Yoga is the ultimate state of happiness and freedom.
The law of karma suggests that “what you sow, so shall you reap.”
So, if we would like to attain the ultimate happiness and freedom, we cannot deprive others of theirs.
The choices that we make on a daily basis can have far-reaching effects on the world around us. In other words, each choice we make, whether it’s buying a new product or eating a meal, can have helpful or harmful effects on us as individuals, other people, animals, and the environment.
The traditional yoga text, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, have provided us with ethical standards and personal care practices that help us live a meaningful life while contributing to a more humane, peaceful, and sustainable world.
Use Patanjali’s ethics and personal care practices as your daily guide!
Before taking action in the world through your daily choices ask yourself:
“Is it kind?”
Practicing ahimsa or non-violence in thought, word, or action to all living beings, is at the forefront of all ethical disciplines. It is through kindness and compassion that we may follow the other standards successfully.
Ahimsa can be practiced in your thoughts about yourself, when you speak and react in situations with other people, as well as when making daily choices, like buying something new or eating a meal.
Ask yourself, “Are my thoughts about myself kind?” “Are the words I speak to others kind, even if they were not kind to me?” “Is this purchase harming other people, animals, and/or the environment?” “What kinder choices do I have?”
“Is it honest?”
Practicing satya or truthfulness requires that we are honest when we make choices.
We must first seek out honest and accurate information so that our thoughts, words, and action match the truth. If we don’t know what is happening in the world, we won’t know to alter any harmful behaviors. Learn the truth about the world’s most troubling issues.
Check in with your emotions. Do you feel sad, guilty, disgusted,etc? Use your emotions as a measure to discern your deepest values without the clutter of currently held belief systems.
“Is it fair?”
Practicing asteya or non-stealing requires that we don’t take from others and that when we make daily choices they reflect fairness.
There’s a lot of unfairness in the world, child labor, people working for a non-living wage, human and animal slavery, etc.
“Are my daily choices perpetuating this uneven divide?” “What other choices can I make that will improve other’s lives without exploiting their lives or livelihoods?”
“Is it affecting my desires?”
Practicing brahmacharya or moderation in sensual pleasures makes sure that we aren’t being influenced by our desires but rather by our dedication to living peacefully and sustainably in the world.
“What might influence my desires?” “How do I feel after watching a commercial about food, beauty products, and other material goods?” Do I think to myself, “I want it” or “I would be happier if I had it?”
“Do I really need it?”
Practicing aparigraha or non-greed/non-hoarding requires that we only buy and use what we really need.
In a time where consumerism is a cause for the diminishing of earth’s resources as well as pollution on a massive scale, aparigraha helps us to lessen our impact.
It’s also important to ask yourself other questions like, “will this item help me fulfill my life’s purpose or is this an impulse buy?” “Does this purchase have a harmful impact on other people, animals, and the environment?”
Is it healthy for my mind and body?
Practicing saucha or mental and physical cleanliness helps us to examine whether our daily choices are actually helpful or harmful for our personal well-being.
This comes in handy when we’re learning to regulate our desires that may be triggered by media and marketing, when choosing what television shows or movies to watch, or what foods to eat.
“What types of music, books, television, or movies feed my soul?” “What foods are healthiest for my body and kinder to other species?”
Is it breaking my contentment?
Practicing santosha or contentment helps us to check in with what may be disturbing our peace of mind (see other principles above), making the appropriate mental notes to eradicate those disturbances, and to find joy in simple moments. Take a stroll in nature, play music, have a conversation with an encouraging friend, practice yoga asana alone, meditate, walk a shelter dog.
“What brings out pure joy in me?”
How can I improve my thoughts, behaviors, and belief systems so that they are helpful to myself, other people, animals, and the environment?
Practicing tapas means that we make positive changes within ourselves by challenging long standing patterns of behavior and harmful beliefs systems about ourselves and the world around us.
Tapas empowers us to make the appropriate changes when our behaviors and belief systems don’t match our deepest values. “How does culture influence my belief systems?” “Are my culture’s belief systems helpful or harmful to me, other people, animals, and the environment?”
“Do my behaviors reflect any harmful belief systems?” “How can I change harmful behaviors, so that I might do the most good and least harm?”
Who am I?
Practicing svadyaya or introspection helps us come in contact with our most authentic selves. Through introspection we can question how media and society are influencing our beliefs and behaviors and whether those beliefs and behaviors are helpful or harmful to our self-identities and sense of well-being. “What are my deepest values?” “What is the nature of reality and how do I fit into it?” “Why am I here?” “What are my God-given talents and how can I share them with the world?”
What is the greatest good?
Practicing ishwarapranidhana or dedicating all of our actions to the greatest good instills in us the awareness of the interconnectedness of all life and the impacts of our thoughts, words, and actions on other people, animals, and the environment. “Where do I see subtle connections in the world around me?” Look for the connections in nature and see the beauty of the divine dancing in eternal joy.
May all beings everywhere be happy and free and may my life contribute in some way to that happiness and freedom for all.
Om Shantih, Shantih, Shantih.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Emily Bartran / Editor:Renée Picard
Photo: Chris Mare/Pixoto