, and it has been thought about and brooded over so that all the possibilities should be implied in it. This word yam has to be understood. It means the god of death; it also means inner discipline. But what necessary connection can there be between death and inner discipline? There seems none, but there is.
On the earth, up to now, two types of cultures have existed – both lopsided, both unbalanced. Not yet has it been possible to develop a culture which is total, whole, and holy. In the West, right now, sex is given total freedom; but you may not have watched – death is suppressed. Nobody wants to talk about death; everybody is talking about sex. A vast literature of pornography exists about sex.
Magazines like PLAYBOY exist – obscene, morbid, ill, neurotic. A neurotic obsession about sex exists in the West, but death? Death is the taboo word. If you talk about death people will think you are morbid – “Why are you talking about death?” Eat, drink, be merry – that’s the motto. “Why do you bring death in? Keep it out. Don’t talk about it.”
In the East sex has been suppressed, but death is talked about freely. Exactly like the sexual, obscene pornographic literature, in the East a different type of pornography exists. I call it the pornography of death – as much obscene and morbid as the pornography of the West about sex. I have come across scriptures…. And you can find them anywhere; almost all Indian scriptures are full of death pornography. They talk about death too much. They never talk about sex; sex is the taboo. They talk about death.
All so-called mahatmas in India go on talking about death. They go on hinting about death continuously. They say, if you love a woman, “What are you doing? What is a woman? – Just a skin bag. And inside there are all sorts of dirty things.” And they bring up all those sorts of dirty things; and it seems they enjoy it.
It is morbid. They talk about the mucus inside the body, the blood, the flesh; they talk about the stomach, about the belly full of excreta, the bladder full of urine. “This is your beautiful woman. Bag of dirt! And you are falling in love with this bag. Be alert.”
But this is something to understand: in the East when they want to make you aware that life is dirty they bring in the woman; in the West when they want to make you aware that life is beautiful they again bring in the woman. Look at PLAYBOY: plastic girls, so beautiful. They don’t exist in the world; they are not real. They are manufactured photographic tricks – and everything has been done, retouched again and again. And they become the ideals and thousands of people fantasize about them and dream about them.
The sexual pornography depends on the body of the woman and the death pornography also depends on the body of the woman. And then they say, “You are falling in love? This young woman soon is going to become old. Soon she will be a dirty old hag. Be alert, and don’t fall in love, because soon this woman is going to die: then you will weep and cry and then you will be in suffering.” If you have to bring life in, the body of the woman is needed. If you have to bring death in, the body of the woman is needed.
Man seems to be continuously obsessed with the body of the woman – whether they are playboys or mahatmas makes no difference.
But why? It always happens: whenever a society suppresses sex it expresses death; whenever a society suppresses death it becomes expressive about sex.
Because death and sex are the two polarities of life. Sex means life, because life arises out of it. Life is a sexual phenomenon – and death is the end of it.
And if you think about both together, there seems to be a contradiction; you cannot reconcile sex and death. How to reconcile it? It is easier to forget one and remember the other. If you remember both it will be very difficult for your mind to manage how they exist together – and they do exist together, they do cohere together. They are not in fact two, but the same energy in two states: active and inactive, yin and yang.
Have you watched it? While making love to a woman there comes a moment of orgasm where you become afraid, fearful, you start trembling; because at the highest peak of orgasm death and life both exist together. You experience life at its peak and you also experience death at its depth. The peak and the depth both available at one moment – that’s the fear of orgasm. People desire it because it is life, and people avoid it because it is death. They desire it because it is one of the most beautiful moments, ecstatic, and they want to escape from it because it is one of the most dangerous moments also: because death opens its mouth in it.
A man of awareness will become immediately aware that death and sex are one energy: and a total culture, a whole culture, a holy culture, will accept both. It will not be lopsided; it will not move to one extreme and avoid the other. Each moment you are both life and death. To understand this is to transcend duality.
The whole effort of yoga is: how to transcend.
Yam is meaningful because when a person becomes aware of death, only then, a life of self-discipline is possible. If you are only aware of sex life, and you have been avoiding death, escaping from it, closing your eyes to it, keeping it always at the back, throwing it into the unconscious, then you will not create a life of self-discipline. For what? Then your life will be a life of indulgence – eat, drink, be merry. Nothing is wrong in it, but in itself, this is not the whole picture. This is just a part, and when you take the part as the whole, you miss – you miss tremendously.
Animals are there without any awareness of death: that’s why there is no possibility for Patanjali to teach animals. No possibility because no animal will be ready for self-discipline. The animal will ask, “For what?” There is life only, there is no death, because the animal is not aware that he is going to die. If you become aware that you are going to die, then immediately you start rethinking about life.
Then you would like the death to be absorbed in life.
When death is absorbed in life yam is born: a life of discipline. Then you live but you always live with the remembrance of death. You move but you always know that you are moving towards death. You enjoy it but you always know that this is not going to last forever. Death becomes your shadow, part of your being, part of your perspective. You have absorbed death… now self-discipline will be possible.
Now you will think, “How to live?” Because life is not the goal now: death is also part of it. “How to live?” That you can live and die also beautifully. “How to live?” That not only does life become a crescendo of bliss, but death becomes the highest, because death is the climax of life.
To live in such a way that you become capable of living totally and you become capable of dying totally, that’s the whole meaning of self-discipline. Self-discipline is not a suppression; it is to live a directed life, a life with the sense of direction. It is to live a life fully alert and aware of death. Then your river of life has both the banks. Life and death, and the river of consciousness flows between these two. Anybody who is trying to live life denying death, its part is trying to move along one bank; his river of consciousness cannot be total. He will lack something; something very beautiful he will lack. His life will be superficial – there will be no depth in it. Without death there is no depth.
And if you move to the other extreme as Indians have done – they start living with death continuously: afraid, fearful, praying. doing things just how to become deathless, immortal – then they stop living at all. That too is an obsession. They will also flow along one bank: their life will also be a tragedy.
West is a tragedy, East is a tragedy – because a total life has not yet been possible. Is it possible to have a beautiful sex life, remembering death? Is it possible to eat, and eat blissfully, remembering death? Is it possible to love, and love deeply, knowing well that you are going to die and the beloved is going to die? If it is possible then a total life becomes possible. Then you are absolutely balanced; then you are complete. Then you lack nothing; then you will have a fulfillment; a deep contentment will descend on you.
The life of yam is a life of balance. These five vows of Patanjali are to give you a balance. But you can misunderstand them and you can create again another unbalanced life. Yoga is not against indulgence; yoga is for balance. Yoga says, “Be alive but be always ready to die also.” It looks contradictory. Yoga says, “Enjoy. But, remember, this is not your home. This is an overnight stay.” Nothing is wrong: even if you are enjoying a dharmasala and it is a full moon night, nothing is wrong. Enjoy it, but don’t take the dharmasala to be your home, because tomorrow we leave. We will be thankful for this overnight stay, we will be grateful – it was good while it lasted – but don’t ask it to last forever. If you ask that it should last forever, this is one extreme; and if you don’t enjoy it at all because it is not going to last forever, this is another extreme. And in both the ways you remain half.Tags: Patanjali Yoga Sutra 24 Nonviolence