Kirpal Singh

Yamas and Niyamas

1. Yama: The term yama literally means to expel, to eject, to throw out or to eliminate. It denotes abstention from vices and from entertaining any evil thoughts, or accepting any negative impressions which may tend to weaken the mind and the will.

2. Niyama: The term niyama on the contrary, signifies acceptance, cultivation, observance and development of positive virtues, harbouring good feelings, and absorbing these virtues into one’s system.

Thus, these two words connote the simultaneous rejection of evil, and the assiduous cultivation and acceptance of good, respectively.

Patanjali, however, enumerates these abstinences and observances, as under: –

  • Ahimsa (non-injury),
  • Satya (non-lying),
  • Asteya (non-stealing),
  • Brahmcharya (non-sexuality) and
  • Aprigreha (non-covetousness or non-possession).

Here, we may examine, by way of illustration, some yamas and niyamas:

Abstention from:
Acceptence and observence of:

1. Negation of God.

Faith in God and Godly power.

2. Self-indulgence.

Self-control and chastity (Brahmacharya or purity in thoughts, words and deeds).

3. Dishonest and fraudulent livelihood.

Earning a living by honest and truthfull means.

4. Unhygienic and impure conditions of life,
both within and without.

Cleanliness: inner, by water irrigation within and oxygenation, etc., and outer, by regular skin-baths, hip-baths, sun and air-baths, etc., and hygienic living conditions in sanitary sourroundings.

5. Injuring others by thoughts, words and deeds (himsa).

Non-injury by thoughts, words and deeds (ahimsa).

6. Practising falsehood, deceit and covetousness.

Cultivating truth, sincerity and charity.

7. Impatience, avarice and selfishness.

Patience, contentment and selfless service.

8. Self-assertion and egocentrity.

Humility and self-surrender.

In respect of abstinences, it is said:

  1. One who is rooted in ahimsa, has no enemies.

  2. One who is anchored in satya, his words cannot but come true and bear fruit.

  3. One who is established in asteya, is a true friend of nature, and nature lays bare unto him all her riches.

  4. One who practices brahmcharya comes to acquire absolute power.

  5. One who practices aprigreha, solves the enigma of life, and to him the past, the present, and the future appear like an open book.



Source: Extract from ‘The Crown of Life – Part I, Chapter II / II.: (i)–(ii) Yamas and Niyamas,’ by Kirpal Singh, 1894–1974.