10 Forgotten Rules of Life By The Father of Yoga
And the superpowers that come with it.
As a student of yoga, it baffles me every day to see how modern science is behind much of what ancient scriptures have told us. Take for instance meditation. It has been around for thousands of years but we’ve only come to understand it’s importance in the past few decades. We like to live in ignorance. Why? Becuase ignorance is bliss?
Every time we encounter new teachings we disregard them until it’s proved scientifically. Before meditation was as cool as it is now, the people who practiced it were downright “hippies.” Today it’s common to see people from all walks of life doing it every day.
This makes me think — what else are we missing? What are the esoteric teachings that we’re taking for granted just because they’re not scientifically proven?
This question led me to explore the works of Patanjali. He’s a popular sage in ancient India with notable works which makes him the Father of Yoga.
This is mostly because he put together different teachings and types of yoga into once place — “Yoga Sutras.” (Sutra meaning aphorism).
Adiyogi or Shiva (the first yogi) taught the principles of Yoga to seven sages — called “Saptarishis.” *(“Sapt” means seven and “rishi” means a sage). *Shiva taught different segments of Yoga to each of them. Over a period of time, these seven segments led to the evolution of various other teachings.
Before 400CE, Patanjali combined these teachings into his Sutras.
It contains 196 Sutras, which defined Yoga as having 8 parts. The first two are the most important and practical ones — Yamas (Not-to-do’s) and Niyamas (to-do’s).
The Yamas and Niyamas outline the principles by which one should live. Along with the mastery of each principle, comes a specific power.
These principles, long forgotten, are the secrets to living a great life and advancing spiritually.
Ahimsa (Non-Injury or Non-Violence)
Non-violence is not only about not hurting anyone physically. It has a much deeper meaning. We’ve all read about Mahatma Gandhi, who used Ahimsa as a tool to free India from British colonial rule. But he too did not emphasize the deeper essence of it.
According to Patanjali, it is not about your actions but about your mental attitude in life. Wishing someone harm, having negative feelings for them, demotivating, and judging them — are all acts of violence.
The goal is to realize the oneness of all life. It’s a common principle in all religions. When you grasp the oneness of life, you’d not harm anyone — physically, mentally, or emotionally — because you’d be harming yourself. It is not a tool of the weak but the Ultimate Weapon of the strong ones. When you adopt the mental attitude of Ahimsa, there would be no conflict.
Power: Perfect mastery of this principle will tame the wildest beasts in your presence. It will give you the power over the most dangerous animal (or person or circumstance).
People think truthfulness and honesty are textbook virtues because they’re unrealistic. This is because they think they have to tell the truth in all cases. But, it has a subtler meaning that you need to grasp.
It means that first of all, you must be truthful to yourself. You should not give in to your likes and dislikes, your delusions, and your fantasies of how you want the world to be.
You should recognize situations as they are, instead of wishing them to be something else. You can only work with what is.
When a scientist works on a problem, he removes all bias. He experiments with reality rather than his delusions of what he wants the reality to be.
Powers: Once mastered, Patanjali says, it gives you the power to get the fruits of action without acting. The mere thought is enough to change the course of reality. That is why people go and seek saints for healing. For when a saint says, “You’ll be well!”, the reality bends to his will to change the facts.
Most people think that “Non-stealing” means not robbing someone else’s property. But it also means not desiring anything that is not yours.
Further, it means not desiring something that is, in fact, yours. Why? Because desire kills happiness. When you feel you need something to be happy, you will never be happy.
When you realize whatever you need will come to you (provided you take the right actions), you will be happy. Because your happiness will be unconditional.
Power: Mastery of this principle will lead you to get wealth whenever you need it. When you realize you have everything you need, the abundant cosmic energy flows through you. This is not the Secret. This is the Universal Law.
When we feel low or tensed — we indulge in outward pleasures. This can be eating dessert, having sex, watching TV, sleeping, etc..
We might feel relieved after all these activities but our energy gets sucked out. In other words, we do these activities to please the human senses and desires.
Non-sensuality advocates that you must learn to transmute and not dissipate your energy. You must find a way to release tension without releasing energy.
If you lose your energy, you wouldn’t feel good. That is why after ejaculation you feel like sleeping or even depressed in some cases. Or after eating sugary foods (sweets, fast food, etc.), you do not feel energized but lazy.
In Think and Grow Rich, Napolean Hill dedicates a whole chapter to this called “Sex Transmutation”. But as I said, it isn’t limited to that. It can be applied to all forms of energy, not just sexual.
