Yoga of Climate Action: Yama and Niyama

The yogic precepts of ethical living, the yamas and niyamas are emphatic declarations of inherent goodness, which is apparent whenever the illusion of separateness falls away… often seen as a list of dos and don’ts, or interpreted as a series of commandments, the yamas and niyamas are actually descriptions of a nature that has been freed from the illusion of separateness.  –Donna Farhi

YAMA

Ahimsa — Non-harming

The yogi believes that every creature has as much right to live as he has. He believes that he is born to help others and he looks upon creation with eyes of love. He knows that his life is linked inextricably with that of others, and he rejoices if he can help them to be happy.

(BKS Iyengar, Light On Yoga p. 32)

Satya — Truthfulness

In such selfless search for Truth nobody can lose his bearings for long. Directly he takes to the wrong path he stumbles, and is thus redirected to the right path. Therefore the pursuit of Truth is true bhakti (devotion).

(Gandhi, Meaning of Truth)

Asteya — Non-stealing

If we continue to act on the assumption that the only thing that matters is personal greed and personal gain, the [ecological] commons will be destroyed. Other human values have to be expressed if future generations are going to be able to survive.

(Noam Chomsky in JB Foster, Ecology Against Capitalism, p. 90)

Brahmacharya – Sensual Restraint

The new ardor which burns in his breast consumes in its glow the lower ‘noes’ which formerly beset him, and keeps him immune against infection from the entire groveling portion of his nature.

(William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, p. 212)

Aparigraha — Non-grasping

By the observance of aparigraha, the yogi makes his life as simple as possible and trains his mind not to feel the loss or the lack of anything. (Light On Yoga, p. 36)

NIYAMA

Saucha — Cleanliness

Through simplicity and continual refinement, the body, thoughts, and emotions become clear reflections of the Self within. Saucha reveals our joyful nature, and the yearning for knowing the Self blossoms.

(Patanjali, Yoga Sutras 2.40-2.41)

Santosha — Contentment

Santosha has to be cultivated. A mind that is not content cannot concentrate. The yogi feels the lack of nothing, and so is naturally content.

(Light On Yoga, p. 37)

Tapas — discipline, austerity

The difference between willing and merely wishing, between having ideals that are creative and ideals that are but pinings and regrets, thus depends solely… on the amount of steam-pressure chronically driving the character in the ideal direction….

(The Varieties Of Religious Experience, p. 212)

Svadyaya — Self-study

I love the dark hours of my being in which my senses drop into the deep. I have found in them, as in old letters, my private life, that is already lived through, and become wide and powerful now, like legends. Then I know that there is room in me for a second huge and timeless life.

(Rilke, A Book for the Hours of Prayer)

Ishvara Pranidhana – Self-surrender

When carrying on your head your perplexed bodily soul,

can you embrace in your arms the One and not let go?

(Tao Te Ching, X 24)

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