Powers: If you ingrain non-sensuality in your consciousness, you get great vigor and clarity. This will enable you to excel in any area of life.
Non-greed differs from non-stealing.
The latter says not to desire something that is not yours. The former advises you to not attach ourselves to the things you already have.
It’s true in the case of material possessions, your relationships, and even your own body. When you detach yourself from your own body, you realize that you are the ever-new Spirit that can never die. You don’t give in to bodily temptations, fatigue, and diseases.
When you detach yourself from your relationships, your happiness does not depend on your partner. This does not mean you’ll be happy when they are sad. But it means that you rise above the petty differences.
It aims to remove greedy attachment to things in life. The excessive attachment will only bring you suffering in the long run.
Powers: Once perfected it gives you the ability to remember your past incarnations.
Cleanliness not only means that you keep your body and your surroundings tidy. Yes, it is the first step — for you cannot have peace if your environment is full of impurities.
You should take care of your body. Internally with a proper diet and externally with proper hygiene. Similarly, you should work and stay in places that are clean because they will give you a positive vibe and tranquility.
But, so is true of the heart as well. When your heart is filled with impurities like anger, lust, hate, and attachment, you cannot be successful in any field.
Even more importantly, you should take care of the people you surround yourself with. We all know, “You are the average of the 5 people you spend most of your time with.”
The vibrations and energy of your peers influence your own life. Choose them carefully.
Powers: Once mastered, this principle enables a person to be content in himself — there is no need to seek pleasure from outside things or people. The love of such a person is pure, unconditional, and spiritual.
Yogis call contentment the supreme virtue. Because if you’re content with yourself, you can endure any situation in life and triumph. Your joy would increase, independent of what happens in the world.
On the flip side, if you have everything going in your favor, but you are not content, your success is of no use.
It is not passive work. You have to feel content right now. Only then you’ll be content. If you sit and wait, it would not magically come to you.
Powers: Patanjali says that the practice of contentment leads to the realization of Bliss in all creation.
Austerity means a certain level of sternness. You may not realize, but you need the sternness of will to do anything worthwhile.
Every action that you take should be deliberate. Don’t go with the flow and indulge in outward pleasures to waste time and make yourself miserable. Command yourself and your body to do what you intend to do.
You may think you’re missing out on the fun in your life. But the joy of concentrating your energies to create something of value is permanent. Petty joys and moments of fun, are transient.
When you sit in a chair, don’t let yourself fall into it — but sit with control. It starts with the small things in life. Live life as though you are the master of your mind. Don’t be its slave.
Powers: When you practice this long enough, Patanjali mentions, that you can develop yogic siddhis (powers), that are otherwise latent in men.
Swadhyaya (Study of self)
Self-study does not mean studying books, scriptures, and papers by yourself. But it means studying yourself. It is the process of self-discovery. It is important to perceive the truth rather than just know it. You need to observe your own thoughts, patterns, judgments, emotions, feelings, and motives.
Certain realities in this universe cannot be taught — they can only be experienced.
Powers: Once you master this art, you can commune with beings on the higher states of existence and receive their help. The radio channel does not play until tuned to the right frequency. Similarly, the practice of Swadhyaya, helps you tune yourself to subtle frequencies to commune with beings on a different plane of reality.
Ishvarpranidhana (Devotion/Contemplation of God)
According to Patanjali, one does not simply move towards a higher state of consciousness until he believes that there’s something bigger than himself.
Atheists and egoistic people cannot progress beyond their current state of consciousness. Even if they practice various yoga techniques, they would miss one critical piece — devotion.
Communing with God is not as simple as practicing a few postures and touching your head to your knee.
Every pose is to be done with a sense of worship to receive the full benefit. The postures were not made by P.E teachers for a slim waist; they were made by sages who recognized the inner movements of the soul in all the postures they practiced.
Powers: When you devote yourself, pure love emanates from your heart. Only then you would receive the cosmic ray of love. A ray so bright that the Infinite Consciousness itself dwells on it, says Patanjali.
The first 5 points are principles that help you exercise control over your life. They enable you to restrict wrong behaviors so that you can propel towards your goal with Godspeed.
The last 5 points are things you should do, in place of the unenlightened behaviors, to further progress in life, especially on the spiritual path.
These teachings have either been forgotten or have been vastly misunderstood by most people to be simplistic and not actionable.
But if you practice them you’ll see that applied together (or even one at a time), they can be a roadmap to a happy and fulfilling life.
Personal teaching and experience that I received from my Yoga teachers
“Art and Science of Raja Yoga” by Swami Kriyananda
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